In their quest for mechanised farming and construction of highways, state governors have become the major agents of deforestation, leading to land grabs that deprive communities of their land and livelihood.
This was one of the conclusions reached at a general assembly on “Connected Resistance”, organised by the Host Communities Network, HoCoN, with support from Global Greengrants Fund, GGF, and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State.
The rights group also held that host communities bear the brunt of environmental degradation from resource extractions, while a few individuals who are supposed to represent the communities in the resource benefits sharing, live in luxury and leave the majority in poverty.
HoCoN added that “sources of water in oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta are exposed to oil pollution, forcing fishing activities to drop and crops experience stunted growth.
“The Land Use Act of 1978 continues to deprive members of host communities the enjoyment of the resources in their environment;
“International Oil Companies, IOCs, do not respond to incidences of oil pollutions early enough, and heap the blame of these incidences on host communities;
“Despite the commencement of the Ogoni cleanup, all the emergency measures suggested by the UNEP in its Assessment Report have not been implemented.”
They made these points in a communiqué signed by Prince Barbs Preye-Pawuru, President; Godwin King, Secretary-General, both of HoCoN; Chima Williams, Acting Executive Director, ERA/FoEN; Maimoni Ubrei-Joe Mariere, Desk Officer (HoCoN) ERA/FoEN, and Che Ibegwura, immediate Past President/National Patron.
On what should be done, HoCoN demanded: “A comprehensive audit of the state of Nigerian environment;
“Nigerian government should pay the Ogoni nation an ecological debt for decades of pollution, neglect of their polluted environment, displacement of her people and denying them justice, while kicking against new oil well drilling;
“Nigerian government should halt the drift to full blown tyranny occasioned by the growing cases of suppression of the rights of the people of Nigeria, and that all cases of extraction should accompany EIA Report.
“Need for a Bill by states to revoke the licences of IOCs that pollutes the environment without adequate compensation to communities, and
“Nigerian government must align with the global trend of using the gas flare tracker for tracking gas flare volumes with the relevant agencies collecting accurate gas flare penalties.”
Presentations at the general assembly were by Williams— “Human and Environmental Rights: The obligation of the state in preserving these rights”; Head of Bayelsa Office of ERA/FoEN Chief Alagoa Morris— “X-Raying Nigeria’s Environmental Challenges: Monitoring and reporting, who bears the burden?”;
CSO representative on the Governing Council of HYPREP, Celestine Akpobari— Community organising against environmental and human rights abuses” and the Coordinator, Food Sovereignty Programme of ERA/FoEN, Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje— “A healthy environment, healthy food systems – the road to a healthy nation.”