For Our Biosafety & Biosecurity*

IMG_0764The saying goes that a people united can never be defeated. Today we affirm that our unity is built on sound knowledge and on a commitment to ensure that our agricultural and food systems are not by any means compromised or corrupted by GMOs.

The conference on Just Governance: The Nigerian Biosafety Law, GMOs and Implications for Nigerians and Africa could not have come at a more critical time. We are at crossroads in the struggle for sustainable agriculture, safe foods, biosafety and biosecurity. Navigating this intersection and assuring Nigerians that their concerns are not pushed out of view by profit-driven biotech transnational corporations and their agents can only be achieved through a broad movement of vigilant Nigerians, and Africans at large.

The coming together of faith based organisations, farmers, consumers, academics, youths and non-governmental organisations to examine the critical issues under the co-coordination of the Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN), Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network (AEFJN) and the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) indicates that the movement to pursue the best interest of Nigerians and Africans is on track.

The saying goes that a people united can never be defeated. Today we affirm that our unity is built on sound knowledge and on a commitment to ensure that our agricultural and food systems are not by any means compromised or corrupted by GMOs.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with its Precautionary Principle, sets the minimum international biosafety standards for the trans-boundary movement of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and requires that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, the lack of full scientific knowledge shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective means to prevent environmental degradation. This key principle is lacking in Nigeria’s Biosafety law. With such a lacuna and many others – including lack of provisions for strict liability, labelling of GMO products, open and full public consultations – there is no guarantee for our biosafety and ultimately biosecurity.

The desperate push by the biotech industry to invade our agriculture and foods has come on the heels of coming into effect of the severely defective National Biosafety Management Act. That law was one of the last actions of the immediate past presidency. It is an act that threatens to enthrone a biosafety regime that caters for the interest of biotech industries seeking markets for their genetically modified crops and related chemicals.

  • We demand that current applications by Monsanto to bring in genetically modified varieties of maize and cotton into Nigeria should be set aside until we have a system that can protect the interest of Nigerians and is in line with the African Model Law on biosafety as well as the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • Although the law is recently enacted, we cannot avoid quickly repealing it or, at a minimum, drastically revising it to ensure that risky or harmful substances do not have a free reign in our land.

Our agricultural systems, including that of saving and sharing seeds, should never be tampered with. Our biodiversity is our strength and this critical inbuilt resilience will be lost if we allow GMOs to erode or erase our heritage and destroy our soils and water with harmful chemicals.

We call on relevant government ministries to jealously guard our crop and animal varieties, provide rural infrastructure, support agro-allied industries for food processing and preservation and expand extension services that were severely constricted by the requirements of the infamous structural adjustment programmes.

Nigeria is not a dumping ground for risky technologies and we are not about to yield to be used as guinea pigs for experimentation by profit driven entities and their local agents. We stand for support of small holder farmers, food sovereignty encompassing our right to safe and culturally appropriate food. We stand for agricultural systems that do not harm the climate.

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*Statement by Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) at the press conference marking close of the Just Governance: The Nigerian Biosafety law, GMOs, and Implications for Nigerians and Africa held at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja from May 23-25, 2016.

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IMG_0785Abuja Declaration on The Release Of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria*

At the conclusion of the conference on Just Governance: The Nigerian Bio-Safety Law, GMOs, and Implications for Nigeria and Africa held at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja, May 23-25, 2016; we, the participants from diverse religious and faith based bodies, communities and civil society organizations (CSOs) from Nigeria, Africa and other parts of the world, affirm that organic foods  are healthy, nutritious and remain a vital aspect of human rights to food and food security.

Informed by the robust, structured and eye-opening presentations by specialists and panelists and spontaneous  contributions by the participants, we strongly object to the release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria, convinced that GMOs are not the solution to hunger.

