Burning Africa with the Paris Agreement

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The Paris Agreement will see to the sinking of Small Island states and the roasting of Africa – a continent uniquely exposed to the vagaries of global warming. Of what use is it for poor vulnerable nations to smile at the cameras, sign up to do things that will add up to nothing, knowing that they never contributed to the problem in the first instance? What would Nigeria or any African country gain by endorsing this hollow agreement?

What is needed is for the big polluters to line up and sign an agreement to keep fossils in the ground and urgently ensure a just transition to renewable energy. That is when we will know that there is a climate agreement. Signing the Paris Agreement on Earth Day (22 April 2016) is a poking of fossil fingers in our collective faces and an affront to Mother Earth.

Signing the Paris Agreement is nothing but letting the polluters off the hook, and burning the innocent to boot. It is time to keep fossils in the ground. Addictions may be hard to break, but for our survival, it is time to break free from fossil fuels.

The achievement of the Paris conference was that all nations agreed to take some sort of climate action. This means little if what they promise to do are mere intentions rather than scientifically determined levels of emissions reduction based on their current levels of greenhouse gas emissions as well as on historical responsibility.

The expected climate actions are based on Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). These INDCs as the name suggests are what each country proposes to do about cutting their emissions. Many of the countries have stated that they would only take certain actions based on some conditions such as availability of finance and technology.

Particularly worrisome is the fact that the world has already warmed up by 1 degree Celsius above pre industrial levels. If all the nations put their INDCs into action, average global temperatures will rise above 3 degrees Celsius, according to analysts. That would be beyond the tipping point by which the world would cascade into irreversible or cataclysmic climate and ecological change.

The Paris Agreement locks in fossil fuels and, to underscore corporate capture of the negotiations, the word, fossil, is not as much as mention the document. It is shocking that although the burning of fossil fuels is known to be a major contributor to global warming, climate negotiations engage in platitudes rather than going to the core of the problem. Scientists tell us that burning of fossil fuels would have to end by 2030 if there would be a chance of keeping temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The signal we get from the silence on the fossils factor is that oil and coal companies can continue to extract profit while burning the planet.

The agreement is hollow with regard to climate finance because raising necessary funds remains aspirational while rich nations spend trillions of US dollars on war efforts that deepen climate vulnerability of target nations and regions. Loss and damage from irreparable climate impacts remain the imposed burdens that vulnerable nations will continue to suffer.

Signing the Paris Agreement is nothing but letting the polluters off the hook, and burning the innocent to boot. It is time to keep fossils in the ground. Addictions may be hard to break, but for our survival, it is time to break free from fossil fuels.

New PIB and forgotten Host Communities?

While no one can say that the Nigerian petroleum resources sector is known for transparency, most would readily agree that it wields a lot of power. The sector has effectively determined the political, economic, social and cultural paths of the nation since its ascendancy as major income earner for the nation. As its power rose, so the attendant impunity, including a murky treatment of financial matters. Governments have bent backwards so much that the tail began to dictate to the head.

To secure continuous flow of revenue from the sector, full military might have been deployed to silence calls for dialogue from already trashed communities and these have sometimes resulted in horrendous sackings of communities in wasting operations by way of flagrant and outright display of murderous rage at the slightest provocation. Today, citizens are intimidated by security forces into raising their hands in total surrender each time they come close to oil pipelines of transnational corporations crossing their creeks.

Denying Dialogue

The denial of dialogue can be said to be a major precursor of the persistent conflict points in the Niger Delta. That was what the people of Umuechem requested for in 1990. What they got was mayhem and deaths.

The current outcry over the non-inclusion in the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) of the Host Communities Fund that was provided for in the “old PIB” is justifiable. This will continue to agitate communities and observers until the National Assembly or the Petroleum Resources Ministry explains what the fate of the communities will be in the new dispensation.

