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.

-ends-

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

NOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the Land Bleeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

See a short video summary of the day here.

 

Break Free at Ogoni – Silence is Treason!

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

Gbene Ogoni!

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

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

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

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

Gbene Ogoni!

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

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

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

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

Gbene Ogoni!

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oloibiri: A monument to Fossil Fuels

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

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

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Oloibiri A monument to Fossil Fuels

By Nnimmo Bassey

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

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

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

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

What do we want? A clean Niger Delta!

When do we want it: Now!

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

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

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

In Defence of Life – a new Documentary by Gaia Foundation

In Defence of Life“It’s about grabbing a part of the Earth and placing a mark of ownership on something that actually owns you. It doesn’t add up.”

In this interview poet, Earth Defender and Right Livelihood Award Winner Nnimmo Bassey challenges the assumptions at the very root of the mining industry- that we need to and should mine more. Discussing the vast damage and poverty oil extraction has brought to his home country of Nigeria, Nnimmo argues that even the most ‘responsible’ mining operations leave behind irreparable harm. His message is that, though it seems unthinkable to many, we must move away from an extractive relationship with the planet. Watch Nnimmo’s interview here: vimeo.com/155553521

This interview accompanies In Defence of Life, a documentary that follows the trials and triumphs of four communities fighting back against mining giants. Watch it here: vimeo.com/162669257

Filmed by Jess Phillimore
Edited by Joseph Lambert
For The Gaia Foundation

From Gaia Foundation

Oil, Power & Pollution in South Sudan

Oil, Power and a Sign of Hope coverOil, Power and A Sign of Hope is a book about oil, speed, corporate power and death. It is not about the oil pollution in the Niger Delta. It is rather about the severe pollution of the ground water in the oil field communities of South Sudan. And the pollution is from the contamination of the water bodies by produced water that is generated during crude oil extraction.

It may well be true as has been asserted by some observers that the Sudan was split in two by oil. The fact that oil is at the centre of geopolitics, of global dominance and control is indisputable. It is also a fact that crude oil’s footprint on climate change cannot be denied. In fact, analysts have concluded that the world has to completely halt the burning of fossil fuels by 2030 if the target of keeping to 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase above pre industrial level, a highlight of the Paris Agreement, is to be met. The control of global policy on climate change by the fossil fuels industry is so strong that this known villain is not mentioned even once in the Paris Agreement that the politicians have applauded and are getting ready to sign in a few days.

Written by Klaus Stieglitz (with Sabine Pamperrien) and published by ruffer & rub, the book, Oil, Power and a Sign of Hope raises very strong issues regarding the linkage between oil corporations (in this case Petronas), automobile corporations (in this case Mercedes) and the destruction of lives in the oil fields of South Sudan. Mercedes and Petronas are partners in the Grand Prix events with their logos announcing their wedlock.

Written with deep compassion after spending many years providing humanitarian service in the polluted communities, the writer exposes the misery and harm that oil field communities are exposed to while corporations enjoy extreme wealth while feeding the world’s insatiable thirst for energy, speed and profit. It shows that produced water and drilling fluids are key sources of contamination of the water communities depend on.

An excerpt from the book is in order here:

The extremely great potential dangers emanating from the use of chemicals in drill drilling fluids cause it to be strictly regulated by internationally-applicable guidelines. Augmenting this peril is another technique employed when extracting oil. Highly- concentrated salts-containing solutions are injected into the oil deposits, so as to increase the pressure in them. The crude oil and the previously-injected salts-containing solutions are pumped to the surface, where the crude oil is separated from the so-called “produced water”. The extraction of each liter of crude oil requires the employment of from 3 to 9.5 liters of produced water an incredible amount. This produced water often has a higher content of salt than does ocean water. The produced water also often contains noxious metals and radioactive materials. The general practice is to inject the produced watervia another injection holedeep enough into the ground, with this meaning its being transported to layers of rocks that are far away from potable water. Should, however, the produced water be disposed of via in-feeds into surface waters, or via shallow drilling into layers containing ground water, the risk arises that this polluted water willvia wellsbe incorporated into humans’ food cycle. (Page 58)

Although oil companies claim otherwise, researches have shown that produced water dumped into the Niger Delta environment have contaminants at levels far above acceptable standards. Lax regulation compounds the problem. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of produced water are dumped into the Niger Delta environment daily. Since the amount of water used in oil extraction increases as the wells age, more produced water is being dumped into our water ways as the years go by.

Oil, Power and a Sign of Hope is wake up call, not only for South Sudan, but for all African nations where crude oil is extracted or is set to be extracted. While oil spills and gas flares take the headlines, little is said about the produced water that finds its way into our food cycles and silently breeds disease and clips off life expectancy in our communities. This book is not written to make us moan and sigh. It is clarion call for us all to wake up, reject mindless exploitation, demand justice and fight for the right to potable water, and for the right of all peoples to live in dignity and in healthy environments. The water we drink should quench our thirst and not snuff out our lives. Here is one more reason why we must break free from fossil fuels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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.

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)