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

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!

IMG_0377
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.

Eco-Instigator 11 by HOMEF- a collector’s delight

Cover of Eco-Instigator 11HOME RUN

The turmoil in the world has continued with increasing sites of environmental and political conflagrations. As this edition of your Eco-Instigator was going to bed, the world was shocked to hear of the assassination in Honduras of Berta Caceres, the outstanding, inspiring, courageous human rights and environmental campaigner, Founder of the Civic Council and Indigenous Peoples of Honduras Association (COPINH). Her murder was compounded by the shooting, and detention of Gustavo Castro, a comrade and leader of Otros Mundos, (Friends of the Earth Mexico). HOMEF joined all people of good conscience to condemn these atrocious actions, demand for justice and, of course, call for a halt to these and similar acts around the world.

Two unfolding scenarios in Nigeria are of great concern to us and we have beamed our spotlight on them in this edition. First is the resolve of biosafety regulators in Nigeria to promote the entry modern agricultural biotechnology into the country. When officials saddled with regulating a sector act as promoters of the very thing they should regulate you can imagine what the tendencies would be. Soon after a deeply flawed National Biosafety Management Bill was hurriedly signed into law by the immediate past president of Nigeria, Monsanto Nigeria Agricultural Ltd rushed two applications for field testing of genetically modified maize and the commercial release of genetically modified cotton in Nigeria. Public notices on these applications were published on 25 February and HOMEF in concert with 99 national organisations sent objections to the National Biosafety Management Agency (NABMA). A short advisory on our objections is published in this issue. We also publish an open letter sent by a collective to Nigeria’s president on why genetically modified organisms should not be permitted in Nigeria.

A 20 kilometres right of way for an about 100 metres highway must hold the record for government land grabbing for the “overriding public interest’ to satisfy deep private interests.

The second obnoxious drama unfolding on our shores is Superhighway Project that is proposed to lead from a proposed deep sea port on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and cut through pristine community forests to the Nigerian hinterland. Forest communities in the Cross River axis of Nigeria where this so-called Superhighway is to be built have managed their community forests so well that a community like Ekuri has been awarded the Equator Prize for community forest management. The government of Cross River State has commenced the bulldozing of forests and farms in defiance of the fact that the project is yet to receive an approved Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the people have not given free prior informed consent as required by ILO article 169.

One of the highlights of this 264km long Superhighway is that the Cross River State government has claimed land stretching 10 km on either side of the road. A 20 kilometres right of way for an about 100 metres highway must hold the record for government land grabbing for the “overriding public interest’ to satisfy deep private interests.

We serve you a menu of poetry, reports and, of course, books you must read. As usual, we like to hear back form you.

Read the full publication here… eco instigator 11

Until victory!

Nnimmo

Nigerians Overwhelmingly Reject Monsanto’s Risky Gm Maize and Cotton

Biosafety Act reviewMore than 100 groups representing over 5 million Nigerians, comprising of farmers, faith-based organisations, civil society groups, students and local community groups, are vehemently opposing Monsanto’s attempts to introduce genetically modified (GM) cotton and maize into Nigeria’s food and farming systems. In written objections submitted to the biosafety regulators, the groups have cited numerous serious health and environmental concerns and the failure of these crops especially GM cotton in Africa.

Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited has applied to the National Biosafety Management Agency (NABMA) for the environmental release and placing in the market in Zaria and surrounding towns of GM cotton (Bt cotton, event MON 15985). A further application is for the confined field trial (CFT) of two GM maize varieties (NK603 and stacked event MON 89034 x NK603) in multiple locations in Nigeria.

In their objection to the commercial release of Bt cotton into Nigeria, the groups are particularly alarmed that the application has come so close after the dismal failures of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso.  According to Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth – one of the groups in the frontline of the resistance: “We are totally shocked that it should come so soon after peer reviewed studies have showed that the technology has failed dismally in Burkina Faso. It has brought nothing but economic misery to the cotton sector there and is being phased out in that country where compensation is being sought from Monsanto.” He further asks the pointed question: “since our Biosafety Act has only recently entered into force, what biosafety legislation was used to authorise and regulate the field trials in the past in accordance with international law and best biosafety practice?”

