Imagining a Future with Hope

At Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), we always aim to understand the events unfolding around us by examining their roots and varied manifestations. Our fundamental position is that the crises the world faces are fathered by the broken relationships between humans, other beings, and our Mother Earth. Another way to see it is that we have lost connection with our duty of care to our mother and other relatives. This disruption did not emerge from the blue. It has been carefully sculpted on the building blocks of dispossession, accumulation, and discounting of everything other than our selves. Whereas we are social beings, we have grown apart, enthroned individualism and decomposed communities. 

Scarcity of solidarity, generosity, kindness, love and respect has led to the eruption of xenophobic nationalism, erection of walls between communities and regions, and high levels of sociology-ecological disconnections. The fetishisation of capital has twisted our imaginations and placed humans on a race for expropriation and displacement of peoples and other species.

Destruction of the resilience of ecosystems has directly affected our cultures, spirituality, local economies, and sense of progress. Thus, we see destruction hailed as progress. This is exemplified by the stream of new weapons of destruction being manufactured and tested on communities, territories, and nations through needless wars.

Clashes between species through habitat invasion and destruction lead to unexpected pandemics and will spur more—unless we act now to arrest ongoing ecological misbehaviours and ecocide. 

Disruption of the cycles of Nature is anchored on the neocolonial ideas of taking control of Nature and seeking to make her more efficient through genetic manipulation and geoengineering, to mention two. The quest to appropriate and commodify Nature has given rise to concepts like climate smart agriculture which some have described as climate stupid agriculture. It has given rise to concepts that say the current polluting production and consumption modes can be continued while measures are produced to capture the carbon (or pollution) and store it in some reservoirs. By a sleight of hand, intergenerational responsibilities are blatantly ignored. 

Slavery, colonialism, and imperialism built the notions of sacrificial zones while the controlling powers suffered least harm in their sacred zones. This gave rise to plantation agriculture and reckless mining promoting production for export and hardly for the territories from where these activities took place. It gave rise to discounting of labour and of Nature. These have added up to create the climate crises which is being toyed with by the application of false solutions based on carbon trading—solutions that never touch on the root cause of the crisis which has been universally accepted to be the burning of fossil fuels. With fossil fuels corporations in the corridors of multilateral negotiations, talking about real solutions to climate change, for example, has been tabooed.  

Today, we are inescapably gripped in a polycrisis that can only be resolved through radical surgery. Although this surgical process will be radical, it is rather simple and needs modest thought processes that are in line with Nature. It requires humility to agree that technofixes are often not silver bullets. They create more problems as they shun the complexities in our ecosystem which we do not fully understand. For example, seeing forests as mere carbon sinks can lead to the displacement of human communities and could permit habitat destruction through land use changes.  A notion such as the one that sees plantations as forests leads to the creation of monocultures and ignores the complex communities of beings that live and interact in true forests.

We can tackle the hydra-headed crisis will be through clear analysis and cultural production. By using cultural production, we touch the fundamental impulses drawn from our contexts and help us to recover our memory in the fight for our humanity. The loss of memory of our place in the galaxy of other beings is a measure of the loss of mind. We simply must recover our being beings. 

At HOMEF we use our Ikike or knowledge platforms to provide a good basis for participatory generating and sharing of knowledge. At the grassroots levels we host diagnostic Community Dialogues and Environmental Monitoring Trainingsessions. Our Schools of Ecology and Sustain-Ability Academies offer spaces for critical interrogation of complex sociology-ecological ideas and serve as platforms for engagements with policy makers, students, academics, and the public. The generation and sharing of knowledge 

Bearing in mind that the root of the climate crisis is capitalism manifesting through the exploitation, consumption, and waste of natural resources, we have a duty to fight these vices. Through the building of solidarity, we can construct cooperation and forge a future that is both liveable and enjoyable. The seeds for these are embedded in our cultural notions of Eti Uwem, or good living, which elevates communality, dignity, and respect for all beings at its core. In Southern Africa, the interconnectedness of our humanity is captured by Ubuntu. We will benefit from studying traditions and cultures in Africa and, by studying these subsisting concepts of well-being that are not predicated on growth, accumulation, or dispossession. This way, the wisdom from Africa will contribute to a more complete understanding and resolution of the polycrisis. 

Cultural production allows us to fight for these humane ethics through stories, songs, sculptures, poetry, drama, and dance. We can enjoy the process of building a hopeful future. We are calling for a revolution that can be televised and is enjoyable.

Real Climate Solutions Exist

The ravages of climate change on Africa and other vulnerable territories are by now clear to all who care to pay attention except those in sheer denial. Extreme weather events like the reoccurring flooding episodes in the Niger Deltacyclones in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Eswatini and the heat waves in North America that have claimed thousands of lives and livelihoods are just the beginning of birth pains of the climate catastrophe if we keep peddling false solutions and avoiding real actions to tackle the crisis.

Destructive activities including irresponsible extraction and consumption, industrial agriculture and wars are at the core of the climate change menace yet instead of tackling these at the base, we give room for corporate profit interests, political and military dominance perpetuating the myths that climate change can be solved with mathematical formulae and other market schemes.

Any actions that do not target the root causes of climate change must be seen for what they are – fallacies. Some technologies are worsening the problem and are no solutions since they lock in bad climate behaviours by allowing polluters to continue with business as usual and hoping to capture and sequester their pollution or somehow deflect them into space or into soils, oceans, or plants. Such technologies include intentional largescale manipulation of earth systems otherwise known as geoengineering – including solar radiation management, ocean fertilization, rock weathering and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. 

Other common false solutions are carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), carbon trading, net zero/carbon offsetting and REDD+. Carbon capture or even carbon removal must be approached from the sensible understanding that continual extraction and burning of fossil fuels are counterproductive and injurious to the planet, the people and other beings. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that landed us in the mess in the first place. 

Real solutions exist. Top of the list is to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

Agroecology has been proven to cool the planet by enabling soils retain carbon, and reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released in various industrial agriculture processes such as production of inorganic fertilizers, transportation of food over long distances, intensive mechanisation etc. In addition, agroecology builds biodiversity which is key in resilience of ecosystems to climate change impacts.

