Oil spills are a frequent occurrence in the Niger Delta region. The effects of these spills are first felt by communities and sometimes these community members are clueless on how and what should be done when these disasters occur. To help communities manage and monitor these spills until remediation is initiated, Social Development Integrated Centre in collaboration with the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) organized a training workshop for community members on Monitoring Oil Spills Through the Joint Investigations Visits (JIVs).
Trainees consisted of community members from states in the South-South region. Speaking during his opening remark, the Senior Programs Officer of Social Action, Prince Edegbuo told trainees that oil spill should not be neglected as it is a threat to our environment and our health and it is important to tackle this challenge hence the need for training. Also, delivering the goodwill message Mr Solomon Okpeneri who represented the Zonal head of NOSDRA Mr Ime Ekanem expressed delight that the organization deem it necessary to collaborate with Social Action in this noble quest to put knowledge at the disposal of crucial stakeholders in the communities. According to him, NOSDRA cannot function fully without the community members and for community members to work with NOSDRA, knowledge and training is very essential.
The first lecture taken by Augustine Bello of NOSDRA was on “JIV process on oil spill management and Recovery Information.” He schooled trainees on the processes in managing spills and the responsibility of the oil company to complete the remediation process and how NOSDRA can generate maps where areas of concern are captured. For him after the JIV, cleanup follows and waste materials are deposited into approved areas. Using a slide, he gave a detailed explanation of how the process can occur until remediation is achieved. Mr Solomon Okpeneri who took the second presentation on “Community Participation, Needs and Complaints” emphasized the role of the community in reporting cases of oil spills as they are part of the process from beginning to the end product, which is the restoration of damaged soil. He further stated that complaints from communities are handled and treated as urgent. To wrap up the training section by NOSDRA, Mr Ifechukwu Oduolisamene took participants on a detailed section where he explained the safety measures to look out for in cases of oil spill.
The expectation after such extensive and in-depth training is that the recipients become part of the process and not live with the abnormality that oil spill is a norm because of various occurrences of these spills. For this to be achieved, communities will need empirical evidence to report these spills says Onyekachi Okoro the Executive Director, Media for Justice Initiative who spoke on “Publicizing oil spills using Advocacy and Engagement Tools.” He urged community members to collect coordinated information, explore documentation while constantly reminding stakeholders of their responsibilities to the environment. Engagement backed up with appropriate and unbiased knowledge is important, so community representatives can speak from an informed point of view, he said.
Attendees seized the opportunity to ask questions which was responded to by officials of NOSDRA. In his closing remarks, Green Isaac of Social Action also buttressed the need for all hands to be on deck as regards cases of oil spills as it is no longer a personal affair.