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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Social Action, in collaboration with the Bayelsa NGO Forum (BANGOF), is organising the Nigeria Resource Justice Conference in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, today, Friday, July 29, 2022, as part of activities to promote citizens’ and communities’ participation in actions that defend human rights and livelihoods in the sites of petroleum extraction in the Niger Delta basin. The conference will focus on the opportunities and challenges of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021 for addressing communities’ environmental, health and livelihood concerns.
Social Action has consistently engaged government institutions and other key stakeholders in the public and private sectors to promote and galvanize support for the campaign for public finance transparency and accountability.
On the 7th of July, 2022, members of the National Advocacy Office of Social Action paid an advocacy visit to the Public Enlightenment and Education (PE&E) unit of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in Abuja. The purpose of the visit was to familiarize Social Action with the anti-graft agency and seek possible collaboration on issues relating to anti-corruption and the fight against public finance fraud particularly in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Speaking to welcome Social Action’s team, the Director of the unit represented by Mr. Okor Odey said the Commission is happy to welcome organizations like Social Action who are conscious of time and work actively to reduce corruption in public offices.
In a society where the defenceless becomes the haunted, such society will in no time breed violence. This was the message of members of the Civil Rights Council who visited the Area commandant in charge of Bori command with a written complaint of extortion, illegal arrest and harassment of citizens by police officers under his jurisdiction. In the complaint letter dated 22nd of June 2022, the same day the visit was made, members of the Civil Rights Council led by the Bori Chapter Chairman, Comrade Dumka Deemue highlighted the nefarious activities carried out by men of the Nigerian Police Force at the popular Kpopie junction and other parts of Bori.
The management of Wave FM invited Social Action for a courtesy visit on the 23rd of June, 2022, at their Port Harcourt office. The General Manager of the Station, Mr. Rex Igiri, who presided over the meeting, received the representatives of Social Action alongside his colleagues Mr. Adetola Adeasake, the Head of Administration and Accounts and Mr. Excel Uwaezuoke, the Head of Programmes. He thanked the Social Action team, represented by Mr. Peter Mazzi and Peace Agbo, for honouring the invitation and expressed his delight for the support the station has always received from Social Action via different programs and collaboration. According to him, the main purpose of the invite was to say “thank you and express their appreciation” for past and present support by the organization while looking forward to working with them anytime the opportunity present itself.
He further briefed Social Action Team on the next edition of the quarterly programme “Walk for Safety, Walk for Security”, tagged “Walk for Food Security.” Though the program is still in the planning stage and scheduled to hold in October, he felt the need to get meaningful input of stakeholders like Social Action for a successful outing. Mr Igiri noted the theme was specifically chosen to draw attention to one of the biggest challenges facing the country at the moment with the view to galvanizing support to address it.
Speaking on-behalf of Social Action, the Communications Coordinator, Mr. Peter Mazzi applauded the station for reaching out to Social Action and acknowledging the works of NGOs and Civil Society Organization in promoting social change. He stressed that in order to make any meaningful social and economic development, the government, CSOs, the Media and the citizens must play their parts. But he added that the citizens must take the lead as they have the critical mass to drive the needed policy change from the duty bearers. He also assured the General Manager that Social Action would continue to give its unflinching support to programs targeted at making positive impact to the best of available resources.
Social Action paid a courtesy visit to Christian Aid Nigeria’s Office in Abuja on Wednesday 2nd June 2022.
The objective of the visit was to introduce Social Action and its goal of improving women and girls’ safety, security, human rights, promoting gender equity, mitigating climate change impacts in the North East, and promoting socio-economic justice in communities. The visit was also to seek possible collaboration with the Christian Aid in empowering vulnerable and marginalized groups in hard-to-reach conflict areas communities of Nigeria to demand good governance.
Citizens’ engagement, public institution accountability and transparency have emerged as crucial priorities and formed a part of a broader demand for the realization of good governance and societal reforms; therefore, engaged citizenship and demands for accountability and transparency are mutually inclusive. The idea of citizenship is beyond the membership status, it is also an expression that involves a deeper understanding of civic responsibilities to one’s community; it is a necessity for a virile democratic system. Recognizing this inevitable role of citizens is key to efficient and effective social and political institutions and processes.