The report shows that the current pledges made by nations will lead to temperature rise of between 2.2 and 2.6 degrees Celsius or even 2.8 degrees Celsius by the turn of the century. That would translate to about 3.3, 3.9 or 4.2 degrees Celsius—an incineration of Africa and parts of the world.

The Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ought to be a democratic space where real solutions such as agroecology are demanded with commitments made accordingly.

Countries in Africa that have suffered the most from climate change and are at greater risk must be adequately represented and carefully examine the narratives driving the conversations and negotiations at the upcoming COP 27 in Egypt. We must wake ourselves up from the path of voluntary emissions reductions and so-called commitment to “phase down” thecontinued use of coal. 

Our leaders must demand for climate Justice and insist on the payment of climate debt for historical and current harms. The marketization of Nature, including through diverse forms of carbon trading must be denounced and rejected. 

The Paris Agreement should be utterly reviewed with a new upper temperature target of well below 1.5℃ set knowing that 1.5℃ global average means 2.2℃ for Africa and that such a temperature scenario will utterly cook the continent. Sadly, the recently released UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report exposes the alarming hypocrisy embedded in the climate negotiations. The report shows that the current pledges made by nations will lead to temperature rise of between 2.2 and 2.6 degrees Celsius or even 2.8 degrees Celsius by the turn of the century. That would translate to about 3.3, 3.9 or 4.2 degrees Celsius—an incineration of Africa and parts of the world.

The COP 27 should return to the drawing board and focus on binding emissions cuts with polluting nations accepting to do their fair share on the basis of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) rather than the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that so far have not dented the huge store of carbon in the atmosphere. According to the Emissions Gap Report, “The emissions gap in 2030 is 15 GtCO2e annually for a 2°C pathway and 23 GtCO2e for a 1.5°C pathway.” The report clearly notes that “countries are off track to achieve even the globally highly insufficient NDCs,” and would merely cut 3 GtCO2e out of the huge stock in the atmosphere.

African leaders going to the COP 27 must demand for investment in agroecology with support for the majority farmers, rather than industrial, colonial or plantation agriculture that depends on fossil fuels, promotes risky technologies, and continues to devastate the environment, displace communities, and feed climate change. 

Our Schools of Ecology aim to expose false climate change solutions and highlight the relevance of agroecology in climate change mitigation and resilience.

01 November 2022

Oil Theft Pollutes Our Nation

To say that Nigeria is being stolen is an understatement. It is a sordid situation. Shocking stories from the oil and gas sector continue to hit the news. Rather than being numbed by the monstrous pillaging of the nation, Nigerians should wake up to the wakeup call, especially in an election season.

By some deft choreography, the blame for the stealing and pollution in the oil field communities of the Niger Delta has been deflected to the poor communities. This devious deflection has been so successful that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), which has the fingerprints of multinational oil companies all over it, criminalizes communities and holds them up as being responsible for interferences that may occur on oil facilities in their territories. This is unambiguously read in Section 257 subsections 2 and 3 of the PIA. The same Act gives the oil companies the sole right of determining who a host community is and grudgingly accedes to extending a mere 3 percent of the companies’ operational cost to the communities. The meagre 3 percent is be administered by a board dominated by the oil companies’ nominees for community projects. The same 3 percent, by the Act, is to be forfeited by the communities in the event of damage and sabotage to oil facilities or production. 

At a time when the nation is in dire need of revenue and when she should be investing in renewable energy, 30 percent of the profit from oil enterprise is to be spent in futile search for new oil reserves. 

With no divestment policy in place, polluting oil companies have “divested” from their onshore and other acreages, selling them off to their local cronies. By these moves, companies like Shell, Exxon, and Chevron plot to shrug off their historical and current despoliation of the Niger Delta environment. This they do knowing that the new “owners” would lift no finger to clean up the mess from the decrepit facilities and pipelines they are inheriting.

Whenever there is an oil spill incident, fingers are pointed at amorphous third parties in what is popularly termed sabotage. Meanwhile, a well blowout like the one at Ororo-1 has been raging since April 2020 off the coast of Awoye in Ondo State with no respite in site. The notorious blowout at Aiteo’s well 1 on Santa Barbara River in Nembe raged for six weeks in 2021, spewing probably over 500,000 barrels of crude oil onto the environment before it was stemmed. No cleanup has been carried out till date. We are a people fully at home with pollution!

Recent statements by those who should know better, suggest that between 400,000 and 1,000,000 barrels of crude oil are stolen daily.  However, these are just recycled figures from years ago as in actuality, the nation does not have accurate figures of how much crude is pumped daily in the country. Not surprising. There is no agreement over how much refined petroleum products are imported into the country, making room for humongous petrol subsidies to be paid endlessly. The imaginary figures of stolen crude have been in circulation for years. In 2012 the minister of finance under the President Jonathan administration had told the Financial Times of London that 400,000 barrels of crude oil was stolen daily. The current Minister of State for Petroleum Resources has recently quoted the same figures.  A former governor of Delta State opined that as much oil as was officially exported was also being stolen.  It has been known that crude oil is being stolen at industrial scale in the Niger Delta.

The narrative has been that the stealing is done by operators of illegal refineries. However, those refineries could not refine 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Clearly this is fiction. Those illegal refineries have thrived and become critical suppliers of refined petroleum products in the country today as the four government owned refineries remain either comatose or on life support. Meanwhile, the old but brand new Nigerian National Petroleum Company is staking its hope of meeting national petroleum products needs on a private refinery operating from an economic free zone. A zone which has been appropriately termed “enclaves of exception” in the book Enclaves of Exception: Special Economic Zones and Extractive Practices in Nigeria by Omolade Adunbi. In fact, we need to be told how the NNPC managed to pay for 20 percent shares in the Dangote refinery.

We have heard sordid tales and seen utterly despoiled environments, but the official declaration that a 4 kilometres pipeline was built in the ocean and illegally operated for 9 years through an offshore platform without being detected deserves the NNLG literature prize. Who can explain how a pipeline of that length and quality could be installed without being detected? And how could it have been operated for nine whopping years without being detected? Not the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and it’s NNPC and the then DPR; not NOSDRA nor the transnational oil companies; not the Navy nor the Joint Military Task Force detected it? Certainly, half the story has not been told. 

