Super Evacuation Highway

thumb_IMG_1104_1024 2Government says the Superhighway is essential as an evacuation route for the proposed deep sea port on the Atlantic coastline. What we are not told is where the goods (or indeed, what goods) would be evacuated to!

Will the Superhighway be used to evacuate imported goods to Katsina Ala or would it be to evacuate timber from thousands of trees to be felled to destinations outside of Nigeria? That would be the an historic fantastically super-timber-evacuation-highway.

Watch a report back during HOMEF’s forest Community Dialogue at Old Ekuri on 10 June 2016 here: .

Watch Aljazeera’s visit to, Old Ekuri, one of the threatened communities at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BveWIzyCEs

 

Eco-Defenders Resolve to Monitor Ogoni Clean-up

Work

Eco-Defenders Resolve to Monitor Ogoni Clean-Up

On the implementation of the clean-up, the consultative meeting noted that the Federal Government has demonstrated significant commitment in commencing the clean-up of Ogoniland in response to the recommendations of the UNEP Report. The meeting was, however, worried that there were many cases of ongoing pollution in Ogoniland thus making the proposed clean-up rather complicated.

On Wednesday the 26th of July 2016, the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) held a training and consultative meeting for community environmental monitors, with specific emphasis on the planned clean-up of polluted sites in Ogoni. The meeting held at the Aluebo Town Hall, Ogale, Nchia-Eleme, Ogoni. Attendance was mostly from environmental monitors who had previously been identified and trained from the four Ogoni local government areas in Rivers state, as well as civil society activists, community activists and the media.

After presentations and deliberations in plenary and workgroups, the consultative meeting/training noted that the soil, air and water pollution which the people of the Ogoni area have been exposed to have adversely affected crop yield for farmers, fish yield for fisher folks and generally reduced the people’s ability to generate income and provide for their wellbeing. This fact has in turn exposed the community to unprecedented levels of poverty, destitution and deprivation.

The meeting also noted that air, soil and water pollution in Ogoniland has manifested in serious health problems which the people have had to deal with for many years. Some of these challenges ranging from various form of respiratory disorders, heart deficiencies, lung related illnesses, problems with the outer epidermis, reproductive disorders including stillbirths, foetal malformation etc., have not been appropriately studied or documented in any detailed manner.

On the implementation of the clean-up, the consultative meeting noted that the Federal Government has demonstrated significant commitment in commencing the clean-up of Ogoniland in response to the recommendations of the UNEP Report. The meeting was, however, worried that there were many cases of ongoing pollution in Ogoniland thus making the proposed clean-up rather complicated.

The consultative meeting also noted that while the government has held several meetings with various interest groups on the clean-up process, the process of consultation still requires further work. It noted that the multifarious expectations from the clean-up process is evidence that many people expect that process to become something it isn’t, and this could lead to a problem of unrealized expectations, which could seriously undermine the process. Similarly, the meeting noted that structures have not been instituted which makes the people part of the process as monitors of milestones and standards as well as actual agents of the clean-up. The meeting expressed fear that if this is not done, the type of community ‘buy-in’ and ‘ownership’ which is required for a smooth implementation process may be lost.

IMG_2099

Communities should do everything possible and necessary to create the enabling environment- devoid of rancour and conflict – for the smooth implementation of the recommendation of UNEP.

Resolutions

Based on the above, the consultative meeting reached the following resolutions and presents them as recommendations thus:

  1. Residents of pollution impacted sites in Ogoniland should immediately be provided with alternative source of drinking water in line with the emergency measures recommended by UNEP. The people have continued using and drinking water from contaminated sources since 2011 after the UNEP Report was made public.
  1. All ongoing sources of pollution in Ogoniland should immediately be brought to an end. These include active bunkering activities which continues unabated in the Ogoni area; as well as the practice by the Military Joint Task Force of setting tankers impounded with stolen petroleum products on fire. The latter is an emerging major source of air and soil pollution with immediate devastating health impacts.
  1. Given the fact that pollution has continued 5 years after UNEP released its report, it is recommended that the report be updated to reflect current realities. It is believed that the levels of pollution recorded between 2011 and 2016 may have changed the original findings significantly, necessitating a review of the report to establish new and more realistic baselines.
  1. A comprehensive health impact assessment which should detail the health impacts of pollution on people who reside in pollution impacted sites should be carried out. This process will be a first step towards documenting the known and unknown health impacts of hydrocarbon pollution and planning remedial actions.
  1. The process of consultation and sensitization should be intensified and carried on throughout the stages of the clean-up implementation process. This is to ensure that communities understand what each stage entails and what is expected in order to avoid possible confusion and misunderstanding which could result in conflict.
  1. In all stages of the lead-up and actual implementation of the clean-up, care must be taken to ensure that the different components of the stages reflect the inclusion of all segments of the society, including consideration for women, youths and people living with disabilities.
  1. In planning the clean-up, clear and verifiable milestones should be established and done so in such a way that all stakeholders are able to understand each stage of the milestones and when they have been met. This will ensure an active and healthy feedback cycle with all stakeholders.
  1. In establishing milestones, the training of community members to act in different capacities in the clean-up, must be instituted as a critical means of community inclusion. The already established and trained group of Ecological Defenders drawn from the various Ogoni communities should be considered a component of this milestone.
  1. In order to ensure that the clean-up activities enjoy the support of all current and future government establishments, an executive Bill proposing the establishing legal frameworks for the structures and funding of the clean-up process should be immediately sent to the National Assembly for consideration.
  1. Communities should do everything possible and necessary to create the enabling environment- devoid of rancour and conflict – for the smooth implementation of the recommendation of UNEP.

Signed:

Nnimmo Bassey- Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF)

Celestine AkpoBari- Ogoni Solidarity Forum

Ken Henshaw- Social Action

Emen Okon – Kabetkache Women Development and Resource Centre

Martha Agbani – Lokiakia Centre

Kentebe Ebiaridor – Oilwatch Nigeria

This is the Report/Resolutions of Ecological Defenders Consultative Meeting and Training held at Aluebo Town Hall, Ogale, Nchia-Eleme, Ogoni on the 26th of July 2016.