Nigeria’s fertile land guarantees the nation food sovereignty. Consequently, hunger  is due to bad governance, poor infrastructure for preservation and distribution of food and lack of adequate all round support to small holder farmers who constitute over 70% of the farmers in Nigeria. We, therefore, stornly recommend to  the Nigerian  Government to invest more in agriculture.

The Nigerian Bio-Safety Law, in its present form, is a recipe for the  destruction of Nigeria’s ecosystem, food cultures and systems. The process leading to its passage was devoid of critical input and public participation that would have enabled Nigerians to significantly determine and protect their food cultures and systems. It  lacks legal safeguards for protecting their rights.

We observe that the public hearing at the National Assembly did not meet an acceptable, minimum, global standard and  best practices in a democratic society. The hearing was just a  formality to create the semblance of a democratic process and skewed in favour of the GMOs Trans-National Corporations. The Government should not only introduce appropriate mechanisms but repeal the laws seeking to legalise and  adopt GMO seedlings and food products and consequently marginalize Nigerian farmers.

Furthermore, the Nigerian Bio-Safety Law is not in  the interest of Nigerian farmers and the wider public because it facilitates the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on a massive scale that  violates the precautionary principle, which forms the basis of the African Union’s revised African Model Law on Biodiversity, to which Nigeria is a signatory.

We adopt the comments of Health of Mother Earth Foundation and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria on the relevant sections of the Bio-Safety Law and strongly suggest their incorporation into the Nigerian Law to safeguard the rights of Nigerian citizens and protect Nigeria’s ecosystem.

The potential socio-economic, cultural and ethical impacts of GMOs are enormous and  diminish the positive impacts of small holder farmers who are feeding the country; promoting  cultural practices, community well-being, traditional crops and varieties; reducing rural unemployment; engendering trade; raising the quality of life of indigenous peoples; and re-affirming food security.

Aware that the UN recognizes socio-economic consideration as a key element in biosafety negotiations and decision-making processes (Protocol  on  Socio-Economic Considerations; Article 26), we, therefore, appeal to the Federal Government to conduct a socio-economic impact assessment of GMOs before the Government takes measures that destroy Nigeria’s agricultural sector.

The concern about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is not only about safety  for consumers, we are equally concerned about the more damaging  systematic appropriation of the rights to seeds by the Trans-National Corporations that deprives farmers of their traditional rights to seeds, in favor of patents by multinational corporations (SouthSouth Dialogue Conference).

There has been intensive and sustained propaganda on the positive contributions of GMO on food security questions, very little has been done to draw attention to the inherent risks and hazards of industrial mono-cropping and consumption of GMOs  such as loss of biodiversity, destruction of livestock, land grabbing,  land and environmental degradation, communal conflicts over land and loss of rights. Therefore, there is an urgent  need to present the true and full picture to Nigerians.

Industrial agriculture has no real contribution to national food sovereignty of Nigeria. It is part of the western development and capitalist economic regime bent on making Africa remain a cheap resource continent and market for finished products.  More fundamentally, the GMO project is anti-creational. It disturbs, contradicts and destroys the ecosystem. God created every plant and vegetable with its seed in it.

We implore our policy makers to learn from the experience of Burkina Faso and a host of other countries that are rejecting the GMOs and their false gospel of agricultural development. We maintain that  Nigeria’s food sovereignty lies in investing aggresively in agricuture, empowering small holder farmers, and practicing agri-ecology that is sustainable and environment-friendly.

 

Signed:

Rev  Aniedi Okure, OP   –Executive Director AFJN                    

Nnimmo Bassey — Executive Director HOMEF

Fr. Evaristus Bassey — Exective Director Caritas Nigeria and Church and Society Department

Fr.  Chika  Onyejiuwa, CSSp — Executive Secretary AEFJN, Brussels

 

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Communications:

Fr. Evaristus Bassey  Exective Director Caritas Nigeria and Church and Society Department

CBCN www.cbcn.org; www.caritasnigeria.orgfrevaristus@ccfng.org

Aniedi Okure OP,   AFJN http://www.afjn.org/  director@afjn.org, +1-202-817- 3670;

Nnimmo Bassey, HOMEF – www.homef.org  Nnimmo Bassey —  nnimmo@homef.org  ,

Mariann Bassey- Friends of Earth Campaigner  Orovwuje anybassi@yahoo.com  +234-703-449-5940.