The immediate solution may well be to shut down the sector completely and spend some time in soul searching and repentance. Does it not put a lie to official insistence that the petroleum sector is the lifeline of the nation’s economy? Or that the energy need of the nation would only be met by continued extraction of crude oil? The series of exposés we read these days, including that of the stealing of natural gas, clearly show that the nation faces a grave future and that something must be done immediately. 

Today, we are told that our oil revenue is not enough to service the nation’s external debt. At the same time, the NNPC is declaring profits! Perhaps, economists will tell us that the company is a private enterprise distinct from what it was previously and distinct from government. Really? It must only be in Nigeria that a public company of doubtful efficiency would metamorphose into a private company and hopes to have a dramatic difference using the same staff and possibly same tools that had run a very opaque business. 

Oil theft has not only polluted our environment, but it has also polluted our national politics. It has impoverished our people and so polluted our consciences that thieves are celebrated as heroes while the poor in their struggle to fish in polluted waters or to farm in polluted soils, are labeled villains.

With revelations of the stealing of the nation pouring daily into the airwaves, it is the time to switch on and not switch off the mic. And when the time to vote the next set of leaders comes, it will be a huge shame if we play the game of musical chairs. This is the time to hold the Niger Delta Manifesto for Ecological Transformation before the eyes of office seekers or holders. Our recovery from the horrendous happenings in the oil sector will be assured through a conscious focus on righting the wrongs that have been visited on the people, our society, and our environment.

Seeing Red with the Blue Economy

One of the biggest errors anybody can make is to see the ocean as limitless. Without a doubt, nothing on Earth is limitless. We live in a limited, blue planet, a tiny ball floating in the sea of galaxies loaded with larger planets and non-planets. The notion that the ocean is limitless has attracted dreams of the extension of extractivism, grabbing of territories and resources and limitless wealth to offset the human tendency for excessive consumption without intergenerational responsibility.  On a smaller scale we see people using rivers as drainage channels into which sewage and untreated industrial effluence may be dumped. 

With very lax policing of our ocean, we can be sure that there is a high likelihood that official delineation of economic zones in our maritime areas will see reckless activities that would not only ruin local economies but damage our aquatic ecosystems beyond remedy. This prognosis is because 90 per cent of the pollution in the Gulf of Guinea emanates from the Niger Delta.

This grim reality calls for the strict protection of our waters by checking the industrial activities onshore and offshore. With some international oil companies divesting and moving into deep waters after 64 years of ruinous onshore exploitation of oil and gas, it does not require a seer to see that their activities away from the watchful eyes of community eco-defenders will be atrocious. Sadly, the pollution will get to citizens through sea foods and the delivery of pollutants by the waves to the shorelines. 

It should be alarming that by relying on satellite images alone, researchers identified 18,063 oil slicks in the period 2002-2012 covered by the images, mostly caused by spills from shipping vessels and offshore drilling platforms.

More reason to worry is the fact that economic activities envisioned within the blue economy prism include seabed extractive activities including the extraction of oil, gas, and other minerals. Other activities include marine biotechnology and bioprospecting which will pose particularly difficult regulatory oversight, seeing that basic modern agricultural biotechnology is poorly regulated in our nation. 

The concept of blue economy has been built on the back of the green economy. As we all know, the green economy concept gives the impression of ecological care while it is mostly about the marketization of Nature. The green economy is majorly about imputing monetary values on the cycles of Nature, on the “services” that Mother Earth provides for her children — humans, other creatures, and elements. One key caution on this is that we must not presume that lineal economic growth is desirable or that it inevitably yields well-being. As we noted in our publication, Blue Economy Blues, it is a settled fact that economic growth does not necessarily indicate a good measure of human well-being. There are cases where economies are said to be enjoying roaring growth whereas the rate of poverty in such societies was on the rise. As we cautioned, “Building a Blue Economy for the purpose of economic growth may actually be running off the mark.” 

We are focusing on the Blue Economy, Divestments, and the End of the Fossil Age at this School of Ecology (SoE) with the aim of building understanding around the issues and at the same time advancing our proposal for a people-to-policy approach as regards our aquatic resources. We aim to promote a reflection on our socio-cultural approaches to the use of our water bodies by which we ensured the well-being of our peoples while defending the integrity of the ecosystems. We are doing this against the backdrop of the projections that the fossil fuels age is running to an end whether we are ready or not and whether we like it or not. The meaning of the end of the fossil fuels civilization is that Nigeria must assiduously prepare for the imminent transition. That plan must include a setting aside of resources to clean up the entire Niger Delta as well as other coastline communities.

Without a plan, and a redefinition of development and progress, we may end up in a cemetery of junk technologies and bequeath to our children stranded assets in equally stranded communities. A mindless implementation of a Blue Economy may birth sea grab, beyond the coastal land grab and make ocean-dependent communities see red.

Not an African COP

Countries that have been on the receiving end of  climate change have to carefully examine the narratives driving the conversations and negotiations at the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This is important because for years the debates have regressed from demanding real actions to defending lifestyles and dominant geopolitical power positions. Although the COP is presented as a democratic space it has always been clear that it is actually a space for imperial and indeed colonial domination. 

Calling COP27 that will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, an African COP is simply a tale that has a tail aimed at presenting the false notion that this is an opportunity to solve the ravages of climate change on the continent and other vulnerable nations and territories. That this will not be so should be clear. This will be the fifth COP to be held on the African continent — it has been held once in Kenya, twice in Morocco and once in South Africa. Indeed, around the time it was held in Durban, South Africa, storms battered the region leaving stark warnings and tales of woes. Since then cyclones on the South Eastern seaboard of the continent have inched up the latitudes and snuffed the lives out of thousands of Africans. Locust invasions of virtually biblical proportions have stripped dreams of robust harvests and left desolate, hungry populations in the east and horn of Africa. 

Yet, none of the COPs has shifted grounds to take real climate actions, especially recognizing the fact that the now chic notions of carbon capture or even carbon removal must be approached from the sensible understanding that continual extraction and burning of fossil fuels are counterproductive and injurious to the planet, the people and other beings. 