What can go wrong has gone wrong

Let the Clean up beginWhat can go wrong has gone wrong

Environmental monitoring is often carried out to ensure that standards are maintained to ensure environmental and human health. In other words, we monitor to ensure that nothing goes wrong, and so that we detect when anything goes wrong. That is the standard idea of environmental monitoring.

In the case of the Niger Delta, the matter is not about what may go wrong; the situation is that everything that can go wrong has already gone wrong. What do you do when what can go wrong has gone wrong? Are we preparing to fight a losing battle? No.

We have chosen the location of this training very carefully. We are gathered in a community whose ground water was found to have 8 cm layer of refined petroleum products floating on it. We are gathered in the territory where UNEP found the water our people drink to be polluted with benzene, a known carcinogen, at a level 900 times above World Health Organisation’s standard. We are gathered here to say that our present must be detoxified and our future must not be poisoned.

Things have gone wrong. Yes. The environment is so polluted that the Niger Delta has gained the unsavoury reputation of being one of the most polluted places on earth. We are saddled with historical, current and continuing oil spills, gas flares and toxic dumps. We have the task of monitoring to ensure that the tide of despoliation is halted. This requires physical observation. It also requires social engineering.

We are the eco-defenders determined to ensure that enough of pollution is indeed enough and now is the time to clean up and stay clean.

Physical observation can be easy when you have the right tools and the right knowledge. It is doable when you know what you are looking out for and how dangerous these could be. In essence, you are spotting the blight and at the same time keeping safe. This is one of the objectives of our monitoring training. We are also training to monitor the process of environmental remediation of Ogoni and the wider Niger Delta environment. When the clean up eventually begins in earnest, we want to be sure that milestones are known and that progress is measured against these milestones. We will keep our sights on national and environmental standards and insist that these are adhered to. We want to be sure that when the environmental is said to have been cleaned that it has been cleaned indeed. This is a key objective of our monitoring trainings.

The social engineering aspect of our training is not physical but is extremely important. It has to do with our mind-set. We have to agree that a clean environment should stay clean. We have to agree that a cleaned up environment stays clean. We have to agree that a clean environment is intrinsically more valuable that receiving cash pay-outs while remaining stuck in the mire. Staying clean is not only good for humans, it is good for other species. And many species have been decimated already and it take some lifetimes for them to recover.

Fish not oilWe must all agree that pollution should not be come from the actions and inactions of any of the stakeholders in the Niger Delta – not the oil companies, not the contractors and not the citizens. Our mind-set must be one that accepts that a polluted environment is a threat to our health and well being as well as those of future generations. This mind-set understands that a clean environment is a living environment and supports life, promotes health, peace and dignity.

That is what monitoring means to us. We are the eco-defenders determined to ensure that enough of pollution is indeed enough and now is the time to clean up and stay clean. Each training is a seed sown for a harvest of a future of hope, a future that thinks beyond today. That is the basis of our commitment. That is the basis of our call to everyone to look beyond today and even beyond tomorrow.

—————————————————————–

Welcome words by Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) at the Community Monitoring Training – Fish, Not Oil: Let the Ogoni Clean Up Begin on 26th July 2016 at Ogale Town Hall, Nchia-Eleme, Ogoni

 

 

Eco-Instigator #12’s Home Run

Eco-Instigator #12New edition of your Eco-Instigator is here!

The second quarter of 2016 was a roller-coaster season. Highlights include the continued struggles to save our last remaining rainforests in the Cross River axis of Nigeria. Threatened communities (Edondon, Okokori, Old and New Ekuri) as well as non-governmental organisations have worked to ensure that the proposed Superhighway does not decimate community forests, displace communities and lock in poverty in the resource-rich territory. HOMEF spent three days (9-11th June 2016) in some of the communities, facilitating dialogues and offering training on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as advocacy and ecological/forest defence tool. The collaboration of NGOCE, Peace Point Action, GREENCODE, Lokiaka Community Development Centre and Rural Action for Green Environment was invaluable.

May 10, 12 and 14 were special days for us within the Global Breakfree from Fossil Fuels mobilisations. HOMEF marched and held teach-ins at Oloibiri (Bayelsa State), the site of the first oil well in Nigeria, Bori – Ogoni (Rivers State) and Ibeno on the Atlantic coast of Akwa Ibom State. Nigeria. The events sent strong calls for the clean-up of the Niger Delta and reiterated our call to Keep the Oil in the Ground. Actions in 14 other countries underscored the vital importance of these climate actions. The Breakfree events succeeded because of the strong support of 350.org, Chief Nengi James Foundation, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Social Action, Peoples Advancement Centre, Kabetkache Women Development Centre, Peace Point Action and several others. We bring you reports and photos from the events.

For three days, environmental experts and stakeholders met in Abuja to strategize on what would be the policy direction for environmental governance in Nigeria. We bring you a report from that gathering.

A dark blot on our horizon has been the granting of permits for Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd to introduce GMOs in Nigeria. We bring you a report from a major Biosafety Conference we co-hosted with the African Faith and Justice Network and other groups in Abuja in May 2016. We also bring you statements and essays on the GMO debacle and the continuing struggle to keep the risky, needless, technology off our lands.

In addition, Our Sustainability Academy #07 held at the University of Abuja on 15th June and at LUFASI Nature Park, Lagos on 17th June 2016. We as as Instigators, Hilma Mote of Africa Labour Research Institute and Ruth Nyambura, ace eco-feminist. They examined the climate change COP21 with the perspectives of the youths, geo-politics and continental challenges. Both instigators became HOMEF Fellows at a ceremony at LUFASI Nature Park, with foremost environmentalist, Desmond Majekodunmi, presenting their fellowship plaques.