Fr. Vincent Ajayi, voajayi@gmail.com  +234-803-308-6456;

Chika Onyejiuwa, C.S.Sp, AEFJN www.aefjn.org/execsecretary@aefjn.org ; +32466182622

 

*Resolutions of the Conference

 

Nigerian Biosafety Law: A Keg of Gun Powder

Nigerian Biosafety Law:  A Keg of Gun Powder

As you will hear in this conference, the Nigerian Biosafety Management Act (2015) is a highly defective piece of legislation contrived to open up Nigeria for a literal GMO invasion. HOMEF has examined the law and our publication on its yawning short comings is available online and in hard copies. We demand that the law be drastically and transparently reviewed to safeguard our environment, health, food systems and future generations. We also demand that the applications by Monsanto to introduce genetically modified maize and cotton into Nigeria be set aside as Nigeria must not be a dumping ground for failed or risky technologies.

It is an honour to welcome you all to this conference jointly hosted by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), the Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN), Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network (AEFJN).

The ink with which the Nigerian Biosafety Management Act of 2015 was signed into law had hardly dried when the Nigerian Biosafety Management Agency (NABMA) quickly received applications for genetically modified maize and cotton from Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited and advertised same for public comments. The rush was such that the advertisement of the applications published in Leadership (Thursday, February 25,2016) had two display duration dates with one saying 29th February to 28th March 2016 and another paragraph stating 22nd February to 15 March 2016. Two conflicting dates in the same advert does raise cause for concern.  Also puzzling is the fact that the advertisement was published in February 25, 2016 but the deadline mentioned in the notice took effect from February 22nd.  We submitted objections to the two applications and copies of the objections are available for participants in this conference.

We were not surprised by the move of NABMA because even before the law was signed in the dying days of the previous administration, the National Agricultural Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) had at a press conference on 17th July 2014 stated that they were working to fast track the adoption of genetically modified organisms in Nigeria. At that time, the agency claimed there were sufficient safeguards to protect Nigerians from the unpredictable consequences of introducing GMOs into our environment. Their acclaimed safeguards included the “a draft Biosafety Bill, biosafety application guidelines, biosafety containment facilities guidelines, and a variety of forms such as those for accreditation, GMO import and shipment form and a host of drafts.”[1]

The average Nigerians tend to think that any fruit that is bigger than normal is genetically modified. They also think that genetically modified crops grow rapidly, have high yields and are more nutritious than their normal counterparts. People routinely ask how the growing population would be fed without modern biotechnology.

All these are myths that the industry has quite successfully propagated. People believe these false claims without demanding for evidence beyond the scientific sounding terminologies: genetically, engineered, etc. Very few Nigerians know that genetic engineering is actually a cut and paste technology where genetic materials when inserted often arrives at unintended locations. Moreover, up to 70% of the world’s population is fed by small scale farmers and not from the products of genetic engineering. Indeed, a bulk of genetically engineered crops produced over the past two decades are used mostly as animal feed.

Some of us are concerned that agricultural modern biotechnology or genetic engineering is already being surreptitiously introduced into Nigeria. In 2006/2007 Friends of the Earth Africa groups detected illegal genetically modified rice on Nigeria’s market shelves. The findings were reported to the Federal Ministry of Environment and NAFDAC with no response from either. Finding an illegal GMO rice on Nigeria’s market shelf through a very random search suggests to us that we may be sitting on a keg of gun powder.