Rather than taking the glaring global heating pathways as real threats to life, and leaving fossil fuels in the ground, the world is locking itself on the path of voluntary emissions reductions and weakly whispering a commitment to “phase down”  the continued use of coal. Whatever that means. 

How can Sharm El Sheikh (SES) be an African COP when Africans ravaged by floods, droughts, receding coastlines and forests are unaware that political leaders and technocrats are toying with their fate under the shadows of the pyramids. How can this be an African COP if the victims of climate change are not at the negotiation tables, and are debarred from defending their life-giving forests and ocean and have no access to the tourist haven where decision makers will be ensconced for two weeks in November 2022 to perpetuate the rituals of carbon trading and hoist distant flags pointing at when their grandchildren will attain net zero carbon emissions. 

The COP has transformed itself into a platform for avoidance of actions and the appropriation of ideas and ideals of indigenous peoples of the world who have been fighting for the respect of the rights of Mother Earth with a clear understanding that to do otherwise spells doom for humans and other species on this Blue Planet. This is why at the COP there will be cheeky proclamations of nature based solutions that do nothing but market the gifts of Nature.

Corporate profit interests, political and military dominance have perpetuated the myths that the climate debacle can be solved with mathematical formulae while certain lifestyles and investments are secured by destructive activities including irresponsible extraction, consumption and wars. 

The coming COP will probably throw down some corn and coins in the guise of climate finance and the payment for loss and damage caused by ongoing climate inaction and false solutions, but will studiously avoid historical harms that have virtually exhausted the carbon budget. Even the net zero and other colourations of carbon offsetting will be couched in languages that permit Europe to throttle Africa with pipelines of discontent as the continent is forced to meet the fossil fuels shortages arising from the Russian war on Ukraine. While the industrialized nations test their bloody war machinery in Ukraine, the fangs of the fossil fuel companies are being sunk into the necks of Okavango in Namibia and Botswana; Saloum Delta of Sénégal and the Virunga forests of Democratic Republic of Congo. Rather than halting the predatory moves in these World Heritage sites, new pipelines of discontent are being planned to suck gas from the Niger Delta for delivery to Europe through Morocco and Algeria. Others are planned to convey heavy crude from the Lake Albert region of Uganda to an export terminal at Tanzania. While it is yet inconceivable for rich nations to take climate action,multinational forces are set in battle array to defend the gas pipelines and other investments in the killing fields of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. 

COP27 could have been an African COP if African leaders and others from vulnerable, exploited and exposed regions were not marching into traps that dangle shinny mirrors that present polluting activities as development and hold up ruinous tipping points as desirable destinations.  It could have been an African COP if our leaders were going there to demand Climate Justice and insist on the payment of a climate debt for historical and current harms. The value of this debt can be approximated to about 2 trillion dollars that the industrialized nations spend on warfare and armament annually. Clearly, the problem has never been one of a shortage of cash.

It could be an African COP if the marketization of Nature, including through diverse forms of carbon trading are denounced and rejected. It could be an African COP if the gathering agrees that investment should be in agroecology with support for the majority of farmers, rather than industrial, colonial or plantation agriculture that depends on fossil fuels, promotes risky technologies and continues to devastate the environment, displace communities and feed climate change. 

It could be an African COP if binding emissions cuts return to the negotiations and polluting nations agree to do their fair share on the basis of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) rather than the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that so far have not dented more than 2 gigatonnes of the 27 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent needed to keep temperature increase to not more than 1.5℃ above preindustrial levels as per the Paris Agreement of 2015. 

It would be an African COP if the Paris Agreement is overturned and a new upper temperature target of well below 1.5℃is set with a clear understanding that 1.5℃ global average means 2.2℃ for Africa and that such a temperature scenario will utterly cook the continent.

Biosafety in Shambles

We cannot afford to keep gambling with our biosafety. To do so is to set ourselves up for intergenerational consequences; needless to mention the current crises that are being exacerbated. Genetic modification and other new technologies including gene editing and synthetic biology which are applied in agriculture require critical evaluation for their implication not just on human/animal health but also on ecosystems and on the rights of our people.

Biosafety encompasses the actions, systems and policies that protect humans and environments from exposure to harmful biological agents. In agriculture, it involves the precautions taken to control the cultivation and distribution of genetically modified (GM) crops and products. 

Nigeria is a key actor when it comes to GMOs Biosafety. She signed the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in May 2000 and ratified it in October 2003 in commitment to Global Biodiversity Management. However, questions remain over the implementation of the principles of biosafety, of the continuous assessment of the implications of products of genetically modified organisms on the people/environment and on the level of awareness of the public on the subject.

The Nigerian Biosafety Management Agency Act came into force on 18th April 2015 in the last days of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. That Act mandated the setting up of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) saddled with the responsibility “for providing regulatory framework, institutional and administrative mechanism for safety measures in the application of modern biotechnology in Nigeria with the view to preventing any adverse effect on human health, animals, plants and environment.”  

Since then, a plethora of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) products have been approved for release in the country. According to our report on the State of Biosafety in Nigeria, as of November 2020, the NBMA had issued nineteen permits for introduction of GMOs into the country – eight (8) for field trials, nine (9) for direct use as food and/or feed processing and two (2) for commercial release. GM Cowpea (beans) and GM Cotton were approved for market placement in 2019.  

In this year 2022, 2 permits have been issued: one for field trial of genetically modified potato and the other for commercial release of the HB4 wheat. 

These products are approved with very little public knowledge and where rigorous assessments are done and objections made by concerned organisations/individuals, they are neglected. This NBMA so far has acted more like a promoter of GMOs rather than as a regulator.

One case of focus today will be the genetically modified wheat (HB4 Wheat) approved in July 2022. Approval was granted to the applicant (Trigall Genetics S.A.) in merely a month after the application was received. No risk assessment document is available on the website of NBMA or the Biosafety Clearing House as of 25 July 2022.

Although it is claimed that the application is for commercialization and not for cultivation of the wheat, there is no guarantee that the GM event will not get into the hands of local farmers and contaminate indigenous varieties. The applicant states that “in the unlikely case of accidental release, risk to humans, animals and the environment are similar to the ones produced by conventional wheat.” This doesn’t make sense as they also say that the “traits found in the GM wheat event are not available in non-GM form of the crop.” 