According to the groups, former President Goodluck Jonathan hastily signed the National Biosafety Management Bill into law, in the twilight days of his tenure in office. Further worrying is the apparent conflict of interests displayed by the Nigerian regulatory agencies, who are publically supporting the introduction of GMOs into Nigeria whereas these regulators (the NAMBA) are legally bound to remain impartial and regulate in the public interest.

Apart from the potential of contaminating local varieties, the health risk of the introduction of genetically modified maize into Nigeria is enormous considering the fact that maize is a staple that all of 170 million Nigerians depend on.

Monsanto’s GM maize application is in respect of a stacked event, including the herbicide tolerant trait intended to confer tolerance to the use of the herbicide, glyphosate. In 20 March 2015 – The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), assessed the carcinogenicity of glysophate and concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” There is also increasing scientific evidence that glyphosate poses serious risks to the environment.

According to Mariann Orovwuje, Friends of the Earth International’s Food Sovereignty co-coordinator, “Should commercialization of Monsanto’s GM maize be allowed pursuant to field trials, this will result in increased use of glyphosate in Nigeria, a chemical that is linked to causing cancer in humans. Recent studies have linked glyphosate to health effects such as degeneration of the liver and kidney, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. That NABMA is even considering this application is indeed unfortunate and deeply regrettable, knowing full well about the uncontrolled exposure that our rural farmers and communities living close to farms will be exposed to.”

Monsanto’s application deceitfully provides no discussion on the potential risks of glysophate use to human and animal health and the environment. Apart from the potential of contaminating local varieties, the health risk of the introduction of genetically modified maize into Nigeria is enormous considering the fact that maize is a staple that all of 170 million Nigerians depend on.

The groups are urging the Nigerian government to reject Monsanto’s applications out of hand. They note with disquiet that there is a serious lack of capacity within Nigeria to adequately control and monitor the human and environmental risks of GM crops and glyphosate. Further there is virtually no testing of any food material and products in Nigeria for glyphosate or other pesticide residues, or the monitoring of their impact on the environment including water resources.

For more information, contact:

  1. Mariann Orovwuje,

Food Sovereignty Manager/coordinator ERA/FoEN and FoE International

mariann@eraction.org

+234 703 449 5940

 

  1. Nnimmo Bassey, Director, HOMEF

nnimmo@homef.org

Tel: +234 803 727 4395

 

 