The clean up of Ogoni and the Niger Delta was flagged off on 2nd June 2016. That date became a clear milestone in the struggles for the remediation of our extremely polluted Niger Delta. HOMEF was there when it happened. And we are keeping a deeply interested watch over developments in that direction.

As usual we serve you poetry, book reviews and books we suggest that you read. And, do not forget that we are always happy to hear back from you.

Read the full issue here: Eco-Instigator#12

Until Victory!

 

 

The Gap Between Solid Minerals and Oil

Oil Politics coverThe National Assembly and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources occupy key vantage points to leverage calm in the oil fields of the Niger Delta. They can make this happen by having communities take their place as true stakeholders in the management of oil revenues. This point cannot be overemphasised. It cannot wait until PIB IV before Nigerians know what is coming.

It is useful to remind ourselves that the Niger Delta is a part of Nigeria called home by between 30 to 40 million Nigerians, going by projections[1]. It is rich in biodiversity and equally rich in nature’s Re-Sources. The Niger Delta is inherently a complex web of life having the sort of diversity of culture that is bound by underlining commonalities of dignity, respect and cultural pride. Inherently.

This inherent strength has been tested over the years by what we may term extreme environmental degradation propelled by the exploration and exploitation of petroleum resources. We have witnessed the rupturing of the webs of life and the pulling away of safety nets by agencies of misrule, greed and lack and care for Nature and her many children.

The Niger Delta is largely flat with an elevation that is at sea level. The land mass is largely made up of sand and silt brought down by Niger and Benue rivers system with the sands deposited on the continental shelf getting thrown back to firm the sand barriers that are now being threatened. Sea level rise, canalisation and natural soil subsidence all compound the coastal erosion and loss of land that is now commonplace.[2]

Although we cannot avoid some recollection of some of the challenges we face as a territory, this presentation will not bemoan the crisis that has befallen our land. We will remind ourselves of the key issues with a firm focus on pointing out the strategic directions that should guide actions to restore lost grounds and hope. At the same time, we will keep in mind with current levels of despoliation we must agree that there are no easy solutions. This is what underscores the imperative of the NDDC despatching its mandate with creativity, focus and zeal.

The Niger Delta Development Master Plan[3] prepared by the NDDC offers a list of key issues in the region. We reproduce them here:

  • Widespread poverty, high disease burden and high mortality rate among children
  • Poor sanitation
  • Limited employment opportunities
  • Poor transportation systems
  • Poor telecommunications
  • Poor electricity supply
  • Land scarcity
  • Poor educational and health facilities
  • Poor governance
  • Severe environmental degradation
  • Insecurity

Although the above is quite an alarming list, you all know that it merely scratches the surface when we look critically at the immense deficits that we have in virtually every indicy of human development.

1.00     Our Environment

The natural environment is one in which no modifying or transforming human activity has taken place. When man moves in and interferes one way or the other with natural systems the result is either a liveable environment or one that swallows is inhabitants.

Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) captures the interlocked problems of the Niger Delta in these words:

The majority of the Niger Delta inhabitants lack access to basic infrastructure, health and education services as well as job opportunities. High levels of pollution and destruction of traditional means of livelihood increase the vulnerability to poverty in the region. The fundamental conditions of extreme deprivation have remained unchanged for decades and drive cycles of violent conflict.[4]  SDN went on to say that the problems are self-reinforcing.

An alarming 80 percent of rural populations and 56 per cent of urban populations in the Niger Delta do not have access to safe drinking water.[5] Not surprisingly, citizens’ perception in the Niger Delta of the water they drink as unsafe has been found to be as high as 78 per cent. 66 per cent of citizens also affirmed that human waste flows back into some of the communities during rainy season.[6]

The environmental degradation that has placed the Niger Delta firmly on the map of infamy are those related to oil spills and gas flares. The present government says that gas flaring will end in 2020. That dateline is much better than the no-dateline scenario that was presented in the moribund Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

In the present context the new PIBs will come piece-meal in four parts. However, focus is mostly business and there is scant attention to the environment or the people. It is thought that the PIB will come in four parts arranged as follows:

  1. The Governance and Institutional Framework for Oil and Gas Bill
  2. The Fiscal Reform Bill
  3. Licensing Rounds Bill
  4. Revenue Allocation and Management Bill

Although the speculated title of the PIB IV does not explicitly suggest any focus on the environment or communities[7], some commentators think that it is that fourth bill that may say something about the funds for communities.

2.00     Our opportunities: Between PIB Politics and the Minerals and Mining Act (2007)

 The National Assembly and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources occupy key vantage points to leverage calm in the oil fields of the Niger Delta. They can make this happen by having communities take their place as true stakeholders in the management of oil revenues. This point cannot be overemphasized. It cannot wait until PIB IV before Nigerians know what is coming.

Continued resistance to this fundamental step is clearly not in the interest of Nigerians, especially when the 2007 Mineral and Mining Act has clearly stipulated benefits for communities and land owners where minerals are extracted.[8] The fact that our existing petroleum laws were war legislations gave birth to discontent by the reason of the very spirit that created them. Militarisation of the region is inescapable way of enforcing the anti-people oil decrees and may work to lock-in a cycle of conflict that ought to be halted.

According to Idumange, “The Petroleum Act of 1969 (as amended and other legislations), the local communities on whose lands oil is exploited, have been divested of their entitlements to their land and the oil produced from it. Indigenes of the Niger Delta hardly ever benefit from the allocation of Oil Prospecting Licenses (OPL) and are totally excluded from crude oil sales notwithstanding the fact that it is the local communities and the people that directly suffer from oil spillage, gas flaring, acid rain, and other forms of environmental degradation and pollution.”[9]

The multiplication of military formations in the creeks cannot be the way of the hole that we appear to be digging. Modelling the PIB after the Minerals and Mining Act would create a level playing ground and eliminate the many inequities and reckless environmental degradation that occurs in the oil fields communities as if they were no man’s lands.[10]

Extracts from Chapter 4 of the The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007

  1. Prohibition of mineral exploration in certain areas

(1) No person shall, in the course of exploration or mining, carry out operations, in or under any area held to be sacred or permit injury or destruction of any tree or other thing which is the object of veneration.