The Quadruplet Logic

What we have learnt from the grapevine is that the new PIB will come in multiple parts so what is being debated is not yet the whole story. However, the entire focus is on business and there is scant attention to the environment or the people. These may remain the milk cows that should simply steel themselves for more squeezes.

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. Licencing Rounds Bill
  4. Revenue Allocation and Management Bill

It is expected that the fourth bill may say something about the funds for communities. Perhaps the logic is to serve the “controversial” consideration of oil field communities last with the hope that the hurdle will never be reached within the life of this government or that the controversy would have died of its own accord by such a time.

One complaint against the former PIB was that it was rather voluminous. Having the bill split into four volumes may make reading easier for text-message or SMS generation.

It could also be one way of displaying a bent towards unbundling the sector in all ramifications. Another plausible explanation could be that the sector is simply copying the industry’s best practice in other countries.

Host Communities Conundrum

The sore point of the petroleum sector in Nigeria as in elsewhere is the serious impact it has on the environment, the communities and the people.

The fact that our politicians could not agree on any allocation of resources for host communities should not make the current legal draughtsmen push consideration to back burners. The President doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources and he should clarify what the intentions are with regard to the communities and indeed the oil field environment. With the clean up of Ogoni and the Niger Delta about to commence, informing about the global environmental architecture would help.

Goi..Ogoni
Polluted creek at Goi community

A key point is to ensure that host communities are not defined as only the communities that host oil wells, pipelines, flow stations, waste pits and other oil industry appurtenances. Here is the reason why this definition must be broadened. There are communities that do not have the physical presence of oil operations but are heavily impacted by those operations. A case in point is Goi community in Ogoni. This community has been severely impacted by repeated oil spills and related fires and one section of the community has been deserted for over a decade now. Yet, Goi has no pipeline and no oil well. It simply sits on the bank of a creek that connects oil facilities that have spewed crude and devastated their environment. Would it be right to say that Goi is not a host community? My point is that any community that has the potential to be impacted by petroleum sector accidents has to be classified as a host community. So, a host community is a community that hosts oil or industrial facilities as well as those that host pollutions.

Another case in point is that Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 in Alaska. The spill so much impacted Prince William Sound and the coastline that, despite all clean up efforts, 27 years after effect is still there and less than half of the wild life population is yet to recover.

Time to Come Clean

It is time for the National Assembly and the Ministry of Petroleum Resource to come clean over the PIB. The draft bill(s) should be posted online and made available to citizens. It would help the ministry, the National Assembly and the nation if citizens are able to scrutinise the bill(s) and make comments based on knowledge rather on rumours. What are the provisions in the PIB for ending gas flaring? What is in it for the communities? Certainly the oil business cannot be allowed to be all about money to the detriment of life.

Arrival of The Last Militant

2 booksThe word militant elicits a certain meaning in Nigeria and like the word insurgents people often link it with violence. Another word that has taken on peculiar meaning in Nigeria is restiveness – a descriptive word assigned to agitated Niger Delta youths totally radicalised by fossil fuels extraction pollutions and unwilling to stay civil in the face of oppressive injustice.

Patrick Naagbanton, a man of many parts – journalist, environmental/human rights activist, poet, etc. – has just added two important books to the Nigerian literary scene. One is a collection of poems titled Fury of the Fisher Woman and the other is The Last Militant – A biography of Comrade Cheta Ibama Ibegwura – and the struggles for workers’ rights in Nigeria, justice and self-determination in the Niger Delta region..

Furious Fisher Woman

The poetry book is loaded with anger, death and defiance. Poignantly, except for when the writer mentions “other unsung comrades (dead or alive) whose stories are not yet told,” both books are dedicated to persons who have departed from the physical plane. They nudge you to closely study Nigeria’s tragic post colonial history – an history that current political leaders would rather sweep under the carpet.

