WOMEN GROUPS IN IKERE LGA BUDGET ADVOCACY CLUSTER ADVOCATE FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL AUTONOMY BILL

Cluster members in a photograph after the Cluster meeting in Ikere, Ondo State

Social Development Integrated Centre, in collaboration with (LAPDO), organized a one-day budget advocacy cluster meeting for selected cluster members in Ikere LGA, Ondo State, on 10th September 2022.
The meeting was part of the cluster programmes aimed at strengthening advocacy for transparent and inclusive budget processes across LGA in Nigeria. It brought together civil society organisations, representatives of religious and traditional institutions, women and youth groups, the media and other stakeholders to discuss their roles in the budget process. It also highlighted the functions of the Local government and their responsibility in identifying & prioritizing the needs of citizens at the grassroots by implementing inclusive governance through needs assessment and robust consultations with the people.

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Restructure the NDDC and Make Public the Forensic Audit; Stakeholders Urge Presidency

Stakeholders in the Niger Delta Region have called on the Federal Government and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to make public the Forensic Audit report of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to reposition the commission for effective service delivery. This call was made on Thursday, 8th September 2022 at a Virtual Public Dialogue on, “Effective Service Delivery in the Niger Delta: A need to Reposition the NDDC for Accountability” organized by Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) with support from the MacArthur’s Foundation.

In an opening remark on behalf of the Executive Director, Mr. Botti Isaac, Programmes Coordinator of Social Action said that the event was coming at a time when the underdeveloped Niger Delta region is littered with abandoned projects due to the gross mismanagement and misappropriation of funds allocated to the NDDC.

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CIVIL RIGHTS COUNCIL CHARGES PORT HARCOURT CITY LOCAL GOVERNMENT ON CITIZEN’S RIGHTS IN BYE-LAW ON WASTE AND OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

Figure 3 Sanitation Marshals at the public hearing in Port Harcourt

The Civil Rights Council has admonished the Port Harcourt City Local Government Council on the consideration of the constitution and the respect for the rights and interests of the citizens in the formulation of a by-law in the local government. This submission was made at the public hearing on a bylaw to prohibit the indiscriminate disposal of waste and other environmental offences in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area of Rivers State organised by the Council.

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ANOTHER FRESH OIL-SPILLS DESTROY FARMLAND AND  CROPS IN BODO, GOKANA LGA IN OGONILAND

A portion of ravaged farmlands and frustrated villagers scooping from the spilled oil around the farm

In the early hours of Tuesday 2nd August 2022, the residents of Bodo city in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers state were thrown into pandemonium owing to the occurrence of fresh oil spills in the area from one of the shell pipelines that conveys crude oil to Bonny through the community.

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BUDGET ADVOCACY GROUPS IN ANINRI AND ENUGU HOLD CLUSTER ENGAGEMENTS IN SUPPORT FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTONOMY

Women Group in Aninri LGA supports local government fiscal autonomy

The Budget Cluster Groups in Aninri LGA of Enugu State Advocacy cluster group unanimously came together to lend their voices to advance better ways of demanding Local Government Autonomy especially in the Enugu State.

The group asserted that they have been in the forefront for the demand for an accountable local government for a meaningful grassroot development and for this to be possible, the government closest to the people must have truly fiscal autonomy.

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THE NIGERIA RESOURCE JUSTICE CONFERENCE 2022

Representatives of oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta, members of the regulatory institutions, youth groups, traditional rulers, concerned citizens, and the press, gathered in Yenagoa in August 2022 to brainstorm on the Petroleum Industry Act (PAI) 2021 and the matters arising for communities in extraction sites. The Nigeria Resource Justice Conference organised by Social Development Integrated Centre, Social Action, in collaboration with Bayelsa Non-governmental Organisation Forum (BANGOF) was to review the PIA 2021 as it affects the host or oil-bearing communities as provided for the new law. It was also to intimate community leaders and representatives of the communities of salient provisions of the law and how it is likely to shape the relationship between the host communities and the oil exploration companies.

In his welcome address, the Executive Director of Social Action, Dr Isaac Asume Osuoka, noted the deliberate design by the state to deny or subjugate the indigenous communities on the altar of state or “public interest” by its delineation of geographical state enclave; an attempt to project the interest of the unitary system at the centre over and above the community interests. In his speech, read by the Senior Programs Officer, Prince Ekpere, Dr Osuoka condemned state policies or laws that deny communities access to the land and its resources, and sought to explore the possibilities for using the new legislation to address the environmental and social problems associated with the petroleum industry. He was concerned that the drafters of the law were more concerned with maximizing profit and revenue potentials of the oil and gas than funding the development of host communities and addressing the dangers of gas flaring and other environmental concerns.

In his Keynote presentation, HRM King Bubaraye Dakolo, Chairman Bayelsa State Council of Traditional Rulers, regretted that despite the allocation of 3% revenue to the host communities by the PIA, fundamental interests of the communities were not taken into consideration. He also decried the situation where the responsibility of ensuring the safety of oil installation was vested on the communities by the Act, whereas the JTF with all their trainings and arsenals have not been able not guarantee same.