Groups Endorsing the Objection to Monsanto’s applications

  1. All Nigeria Consumers Movement Union (ANCOMU)
  2. Committee on Vital Environmental Resources (COVER)
  3. Community Research and Development Centre (CRDC)
  4. Ijaw Mothers of Warri
  5. Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN)
  6. Host Communities Network of Nigeria (HoCoN)
  7. Oilwatch Nigeria
  8. Green Alliance, Nigeria
  9. African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development
  10. Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL)
  11. Women Environmental Programme (WEP)
  12. Persons with Disabilities Action Network (PEDANET)
  13. Students Environmental Assembly of Nigeria (SEAN)
  14. Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD)
  15. Ogoni Solidarity Forum (OSF)
  16. KebetKache Women Development and Resource Centre
  17. Federation of Urban Poor (FEDUP)
  18. Community Forest Watch (CFW)
  19. The Young Environmentalist Network (TYEN)
  20. Women’s Rights to Education Program (WREP)
  21. Community Action for Public Action (CAPA)
  22. Peoples Advancement Centre (ADC) Bori
  23. Social Action
  24. SPEAK Nigeria
  25. Host Communities Network
  26. Urban Rural Environmental Defenders (U-RED)
  27. Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI)
  28. Women’s Right to Education Programme (WREP)
  29. Foundation for Rural/Urban Integration (FRUIT)
  30. Community Action for Popular Participation
  31. Torjir-Agber Foundation (TAF)
  32. Civil Society on Poverty Eradication (CISCOPE),
  33. Jireh Doo foundation
  34. Advocate for Community Vision and Development( ACOVID)
  35. Initiative for empowerment for vulnerable(IEV)
  36. Kwaswdoo Foundation Initiative (KFI)
  37. Environment and Climate Change Amelioration Initiative) ECCAI
  38. Manna Love and care Foundation (MLC)
  39. Okaha Women and children development Organisation(OWCDO)
  40. JODEF-F
  41. Glorious things ministry(GTM)
  42. Daughters of Love Foundation
  43. Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN)
  44. Community Links and Empowerment Initiative(CLHEI)
  45. Nigerian Women in Agriculture (NAWIA)
  46. Osa foundation
  47. Initiative for Improved Health and Wealth Creation (IIHWC)
  48. Peace Health Care Initiative (PHCI)
  49. Ochilla Daughters Foundation (ODF)
  50. African Health Project (AHP)
  51. Artists in Development
  52. Ramberg Child Survival Initiative (RACSI)
  53. Global Health and Development initiative
  54. First Step Initiative (FIP)
  55. Ruhujukan Environment Development  Initiative (REDI)
  56. The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development(CEHRD), Nigeria
  57. Center for Children’s Health Education, Orientation Protection (CEE Hope)and CEEHOPE Nigeria
  58. Next Generation Youth Initiative (NGI)
  59. Akwa Ibom Information and Research Organisation (AIORG)
  60. Rural Action for Green Environment (RAGE)
  61. United Action for Democracy
  62. Campaign for Democracy
  63. Yasuni Association
  64. Egi Joint Action Congress
  65. Green Concern for Development (Greencode)
  66. Kebetkache Ahoada Women Farmers Cooperative
  67. Ahoada Uzutam Women Farmers Cooperative
  68. Ogboaku Ahoada Farmers Cooperative
  69. Gbobia Feefeelo women
  70. Ovelle Nyakovia Women Cooperative
  71. Rumuekpe Women Prayer Warriors
  72. League of Queens
  73. Emem Iban Oku Iboku
  74. Uchio Mpani Ibeno
  75. Rural Health and Women Development
  76. Women Initiative on Climate Change
  77. Peoples’ Centre
  78. Citizens Trust Advocacy and Development Centre (CITADEC)
  79. Centre for Environment Media and Development Communications
  80. Centre for Dignity
  81. Peace and Development Project
  82. Triumphant Foundation
  83. Earthcare Foundation
  84. Lokiakia Centre
  85. Community Development and Advocacy Foundation (CODAF)
  86. Citizens Centre
  87. Development Strategies
  88. Rainforest Research and Development Center
  89. Center for Environmental Education and Development (CEED)
  90. Initiative for the Elimination of Violence Against Women & Children (IEVAWC)
  91. Charles and Doosurgh Abaagu Foundation
  92. Community Emergency Response Initiative
  93. Society for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN)
  94. Shacks and Slum Dwellers Association of Nigeria
  95. Atan Justice, Development and Peace Centre
  96. Sisters of Saint Louis Nigeria
  97. Life Lift Nigeria
  98. Community Research and Development Foundation (CDLF)
  99. Environmental rights Action Friends of the Earth Nigeria ( ERA/ FoEN)
  100. Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF)

 

 

Halt the Assault on the Ekuri Community and other Forests

Proposed Super Highway Map_Southern section-compressedSome of the best preserved rain forests in Nigeria are the Cross River National Park and the Ekuri Community Forest all in Cross River State, Nigeria. These forests are under serious threat of being destroyed to make way for a Super Highway that can easily be re-routed to preserve our communities as well as enormous biodiversity including rare and endangered species.