Writing for the victims of the Umuechem massacre of 1st November 1990, the poem titled The Script opens with these lines:

Distress marches

Clad in black on the precarious pipelines

Demanding to drink from it along the

Bush paths of Umuechem

On the sad day on which Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8 were murdered, Patrick wrote under the title Hangmen:

Their banter of blood shall soon end 

And I shall sing our funeral songs

They shall weep as we are weeping

With the troubled tribe

Militant to the core

As Patrick states, “the story of Cheta Ibama Ibegwura, popularly called ‘Wati’ and later ‘Comrade Che’ is the story of Nigeria.”  And the book, “The Last Militant, though a biographical work, also takes us through a whole range of issues such as the histories of great organizations and movements– their successes and failures in Nigeria.”

One is tempted to ask: why Patrick chose to label Comrade Che a militant? Synonyms for militant include: activist, confrontational, aggressive, radical, revolutionary, belligerent, combative, pugnacious. Within the array of words, the closest in meaning to the legend we all know as Comrade Che would be radical and revolutionary. He is a gentle, uncompromising militant. At 83 years, Apostolic Comrade Che remains resolute in the struggle for human and environmental justice as well as for community rights.

Through the book we learn of his militancy in political actions, pro-democracy activism and in inspiring trade union consciousness. A freelance revolutionary, as Patrick terms him, he continues unwaveringly in the pursuit of militant causes.

Comrade Che before Comrade Che

Here is an extract from the foreword I wrote for the book: This is a story of courage, love, commitment and passion. It is a story that shows the triumph of the human spirit even in the most hazardous situations. It is a story of a survivor.  He indeed survived many detentions, false imprisonments and assassination attempts. He admired his late friend, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and the Ogoni people for ‘being true to the struggle in the naked face of mass arrests, killings, government and crude oil induced bribes.’ Unfortunately, he could not say the same for the organising ability and fidelity to causes by his own immediate people.

Apostolic Comrade Che, as I call him, is a very inspiring man. His simplicity is unpretentious. He is a man of ideas and is always willing to share such ideas. This book reveals much that is not readily known of this great man. I have known Comrade Che and benefitted from his friendship and fatherly counsel, from the mid 1990s. However, reading this book brings me face to face with him as though I only just knew him for the first time. In fact, until I read this book I always thought that Cheta Ibama Ibegwura was named Comrade Che after the famous Argentine internationalist. Behold, he was already Comrade Che before he ever heard of the other Comrade Che.

Not a Book Review

This is not a book review. It is a tribute to my mentor and teacher, Comrade Che. It is also a thank you note to Patrick for penning these powerful books. The books published by Creektown Books (Lagos) will be presented at a public event in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on 5th March 2016. Get the books and review them yourselves!

 

A Living Memorial for Deadened Memories

BUSWALLPAPERThe Bus, a sculptural memorial in honour of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine was shipped to Nigeria from the United Kingdom by Platform. On arrival in Nigeria it was seized by the Nigeria Customs since 8th September 2015 on the reported grounds that it had “political value.” The original idea was for the Bus to be used during the 20th anniversary activities to mark the dastardly execution of the Ogoni 9 on 10th November 2015. The kidnap of the Bus by the Nigeria Customs, as Celestine Akpobari, head of Ogoni Solidarity Forum (OSF) labels it, made it impossible for the cultural memorial to be used.

One interesting fact that emerged from the hearing of 4th February was that the Customs officials stated that the the “inscription on memorial bus is a threat to national peace.”

Due to the continued detention of the sculpture by the Nigeria Customs, the OSF leader petitioned the House of Representatives of Nigeria seeking their intervention for the release of the sculpture. We note that the sculpture was created by Nigerian-born artist Sokari Douglas Camp.

The House of Representatives has so far held two hearings on the matter on 28th January and 4th February 2016. At the first hearing the Representatives were unhappy that the Comptroller of Customs did not appear before them. Again, at the second hearing the Customs boss was conspicuously missing, prompting the Representatives warning that they should not be provoked to issue an arrest warrant against the big man. The next hearing is scheduled for 17 February 2016.