(2) When any question arises under this section as to whether an area is held to be sacred or a tree or thing is the object of veneration, the question shall be decided by the

Mining Cadastre Office on the recommendation of the Mineral Resources Committee of the State concerned.

(3) A licensee or lessee who causes injury or damage to any area, tree or thing mentioned in subsection (1) of this section shall pay fair and adequate compensation to the persons or communities affected by injury or damage.

  1. Surface rent

(1) The lessee of a Mining Lease shall pay rent, in advance without demand being made of it, at such rate per annum as shall be determined by the Minister for all lands occupied or used by it in connection with its mining operations.

(2) The Minister shall, before granting a Mining Lease on any private or any State land-

  • (a)  cause the owner or occupier of the land to be informed of the intention of the Minister to grant the lease; and
  • (b)  require the owner or occupier of the land to state in writing within the period specified by the Regulations made under this Act, the rate of annual surface rent which the owner desires should be paid to him by the lessee for the land occupied or used by it for or in connection with its mining operations.

(3) If within the time specified pursuant to subsection (2) of this section, the owner or occupier states the rate of the rent he desires should be paid, and the Minister is satisfied that the rent is fair and reasonable, the surface rent payable in respect of the land of the owner or occupier shall be the amount specified and the rent shall be notified to the lessee as soon as possible.

(4) The rate of the surface rent, whether fixed by the owner, occupier or by the Minister, shall be subject to revision by the Minister at intervals of five years.

(5) In fixing the surface rent payable, the Minister shall take into consideration the damage which may be done to the surface of the land by the mining or other operations of the lessee, for which compensation is payable.

  1. Community Development Agreement

(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the holder of a Mining Lease, Small- scale Mining Lease or Quarry Lease shall prior to the commencement of any development activity within the lease area, conclude with the host community where the operations are to be conducted an agreement referred to as a Community Development Agreement or other such agreement that will ensure the transfer of social and economic benefits to the community.

(2) The Community Development Agreement shall contain undertakings with respect to the social and economic contributions that the project will make to the sustainability of such community.

(3) The Community Development Agreement shall address all or some of the following issues when relevant to the host community-

  • (a)  educational scholarship, apprenticeship, technical training and employment opportunities for indigenes of the communities;
  • (b)  financial or other forms of contributory support for infrastructural development and maintenance such as education, health or other community services, roads, water and power;
  • (c)  assistance with the creation, development and support to small scale and micro enterprises;
  • (d)  agricultural product marketing; and
  • (e)  methods and procedures of environment and socio-economic management and local governance enhancement.

(4) In the event of the failure of the host community and the lessee, after several at- tempts to conclude the Community Development Agreement by the time the titleholder is ready to commence development work on the lease area, the matter shall be referred to the Minister for resolution.

(5) The Community Development Agreement shall be subject to review every 5 years and shall, until reviewed by the parties, have binding effect on the parties.

  1. Objectives of the Community Development Agreement

The Community Development Agreement shall specify appropriate consultative and monitoring frameworks between the mineral titleholder and the host community, and the means by which the community may participate in the planning, implementation, management and monitoring of activities carried out under the Agreement.

With communities as direct stakeholders in the business, they will take more active interest in helping police petroleum infrastructure and thereby reduce the spate of third party interferences with those facilities

  1. Environmental obligations

Every holder of a mineral title under this Act shall as far as it is reasonably practicable-

  • (a)  minimise, manage and mitigate any environmental impact resulting from activities carried out under this Act; and
  • (b)  rehabilitate and reclaim, where applicable, the land disturbed, excavated, ex- plored, mined or covered with tailings arising from mining operations to its natural or predetermined state or to such state as may be specified in this Act, its Regulations and other pertinent laws in force, and in accordance with established best practices.

With communities as direct stakeholders in the business, they will take more active interest in helping police petroleum infrastructure and thereby reduce the spate of third party interferences with those facilities. Besides, the communities would have a stronger voice when they point to the fact that interferences by any means, bombs or hacksaws, punish the communities and their environment most because they were condemned to live in the degraded environments whereas the international oil companies can conceivably simply pack up their suitcases and leave.

With communities as direct stakeholders in the business, they will take more active interest in helping police petroleum infrastructure and thereby reduce the spate of third party interferences with those facilities. Besides, the communities would have a stronger voice when they point to the fact that interferences by any means, bombs or hacksaws, punish the communities and their environment most because they were condemned to live in the degraded environments whereas the international oil companies can conceivably simply pack up their suitcases and leave.

3.00     Who Owns the Resource? – Thoughts on Re-Source Democracy

The Re-Sources in the territories where we find ourselves are best protected, preserved and multiplied when we use our knowledge to suitably relate to the Re-Sources to maintain our lives, culture, sciences, spirituality, organisation, medicines and food sovereignty. Re-Source democracy requires that mankind serves as stewards over natural Re-Sources and not as predators.

The second and a very important thought in this presentation has to do with our understanding and relationship with the gifts of Nature through the concept of Re-Source Democracy[11]. You may ask, what has this got to do with NDDC and the quest for environmental security. Everything. One of the fundamental challenges we have as a people is our loss of memory of what we had in the past and the values that sustained them, before rapacious exploitation of Nature and primitive accumulation set in.

Re-Source Democracy urges a reconnection to the source of the gifts that we enjoy as humans, keeping in mind that we are one species among many others. It requires that we do not see Nature as a theatre of exploitation, and that we should move from resource to re-sourcing with Earth, intentionally reconnecting with our natural life source.