 The HB4 Wheat was engineered to tolerate glufosinate ammonium which is known to be more toxic than glyphosate. There are thousands of cases in the USA over cancers resulting from the use of glyphosate. Residues of glufosinate in the wheat event poses a direct threat to human and animal health. In the likely event that this wheat is planted by farmers soil and water will be contaminated from intensive use of the glufosinate chemical. Although the wheat is self-fertile, it can cross-pollinate at a rate of up to 14% meaning that the HB4 genes will spread to and contaminate other wheat varieties.

These concerns with the HB4 wheat are common to the several other GM products approved for use in the country. Some GMOs are modified to act as pesticides (e.g the Bt Cowpea approved for commercial release in 2019 and already being distributed to farmers). We may have already started eating a pesticide in the name of beans. GMOs have economical (e.g loss of farmers’ rights to save, reuse and exchange seed), environmental (erosion of biodiversity, loss of indigenous varieties, advent of super pest/superweeds, toxicity of water, soil degradation) and health (immune system disorders, liver and kidney problems, cancers) implications that we cannot keep a blind eye to.

The right to safe and nutritious food is a universal right. GMOs challenge that right with the creation of novel organisms, dependence on toxic chemicals and abridgement of the rights of farmers to preserve and share seeds and to stay free from contamination by genetically engineered seeds.

The NBMA Act 2015 which mandated the setup of the Agency has several fundamental flaws that make it impossible to protect the interests of the public and avert the negative implications of GMOs on our health, economy, and environment. The gaps include lack of access to information, no provision for adequate stakeholder engagement or consultation and participation, defective provision for liability and redress, subjective decision-making, and skewed provisions for appeals and reviews. The law is uses slack terms such as “may” rather than “shall” therefore bestowing enormous discretionary power on the Agency. These loopholes create room for abuse of administrative powers and make allowance for gross injustice against the people of Nigeria and the environment.

Today as we discuss the issues surrounding GMOs biosafety, we hope you will focus particularly on the NBMA Act and see if the Agency as constituted is wired to serve the best biosafety interests of Nigeria or if it should be fundamentally reviewed. We hope that you, as legal experts, consider if there are issues of conflict of interest in a setting such as that of NBMA where board members such as National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) are promoters of the risky technology and are also applicants that have benefited from the very first application to have come before the Agency. 

We hope that you will examine the implications of GMOs and advise whether they obstruct avenues for safety, justice, fairness, probity, and equity in our collective struggle for a food regime that ensures that we are not turned into guinea pigs by those pushing to colonize our food systems and expose us to avoidable risks.


Welcome words at the Workshop with Judiciary Officials on GMOs and Biosafety in Nigeria held on 4thAugust 2022 at Abuja

Waving off Climate Action in the Heatwaves

Climate change is a result of human activities with reference to production, movement, and consumption of goods. A whole lot of these goods are products of transformation of natural resources, not to meet the basic needs of humans but to aid the drive for dispossession, accumulation, power, and despoliation. 

Climate change is the outcome of fractured socioeconomic systems. If this is accepted, it should be expected that it is within human capacity to act in ways that would stem the tide, mitigate the impacts, and build resilience. Rather than do this, we are seeing a rise of arguments claiming that market forces can solve the climate polycrisis. Market environmentalism cannot solve problems created by the failure of markets.

The unholy wedlock between fossil fuel industries and governments has locked societies on the fossil pathway and made it seem like dependence on dirty energy is both inevitable and unavoidable. In Nigeria and other African countries, we hear top political leaders insisting that moving away from fossil fuels will spell economic doom, intensive energy deficits and a reign of poverty. It is not hard to see how false these arguments are. The average Nigerian has been plunged into excruciating poverty and massive energy deficit despite 64 years of fossil fuel extraction and exports. Politicians cannot convince anyone that two more decades of destructive extraction and pollution would suddenly turn the horrible indices around.

This School of Ecology on Propelling the Energy Transition aimed to achieve what the name says, force change from bad or dirty to good or renewable energy. With our partners in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa, we believe that there are lessons that can be learned from available wisdom and applied to fundamentally tip the scales away from polluting and harmful activities. We are actively learning from indigenous wisdom which largely encourage living within planetary limits, in harmony with Nature. Our youths can pick up the wisdom of the elders, process and adapt them in innovative ways to bring about the needed change.

The indications from multilateral actions prompted by the Paris Agreement of the UNFCCC are tilting more towards the perpetuation of polluting activities and then embarking on carbon removal from the atmosphere, or at pollution sources — to buy time by delaying climate action while offloading the impacts on the youths and children.

The school denounced the intergenerational crimes connected to insistence on energy forms that harm humanity and the Planet. You have heard of ongoing moves towards divestment which the Niger Delta Convergence Manifesto aptly characterizes as criminal flight, a move to profit from avoiding responsibilities for current and historical ecocide. Still in Africa, there is a push for exploitation of oil in the Okavango Basin in Namibia/Botswana, and insistence on drilling in Virunga (DRC) and in the Saloum Delta in Sénégal. We are already seeing the fires in Cabo Delgado in Mozambique and the resistance in South Africa. All these at a time when investment should be in clean energy modes. 

To worsen the situation, the European Union is displaying an unwillingness to be weaned from fossil fuels as the gas taps from Russia gets constricted on account of the war with Ukraine. Suddenly all eyes are on Africa and our leaders are purring like spoilt cats as they jump at the coming reign of fossil colonialism. 

The raging heatwaves in Europe and the USA provide enough warning signals that all regions are prone to freak weather events.  With the intensification of climate impacts by way of heatwaves, floods, droughts, and wildfires around the world, it would be expected that emergency measures would be taken globally to tackle the crisis. The NDCs, the heart of the Paris Agreement, is failing to cut emissions at levels necessary to tackle the unfolding global heating just as was foreseen by critical analysts. As politicians willfully avoid climate action what will bring about a respite is a global and organized citizens action in the line of what is already emerging.   

Together we scan the horizon, map dirty energy hotspots, challenge communities and promote the use of indigenous as well as empirical knowledge to influence policy and action. Therefore, we believe in robust grassroots engagements through discussions, and consciously learning from the wise in intergenerational dialogues.