Africa is a frontier yet to be conquered by the biotech industry. Attempts to introduce the engineered crops to small scale farmers have met spectacular failures- especially with regard to cotton engineered to be pest resistant – as have been exemplified in South Africa and Burkina Faso. Other than cotton, the attempts have been on staple crops that our peoples depend on, including cassava, beans (cowpea)and bananas. The significance of such attempts is that our staples are captured by the biotech industry, then our agriculture and food will inexorably fall into their control.

Genetic engineering is still a “young” science, even though there already are more extreme versions of biotechnology , notably, synthetic biology. As you will learn from this conference, the drawbacks of agricultural genetic engineering are numerous and work against the grain of African agricultural systems. For one, they are mostly grown as monocultures, depend on agro toxics or agro-chemicals and on artificial fertilizer.

Concerns include negative impact on agro-ecosystems, such as development of resistance in target insect pests, harmful effects on non-target insects, development of herbicide tolerance in weeds, and genetic erosion or loss of traditional crop diversity as a result of genetic contamination through cross-fertilization.[3] . As the research by the Union of Concerned Scientists in the USA showed, yield gains have been due to improved traditional breeding methods and other agricultural practices other than those of genetic engineering. [4] Moreover, it does not make sense comparing the product of mono-culture with the product of multi-culture.

Hunger is caused by poverty and not by a lack of food. A majority of those who go to bed hungry are actually farmers. They suffer hunger because they have to sell off their produce in order to meet financial obligations related to family needs. In addition, farmers in rural communities with poor infrastructure are simply unable to get their harvests to markets where they could obtain reasonable prices. This dearth of infrastructure and social support opens our farmers to multiple layers of exploitation and deprivation.

We are concerned that rather than focusing on supporting local farmers who are known to hold the key for supply of wholesome food now and in the future, our agencies appear to have thrown caution to the winds, ignore the Precautionary Principle – the very bedrock of biosafety- and are embracing risky technologies and systems that would eventually lead to a colonisation of our agriculture.

As you will hear in this conference, the Nigerian Biosafety Management Act (2015) is a highly defective piece of legislation contrived to open up Nigeria for a literal GMO invasion. HOMEF has examined the law and our publication on its yawning short comings is available online and in hard copies. We demand that the law be drastically and transparently reviewed to safeguard our environment, health, food systems and future generations. We also demand that the applications by Monsanto to introduce genetically modified maize and cotton into Nigeria be set aside as Nigeria must not be a dumping ground for failed or risky technologies.

Let me conclude these welcome words by sharing an extract of what HOMEF stands for:

HOMEF is an environmental/ecological think tank and advocacy organisation. It is rooted in solidarity and in the building and protection of human and collective dignity. We believe that neoliberal agendas driven by globalization of exploitation of the weak, despoliation of ecosystems and lack of respect for Mother Earth thrive mostly because of the ascendancy of enforced creed of might is right. This ethic permits the powerful to pollute, grab resources and degrade/destroy the rest simply because they can do so. HOMEF recognizes that this reign of (t)error can best be tackled through a conscious examination of the circumstances by which the trend crept in and got entrenched. Thus, HOMEF will have as a cardinal work track continuous political education aimed at examining the roots of exploitation of resources, labour, peoples and entire regions. HOMEF hopes through this to contribute to the building of movements for recovery of memory, dignity and harmonious living with full respect of natural cycles of Mother Earth.[5]

Welcome to fruitful deliberations.

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(Welcome words by Nnimmo Bassey, Director Health of Mother Earth Foundation, at the Conference on The Nigerian Biosafety Act and GMOs – Implications for Nigerians and Africa held in Abuja 24-25th May 2016)

NOTES

[1] See Joke Falaju. July 18, 2014. Nigeria to accelerate adoption of GM crops. The guardian, reposted on https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/07/18/nigeria-to-accelerate-adoption-of-gm-crops/ and accessed on 23 May 2016. See also, HOMEF.2014. Not on our PlatesWhy Nigeria does not need GM food – http://www.homef.org//sites/default/files/pubs/not-on-our-plates.pdf