Re-Source democracy is a clarion call to protect, defend and replenish our Re-Sources and environment for the common good. It seeks to ensure that present generations enjoy what they have without jeopardising the interests of future generations. The concept is predicated on a culture that respects life and hinges on the premise that “the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.” [12] We inhabit our places on the Earth by birth and by citizenship rights. The Re-Sources in the territories where we find ourselves are best protected, preserved and multiplied when we use our knowledge to suitably relate to the Re-Sources to maintain our lives, culture, sciences, spirituality, organisation, medicines and food sovereignty. Re-Source democracy requires that mankind serves as stewards over natural Re-Sources and not as predators.

We all celebrate and defend our right to life. While we do that, we must also realise that nature has a right to maintain her cycles and that our life can only be supported by nature when she is able to maintain those cycles. Our rights do not supersede and must not subvert the rights of nature.

Re-Source democracy contextualises and integrates Re-Source management in a way that uses indigenous or local knowledge as a veritable base. For example, where some people see forests merely as carbon stocks or sinks, forest dependent communities see them as places of life and culture, as places where they obtain food, medicine, building materials and other non timber forest products. Communities living in harmony with nature ensure that the available Re-Sources are replenished and not depleted at a scale that degrades them. When non-forest community people look at forests what come to mind are possibilities of commercial logging, conversion into mono-crop plantations or securing them as carbon sinks. The idea of the forest as a carbon sink excites governments seeking foreign exchange earnings from the exploitation of natural Re-Sources and this excitement can get so feverish that brute force is used to expel forest communities from their territories.[13]

A clear understanding of our Re-Sources, their uses and intrinsic values is vital for their proper management. The same goes for a central need for our understanding of the harmful impacts of certain extractive activities including those of solid minerals, hydrocarbons and forest products. These, plus an interrogation of the meaning of progress and development help us to draw the line between what we can accept or reject in our environment.

Economic value cannot be the vital measure of Re-Source value. A clear rejection of the commodification of nature is necessary for sustainable management of our natural Re-Sources.

Re-Sources are gifts of nature and are either renewable or non-renewable. They are found on land or in the sea. They include living species and non-living things. The exploitation or use of these Re-Sources can be harmful or wrong when the majority population is not considered in the decision-making matrix. For instance, when land is appropriated for cultivation of crops for biofuel and farmers are displaced or indentured, we promote machines and the comfort of the rich over the rights of the poor to a life of dignity.

As attractive as biofuels appear to some people, severe socio-economic and other impacts on vulnerable small-scale farmers have been documented. These impacts range from land grabs to poor and unpredictable income from being absorbed into a cash crop arrangement that is totally out of their control. A case in point is that of a UK company, D1 Oils in Swaziland where farmers were co-opted as sharecroppers to cultivate jatropha with the assurance that the crop would grow on marginal land without needing much input from them. As it turned out, although jatropha was touted as a wonder crop and a hardy plant that would thrive on very little water, the farmers found that the claim did not play out in reality. They needed to water the plants regularly and in an area with water stress this turned out to be a herculean task. We do not need to state that the dreams of wealth turned into nightmares and horrors and the enterprise collapsed.[14]

If Re-Source democracy had been in place in Swaziland, for example, the poor farmers would have been given facts and full information about what they were being drawn into. Such information would have included the uncertainties surrounding the crop and the fact that there have not been sufficient studies on jatropha as a plantation crop. The result would have been different if local farmers had willingly undertaken to grow crops native to their locality. They would have utilised crops that are resilient to local conditions and would have drawn from local traditional ecological knowledge in nurturing them.

3.01     Development Paths

The current development path of the world sees resources as objects that must be exploited. In a heavily financialised world, resources are also seen as things to be manipulated and converted into cash. Nature and its resources are thus mostly valued in terms of money and power, sometimes totally forgetting that they have intrinsic values.

Re-Source democracy recognises that a Re-Source fundamentally belongs to Nature and may be enjoyed by communities or peoples who have traditionally held the territory where the Re-Source such as a forest or grazing grass exist. It removes the obstacles erected by the politics of access and process as well as of redress.  Such obstacles may vary depending on the objective of the demand or struggle. We recognise also that such struggles may be over Re-Source rights, environmental rights or the right to utilise available Re-Sources.

The alienation of humanity from nature happens in a way that is directly proportional to our proximity to desired Re-Sources.  The alienation from nature does not only keep us from seeing the intrinsic value of Re-Sources, it also blinds those who see them as money-spinners to any sense of responsibility when grabbing for them.  Re-Source democracy connects us to our roots, to nature and calls us to Re-Source with Earth, our source of life.

Current dominant development modes are energy intensive and require more and more Re-Sources to generate that energy to keep the machines rolling and to feed the appetite of humankind for consumption and for cash. In that process we often overlook the wellbeing of the planet itself.  The result of this outlook has been ‘resource’ conflicts and wars and extreme damage of environment through reckless exploitation. The conflict and the harm are certain to intensify as the non-renewable Re-Sources run out and as habitable environment for the reproduction of renewable Re-Sources reduce.

Wars powered by greed and faulty relationships with Nature’s gifts do not end easily and it is instructive to note that nations never really win such wars and conflicts. While citizens die or lose their limbs multinational extractive companies and weapons makers/dealers simply go on enjoying their profits.

3.02     Recognition and Inaction

The dire state of affairs has not escaped mankind. However, the acknowledgement of a problem does not necessarily lead to a readiness or willingness to solve it. The notion that we have the capacity to fix whatever we break leads us to ride roughshod over nature and her Re-Sources. It is equally easier to be irresponsible in our handling of Re-Sources when we can externalise the costs and consequences to the poor and the voiceless in society.

A case in point is the fact that the world knows that climate change is propelled by dependence on fossil fuels and other actions of man and yet despite years of warnings and multilateral negotiations, nations harden positions and continue in the wrong and harmful paths. Indeed, nations insist they have a right to pollute in order to catch up with others who polluted earlier (and are still polluting) and have through polluting made achievements that the neo-polluters desire. Sadly, environmental pollution is fast becoming a badge of progress.