In a paper presentation, Dr Pereowei Subai, A lecturer at the Niger Delta University, gave a rundown of the PIA as it affects host communities and the environment they live in. He noted the ambiguity in the definition of certain provisions and terms like the Host Communities which, rather than make for better governance and administration would create more acrimony among communities and with the operators. The stages passed by the Bill before it was passed into law had consistently changed with time and process to eventually hand the communities the short side of the stick

The Chairman of the conference Justice Simon Amaduobogha, Judge of the High Court in Bayelsa, charged the participants to consider how communities could take advantage of what the law currently provides in advancing the standard of living and welfare of the people. This could be in progress while we lobby our lawmakers to initiate the process to amend the law in the future for a better bargain for the oil-bearing communities.

This Nigeria Resource Justice Conference 2022 provided a platform for interaction among community members and leaders, citizen groups, scholars, government agencies and elected representatives as panel sessions were held. The panelists who include experts, activists, agencies, and the victims of environmental pollution from the communities agreed that the communities deserve better than the PAI offered.  It was observed that the PIA vested too much powers on the state and the operators much to the disappointment of the communities who bear the brunt of the hazards of the industrial.

Participants at the conference among other issues observed that

  • Oil production has displaced local inhabitants from their sacred and ancestral lands.
  • Oil production has caused over seven (7) decades of pain and this has resulted in a destruction of the structures of livelihood.
  • The PIA is an obnoxious act and has dealt with the Niger Deltans.
  • The Act does not protect the people and their environment
  • The PIA does not respond to the irresponsible measures taken by security operatives to combat oil theft.
  • The PIA does not have provisions that check or prevent oil spillage.
  • The PIA does not empower communities to obtain compensation for oil spillages.
  • Gas flaring in the Niger Delta has been given statutory backing by the PIA as it allows it to continue while fines are paid to the Federal Government.
  • The PIA criminalizes the oil-bearing communities
  • The Joint Task Force (JTF) of the Federal Government and its various operations have failed to stop oil theft in the Niger Delta.
  • Crude oil worth several billion dollars have been stolen from the Niger Delta under the watch of the JTF.
  • It is wrong to criminalize the Niger Delta community for oil that is stolen from the region by people outside the region.
  • The PIA is retrogressive, backward and obnoxious.
  • The PIA presents another opportunity for capture of community resources as is the case with GMOU mechanism.

RESOLUTION

Participants at the conference resolved that;

  • There should be a review of the PIA 2021 (Amendment)
  • The PIA should make provisions to compel the decommissioning of oil wells that are no longer in use.
  • Niger Delta communities should build a consensus.
  • The communities should start organizing to include local experts at the Board of Trustee level.

RECOMMENDATION

At the end of the deliberations, the following recommendations were made;

  • There should be targeted sensitization on Niger Delta communities on the provisions of the PIA.
  • Niger Delta communities should identify unfriendly provisions of the Act and mobilize demand for the amendment of the Act.
  • Government should take steps to simplify the provisions of the PIA for easy understanding of members of the Niger Delta communities.
  • Members of the Niger Delta community should be educated on the provisions of the PIA and take advantage of the provision to reposition themselves so as not to be short-changed by the state and operators.
  • Niger Delta communities should expose the fault lines of the PIA through town hall meetings, press statements, protests and campaigns to demand accountability from relevant stakeholders.

CIVIL RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS SENSITIZATION PROGRAMS

Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna lecturing during the sensitization program held at Social Development Integrated Centre community office at 78 Uruala Street, Diobu, Port Harcourt.

On the 28th and 30th of July, 2022, the Civil Rights Council held a public sensitization program on the rights of women and the girl child in the suburban and rural areas in Rivers State. The essence of the sensitization program, which was held at the Social Development Integrated Centre community office at 78 Uruala Street, Diobu, Port Harcourt was in response to the many cases of violations of women and girl child rights. These practices run foul of Nigerian legislations, including the Child’s Right Act, the Violence Against Person’s Act, the Criminal Code, the Penal Code and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

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DELTA STATE CIVIL RIGHTS COUNCIL EMBARKS ON AGGRESSIVE VOTERS EDUCATION

Civil Rights Council members made up of Ughelli, Warri, Asaba and Okpanam Civil Rights Council Units in Delta State, on the 29th of July, 2022, carried out the first phase of political sensitization programme in various rural communities in the state under the theme: Voters Sensitisation: Together we can shape our future, Voter registration is your right”. The sensitisation activities were in furtherance of the political education programme of the C.R.C in the state towards enlightening the citizens, particularly those in the rural areas, to participate actively in the political processes leading to the 2023 General Election in the Country.

Civil Rights Council Members Asaba, during the sensitization program 

The activities targeted the active youth populations in the rural areas who, rather than participate actively in the electoral process, are willing to act as thugs and agents of violence to disrupt electoral processes. The activities were designed to engage the youths, educate and mobilize them and encourage them to exercise their political franchise and participate in the electoral process as agents of change.