[2]BBC. EU allows sale of more GM food crops for livestock. 24 April 2015 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32450268

[3] Friends of the Earth International.2003. Playing with Hunger – The reality behind the shipment of GMOs as Food Aid. Amsterdam. Pp9-10

[4] Union of Concerned Scientists.2009. Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops. http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/failure-to-yield.html#.V0LSFGM-iFI Accessed 23.05.2016

See also http://thefreethoughtproject.com/buy-myth-gmo-crops-increase-yields/ and http://www.gmwatch.org/news/archive/2013/15065-union-of-concerned-scientists-respond-again-to-pam-ronald-s-attacks

[5] See more at: http://www.homef.org/content/about-home#sthash.6dHW5m8U.dpuf

When the Land Bleeds

A day at Ogoni was a homecoming of sorts for me yesterday when the global wave of #BreakFree actions touched down at Bori. The resolve of the Ogoni to peacefully and determinedly fight ecocide is legendary.

The women, with their colourful MOSOP wrappers, were at the Peace Centre before others began to arrive. Etched on their faces were the marks of solidarity, discipline and fortitude that has kept them going in the face of horrendous ecological assaults.  They seemed to say: We will not be moved. Our land must be detoxified.

Ogoni Ecological Defenders (OED) were on hand to help with setting up the props for the actions that were to follow. The OED and Ogoni Women Ecological Defenders (OWED) have been closely connected to HOMEF over the last two years, building knowledge on ways of engaging with the expected Ogoni cleanup process and generally defending their ecosystems.

With music, chants, poetry and spontaneous dance, the march and the rally took place under a bright Ogoni sky. A chant of Ogoni united can never be defeated was quickly taken up by the crowd. Call and responses followed: What do we want? Clean up Ogoni! When do we want it? Now!

A second phase of the Break Free action was a visit to a severely polluted community in B-Dere. The trip led by energetic activist, Celestine Akpobari of Peoples Advancement Centre, was an eye opener. Although the community is a shouting distance from the highway, getting there we met a community that might as well have been at the end of the Earth. Absolutely devastated by an oil spill in 2010 and fire, the pollution stubbornly remains untouched. The villagers were hard at work in their farms by the river bank as we went by.

On the surface the crops looked healthy and flourishing. But their harvest will definitely be one of poison, thanks to the highly contaminate soil, water and air. When you visit places like this you cannot say anything other than: keep it in the ground.

See a short video summary of the day here.

 

Break Free at Ogoni – Silence is Treason!

The MOSOP Peace Centre, Bori, Ogoni is a very significant location in the history of the struggle for a safe Niger Delta in which our peoples live in peace and in dignity and struggle for their rights non-violently. It is thus an important place for our second action to demand that Nigeria breaks free from fossil fuels in order to see a clear path to the future. Two days ago we were at Oloibiri, at the very first oil well in Nigeria. That well was drilled in 1956, but commercial export commenced from 1958. By that time, oil exploration and exploitation had been firmly established in Ogoni. Ogoni is a logical next stop.

Gbene Ogoni!

I salute you, proud Ogoni people. I salute you, leaders of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), I salute you, comrades.

I request that we observe a minute silence in honour of the memories of great Ogoni sons and daughters who have laid down their lives in various circumstances in the course of struggles to halt the dastard pollution of Ogoni land. May the labour of these our heroes never be in vain.

In 1993 Ogoni people, like the Biblical David, pulled down Goliath, when you expelled Shell oil company from your Kingdom. Never have we seen a people more united in the struggle for emancipation from social, economic and ecological slavery. Today your heads are held high and we salute you, proud Ogoni people.

We stand with you today to declare that your action of halting the exploitation of crude oil from your territory has caught the imagination of the whole world. It first inspired Oilwatch International to begin the call to Leave the Oil in the Soil. Today, Keep It in the Ground has inspired a global call. That is why we are here today to declare with you that the whole world must break free from fossil fuels.

