Niger Delta

Lament exclusion of communities in divestment process

By Emem Idio

YENAGOA— Stakeholders in Niger Delta have called on the Federal Government to compel International Oil Companies, IOCs, operating in the region to honour the Memorandum of Understandings, MoUs; General Memorandum of Understandings, GMoUs, and other agreements entered with communities.

According to the stakeholders, the call became imperative following the divestment by the IOCs, which process they argued has caused the IOCs to deliberately ignore the MoUs and GMOUs agreed with oil-bearing communities.

This was contained in a communique issued after a one day “Community Dialogue on Unmasking the Motives of IOCs Divestment in the Niger Delta” facilitated by Environmental Rights Action Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, held in Yenagoa, weekend.

The participants, which include community leaders, youth and women leaders, academics, environmental and rights activists as well as the media, held that “there is a need for a better understanding and deepened community engagements on the global environmental justice and community definitions of divestment vis-a-vis the model of the IOCs in the Niger Delta.”

They observed that women and children in the community have suffered exclusion in the divestment process, noting that the divestment process has largely weakened local struggles for environmental justice.

Accordingly, they stressed that there was the need to integrate the communities to make them the central focus of the ongoing divestment process.

The communique reads in part: ”There is complicit silence by the Nigerian state and the regulatory agencies as IOCs dictate the terms of divestment. The decision making on the divestment process and other matters relevant to the local communities in the Niger Delta and the IOCs and Nigerian government have excluded the communities.

“There is the need for the IOCs to decommission their toxic assets and carry out remedial actions monitored by independent bodies and civil societies in the communities.

“Need for demilitarisation of the Niger Delta communities that are legitimately agitating for a safe environment for their development. The oil and gas companies in Nigeria should be held liable for nearly six decades of ecocide in the Niger Delta as the precursor to remedial actions and compensation.

“Divesting abandoned toxic assets and complex problematic relationships with communities that the Domestic Oil Companies, DOCs, have inherited and continued to perpetuate, DOCs have inherited and continued the tradition of impunity and lack of accountability to local communities.”

In his remark, Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Chima Williams, said it is a fact that divestment has become a major issue as the oil majors flee their toxic onshore facilities and go offshore where they evade monitoring.

He pointed out that the exclusion of communities and community concerns are crucial to the discussion on how to address the underlying issues hence the decision to hold the dialogue in Bayelsa State adjudged the most oil impacted state in Nigeria.

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