The 260km Super Highway is planned to lead from a proposed deep sea port at Esighi in Bakassi Local Government Area run through the Cross River National Park and up to Katsina Ala in Benue State, Nigeria, at a cost of N700 billion or about $3.5bn.

Firmly rejecting the routing of the Super Highway through their forest, the Ekuri Chiefs added that “Our forest is our wealth and the beacon of our hopes and aspirations”

With a dramatic and outrageous appropriation of a massive 20.4-kilometre-wide track over 260km length, the Super Highway is a project of monstrous and needless proportions. A Public Notice of Revocation signed by the Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development and published in a local newspaper, Weekend Chronicle, on 22nd January 2016 decreed, among other things, that:

“all rights of occupancy existing or deemed to exist on all that piece of land or parcel of land lying and situate along the Super Highway from Esighi, Bakassi Local Government Government Area to Bekwarra Local Government Area of Cross River State covering a distance of 260km approximately and having an offset of 200m on either side of the centre line of the road and further 10km after the span of the Super Highway, excluding Government Reserves and public institutions are hereby revoked for overriding public purpose absolutely.” This is clearly unacceptable under any kind of highway design.

In a petition to the Governor of Cross River State, dated 13th February 2016, the Chiefs and people of Okokori Village of Obubra Local Government Area saw the revocation of the right to their lands including settlements, farmlands and community forest as a calculated attempt to extinguish them as a people. They concluded that “Since the revocation of all our lands for a Super highway have damning consequences on us and our environment, we are compelled not to welcome this project as the ulterior motive of your government is to grab our lands and make us worthless, ignoring the fact we voted overwhelmingly for you to better our lot but not to punish us unjustifiably.”

Proposed Super Highway Map_Northern Section (2) compressed

In an earlier petition dated 7th February and addressed to the Governor, the Ekuri Traditional Rulers Council stated, among other things, that “The right of way for the Super Highway measuring 400 metres wide (200m on each side of the road from the centre line), being the width of four standard football fields, is too large and wil destroy our forest and farms that we have laboured to conserve and cultivate crops…The further 10km on either side of the Super Highway from the 200 metres ends totalling 20km width is appalling, meaning that the whole of our Ekuri community forest totalling 33,600 hectares, all our farms and community settlements would have been revoked leaving us landless.”

Firmly rejecting the routing of the Super Highway through their forest, the Ekuri Chiefs added that “Our forest is our wealth and the beacon of our hopes and aspirations”

Many things are wrong with this planned routing of the Super Highway. First, if allowed to proceed along the path that has been planned, it would destroy the aforementioned forests and equally impact other forests and communities. See the attached maps of the northern and southern ends of the proposed Super Highway.

Ekuri“We find it unacceptable that a project of this magnitude is pursued without regard to the law and in defiance of the rights of communities,” says Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation. He states further “Although the President conducted a ceremonial ground breaking exercise on 30th October 2015, that cannot be construed to mean an approval for the project to proceed without meeting the requirements of the law, particularly that of Environmental Impact Assessment. Moreover, as required by law, an EIA cannot be claimed to have been conducted if there are no consultations with citizens that would be impacted by the project.”

Observers think the project may be a cover for land grabbing, illegal logging and poaching and the destruction of habitats in the forests and reserves that are protected by law and preserved by custom. They question why a project of this nature would reportedly enjoy contributions from Nigerian banks without requisite preliminary surveys, plans and approvals.

The affected communities inform that “besides the fact that the proposed route was going to cause untold damage to the globally important park, it also demonstrated that the route had been selected without looking at a contour map, let alone having an engineering survey.”

Chief Edwin Ogar of Ekuri community stated that: “the destruction of Ekuri and other community forests because of the revocation for a super highway, will aggravate climate change crisis with dire consequences on humanity in general particularly among the poor”.