To propel the needed energy transition does not begin or end with opposing continued burning of fossil fuels.  We must propose alternatives that would democratize access to clean energy to all and especially to communities in sacrificial or marginalized zones. Building and sharing knowledge on the socio-economic and climate justice dimensions of the climate catastrophe is the strength of this push. Organizing and building community owned and controlled clean energy systems are the keyways forward. This demands that citizens must consistently resist expansion of fossil fuel fields and denounce the presentation of fossil gas a bridge fuel.

Some words by Nnimmo Bassey at the School of Ecology on Propelling the Energy Transition on 13 July 2022. Updated 19 July 2022.

Waking from the Fossil Nightmare

The Niger Delta is a territory under siege. This siege did not begin today. It didn’t begin yesterday. The siege has been on prominent from before the 15th Century.

The siege has disrupted our ways of living, our communities, our cultures, and our spirituality. It has brought drastic fissures in our relationship with Nature and other beings. This assaulted our routine patterns of living in harmony with nature, our philosophical underpinnings of ubuntueti-uwem and other norms by which communities were built on the platforms of cooperation and solidarity rather than on violence, dispossession, undue accumulation, and wastefulness. 

This disruption has eroded our resilience, harmed our health or broken our biodiversity. Today we breath poisoned air, fish and drink polluted waters and grow foods on toxic soils. 

We must not forget that we were once organized, productive, and progressive nationalities with moralities and communalities that paralleled or excelled their counterparts elsewhere. At that time farming yielded bountiful harvests, and fishing was a great joy before the downward spiral . Today, with broken local economies and environments our story has become an unending struggle for survival. 

History may have been banished from our curriculum, but no one should banish them from our schools of life. They provide markers and memories of where we have been; what we have built; what we fought for, won, or lost. History provides us with more than mere scaffolds for the construction of our future. It gives us the energy needed to confront oppression, degradation, humiliations, and sundry manifestations of ecological racism.

We remind ourselves that leaders of the Niger Delta were not pushovers when the shove came from brutal precolonial and colonial adventurers. We recall the fact that the battle for the control of trade between our peoples and European markets brought much violence against our people. It led to cruel military invasions and horrendous pillage, with the razing of Akassa in 1895 standing out as one of the reprehensible landmarks on the march to colonialism.  The smoke of that assault was still rising when the Royal Niger Company (Unilever) sold Nigeria to the British crown for £865,000 (Eight Hundred and sixty-five thousand pounds sterling in 1899. 

That Akassa massacre was over palm oil. One hundred years later, in 1995, the bloodletting continued with the judicial murder of Ogoni leaders in a bid to continue reckless exploitation of crude oil, without any concern about the environment or the people. 

Oil spills, blowouts, gas flares, and the criminalisation of a people

Today oil spills have become routine occurrence and responses have remained slow or inadequate. Gas flaring continues and deadlines come and roll by while the people and environment continue to be gassed with no respite in sight. Several well blowouts have been recorded over the decades, including Texaco’s (Chevron) Funiwa -5 well blowout of January 1980 which spilled 400,000 barrels of crude and another blowout and rig fire at the same field in January 2012. In recent months we have been witnesses to the AITEO well blowout at Nembe in November 2021 with an estimated 300,000 barrels of crude oil dumped into the environment and the explosion and sinking of an aged and unlicensed floating, storage and production vessel (FSPO Trinity) off the coast of Ondo State in February 2022. One largely ignored well blowout is the one at the Ororo-1 field. This well blow out occurred in April 2020 and has been burning and spilling crude non-stop for over two years now. In which other region in Nigeria or in the world would a disaster of this magnitude be ignored for two solid year and counting? 

The criminalization of the people of the Niger Delta has been something of concern to many. Transnational oil companies and public agencies continually plead “sabotage’ or third-party activities as the cause of every oil spill. They never pause to ask how these so-called sabotages occur despite the high militarization of the region.  The oil companies and related public agencies have sung this refrain so much that it has become a tattered fig leaf. Now the situation has expanded with horrendous pollution through artisanal refining in the region. We dare say that this deviant economic activity may have been encouraged by corporations and their cohorts as a mean of offloading pollution resulting from their irresponsible environmental behaviours. It has also arisen as individuals and groups ape the Special Economic Zones concept that officially creates enclaves of economic activities with least control on the guise of promoting national economies.

The Niger Delta Alternatives Convergence

The Niger Delta Alternatives Convergence (NDAC) has been convoked as an inclusive platform for the individuals, civil society groups, political players, community groups, women, ethnic nationalities, and business to come together to address the nagging problems that continue to plague the region. The NDAC is a conference that yields spaces for the interrogation of the outputs of research, community dialogues and the search for alternative resource management pathways as well as examination of laws governing mining and petroleum sectors in Nigeria. The space for engagements of this nature has been often rigged against our communities, but this is a peoples-driven engagement designed to ensure that the communities are heard. It builds on other convening that has been led by many highly respected groups in the region over the years with the aim of extricating the region from the paths of retrogression.

The convergence also aims to produce an inclusive Niger Delta Manifesto for socio-ecological justice highlighting needed alternatives for transformation and social mobilizations for re-source justice. It is hoped that NDAC will provoke a platform for convergence of communities in the region to galvanize action for needed changes for resource access including through demands for legislative changes, debates on the Petroleum Industry Bill, and for critical attainment of re-source democracy – defined as the right of a people to live in harmony with Nature and to retain a right to use, or not use, the gifts of Nature.

Bandages over Festering Sores

We recognize that huge sums of money have been allocated to alleviate the dastard harms caused by petroleum resource exploitation in the region. Such efforts include various Memoranda of Understanding with communities by oil companies, and various government interventions through agencies such as Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) established in 1961, the Niger Delta Basin and Rural Development Authority (NDBRDA) of  1976, the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) of 1992, the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) established in 1995,  Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) set up in 2000 and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs created in 2009. 

These efforts have been characterized by the throwing of money at the problems without a participatory and due consultation with our peoples. Little wonder the outcome has been reigns of corruption and manifestations of abject failure. They have been nothing short of bandages aimed at covering festering wounds without dealing with the fundamental malaise that over six decades of reckless oil and gas exploitation has inflicted on the people and the environment. 