3.03     Environmental Defence

In Re-Source democracy citizens are real stakeholders that work and receive benefits and not tokens or acts of charity. It provides the space for ordinary people to get together to establish rules in line with traditional as well as best available knowledge to safeguard the soil, trees, crops, water and wildlife that support their livelihoods. Re-Source democracy hinges on pragmatic politics and wisdom that our relations with nature cannot be left to speculators and manipulators of market forces. It ensures the right and responsibility to participate in decisions that determine our access to, and enjoyment of Nature’s gifts.

Acts of over consumption including grabbing of Re-Sources to meet needs of corporations and the super rich are acts of violence.  When we take more than we require we are eating up the ecological space of other species and of future generations. Re-Source Democracy demands that we develop the tool we need for ecological as well as cultural defence.

Our ways of life should complement and synchronise with the cycles and provisions of nature. At the same time our economic activities rely on extracting value from natural Re-Sources through direct use or through their transformation into goods and services. A basic tenet of defence of our Re-Sources is the right to prior informed consent. This includes the right to accept exploitation of Re-Sources in our communities/territories or to reject such actions. To aid such decisions communities must be fully involved in environmental and social impact studies before the commencement of and project. Although this is already required by existing Environmental Impact Act of 2004, Re-Source Democracy would ensure that communities are educated and informed of the availability and uses of this tool to ensure that harmful projects are not embarked upon in their territories.

Other rights that would enhance Re-Source democracy are delineated in the provisions of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 [15] to which we have already referred in section 2.00 above.

The Minerals Act ensures that companies or individuals do not ride roughshod over citizens’ rights as they seek to exploit available ‘resources’. The mining company cannot obtain a mining title without adequate consultation with landowners.

In cases where land is privately held and may be affected by mining operations, the Act requires that government must obtain the consent of the private owner of land before mining title would be granted. Where there is no consent the private land in question would be out of reach to the miners. This is provided for under section 100 of the Mining Act, which reads:

When an application is made for Mineral title in respect of an area which includes any private land or land occupied under a state lease or right of occupancy, the notice of the application, shall be given in the prescribed manner to the owner or occupier of the land and consent obtained before the license is granted, otherwise the license may be granted with exclusion of the private land in question.

Section 19 of the Mining Act also makes provision for the setting up of a committee to be known as Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committee in each state of the Federation. Communities are to be represented on such committees and part of the functions of this committee is to advise the Local Government Areas and Communities on the implementation of programs for environmental protection.

4.00     Cleaning and Staying Clean

The third and concluding point of leverage is the offered by the imminent commencement of the clean up of Ogoni land and the Niger Delta as a whole. A clean up makes sense when there is a commitment by all to cease from polluting activities.

The NDDC Act has a broad list of functions for the commission. The function that concerns us particularly in this paper is the one which states that it is to:

Tackle ecological and environmental problems that arise from the exploration of oil mineral in the Niger-Delta area and advise the Federal Government and the member States on the prevention and control of oil spillages gas flaring and environmental pollution etc.

As stated above, the Board of NDDC has wide powers of discretion in determining what constitutes the other ecological problems besides the ones listed. This broad canvas is both an opportunity and a problem.

Strategic steps that the NDDC can take in this direction are

  1. Stepping up advocacy and mass education on the critical need to keep the environment clean by demanding that oil companies replace their pipelines when due, keep their facilities in top conditions, stop incessant oil spills and clean up those that inevitably occur when they do.
  2. Train communities on environmental monitoring and reporting – including on oil spills toxicity; and set up networks of community ecological defenders
  3. Establishment of centres of excellence to training youths in scientific ways of pollution cleaning and soil restoration
  4. Provide safe drinking water in communities, especially in areas with frequent oil spills. The UNEP report on the Assessment of Ogoni Environment, for one, clearly stated that the waters our people there depend on are all polluted with hydro carbons and in some places with benzene a known carcinogen at levels 900 times above World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. It is astonishing that almost 5 years after the submission of that report our people are still drinking the waters that are known to be poisonous.
  5. Clean up of communities on the fence lines of refineries, including Nisisioken Ogale in Rivers State and Ubeji in Delta State.
  6. Sanitation, especially toilet facilities and a stoppage of open defecation.
  7. Clearing of water ways of invasive species such as water hyacinth and the use of the weeds in the creation of useful products – such as oils and organic fertilisers
  8. Support legislative advocacy and work for a similarity between the laws governing petroleum and solid minerals exploration and extraction in Nigeria. In particular, support efforts to adopt/apply the strategic link between environmental and community concerns of the Solid Minerals Act in the petroleum sector.

Conclusion

We have endeavoured to stress that our approach to ensuring a liveable environment stems directly from our intrinsic value of our environment and our capacity to stand as ecological defenders. We have also shown that this can best be done from a position of knowledge and readiness to use existing and new tools. There are low hanging fruits to be plucked – especially with a determined and undeterred clean up process – and available good will for the NDDC to clarify and to play its expected role. Now, as is often said, the ball is in our court.

Thank you for your attention.

————

These were talking points originally titled NDDC and the Politics of Environmental and livelihood Recovery by Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) at World Environment Day event organised by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) at Port Harcourt on 1st June 2016

NOTES

[1] John, Idumange (2011) ‘The Impact of Niger Delta Development Commission in the Eyes of the Ordinary Niger Delta People’, The Nigerian Voice (8 September), http://www.thenigerianvoice.com/news/69436/the-impact-of-niger-delta-development-commission-in-the-eyes.html Accessed 29 May 2016

[2] Aston-Jones, Nick (1998) The Human Ecosystem of the Niger Delta- An ERA Handbook, Benin City, ERA.

