Civil society groups train on environmental rights, protection

A group photograph of participants at the end of a one day capacity building training on contextual environmental rights In Nigeria, organized by CEHRD in Port Harcourt

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

 Centre for Environment and Human Rights Development, CEHRD, at the weekend organised a capacity building training for civil society groups, on  contextual environmental rights in Nigeria.

During the sensitisation programme held in Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers state, participants were taught on how to differentiate between environmental rights and human rights.

Speaking on the programme, Prof Nenibarini Zabbey, Coordinator of CEHRD, stressed that the region is faced with a serious environmental abuse and violation of human rights, adding that the training will equip the activists on how to defend and advocate for a better environment in their pursuit of justice for the region.

“We are in a region where environmental rights are fundamental by existence because we depend on the environment for virtually everything for our livelihoods and quality lives. This region is highly degraded and so we feel that citizens need to understand it better on what their environmental rights are. And it’s been a continue issues separating environmental rights from human rights. 

“This multi-stakeholder workshop is about separating what environmental rights are from human rights, and at the same time discuss about the overlap.

Prof Zabbey disclosed that the organisation at the end of the programme would map out a manual to educate the public on what their responsibility is in terms of defending and protecting the environment.

“We intend to collate our collective understanding into a manual that will be used in educating the larger public, especially children who are in this region so that they understand better what environmental rights are and what their responsibilities are in terms of protecting the environment, in terms of stewardship because that is very key everybody needs to protect the environment and not just the work of government or private sector.

“It is the responsibility of every citizen to contribute to the protection of the environment as well as improving the quality of the environment “, Zabbey. 

Also speaking, Dr Kabari Sam, Head of the environmental Programme at CEHRD, noted that the meeting was to throw light on the different between environmental and human rights and how activists can seek redress in cases of environmental abuse.

He said “Today’s programme was about Capacity Development and what is Environmental Rights. We needed to understand the difference in human rights and environmental rights so that we can effectively advocate and also galvanise other stakeholders on how they can achieve and access their environmental rights. 

“What informed this meeting was the series of cases that people have been winning in courts outside of the country. Some of the cases were hinged on environmental right and some of them were hinge on human right, so we thought it was necessary for civil society organisations and other stakeholders to effectively have a good ground of what environmental rights are and how they can seek redress, how they can gather evidence in pursuing cases that are bothered on environmental rights”.

In his presentation titled “Identifying Environmental Rights and the Justice System”, Dr Prince Eze, Director of Hope for Tomorrow Initiative, stressed the need for the protection of the environment which he said will attract long life to the people.

He stated that Nigeria leadership do not value the need to protect their environment, urging that the citizens should rise up to advocate for cleaner environment as that is their life.

“You need a healthy environment so you can be able to stay alive. Basically, this workshop is all about sensitization, to let people know the need for them to also advocate for a healthy environment.

“We know in Nigeria there is gross violation of human right, gross environmental right abuse because those political actors see their calls for national services as balkanising expenditure for personal enrichment. 

“People pollute the environment because they are paying money to the government and other authority, endangering the lives of other people, citizens need to advocate for the protection of the environment because it is the environment that is the life”. 

A participant who spoke with The AUTHORITY at the programme, Martha Agbani, Executive Director of Lokiaka Community Development Centre, said “the training was exciting because it actually revealed alot to us as civil society groups and how we can advise communities to go about seeking environmental redresses and also prevent some of the occurrences of violation that had to do with the environment.


“Key to this is that, community should not jump and say they want to seek redress in court because the court should be the last resort for them owing to the fact that they don’t even have the financial well to do for that”.

Agbani added that “Community should also see how they can explore beyond the court, through the use of the media. Community should be able to make up laws on their own that can govern their environmental activities so as to see that when such laws are being violated they can seek redress on that”.

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