Gbene Ogoni!

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A refusal to break away from fossil fuels is a call for the continued bastardisation of our air, land and creeks. A refusal to break away from fossil fuels is an unacceptable call for unchecked climate change. A refusal to break away from fossil fuels sentences Nigeria to a corrupt political arrangement that breeds corruption, violence and conflicts, more than anything else.

That is real climate action. Breaking free from fossil fuels is the sensible way today and it is the way of the future. A clean Ogoni land, a clean Niger Delta, a clean world – that is the way to fight global warming and to give humans and other species a fighting chance of survival.

In one of the poems that our hero, Ken Saro-Wiwa, wrote, he declared that silence is treason. We agree and demand that we all speak up and join the global call for all nations to break free from fossil fuels. You showed this in practical terms. Others must take up the call.

How can our environment be clean if we continue to depend on a re-source that is polluting from exploration, exploitation and consumption stages? Indeed, fossil fuels remain polluting even in their post consumption stage. How can our environment be clean if as we clean up we keep adding new pollution? Breaking free from fossil fuels requires a decommissioning and carting away of abandoned oil facilities from Ogoniland. This is what the proposed clean up of Ogoniland must include.

Gbene Ogoni!

You have inspired the entire world by keeping it under the ground for 23 years. We applaud you for this heroic achievement and join you today to raise our voices for this to be taken up by the whole world and for the United Nations to draw up an instrument for the compensation of communities, kingdoms, nations and territories that have successfully kept fossil fuels in the ground and thus established verifiable carbon sinks by not allowing the carbon to be excavated in the first instance.

Our lands are fantastically polluted. And now that the price of petrol has been increased fantastically in Nigeria, it is a strong message that fossil fuel will continue to impoverish our peoples and the way out is to leave this menace in the ground.

That is real climate action. Breaking free from fossil fuels is the sensible way today and it is the way of the future. A clean Ogoni land, a clean Niger Delta, a clean world – that is the way to fight global warming and to give humans and other species a fighting chance of survival. Break free from fossil fuels is a breaking free form the hypocrisy of climate negotiations that refuse to mention fossil fuels. It is a breaking free from corporate capture. The Ogoni did it. We can all do it! Together we can do it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oloibiri: A monument to Fossil Fuels

Break Free from Fossil Fuels actions commenced in Nigeria today, 10th May 2016, with a rally at Oil Well 1, Nigeria’s first oil well drilled in 1956.

It was a gathering of hundreds of citizens, including community chiefs, youths, women groups, and civil society groups in the Break Free Coalition. I bring you excerpts from the rallying calls by me and also from one of the leaders from the neighbouring communities, Chief Napoleon Ofiruma at the feisty event. A star musical performance by BioMagic, a group of environmental activists lead by Akpotu Ziworitin added verve as they sang …Stop the gas Flares, we need fresh air

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Oloibiri A monument to Fossil Fuels

By Nnimmo Bassey

I salute you, Chiefs, community leaders, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters.

As we stand at the very first oil well in Nigeria we see clearly that when the well runs dry all your hopes also dry up. This first oil well, has been named a national monument. This is indeed a monument. This Olibiri Oil Well is a monument to neglect. It is a monument to pollution. It is a monument to destroyed livelihoods and of betrayed hopes. It is a monument to the agents of global warming. It is a monument to fossil colonialism. It is a monumental disappointment. And we are saying, never again!

We cannot have a clean Niger Delta if oil spills continue. We cannot have a clean Niger Delta if pipelines keep getting bombed. We cannot have a clean Niger Delta with broken pipelines and without companies maintaining their facilities.

This oil well demands that we raise our voice and speak out loudly. For the Nigerian economy to be truly diversified, we must break free from the bondage to fossil fuels. For the Nigerian economy to work for Nigerians, it is time to move on from fossil fuels.