[3] NNDC. Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan, p.14-15

[4] Stakeholder Democracy Network, The Niger Delta, http://www.stakeholderdemocracy.org/niger-delta-background/ Accessed 28 May 2016

[5] Raji, AOY and Abejide, TS, (2013) ‘An Assessment of Environmental Problems Associated with Oil Pollution and Gas Flaring in the Niger Delta Region Nigeria, C.1960s-2000. http://www.arabianjbmr.com/pdfs/OM_VOL_3_(3)/7.pdf Accessed 28 May 2016

[6] NIDPRODEV, (2011), Niger Delta Citizen Report Card – on public services, good governance and development from 120 Niger Delta communities in three geopolitical zones, Warri, p.59-60

[7] See Bassey, Nnimmo (2016) ‘New PIB and Forgotten Host Communities?’ at https://nnimmobassey.net/2016/04/05/new-pib-and-forgotten-host-communities/

[8] Chapter 4 of the Solid Minerals Act 2007 is on Environmental Considerations and Rights of Host Communities.

[9] John, Idumange (2011).

[10] See Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action (2013): Communities and the Petroleum Industries Bill – Memorandum to the Joint Senate Committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB, 2012), Abuja (18-19 July)

 

[11] This section is a direct extract from chapter 1 of HOMEF (2014), Re-Source Democracy, Benin City, pp 12-17

[12] Ayma, Evo Morales (April 22, 2009), The Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth. Speech made on the occasion of the declaration of the International Day of the Mother Earth in the UN General Assembly, New York.

[13] There are several examples of displacement of forest communities. The Sengwer and the Ogiek communities in Kenya offer recent examples. In Nigeria there have been consistent complaints from forest communities like those in Iguobazuwa insisting that they were dispossessed of their forestlands without adequate compensations.

[14]See Jatropha – Wonder Crop? Experience for Swaziland at www.foe.co.uk/Re-Source/reports/jatropha_wonder_crop.pdf

[15] See Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action)- 18-19 July 2013: Communities and the Petroleum Industries Bill – Memorandum to the Joint Senate Committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), 2012.

GMOs Threaten our Food Security and Food Sovereignty

IMG_0764GMOs Threaten our Food Security

GMOs do not necessarily yield higher than natural crops. They promote monocultures and will promote land grabbing and thus displace and impoverish small scale farmers. GMOs depend on toxic agrochemicals that are not friendly to soils and ecosystems. They are a clear threat to food security.

Some of the comments made by Rose Gidado as reported under the title, Nigeria Not At Crossroads Over Food Security – Agency Chief (published in The Guardian on 8th July 2016) must have been based on questions that were not accurately posed to her. It could also be that her comments were based on faulty notes she took at the conference she referred to. She came to the conference without being invited by the main hosts, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and African Faith and Justice Network (AFJN).

As an Assistant Director at National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and as the coordinator of Open Forum for Biotechnology (OFAB) in Nigeria, she has links to two institutions that have as their mandate the promotion of GMOs and placement of their products in the Nigerian market and on the dining tables of citizens of this country. Some of us have queried the place and role of NABDA on the Governing Board of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) – an agency set up to regulate the activities of GMO promoters in the country. The place of GMO promoters on the board of a regulatory agency raises questions of conflict of interest as already evidenced by their teaming up with Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd to apply for a permit for confined field trials of Monsanto’s GMO maize, to which assent was given in record time of less than two months from the date the application was advertised for comments from the public.

The comment at the conference under reference that modern biotechnology can be compared to a cowboy technology was made by me. This was an allusion to the use of “gene guns” in the process of insertion of the genetic materials that the technologists may have prepared. As with any shooting activity, it does happen that at times the genetic engineers shoot off target. At other times when they hit their desired target they can not really be so sure of what the outcome would be. One top GMO promoter said recently that GMO cotton failed in Burkina Faso because of insertion of the genetic material in a wrong germplasm. This was said on television and confirms that genetic engineering is not as precise as the biotech industry would want us to believe. It is a technology searching for problems and feeding fat on false promises and hype.

It should also be noted that the insertion of genetic materials from fish into GMO tomato is not a fictional tale. A biotech company, DNA Plant Technology of Oakland, California, actually put the fish gene in a tomato. The GMO tomato was discontinued because of the public uproar that followed its creation. See the story at The Monsanto GMO Story: Adding a Fish Gene Into Tomatoes.

The notion that GMOs are part of a safe technology “needed to achieve developmental strides in economic diversification, food security, improved health systems, cleaner energy, job creation, wealth generation and poverty reduction, Nigeria” is contestable. Agricultural modern biotechnology poses peculiar problems to any environment. No wonder the industry survives largely through their political clout and by the open door policy they have with regulators that are at the same time promoters.

The fact that tampering with nature has impacts on religious, social and cultural sensibilities cannot be denied. Neither should it be described as unfortunate. It is the reality. Applied science must be alive to these sensibilities because science must be in the interest of society. And, in any case, we cannot be bullied into silence by the claim that science is neutral.

Science may be right when it says that every living thing can ultimately be broken down to carbon, for instance. Perhaps the basic building blocks of our bodies are similar across species. But some persons may not feel happy to have genes from a pig inserted in rice, for instance.

No matter what NABDA, OFAB and NBMA say, Nigerians have solid reasons to worry about the opening of the doors of our agriculture and food systems to risky technologies.

The fact that science is often not neutral is very much illustrated by goings on in research on genetic engineering, including new areas such as synthetic biology, gene editing and gene drives. Critical scientists continue to be hounded out of jobs or into silence. Those who dance to the tunes of the biotech industry and their political backers flourish on the other hand.

The GMO cotton and maize varieties for which permits have been issued with the active support of NABDA and OFAB pose special risks to our environment. One reason we worry is that the crops are all engineered by Monsanto to withstand their weed killer Roundup of which a key constituent chemical is known as glyphosate. Just like debates raged on whether other toxic chemicals were safe, the debate is on concerning glyphosate. The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that glyphosate is probably a carcinogen, based on research carried out by its (WHO’s) research arm and later became more ambivalent. However, the researchers affirm that they stand by their findings.

GMOs do not necessarily yield higher than natural crops. They promote monocultures and will promote land grabbing and thus displace and impoverish small scale farmers. GMOs depend on toxic agrochemicals that are not friendly to soils and ecosystems. They are a clear threat to food security.