Life After Oil

Considering that the world is moving from fossil fuels and that Nigeria is struggling unsuccessfully to meet her OPEC allowed production quota; considering that oil theft continues apace, oil spills, gas flares and dumping of toxic wastes and sundry ecological destruction continue unabated, we risk not just being left behind by the world, we risk remaining mortally wounded and utterly stranded if we do not brace up insist on urgent transition from this destructive activity, demand and insist on a clean-up of the entire region. Tomorrow will be too late. This is the time to examine and check-mate the moves by transnational companies to divest from their ancient infrastructure, drying wells, polluted fields and sneak away to enjoy their loot. 

We cannot say this too often, but it is time for us to accept that without a healthy environment we cannot be a healthy people. 64 years of oil extraction has brought untold misery and cut life abysmally low in this region. Things cannot continue this way. We have demands and resolves in the proposed Niger Delta Manifesto shared to delegates. Let’s all rise to be counted, demand that politicians declare their environmental plans before they gain our votes; let us demand real climate action including a halt to gas flaring and a restoration of our ecosystems. Let us demand action to stall the washing away of our communities. After 64 years of a nightmare, it is time to wake up, it is time to demand socio-ecological justice. We are not calling for charity, we are calling for justice.

I thank the Chairman of this Convergence, His Excellency, Obong Victor Attah, a man with demonstrated impeccable leadership and wisdom. I thank our keynote speaker, Prof G. G. Darah for what promises to be a rousing call for action based on knowledge. I thank all our academic, activist and community comrades who will take the podium in this Convergence.

I welcome you all, brothers, and sisters.

Welcome words by Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation at NDAC 2022 held at Watbridge Hotel, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria on 23 June 2020.

The Ikarama Paradox

There are communities in the Niger Delta that would compete to have the dubious notoriety of being the oil spills capital of the world due to the regularity of oil spill incidents they experience. Ikarama community in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State is one of such communities. A major community in the Okordia clan, it is also well known for her location on a road that forks off the East- West Highway at Zarama where the highway crosses the Taylor Creek. Travelers on this highway regularly must squeeze their way through the colourful, massive and boisterous Zarama market that emerges at this intersection on Fridays. It is a day when traders and farmers in communities within the region bring their wares and produce for sale to buyers who come from far and near to buy yams, plantains and bananas, cassava products, vegetables, meat, seafood, and an assortment of imported goods. The market is so massive that and speaks out on the highway that it literally takes up one wing of the bridge that straddles the Taylor Creek at this point. The colourful umbrellas under which business is transacted here is a sight to behold. But it doesn’t give any hint of the oil pollution that swirls in the swamps and creeks beyond.

Before the advent of oil exploitation activities at Ikarama it was a community that was fertile both for fishing and for farming. It’s location in the Bayelsa National Forest marked it out as a custodian of a rich biodiversity. The benevolence of nature has been brutally threatened by oil over the past decades. 

When oil spill is mentioned within Okordia clan in Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State, Ikarama and neighbouring communities including Kalaba readily come to the mind of anyone familiar with the history of oil spill incidents in that axis of the Niger Delta. Ikarama community is host to Shell’s Okordia manifold, oil wells and pipelines owned and operated by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC).

Reports of oil spill incidents are as numerous as they are disturbing. At a visit to an area impacted by oil spills in the community way back in 2014, it was amazing to see that those who pretended to have cleaned up the spill had merely turned the soil over to cover up, not clean up, the pollution. The grass over the area shone from the stubborn oily sheen that refused to be hidden and the fumes in the air was so thick residents whose houses were close by had to relocated for safety reasons. I was accompanied on that visit by Alagoa Morris, the ace monitor of the despoliation of the Niger Delta environment and Jay Naidoo, an African elder, activist and politician, who was the founding Secretary General of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and later a minister in the government of President Nelson Mandela of South Africa. Naidoo went on to reference the ecocide in Ikarama in his excellent book, Change: Organising Tomorrow Today. 

Naidoo was shocked by what he saw at Ikarama, Rumuekpe and Ogoni. He wrote in his book that rather than paralyzing him, what he saw made him determine to do something to help restore the land to the rightful owners, the people who work with their bare hands and only take from nature what she yields to them. He continues in that struggle to this day by organizing and by mentoring young people as a key knowledge holder on our continent.

My last visit here may have been in 2014, but I have studiously followed the pollution trajectory here from way back to in 2007. And that is why I am returning to Ikarama today, 8 years after. 

A major incident occurred in February 2018 when a resident was hit by the pungent smell of crude oil, and the sound of spraying liquid, on his way to farm. That spill was traced by the Joint Inspection Visit (JIV) to have resulted from what is termed “third party interference.” The response to this incident was brutal as officials of the Civil Defense Corps descended on the community in the wee hours of one morning, shot a youth in the hand and on both legs, and arrested and took away a lady in lieu of her husband, a logger, who was away in the forest at that time.

Mr Udoki Orukori, the arrested woman’s husband told reporters then that he did not know where his wife had been taken to. “I was informed it was Civil Defense (that arrested her). For now I don’t have money, so there is no access for me to go after her.” Mr Orukori’s extreme exposure and helplessness illustrates the state of affairs of community people all over the Niger Delta who have to confront multiple security forces in the murky waters of the region and in the murkier business of securing oil and gas facilities.

Before the February 2018 incident, the last observed spill in the community was recorded two years earlier and that one was attributed to Shell’s equipment failure. From that month the incidents of spills resumed with the regularity of a tom tom beat of a festival drum.

There was another major oil spill here in the evening of 11th June 2018 at Shell’s Okordia Manifold. That spill spread to neighbouring Kalaba community. The cleanup of the spill was slow and ineffective and over subsequent months the swamps remained heavily impacted with ensuing floods further compounding its impact and spread. 

Although both Shell and ENI have a fair share of spills here, most of the pollution incidents have occurred from facilities of SPDC, notably from the Adibawa/Okodia delivery line, Okodia/Rumuekpe pipeline and Okordia Manifold. And most of the oil spills have occurred close to residential buildings, farms and farmlands raiding serious concerns about locating oil extraction facilities and activities within communities. 