What do we want? A clean Niger Delta!

When do we want it: Now!

How can this happen? Stop oil spills. Stop gas flares.

What is our demand? Keep the oil in the ground!

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some chiefs at the rally

Globally, fossil fuels extraction, and use, is the major driver of climate change. Today our weather is unbearably hot. Our waters are so polluted with crude oil that we cannot dive into them to cool our bodies. Some of our rivers and forests even go up in flames.

The water we drink used to be sweet. Today the only sweet thing coming out of our land is so-called sweet crude. It is only sweet to those who do not care about the land, our lives.

I don’t need to remind you about oil spills. The evidence is all over the land. Thousands of oil spill locations are crying out to be cleaned. We don’t talk about it, but hundreds of barrels of produced water are dumped into our water ways daily in the Niger Delta, poisoning our waters and choking throats instead of quenching thirst.

 

Oil extraction has poked holes all over the Niger Delta. Coastlines erosion is eating up the lands of our communities and sea level rise will make this worse. Ask our people at Brass. Ask our people at Koluoama. In addition, our land is sinking! Combine these with the effects of gas flaring and tell me what benefit crude oil has brought to our land, to Nigeria.

We want a clean Niger Delta.

We want Niger Delta to stay clean.

We demand that fossil fuels be kept in the ground.

We insist that we must not wait until the wells run dry

We cannot have a clean Niger Delta if oil spills continue. We cannot have a clean Niger Delta if pipelines keep getting bombed. We cannot have a clean Niger Delta with broken pipelines and without companies maintaining their facilities. We must all join our hands to make fossil fuels history and make this first oil well a monument to the monumental damage caused by fossil fuels.

What do we want? A clean Niger Delta!

How can this happen? Stop oil spills. Stop gas flares.

What is our demand? Keep the oil in the ground!

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Clean Up Our Land Now

By Chief Napoleon Ofiruma

I speak on behalf of the Landlord communities in Ogbia Land on this very special day. I welcome you all to our peaceful land.

Today is special because we have the opportunity to speak out to Nigerians and to the world. Today we can say that when we welcomed oil drilling on our land 60 years ago we had a lot of hopes and now we can boldly say that our hopes have been dashed. After 60 years what have we got from oil? In fact, our hopes have been betrayed and relegated.

..the only oil business in Nigeria should be the business of cleaning up the oil pollution.

As we stand at the very first oil well to be drilled in the Niger Delta, we ask the world to see our situation. The oil well has been sucked dry and abandoned. As the oil well has been abandoned so have we been abandoned.

We realise that our being abandoned and neglected is not all the story. Oil extraction and use has brought a lot of problems to the Nigeria and the world. Today everywhere is hot. The climate is changing. Life is very tough and unbearable.

Crude oil spillages have destroyed our fishing business. They have also destroyed our farms. We demand that oil companies should stop polluting our land. We demand that our land and creeks should be cleaned up urgently. We demand an end to gas flaring. We are tired of diseases and deaths caused by oil pollution.

Welcome to our land. Look around you and help us tell government that oil has brought nothing to us but destruction and death.

Keep It in the Ground

We demand that as government begins to diversify the economy, the only oil business in Nigeria should be the business of cleaning up the oil pollution. That will employ thousands of youths and restore our fisheries and agriculture. We want to return to our fishing business. We want fish and food, not oil.

We join all Nigerians and others in the world to say that our bondage to crude oil is enough. It is time to break free from this bad business. We support your call to leave the oil in the soil and to quench the killing gas flares and the destruction of our flora and fauna.

 

 

 

 

Blood Cattle

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Cattle “grazing” in a garden in Abuja. 01.05.2016. Pix: @TerverGyer

Blood Cattle: With so much blood shed so that cattle may roam roughshod over the land, it does make sense for us to rethink our meat production and consumption patterns.