No matter what NABDA, OFAB and NBMA say, Nigerians have solid reasons to worry about the opening of the doors of our agriculture and food systems to risky technologies.

 

What the Nigerian National Confab Agreed on Biosafety and GMOs

confab logoDuring the 2014 Nigerian National Conference (Confab), three committees made recommendations with regard to handling of Biosafety in Nigeria and with particular reference to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). As at the time of the Confab the National Biosafety Management Act 2015 (simply known as Biosafety Act 2015) had not yet been enacted. The Confab committees that considered Biosafety matters were the Agriculture and Water Resources Committee, the Environment Committee and the Science, Technology & Development Committee.

The Biosafety Act came into force April 2015 after former President Goodluck Jonathan assented to the Biosafety Bill. Within a year of the Act, two permits have been issued to Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd for commercial release of Bt Cotton and for confined filed trails of GMO maize.

Modern biotechnology in agriculture should be restricted to laboratories – and a regime of strict liability and redress should be in place in case of accidents; – Confab Environment Committee

Farmers, consumers, faith based organisations, media, community groups and other civil society groups, including Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) have expressed their rejection of the introduction of GMOs into Nigeria. The reasons for objecting to this development is that these crops would lead to a massive introduction of toxic chemicals into our environment, erode our biodiversity and entrap hapless farmers in the grip of the biotech industry.

We are encouraged that the Federal Ministry of Environment is considering a holistic look at the Biosafety situation in Nigeria, including the Biosafety Act itself. The recommendations of the Confab committees on biosafety matters are weighty and it is germane for us to remind ourselves of what these committees recommended with regard to our biosafety and the matter of GMOs in Nigeria.

Here are the Sections of the Confab report referred to:

A. Agriculture and Water Resources Committee

5.1.7 BIO-TECHNOLOGY (pages 72-73 of the Confab Report)
1. Conference resolved as follows:
a. That adequate funding should be devoted to biotechnological research, especially those that do not
involve cross-species genetic manipulations; and

b. That action should be expedited on the passage of the Biosafety Bill to regulate trans-boundary
movement of genetically modified agricultural products and encourage development of improved
varieties and breeds under ethical research environment.

c. That the Bio-safety Bill should be reviewed to include the following:
i. Public participation: It should be obligatory to ensure public participation when applications to introduce GMOs are being considered;

ii. The Bill should specify clearly how large-scale filed trials would be contained and regulated to avoid contamination of surroundings or farms;

iii. Besides Environmental NGOs, Farmers organizations should be represented on the Governing Board;

iv. Risk Assessment: The Bill should state criteria for risk assessment and such assessments must be carried out in Nigeria and not offshore;

v. Liability and Redress should be included in the Bill bearing in mind that this is a key part to implementing the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol to the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety adopted in October 2010; and

vi. Precautionary principle: The Bill should include the implementation of the precautionary principle that entitles our government to decide against approval or for restriction in cases of incomplete or controversial knowledge.

B. Environment Committee

5.7.3 Policy Resolutions (Pages 151 & 156 of the Confab Report)

1. Resolutions on Institutional Framework and Enforcement
d. There must be policy and action coherence between and within government agencies to ensure
synergy in tackling our environmental challenges;

e. Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are not project planning approval documents but
veritable tools for environmental protection. Accordingly EIAs must be conducted for all major projects as stipulated in the EIA Act. Moreover, there should be detailed post project assessment requirements and approved decommissioning plans;

f. The Precautionary Principle of the Cartagena Protocol of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) prevails in discussions of modern biotechnology in agriculture and foods. Nigeria must be kept free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as a key way to avoid biodiversity erosion and seeds colonization by agri-businesses;

g. Modern biotechnology in agriculture should be restricted to laboratories – and a regime of strict liability and redress should be in place in case of accidents;

8. Biodiversity (Page 156)
h. Identify biodiversity hotspots, like the wetlands and forests which have very high concentrations of native species, and which are rapidly losing habitat and species, as primary targets for conservation.

i. Ensure strict bio safety laws and particularly reject acts that could lead to invasion of alien species
and resulting colonisation and biodiversity erosion;

j. Ensure strict liability and redress in bio-safety matters and bar untested and unregulated
technologies including those related to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), geoengineering,
nanotechnology in foods and agriculture and synthetic biology;

C. Science, Technology and Development Committee (pages 352-353 of the Confab Report)

5.19.6 BIODIVERSITY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY, TRANSFER, DIFFUSION, REVERSE ENGINEERING, STANDARDIZATION AND QUALITY ASSURANCE.
1. Biodiversity and Biotechnology
Conference resolved that:
k. A National Biodiversity Conservation Authority be established. State Biodiversity Board and Local Government Biodiversity Task Forces should be created;

l. Government should discourage the use of foreign plants for afforestation, so that indigenous flora ecosystem is protected from extinction and disease;

m. Government should fast-track the passage of the Bill establishing the National Biotechnology Development Agency into Law (NABDA);

d. There is need to fast-track the passage of the bill on BIOSAFETY, with the inclusion of provisions to cover potentially pathogenic and deleterious microorganisms. In doing so, there is a need to ensure the independence of the Biosafety Agency to guarantee its efficacy;

e. Biotechnology and Bio – Safety Bills should be amended to include “strict liability” provisions;

f. Biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of bio resources should be incorporated in the school
curriculum;

g. There should be adequate and consistent funding to NABDA to enable it make the impact it should
nationwide;

h. Deliberate steps should be taken to recruit staff with required expertise, who can add value to the
Agency;

i. Clear incentives, conducive environment and staff welfare, should be maintained to ensure that
staff remain productive and free of concerns which inhibit productive and innovative research and
work;

j. States should be involved in biotechnology development, as well as the private sector to cut cost
and also give the students the needed relevant experience;

k. There should be increased and improved training and retraining facilities and international exposure;