Speaking at the gathering in Asaba, prior to the takeoff of the rally, the Secretary, Delta Civil Rights Council, Comrade Joy emphasized the importance of the sensitisation program to arouse the political consciousness and stimulate the interest of rural dwellers who constitute the majority of the population but have lost trust on the credibility of the system. According to her, electoral malpractices are possible when citizen don’t take seriously their civil duties and responsibilities in accordance with extant laws as stipulated in the electoral act. She therefore encouraged youths to participate in the process and shun the idea of being used as willing instruments by corrupt politicians to hatch their selfish ignoble plans.

Civil Rights Council members Warri carrying out sensitization program

Similarly, in Warri, the Program Officer of Social Action, Comrade Joshua Gberele, urged members of CRC Warri to use the power of the media, develop skills and tools of advocacy to reach the citizens in order to deepen political education and create the needed political consciousness for an informed citizenry. This, he maintained, will lead to informed political choices, political accountability and good governance in Nigeria. He assured the Civil Rights Council of continued support from Social Action within the ambit of available resources, to drive home their campaigns and advocacy programmes.

CIVIL RIGHTS COUNCIL PORT HARCOURT TASKS RIVERS STATE GOVERNMENT ON NEW FLYOVERS

Governor of Rivers State, Bar Nyesom Wike, on the 26th of July 2022, signed the contract award for the construction of the 11th and 12tn flyover in Port Harcourt amidst condemnations and descanting voices against the projects.

In reaction to this development, the CRC called a state-wide press conference to prevail on the governor to have a rethink on the said projects. This is considering the cost of similar projects, the concentration of other flyover projects in the state capital and the overall implication on the state resources against competing aspects of the state economy that needs urgent attention.
The Civil Rights Council considered the project of less-significance to human capital policies that will ensure job creation for the teaming youths, which will assist the fight against insecurity in the state

CRC Rivers State Chairman, Comrade Arinze addressing the press
CRC Rivers State Chairman, Comrade Arinze addressing the press

Speaking at the conference, the Chairman of the CRC in Rivers state Comrade Arinze Akupue, noted that initiating a new project of that magnitude at the twilight of the life span of the present government may lead to abandonment with its social and economic impacts on the life of the citizens. Furthermore, he stated that should the government feel a strong need to build more flyovers, they should conduct an environmental impact assessment to determine its necessity in the proposed sites.

The National Coordinator CRC Bar Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna gives alternative investments of Rivers fundsThe National Coordinator of CRC, Comrade Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna Esq, while concurring with the state Chairman, stated that it was imperative that government considers investment in priority areas of the economy and guided by the principle of maximizing scarce state resources. He said that investing billions of Naira on flyover projects in the midst of ravaging hunger and unemployment among the citizens is unfortunate, unacceptable counterproductive. He called on the government to create opportunities that would reduce poverty and expand the productive base of the state.

CIVIL RIGHTS COUNCIL PROTESTS WITH NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS IN SOLIDARITY WITH ACADEMIC STAFF UNION OF UNIVERSITIES TO PRESS HOME DEMANDS ON THE GOVERNMENT

On July 26th and 27th 2022, the Nigerian Labour Congress with its affiliate unions declared a two-day nation-wide protest in collaboration with Civil society organizations. The two days protest was organized in solidarity with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that embarked on a strike over breach of labour agreements by the federal government over staff welfare and funding of the Nigerian universities.

Protester march through the streets of Port Harcourt to demand an end to ASUU strike to ensure students go back to school

The procession which took off from the Labour House in Port Harcourt opened with an address from the state NLC Chairman Mrs Beatrice Appiah who reminded participants of the reason for the protest. She maintained that protests and strikes are strong weapons of labour, the working people and civil society actors to drive home their demands and compel the government to action on matters of national important, if the government is reluctant to do so.

 

The NLC chairman regretted the continued stance taken by the federal government which has ensured the striking lecturers continued on the industrial action, keeping students at home for upwards of six months. She said that ASUU, as an affiliate of the NLC, deserves all the support they could get to compel quick and positive response from the government adding that their demands bother on national development as funding of the universities is of key importance to national growth.

Members of Academic Staff Union of University, ASUU, Uniport Branch, set for the protest march

The protesters marched through designated routes in the metropolitan sections of Port Harcourt, singing solidarity songs to drive home their message. At major markets various affiliates of the NLC and Civil society actors addressed traders to sensitize them on the purpose of the protest and the need for all and sundry to support the campaign to save the university and return both students and lecturers back to the campus.

 

 

The protester finally converged at the government house where they were addressed by a representative of the governor. In his address permanent secretary at the Governor’s office agreed with the protesters that the situation of the country is unacceptable. He lamented the failure of the Federal government to reconsider their position on the ASUU crisis which he said is having its negative effect on the educational system. He, however, noted that the funding of the federal universities is not a state government affair’s but the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government and promised to deliver the letter of demands handed down to him by the protesters to the Federal Government whom the letter is addressed to.

 

 

CRC members supporting the protest march to urge the Federal Government commit to promises made with  ASUU

 

The Civil Rights Council Port Harcourt, supported by Social Action was  well represented by its member as part of its campaign to promote the rights to education and means to reduce the crime rate in the society as many students have taken to crime and other vises as a result of idleness.