HOMEF calls on the Government to

  1. Comply with the laws of the land including by conducting Environmental Impact Assessment, other relevant assessments and consultations as enshrined in ILO Article 169
  2. Halt the rampaging bulldozers that are already destroying farms at Etara/Eyeyen and are continuing towards Ekuri and Okuni forests/communities.
  3. Reroute the Super Highway along a less damaging path and away from Community forests and the National park
  4. Reward and support communities that protect our forests rather than penalize and dispossessing, displacing and impoverishing them.

HOMEF also calls on all peace loving Nigerians and citizens of the world to join the call to rethink this project and work to preserve the tranquility that has reigned in this forest before the threat of the bulldozers.

(Press Statement by HOMEF in support of the threatened communities. 01.03.2016)

Labour, Leaves and Leaving

PanelMeetings with labour unionists are opportunities that open new interrogations of complex issues. The determination of African union leaders to create linkages with the wider civil society offers hope for the birth of strong continent-wide movements for positive changes. This was underscored when union leaders gathered in Lome, Togo, 22-26 February to dissect Issues and perspectives on Industrial Development and Employment in Africa: Challenges and opportunities for Trade Unions in the face of Climate Change as the thematic focus of the 6th New Year School of ITUC-Africa. Labour union leaders from across the continent huddled for the week discussing structural economic issues and considering the outcome of climate negotiations and the implications for the world of work.

Over the first two days specific topics x-rayed in plenaries included: The Current State of African Economies: Typologies, Actors, Governance-Institutions and Economic Sectoral linkages; Africa’s Economic Structural Transformation: Policies and Perspectives; Climate Change and Green Jobs in Africa; Economic Sectors Hardest Hit by Climate Change, Country Policy Responses and Trade Union Actions.

After the plenaries, comrades spent 3 days in two workshops of which one was on Structural Industrial Transformation and Agricultural development: Policies and Perspectives and the other on Climate Change and Green Jobs – policies and perspectives.

As I participated I saw that a deep commitment of labour activists to engage on climate change issues holds the key to needed mass mobilisations for system change that would build from the factory floor to climate negotiation halls. While participating in the climate change track, our resilience levels were sorely tested by a fluctuating power situation and by the fact that the design of the building housing the workshop was not climate sensitive.

We came away with a reaffirmation of the fact that climate change is the defining challenge of our time and all agreed to develop and work on national union climate change policies and strategies.

LEAVES

Before leaving Lome, I had the pleasure of having lunch with Kwami Kpondzo of Friends of the Earth Togo and Noble Wadzah of Oilwatch Ghana. Noble had came over from Accra to participate in a workshop of communities impacted by extractive sector activities.

For lunch we had a dish of pounded yam served with pepper soup at Tanty D located at Be-Klikame part of Lome. It is restaurant with a large outdoor eating area under a canopy of luxuriously luxuriant leaves. As we enjoyed our meal a train of itinerant hawkers came around with wares including trousers, shirts, laptop bags and smart phones. And, of course, there was a musician moaning and plucking away on his box guitar. I thought this was surely close to paradise! Then I noticed that above the canopy of leaves were high tension electricity cables. Apart from the harmful radiations from the cables, if they should snap it would mean a one-way ticket to the world beyond for customers engrossed in the great foods served here. We hastily finished our meal and escaped. This is something the Togolese authorities should review.

LEAVING

From Lome, my sights were set on Bamako, Mali. Going to Bamako has turned out to be an experience for me these days. The last time I went, we had to wait for several long minutes for a tyre change on the aircraft that took us from Lome. We landed safely, as you can imagine. This time, as we approached the check in counter, those of us heading to Bamako were asked to step aside and wait. Questions to the officer as to how long we were to wait before check in brought answers in whispers: “Maybe it is not the will of God for you to fly to Bamako today.” That was suspicious to me because although airlines fly above the clouds they do not have a monopoly of access to God. Certainly this was a poor excuse for sloppy business.

As it turned out, the airline had a backlog of passengers for the route and could not take us all. And so, another night in Lome. Soon I will head back to the airport. And probably there will be an update, if you would like to know!