Expectedly, community persons have been experiencing diminishing returns from their fishing and farming endeavours, besides the onerous health impact of living in a highly toxic environment. 

Chief (Mrs) Ayibakuro Warder, a community woman in Ikarama, told environmental monitors in August 2021, ‘’Our crops don’t do well again, particularly the cassava and plantains. They die off after planting and we must replant repeatedly. Tuber plants like cassava and yams no longer yield like in the past. The yams rot away before harvest. We feel this could be because of crude oil in the environment as oil spill impacted sites are not properly cleaned up and remediated. We have not been experiencing this before now. Sometimes, in some areas of our farmlands, as we till the soil we see crude oil. That is what we are contending with and, as fisher folks and farmers, this is a threat to our means of livelihood and health.’’

The story has not changed. When Benjamin Warder tried to construct fishponds in March 2021 and again in April 2022 he was greeted by crude oil oozing from the swamp. According to Mr Warder:

“In March 2021 I brought an excavator to prepare a fishpond for me. What I saw was quite unfortunate. I saw crude oil coming out from the ground. I raised alarm by informing the Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria’s Alagoa Morris. Thereafter NOSDRA, Shell and ERA came and some spots in this environment were dug. And it was very glaring that crude oil was coming out from the ground. As a community person, I felt that since even the multinational oil company had come here to witness crude oil coming out from the ground, they would come back to carry out soil tests in the entire environment and carry out proper remediation of the environment. But unfortunately, since August last year till now, nothing has been seen or heard about it from SPDC [Shell Petroleum Development Company]. That notwithstanding, I decided to try and invest again this year and brought an excavator on 26th April 2022. And you know the heavy cost of bringing a Swamp buggy down here from Yenagoa; it is expensive. And when we excavated this time, what we saw was worse than the one of 2021.”

The depth of the environmental destruction at Ikarama and adjoining communities is so extensive that it cannot continue to be covered up or ignored. The people have borne the burden of irresponsible environmental despoliation by oil companies and other entities, and this must be stopped. First the oil companies must change their horrendous habit of not adequately monitoring and securing their pipelines, and their futile efforts at covering up or underreporting oil spills.  They must review and adequately clean up and restore the environment wherever oil spills have occurred over the years. The UNEP report on the assessment of Ogoni environment clearly exposed the false claims of cleanups by the oil majors. 

This is the time for government and the oil majors to take immediate steps to commence an environmental and health audit of Ikarama and the entire Niger Delta and commence a thorough cleanup of the entire region. Funds for this endeavour should be deposited in a dedicated account for this purpose. No entity must be allowed to divest without first making reparations for their ecological transgressions. Anything less is to deny the people their right to live and flourish in their land. Remaining deprived, neglected, and poisoned in an environment that nature has so well-endowed is a paradox that Ikarama must be spared.

Learning for Change

The wise is a knowledge holder and keeper. 

Learning is a lifelong process. In other words, we never graduate from the schools of life as long as we are still on planet earth. We learn to walk, to speak intelligibly and we learn to be part of our communities. Many factors affect our learning and some of these are personal, others are social, cultural, and economic. In this information age, we need guidance to navigate the rapidly changing situations with virtually everything around us. There must be few things that are not in a flux around us. We struggle to keep up with changes in our culture, social norms, environment, politics, education, the arts and even spirituality.

In the midst of the stormy changes, we note that the changes are propelled by humans and human institutions, including corporations. Wisdom requires a rethink of current modes of production, reproduction, and consumption. Consciously retaining understanding of our being, as humans, in the community of other beings is essential in an age such as we are in. To do otherwise is to become beings that have lost both memory and mind. We need information and we are having more than we can analyze and sift for our purposes. This state of things require that we pause, sit, and learn. We need to learn from the wise, the proverbial seated elders who see far beyond what the youths cannot see standing on top of palm trees.

Although the wise do have information, information on its own is not wisdom. Information is like tools in a box. Anyone could own or access the toolbox, but only the trained or schooled would know what tools to use and for what purpose. Mere information is not wisdom. Having a pouch filled with information does not make anyone wise. Knowing what to do with gathered information per time, makes one wise.

Our elders and initiates into diverse age groups hold a vast array of knowledge about our forests, ocean, and biodiversity generally. As we know, some of the knowledge are not accessible to all and could get lost if the holders are not available or willing to share such.

Why sit at the feet of the wise and the knowledge holders in natural and less formal settings? We do this with the aim of bridging the gap and building relationships between the learner and the teacher. It is essential to build relationships of trust to facilitate knowledge sharing, interrogation and understanding.

Through Learning from the Wise (LftW) we hope to tap into the reservoir of the abundant knowledge of our people from especially knowledgeable and respected individuals.

What are the questions plaguing the youths? How are they interpreting the objective conditions around them? What is their reading of the state of the environment and energy systems? We don’t just want our youths to know the solutions, we want them to know how to find solutions to known problems and even to those yet to occur.

Our hope is that our youths will not only be recipients but agents and broadcasters of knowledge and wisdom using contemporary tools such as those available on social media platforms and which are readily utilized by them.

It is our desire that the youths bear in mind that, as is the case with all teachers, knowledge holders are often not self taught. They learn from other knowledge holders and understand that they hold the knowledge as a sacred trust, as something to be shared with others. The knowledge cuts across all spectrums of knowing and include those on environment, traditional medicine, varieties of crops and animals, value systems, ceremonials, values, and language. 

Our knowledge keepers are custodians of our tangible and intangible cultural heritage embodied and manifested in our knowledge system, including fishing and farming systems, customs, poetry, songs, architecture, and other art forms. The fact that the tangible and intangible are closely intertwined as a multilayered tapestry of life urges us to fundamentally look at our learning processes and spaces. What are the available spaces for learning? Universities? Why not Multiversities? How come our polytechnics are more like monotechnics? What are our youths educated for? Are they educated for life steeped in solidarity, dignity, and respect, or are they trained to be mere economic beings, sold and bought by the highest bidder? Can such narrow educational pathways prepare a people for the increasingly complex challenges they must face?

LftW is a platform for active acquisition of knowledge, bearing in mind the urgent need to propel changes in our society, the kind of change we desire and need. The change that is for the people and from the people.