One interesting fact that emerged from the hearing of 4th February was that the Customs officers stated that the the ‘inscription on memorial bus is a threat to national peace.”

What could possibly be the threatening inscription on the sculpture? The Bus has the name of Ken Saro-Wiwa on a white steel banner on one side, and the names of the other 8 Ogoni leaders on sculptural crude oil barrels. It also has the words of Ken Saro-Wiwa: “I accuse the oil companies of practising Genocide against the Ogoni.” Would these threaten national peace?

It should be noted that this sculpture has been on display in the UK for 9 years and was shipped to Nigeria by Platform on the request of network partners in Nigeria: Movement For The Survival Of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ogoni Solidarity Forum (OSF), Social Action, Health Of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN).

In his official submission to the House of Representatives, Akpobari said, “We are concerned that after killing Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8, and dumping their bodies in an unmarked grave, the Nigerian government is bent on erasing every memory of Saro-Wiwa and his struggles for justice, including making sure that a “Living Memorial” – the Bus made in his memory and in solidarity with his people – is never delivered to them.”

The Nigeria Customs appears to have chosen to fight a battle to erase the memories of these heroes of environmental and cultural struggles. Seizing a sculpture gives the impression that the State is attempting to kill the message after annihilating the messengers. With the experience of history, we can say that this is a futile endeavor and the Customs should release and deliver the Bus to the people of Ogoni as emblematic representatives of peoples struggling for ecological sanity, social inclusion and dignity.

If there are persons that wonder who Ken Saro-Wiwa and these leaders were, the words of Sanya Osha in a paper published in Socialism and Democracy gives a crisp picture:

“When Ken Saro-Wiwa and his nine Ogoni compatriots were hanged in November 1995, it both polarized and unified the fragile as well as volatile geographical entity known as Nigeria. However, this time, it wasn’t the ethnic and religious fissures that were most noticeable. Instead it was the naked fist of raw power versus the vociferous protestations of a disenfranchised minority writhing beneath the weight of a seemingly implacable military dictatorship.

“Ken Saro-Wiwa became the voice, face and symbol of this aggrieved minority straining for denied civic and democratic rights. He became a hero in patently unheroic times and this is what makes his life and the loss of it so potently poignant.”

FREE_THE_BUS_2

It is for this and other reasons that 10th November has galvanized a global environmental justice movement and has become a global day of remembrance of victims of extractivism. And as Platform warns, They can hold the Bus but they can’t stop the movement.

There is no wisdom in keeping this sculptural Bus in captivity.

 

—photos by Platform—

 

 

 

Who Blows UP Niger Delta Pipelines? (Explosive Oil fields of the Niger Delta)

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Recent bombings of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta again raise the spectre of escalation of conflicts in the region. While we cannot say the reasons for the incidents, it does appear to be calculated acts of sabotage rather than mere vandalism. In cases of vandalism the motive routinely is the stealing of crude oil or refined petroleum products. Where pipelines are bombed in the manner the current incidents have been reported, the signal is that these are political actions. However, no one has claimed responsibility. That is against the grain.

It should be noted that political actions do not have to be partisan in nature as they can be carried out by persons or groups that are simply disenchanted with existing political system. They could also be orchestrated by persons or groups whose vested interests are threatened. If these are agreed as possibilities, we should be able to come to the conclusion that the recent bombings may not necessarily be the hand work of militants. Fishing for culprits would require extra-wide nets.

Militancy in the Niger Delta arose as a result of accrued disenchantment with both the government and the transnational corporations over minimal expectations from the local population. The fact oil being so alluring cannot be denied. It always offers communities dreams and hopes of social services, employment, infrastructural improvements and dramatic societal transformation. What is offered in reality has routinely been environmental degradation, disruption of social structures, corruption, disease and death.

