31st July, 2011
In spite of having a Niger Delta son as the President of Nigeria, the people of the region have renewed their clamour for resource control, saying that the struggle has never been about who becomes the president.
This was part of the resolutions adopted during a one day Niger Delta town hall meeting organised by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria , ERA/FoEN at Egbema, Okwuzi community in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers state.
The people noted that the clamour for resource control was necessitated by decades of neglect of the region that produces the resources sustaining the country and the exclusion of the people of the region from benefiting from the resources deposited by God under their soil.
â€œRather than reaping any benefit from oil and gas in our region, we have been reaping pains, sorrow and crises occasioned by the destruction of our environment, pollution of our land and rivers and poisoning of the air through endless gas flaring without any form of mitigation measures in place.
The region has remained grossly underdeveloped while the local people whose sources of livelihood have been destroyed in the process of oil extraction, live in abject poverty, noted the participants at the forum.
Correcting the impression that with Jonathan as the President, there is no more need for the clamour for resource control, the forum pointed out that even with Jonathan in charge of power, sharing of oil revenue, oil blocs, and other oil related decisions still take place at Abuja to the exclusion of the owners of the resources being shared.
â€œBut with resource control, the communities would take charge of the resources, deciding how the allocations are to be made, who would be involved in the extraction of the resource, how the benefits should be used and so onâ€, the forum stated, urging other regions to embrace the struggle for resource control as it will also enable them to benefit from other non-oil resources found in their regions.
â€œThe oil in the Niger Delta is just one out of numerous other resources with which each region has been blessed by God. Attention should be paid to these other resources, rather than the over dependence on oil as if it is the only thing that Nigeria has,â€ they added.
Condemning the use of Land Use Act of 1978 to dispossess people of their land by the government, the forum called for an immediate repealing of the Act described as obnoxious and offensive to natural justice, resolving to step up campaigns aimed at deleting the Act from Nigeriaâ€™s laws.
The forum pointed out that land is among the resources which owners should be allowed to have effective control of.
The Niger Delta town hall meeting also demanded the immediate environmental audit of the Niger Delta environment to determine the real impact of oil operations in the area, saying that for decades, the environment of the region has been subjected to massive degradation by oil and gas activities without regard to the survival of the local people of the region.
Doubting if the oil companies operate with any form of Environmental Impact Certification or Report, the communities demanded an immediate review of the EIAs, if available, saying that it is obvious that the EIAs, where they exist, are no longer fit to protect the environment and the people who depend on the environment for survival.
They lamented that for months, Agip facility has been leaking dangerous gas into the environment at Ebocha, subjecting people in that community and its environment to grave danger.
â€œWe want AGIP to stop the gas leakage immediately and most importantly, we want the EIAs with which the company is operating in the community to be reviewed or cancelled if it does not make any provision for the pollution of the environment through gas leakage and how to control such leakage,â€ they said.
They addeding that EIAs should be properly done and must be seen to be transparent and participatory according to the EIA Act.
The forum decried the refusal of oil companies to pay compensation for oil pollutions, hiding under the cover of sabotage.
The participants insisted that every oil spill must be cleaned up and compensation paid irrespective of cause or causes of such spillages, saying that it is the duty of the owners of the facilities to protect the facilities and ensure that they do not cause damage to the environment.
â€œThe portion of the law which provides that spillages caused by sabotage should not be compensated, should be repealed as it subjects the communities to suffer from crimes they never collectively committed,â€ the forum stated.
By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt