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

New PIB: Coming in Four Draft Bills?

O&GReportcoverNew PIB is coming in four parts

Petroleum industry watchers in Nigeria have been wondering whether the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that has been in the works for almost a decade would eventually be junked. Information emerging from those who should know suggest the PIB, much resisted by transnational oil companies operating in Nigeria, would now come in four separate and perhaps palatable bits

Signals coming form the Petroleum Resources Ministry suggest that the primary concern of the ministry is the business part of the entire petroleum industry architecture. Indeed, a version of the first Bill in circulation (The Governance and Institutional Framework for Oil and Gas) is not at all concerned with the environment. It mentions gas flaring just once and this in the same breath with fracking! Could the Ministry thinking of embarking on fracking while gas flaring goes on unabated?

That same version of the first Bill has no mention or reference to communities in which oil and gas activities are being carried out.But then, its focus is governance, not environment and not communities.

It does appear that none of the four pieces of law will have any focus on environmental or community health concerns.

According to a report in the January 2016 edition of the Africa Oil & Gas Report, “The Governance and Institutional Framework for Oil and Gas is the first of four proposed bills that will be sent to Nigeria’s bicameral house of legislature: The National Assembly, for passage by the Muhammadu Buhari administration.” It is speculated that four versions of the draft of the first Bill is currently in circulation at the National Assembly. This seems to be in sync with the spirit of the comatose PIB.

Africa Oil & Gas Report suggests that the breaking the PIB into four different legislations may be part of the learning from the inability to pass an oil and gas reform law by the last two governments.

It does appear that none of the four pieces of law will have any focus on environmental or community health concerns. Information suggests that the second bill after the ‘Governance and Institutional Framework’ Bill will be the Fiscal Reform Bill, that will focus on fiscal issues in the industry. The third bill will be concerned with Licencing Rounds, while the last legislative bill regulating the petroleum industry will be the ‘Revenue Allocation and Management‘ Bill. Africa Oil & Gas quotes  a source as saying that “Part of what the last bill will propose is what will go to the communities, in terms of percentages.”

It is indeed essential that communities receive due payments for the massive cash milked from their environment, it will be unwise to imagine that environmental concerns can be buried under a whiff of cash, no matter how sweet the smell. While the draughtsmen are at work, it will be essential for them to pay in-depth attention to halting gas flaring and the dumping of toxic wastes in the environment. They should also block the loopholes that allow oil companies to casually blame most oil spill incidents on the victims of their dastardly environmental misbehaviour.

 

Our Environment, Our Resources, Our Future

IMG-20160225-WA0001It is indeed exciting to be a part of this epochal reception. One reason is that it is not easy to move from the civil society space and perform creditably on the government side. Some even say that civil society campaigners are more effective as critics than as public service leaders. Our hope is that you will prove the sceptics wrong. And that you will epitomise what it means to lead with the people leading. The thoughts here expressed are directly mostly at the Minister for Environment, Amina J. Mohammed and the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, who you will permit me to address as Comrade Kayode Fayemi.

Bearing in mind that the environment is a living system and that environmental problems are interlinked; and keeping in mind that our peoples depend on the natural environment for economic and living activities, resolving our environmental challenges can indeed be a unifying pathway for Nigerians. The Niger Delta has been on the spot light as a region despoiled by petroleum extraction and soon the story may shift to mine pits across the nation as States scramble to generate revenue from a sector that allows decentralised investment in a way the petroleum sector does not permit.

We are children of the environment and that what we call natural resources are actually Nature’s gifts and elements that help her maintain and reproduce her natural cycles, the best approach to solving our environmental challenges must be narrowed down to what impacts most on the lives of our peoples.