Violent conflicts have become so pervasive in Nigeria that one could be excused to say that they threaten to become the new normal. Some years ago, no one could imagine that a Nigerian, child or adult, would become a suicide bomber. That thinking was loudly put to rest by the activities of Boko Haram, the group that erected and foisted a bomb-culture on our nation. Today, the horrendous conflicts between farmers and pastoralists must not be allowed to become another normal.

Conflicts in the oil fields, including third party interferences, oil thefts and acts of sabotage led to youths of the Niger Delta being labelled as restive whenever they made demands for ecological or social justice. That adjective gave the oil companies some cover over the poor handling and policing of their pipelines, equipment and other facilities. And then to add cream to the cake, it has become normal for oil companies to scream sabotage at the slightest hint of accidents in the oil fields.

Tango in Bonga

The only time a company like Shell did not plead sabotage was when they had the Bonga offshore spill of 20 December 2011. That spill occurred when the top-ranking oil company pumped thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State, instead of pumping it into a waiting vessel. By their admission, they pumped 40,000 barrels of oil into the sea before they knew something was amiss. That speaks volumes of the high standards they maintain in their operations! It may have taken long in coming, but we must applaud the Federal Government of Nigeria for finally instituting a suit against Shell for the damage done to the environment and on our people.

Grazing Times

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After a hard day’s “grazing.” Pix: @TerverGyer

An intriguing cycle of violence that has become worrisome is that of the so-called herdsmen wielding AK47s, brutally attacking, killing, kidnaping and raping citizens in their paths. The atrocious level of killings and destruction has led some to call these livestock blood cattle. Government action cannot be delayed on this matter.

While it is left to our security agencies to say if these attackers are truly herdsmen or a new band of terrorists, the issue of a Grazing Bill before the National Assembly has added more cause for concern to many Nigerians.

For those who may not know, the Grazing Bill seeks to acquire swaths of land across Nigeria, dispossess individuals and communities of their lands. The bill bars land owners from having access to these lands, territories and resources. Trespass by owners of the land could lead to terms of imprisonment and other penalties. The Bill is a perfect of move to legalise land grabbing and internal colonisation using the obnoxious Land Use Act as a cover. It is interesting that the Bill has now been said not to be on the tables of the National Assembly. Phantom or not, the Bill remains a source for concern. Depite the denial of the existence of any Grazing Bill, we read that there are versions of private members Grazing Bills in the Hose of Representatives and that one is expected from the executive arm.

The rich owners of the cattle should set up ranches to support their enterprises. If the nomadic lifestyle is a way of life that cannot be compromised, the range of the movements should nevertheless be controlled. We hear much about value-addition as a way of building our agricultural industrial sector. Is it not time to move meat rather than cattle across the nation?

Meat, Hunger and Climate Change

While many have linked the herdsmen to the Fulani ethnic nationality, it is clear that owners of the cattle that have become the lightening rod of the peculiar violence rocking the nation in recent days may actually range beyond the Fulani. One interpretation could be that what we are experiencing may be the manifestation of a primitive use of power by a blood-thirsty wealthy class using the poor as canon fodder against other poor and helpless citizens.

If this mayhem is not nipped it threatens to set the nation ablaze. In a situation of rising suspicions, there is need to build bridges between our peoples, build a vanguard of the oppressed to keep off the forces of division and annihilation and ensure that the poor among us are not used as foot soldiers in a proxy war they have no business fighting.

The rich owners of the cattle should set up ranches to support their enterprises. If the nomadic lifestyle is a way of life that cannot be compromised, the range of the movements should nevertheless be controlled. We hear much about value-addition as a way of building our agricultural industrial sector. Is it not time to move meat rather than cattle across the nation?

The world’s appetite for meat is having global impacts on the rate of deforestation and on global warming. Indeed, much of the food grown in the world today go to feeding animals rather than humans, thus entrenching hunger and malnutrition.

With so much blood shed so that cattle may roam roughshod over the land, it does make sense for us to rethink our meat production and consumption patterns.