From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERS/FoEN) in conjunction with Host Communities Network (HoCoN) have urged the federal government of Nigeria to intervene and stop all activities encouraging continuous environment degradation across the nation.
The groups made the call in a communique issued at the end of HoCoN’s national general assembly held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State at the weekend.
According to the Acting Executive Director of ERA, Barr Chima Williams, the objective of HoCoN is to mobilize members of host communities to any kind of resource extraction for environmental justice campaigns and expose cases of environmental degradation that are either not reported or underreported.
The meeting which had its theme as: “Connected Resistance”, was geared towards strengthening the Host Communities Network by engaging the traditional members as well as infusing new ones into the stable, deliberate on the state of the Nigerian environment from communities perspective, drawing up advocacy action plan for effective environmental monitoring and reporting and to elect and inaugurate a new National Executive Committee.
The communique signed by Barr Williams, Prince Barbs Preye-Pawuru, newly elected President of HoCoN and two others noted that host communities bear the brunt of environmental degradation from resource extractions but are not recognized in decision making and resource benefits sharing.
It stressed that the few individuals who are supposed to represent the communities in the resource benefits, shares lives in luxury while the vast majority wallow in abject poverty amidst plenty, adding that sources of water in oil producing communities in the Niger Delta are exposed to oil pollution, forcing fishing activities to drop and crops experience stunted growth.
The groups stressed that despite the commencement of the Ogoni cleanup, all the emergency measures suggested by the UNEP in its Assessment Report have not been implemented, stating that “there is no water in the communities and there are documented cases of cancer, low sperm count etc among natives. Of utmost worry is the fact that excavated polluted soil from toxic sites in Ogoni has become additional source of pollution in most Ogoni communities especially during the rains”.
They frown at the level at which “State governors are now the major agents of deforestation due to their quest for mechanization of agriculture and high way constructions that lead to land grabs and depriving communities of their original land and livelihood”.
They therefore recommends that “a comprehensive environmental audit of the State of Nigerian environment should be carried out by the Nigerian government with the help of HoCoN.
“Nigerian government pay the Ogoni nation an ecological debt for decades of pollution, neglect of their polluted environment, displacement of her people and denying them justice, while kicking against new oil well drilling.
“Nigerian government immediately halt the drift to full blown tyranny occasioned by the growing cases of suppression of the rights of the people of Nigeria, and that all cases of extraction should accompany EIA Report.
“Need for a Bill by States to revoke the licenses of IOCs that pollutes the environment without adequate compensation to communities.Government should quickly wade into the farmers and herders crisis as a security risk with the effect to reduce food sufficiency in our various communities.
“Agro-ecology and food sovereignty should be promoted as they remain the bold future of farming and food systems that represents the best agricultural practices that are in harmony with nature and cools the planet.
“Halt continued gas flares, oil spills, illegal mining, deforestations, flooding, water contamination with chemical by companies and other environmental degradations in communities.
“Nigerian Government must align with the global trend of using the gas flare tracker for tracking gas flare volumes with the relevant agencies collecting accurate gas flare penalties that can help the economic revival of the nation and in tandem with the Economic “
Participants at the meeting were drawn from ten States across Nigeria which includes: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Imo, Kogi, Plateau and Rivers, with a new National Executive Committee Members of the Network elected, which include Octogenarian Comrade Che Ibegwura (Rivers State) as a National Patron.