Sadly, communities in countries where crude oil is discovered are still being offered the same promises that the resource scarcely delivers. And as sure as fire burns, the hopes and promises are bound to be dashed. And then the conflicts start.

Oil theft, bush refineries and related businesses operate at an industrial scale in the Niger Delta. Unfortunately. When poorly maintained facilities are added to the mix, the result is extremely toxic and the consequences are well documented. Responses have often reinforced the crises, rather than mitigate them.

All these avoidable attacks on communities were said to be legitimate ways of smoking out militants from their hideouts in the communities. It is not clear how many militants were captured through those punishing assaults on communities.

What has been the response to the recent bombing of pipelines including those in the Gbaramatu area of Delta State? Predictably the response has been heavy militarisation of the area. The question is, to what extent can militarisation protect the over 7000 kilometres of pipelines in the Niger Delta. We hope the reign of the gunboats in the Niger Delta will not lead to a replay of the levelling of communities that was virtually routine a few years ago.

Looking back, we recall that in 1999 attacks at Odi cut down 2,483 persons, while another heavy handed attack occurred at Odioma in 2005. In May 2009 the military response to militancy saw the massive destruction of Gbaramatu community. In December 2010 there was a replay of the same scenario at Ayakoromo, where at least 20 persons were killed.

All these avoidable attacks on communities were said to be legitimate ways of smoking out militants from their hideouts in the communities. It is not clear how many militants were captured through those punishing assaults on communities.

Government should ensure that the current patrolling of the creeks of the Niger Delta do not lead to attacks on communities. Where individuals offend the law, such individuals should face the law. Whole communities should never be punished for the sins of one person or groups of persons. Military actions in fragile communities only entrench miseries and further ecological tragedies.

Militancy based on the platform of political (non-partisan) agitation requires deep interrogations. Often, such conflicts require political solutions. Some of us were surprised at the success of the amnesty programme especially when seen that the programme was in part a panic measure as pipelines were erupting and oil production and related revenues were dwindling.

More than the cash pay-outs, it must be the other actions, including education and skills acquisition that did the trick. Despite the success of the amnesty programme and the militarization of the Niger Delta we cannot say that sustainable peace has been constructed in the region. We can understand why some persons are perplexed that despite the heavy investment in infrastructural projects disenchantment is still endemic in the region. That is why the petroleum economy is a negative economy – whether the price of crude is as high as gas flare stacks or as low as the bottom of the barrels.

Much more than patrolling the creeks and cowering innocent citizens to raise their hands in surrender to military might when then pass the ubiquitous checkpoints wherever pipelines crossed the creeks. There must be ways or rebuilding dignity among our peoples. Respect. We have to rebuild our brotherhood and sisterhood with one another and restore the motherhood of the earth. We need conversations more than contracts. We need listening posts not more trenches. Open the prison doors. Those locked up outside of this country should be brought back home. We have to rebuild our communities. Inclusively. Communities are the best policemen of pipelines in their environments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secure and the Dispossessed

This is a synopsis of the great book, THE SECURE AND THE DISPOSSESSED, from the TNI staple:

The Secure and dispossessed

What if government and corporate elites have given up on the idea of stopping climate change and prefer to try to manage its consequences?

The Secure and the Dispossessed shows how the military and corporations plan to maintain control in a world reshaped by climate change. With one eye on the scientific evidence and the other on their global assets, dystopian preparations by the powerful are already fuelling militarised security responses to the unfolding climate crisis.

The implications for social and environmental justice are disturbing. Adaptation to a climate-changed world is desperately needed, but it must protect the rights of all, not just provide security to the few. The authors unveil the dangerous new security agenda, and put forward inspiring alternatives that promise a just transition to a climate-changed world.

To order copies visit

Read an additional online copy of a chapter to the book contributed by us here: RESISTANCE TO THE MILITARY-CORPORATE WEDLOCK IN NIGERIA AND BEYOND