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)

 

 

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.

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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/.

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)

They Don’t Care if We Exist – Crude oil Spill Impacts at Forcados

14th February was celebrated as Lover’s day across the world, but in parts of the creeks of the Niger Delta it turned out to be a tragic day. While lovers dressed with a touch of red, Forcados communities were braced for the unknown with the threat of having their water ways coated with crude oil rose by the hour. On that day, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC or Shell) announced that there was an oil spill from their 1.2 metres (48 inches) export line and that they were investigating the cause. The point of leak lies under 4.5 metres of water.

To be sure that the right thing was done, that the environment was protected and that communities were not left in limbo, the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed and the Minister of State for Environment, IBRAHIM Usman JIBRIL, visited the Forcados Terminal on 19th February to see things for themselves. They forsook the luxury of getting there on a chopper and took to the boats to get there through the choppy, and at times, treacherous waves. Their move sent a strong signal that the business of ecological defense in these parts was taking a necessary curve.

We should also say here that since taking office, these ministers have toured the environmental crisis hot-spots in Nigeria – including those polluted by oil and industrial activities, those impacted by desertification and loss of wetlands and those facing the menace of gully erosion. They have also been in constant consultations to ensure that the implementation of the UNEP report on Ogoni environment is not only implemented but that other parts of the Niger Delta would not be left on the lurch.

WP_20160219_033The trip to Forcados was all business. Forcados in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria hosts the second oil export terminal in Nigeria besides the one at Bonny in Rivers State. There was no media announcement and no paparazzi. Government officials on the visit were John Nani – the Commissioner for Environment, Delta State and Dan Yingi – Chairman of the Environment Committee of the Delta State House of Assembly The other officials were Mrs Akutu -the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry  and  Idris Musa of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA). And then there were three of us from the environmental justice constituency: Emem Okon, Monday Itoghor and yours truly.

Arrival at Forcados Terminal was an hour’s bounce on the waves in a convoy of military boats. On the way we passed solitary boats with stoic fisher women and men hoping for a catch, and obviously at home with the boisterous waves around them.

On arrival at the Terminal, the visiting team was given a presentation on the incident by Shell officials. Before zeroing in on the incident, they went on a history tour of developments on the Terminal as well as on past incidents.

Spills remembered

The terminal commenced operations 1971, that is 45 years ago and had a major upgrade in 1998.

Shell noted that the incident of 14th February 2016 was almost on the 10th anniversary of an 18th February 2006 militant attack on the pipeline. They also mentioned an attack on their 36 inches produced water pipelines in 2006. Produced water is dumped into the creeks and rivers of the Niger Delta after treatment by the production companies.

The company provides constant electricity from gas turbines to the two major communities in Forcados, Ogulagha and Odimodi. Shell has 36 power generating turbines here and only needs 2 to power their operations at the Terminal. Since the shutdown power is supplied from diesel run electricity generators. This may soon be rationed as supply runs low.

Shell also informed that on 4th March 2014 there was a third party interference on their export line at a depth of 8 metres and that this was a through a sophisticated theft point that only professionals could have done.

The current spill happened 5km off the coast and led to a shut in of 300,000 barrels a day of crude oil from government owned Shell, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and a Nigerian company, Seplat Petroleum Development Company.

Chronology of a Spill and Response

The loading of a vessel, MT Yamuna Spirit, commenced from 10:00 am on 12th February 2016. Loading was suspended at 0:20 am on 14th February when the spill was noticed. Seplat and NPDC were informed to stop pumping crude oil to the Terminal at 5:41 pm on 14th February.

Shell deployed booms at 9:35 am on 15th February to curtail the spread of the crude and a specialised surveillance aircraft arrived from Ghana at 10:30 am on 17th February to join the effort. By the time of the visit, they had deployed 27 skimmers and plastic tanks for collection of recovered crude. They also stated that community people were recruited to join the clean up effort.

There were booms and skimmers deployed by Shell here, but these were clearly rudimentary and ineffective. The crude oil simply coursed beyond the feeble booms while the skimmers whirled and skimmed what they could.

When the Minister asked what actions had been taken to protect and assist the impacted communities, Shell officials informed that so far they had recovered 25 barrels of crude and had mobilised relief materials such as rice, beans, vegetable oil and water to the major communities.

Tellingly, Shell would not disclose how many barrels of crude oil has been dumped into the sea, creeks and the lands from this incident.

Cause of Incident

WP_20160219_023Although investigations by the Joint Inspection Team –made up of company and government officials, as well as community representatives- have not been concluded, Shell insisted that the spill was caused by a third party interference. How are they so sure of this? They displayed thick concrete pieces collected from the sea bed at the point of leakage. The pipe is protected by being encased in concrete reinforced with wire mesh. The second point that they claimed provided irrefutable proof was that some communities people informed them that they heard a big bang at a time that coincided with when the spill occurred.

On being questioned by the Minister of Environment, they agreed that they would have to wait for the conclusion of the investigations and further expert examination, before drawing any conclusions about the cause of the spill.

My note here was that even if the exact time of the rupture of the pipe was known, hearing a loud notice from the community could not rigidly prove that a third party interference had occurred on the pipeline at a point 5 km out at sea. That sounds like one “hearsay” taken too far!

The Minister of Environment appreciated the fact that Shell notified her ministry of the spill on 15th February. She told them that President Buhari is determined to ensure a clean up of Ogoniland as well as the entire Niger Delta. She noted that whether the present incident was caused by equipment failure or by third party action, the government was concerned that the communities, the environment and the economy should not suffer.

They Don’t Care if We Exist

After the Official presentation it was time to visit some of the impacted communities. We headed towards the open sea, but after about 15 minutes in choppy waves and heavy salt water sprays, it was obvious that it was not the right time to proceed in that direction using the boats we had. So back to the Terminal we returned. From here we went to Oseigbene  village (also called Okutu) right at the edge of the Terminal to see things for ourselves.

Shell had tried to say that the spill was being contained and kept from hitting the shoreline, but the visit to this village showed very extensive crude oil pollution of the community, especially their creek, the major source of potable water. There were booms and skimmers deployed by Shell here, but these were clearly rudimentary and ineffective. The crude oil simply coursed beyond the feeble booms while the skimmers whirled and skimmed what they could.

The mangrove forests were heavily impacted. Dead crabs and fish littered the shoreline at the village. It was a river of oil as far as we could see. The effort to put up a clean-up show for the visiting Minister did not quite pan out as they may have expected.

Community women spoke up. The told the Minister that Shell does not appear to care whether they existed or not. That no one cared if they were humans. They had no road, no electricity and no water. They had no jobs and were not engaged in the clean up processes. They had also not received any relief materials. Their children were sick as a result of the spill and some were in hospitals receiving treatment. After the visit the oil company officials said they were not aware of any illnesses arising from the spill.

The Minister assured the community that her visit was to ensure that their situation was handled properly and that their environment would be cleaned up. She also noted that the women and children bore special impacts from incidents like the present one and that something would be done to assist them.

A short helicopter overflight of the spill point showed efforts being made to curtail the spread of the spill. Again the booms deployed out there did not appear to far any better than the ones seen at Oseigbene.

This is the story of oil and the Niger Delta.