Key areas:

ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION- the challenge of extractives

Environmental remediation/restoration and stoppage of polluting activities and processes. The determination of the President and the HM of Environment to make the clean up of Ogoniland in line with the UNEP report of 2011 is commendable and must be supported. It is essential that this be extended as a Pan Niger Delta recovery initiative including heavily polluted areas such as Ikarama, Forcados, Ibeno, Koluoma, Kalaba and Oruma to name a few. Environmental remediation must extend to challenged communities like that of Makoko, Lagos (Which the HM E has visited) and the communities depending on the Challawa River in Kano and the water ponds of Zamfara and the tin pits of Jos.

We are children of the environment and that what we call natural resources are actually Nature’s gifts and elements that help her maintain and reproduce her natural cycles,

SANITATION

Sanitation, including solid waste management and access to potable water. This requires deliberate campaign for change of mind-set to discourage careless handling and disposal of wastes. Efforts in this direction must be in cooperation with the Ministry of Water Resources with a view to halting the privatisation of water through purchase of public facilities as well as through the bottling of water and an enforced absence of public water supply.

Use of plastic bags should be outlawed as a means of curbing wastes, general pollution and clogging of our drains. Our people must return to the use of durable goods and accept to recycle, reuse, reduce and also refuse some items.

EROSION

Gully, wind and coastal erosion are serious challenges in Nigeria. A comprehensive framework to tackle this menace needs to be developed. Again we note that solid mineral extraction will aggravate this problem. Where we once had gullies, we may now have craters.

GREAT GREEN BELT and DEFORESTATION

There is no reason for southern Niger Republic to be greener than Northern Nigeria. Annual tree planting rituals will ultimately remain television activities. Communities must own the agenda, with government supporting. Having farmer-farmer exchanges would help our farmers acquire knowledge from their counterparts in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali would help in learning techniques of restoring otherwise arid lands.[1]

In the same vein is the crucial need to stop the assault on our forests, including the very poorly conceived plan to take a 6 lanes super highway through Ekuri Community Forest, one of the last pristine forests we have left in Nigeria. The thought of compulsorily acquiring 10 km on either side of the road in public interest is a euphemism for dispossessing the poor forest communities and to throw open a logging bazaar without regard to equity, justice or concerns for the looming climate change.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Nigeria has submitted her intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) to emissions reduction as required by the UNFCCC. One task before you in this direction is to translate the intentions to action. And if we may suggest a starting point it would be to stop gas flaring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

STATE OF NIGERIAN ENVIRONMENT REPORT

Ultimately we require to have an Annual State of the Nigerian Environment Report that would both provide a baseline and a means of monitoring and evaluating our efforts in this sector. The only such report that we have was prepared in 2008 and published six or so years later. It was a good starting point that needs to be taken forward.

ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS/REGULATIONS

It is often said that there are sufficient laws in Nigeria but not enough will to enforce the laws. There are laws that require urgent review or repeal. One of such laws is the Biosafety Management Act of 2015 signed into law in the last week of the last presidency. The management of our Biosafety is not helped by the fact that the regulatory and research bodies are more concerned with promoting rather than regulating the introduction of agricultural modern biotechnology and do not appear to consider ethical, environmental, health and other issues.

We need a law that gives an agency like the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) teeth, including enforcing sufficiently high penalties to discourage environmental misbehaviour such as oil spills and gas flaring.

The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act does not cover the oil and gas sector. The presence of captains of the oil and gas sector on the board of NESREA is an anomaly and that space should be closed.

The Environmental Impact Act (EIA) must be given teeth so that compliance ceases to be a token requirement for project proponents. The EIA and environmental management plans for mining projects must consider the fact that every mine pit or oil well has a life span. This necessitates the preparation of exit or closure plans, including decommissioning at the end of the lifespan of such activities.

CONCLUSION

We are lending you to the governance machinery and expect that your civil society sensitivities will keep you open to engage continuously with the people whom you have been called upon to serve.

Thank you.

Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation @NnimmoB

**Presented at reception for Nigerian ministers with civil society background at Abuja on 22 February 2016

 

 

[1] See my blog on this at https://nnimmobassey.net/2015/11/22/forests-on-rocky-soils/.