Stakeholders and communities in the Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta have urged the Buhari administration to demonstrate laudable political will by effectively tackling/addressing the issues of oil theft and artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta.
The stakeholders who gave this charge at a one-day National Conference on “Oil Theft An Illegal Artisanal Refineries in Nigeria” organized by Social Action Nigeria, in Port Harcourt, held that crude artisanal refineries by youths in the area constitute the greatest threat to the environment in Niger Delta today and urged the government to deploy pragmatic means to curb the menace.
Welcome address by the Director of Social Development Integrated Centre (Social action), Dr Isaac Osuoka, at the National Conference on Oil Theft and Artisanal Refineries, Le Meridien Hotel Ogeyi Place, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Tuesday, 21 March 2017.
On behalf of the organisers, Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) and Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), I welcome you to this National Conference on Oil Theft and Artisanal Refineries in Nigeria. We also thank the Ford Foundation and Development and Peace – Caritas Canada for supporting this conference and our work to promote resource justice in Nigeria.
Representatives of communities, government agencies, citizens groups, oil companies and researchers gather in Port Harcourt on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 to address ongoing ecological disaster, livelihoods and revenue losses and insecurity associated with crude oil theft and artisanal refining industries in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.
Isaac ‘Asume’ Osuoka, Director of Social Action, reflects on the challenges of researching oil pollution and resource governance in Nigeria
“Why is the mortality rate in Bodo so high?” That was a question posed by Ben Naanen, a professor of history at the University of Port Harcourt. “Every weekend, there are numerous funerals in Bodo”, he informed the group of researchers from universities, think tanks and NGOs working on resource governance issues in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The meeting was convened by Nigerian NGO, Social Action and other institutions to promote research collaboration. The objective of the meeting was to identify immediate research needs by examining how current politics, policies, practices and institutions related to the petroleum industry inform social and environmental impacts.
In March 2017, Social Action will join other organisations in two Break Free rallies in Port Harcourt and Bori, as part of the annual ‘global wave of people taking a stand against dirty energy’. In solidarity with Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Kebetkache, Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Egi Joint Action Congress (EJAC) and other organisations, we will be “joining forces to protect communities in vulnerable situations from extreme weather, and from fossil corporations that have polluted our air, grabbed our land, and captured our governments.”
Ken Henshaw, Programmes Manager of Social Action, reflects on efforts to promote public finance accountability in the states and local governments of Nigeria
In Nigeria, quite often, accountability in the management of public resources is sacrificed on the altar of cronyism. This state of affairs may be more established at the sub-national levels where about half of all public revenues in the country are expended. While there is a justified focus on the federal government and the office of the President, in particular, many citizens do not tend to pay attention to the 36 states and 774 local governments which together receive almost 50 percent of all federally collected revenues – not to mention internally generated revenues. However, the significant allocations to states and local governments from the Federation Account on a monthly basis hardly translate into real benefits for the majority of citizens. Even more worrisome is the breeding of citizens’ apathy towards sub-national governments – the local government councils, in particular. Rather than the tier of government closest to the grassroots promoting participation, what we find is alienation, which further reinforces non-accountability of public officials.
Uncertainty pervades some Ogoni communities over ownership and access to farmlands that had been the subject of land grabbing by the Government of Rivers State.
In 2011, the government confiscated community farmlands for a private banana plantation, developed by a Mexican company. After six years of killings, human rights abuses by state security services, community resistance and legal battles, the Mexican company has abandoned the land. With a change of government in the state following elections in 2015, the company was not sure of continuous patronage. By 2016, community members had retaken the land and planted cassava and other local staples.
Social Action is working with citizen groups to mobilise community activists towards tackling corruption at the sub-national levels of government in Nigeria.
In the last quarter of 2016, activists and volunteers connected with Social Action’s Community Budget Advocates Committees (CBACs) went around monitoring the implementation of budgets in six states of Nigeria. In Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Kano and Nasarawa States, community budget advocates in the various locales visited project sites, interviewed project beneficiaries and government officials with the aim of ascertaining whether public funds were being deployed as appropriated in the budget.
Following a one-day roundtable conference on the above topic, participant cutting across various civil society organisations in Nigeria have come up with the following resolution: –
• That the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel region of Nigeria should not be seen purely as a religious or ethnic problem; rather, the crises in the Sahel, including the Lake Chad Basin are manifestations of serious ecological challenges that should be addressed as a matter of urgent national importance.
• That the core ecological and attendant social challenges confronting farmers and pastoralists in the Sahel region manifests as desertification; water shortage and drought; the issue of livelihood; climate change; migration; maladaptation (inappropriate government response to adaptation); good governance deficits at the federal, state and local government levels, etc.