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Field Report #380: Okomu Oil Palm PLC, Clears Forest, Farmlands for Industrial Agro Business in Edo State.

Introduction: The field monitoring exercise was aimed at getting first hand information from communities that are directly impacted by the activities of  Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC which cuts across three Local Government regions of Edo State. They include Ovia South West with their operational head office at Udo (See earlier field report on their activities in Ovia South West); Ovia North East Local Government area and Uhunmwode Local Government area. The three region where the company is operational is home to Okomu Forest Reserve, Okomu National Park, Ehor Forest Reserve and Owan Forest Reserve with rich biological diversity of plant and animal species.

Field_Report_on_Okomu_Activities_in _Edo State
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Support measures to hold Big Tobacco liable for tobacco harms – ERA/FoEN urges COP7 delegates

LAGOS, NIGERIA—In early November, up to 179 countries will convene for the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties of the global tobacco treaty to take some of the most powerful steps in tobacco control since the World Health Organization treaty’s adoption. At the conference, countries will advance a provision to hold the tobacco industry civilly and criminally liable for its abuses. In the wake of revelations this year about British American Tobacco (BAT)’s widespread bribery, governments will also advance policies to exclude the industry from public health policymaking at the international and national levels.
Litigation against Big Tobacco has compelled the industry to pay for the healthcare costs it has caused to countries around the world. The successful litigation against the tobacco industry in the U.S., via the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), secured the recovery of $206 billion USD in health care costs and transformed public health by banning advertising to kids and exposing industry lies. A recent 17-year court case in Canada has similarly awarded smokers $15.6 billion CAD, in what is believed to be the largest class-action lawsuit in Canada to date.
“Litigation is one of the most powerful strategies in forcing the tobacco industry to pay for the staggering costs it incurs on society,” said Cloe Franko, senior international organizer with the Challenge Big Tobacco campaign at Corporate Accountability International. “The outcomes of this year’s Conference of the Parties are poised to mark a turning point for public health.”
The tools Parties will promote at this year’s conference will especially help low- and middle-income countries, where the majority of the world’s smokers now live, but whose GDPs are often dwarfed by Big Tobacco’s revenues—making going head-to-head with the industry in the courts a dubious prospect.
“Nigeria and other developing nations targeted by Big Tobacco for marketing of their lethal products now have the opportunity to support the adoption of mechanisms to hold the industry accountable for the harms caused by tobacco,” said Philip Jakpor, NATT Nigeria Spokesperson.
“Standing for the adoption of provisions that advance criminal liability on Big Tobacco is the right step for delegates from the African region owing to widespread bribery allegations levelled against British America Tobacco (BAT), which has in no small measure slowed the implementation of life-saving legislations”
In addition to advancing tools to hold the tobacco industry civilly and criminally liable, Parties will also close loopholes the tobacco industry has exploited to participate in treaty meetings. The policy stems from a broader treaty directive called Article 5.3 that prevents industry interference in the halls of government.
The global tobacco treaty, known formally as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) entered into force in 2005. To date, 179 countries and the European Union have become Parties to the treaty. It contains the world’s most effective tobacco control and corporate accountability measures—estimated tosave more than 200 million lives by 2050 if fully implemented.
British American Tobacco is exposed for widespread bribery and attempts to influence public health policy in Africa.
 
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ERA/FoEN Advocates Immediate Social Security for Unemployed Nigerians

The current recession that Nigeria has plunged head-long into as a result of the slump in international oil price, is indicative of faulty policies and mismanagement of the oil wealth with the result being: We have now come to a point where only a well thought-out and drastic policy can stave off an imminent revolution.

This policy can only come in the way of a National Basic Income Scheme (NaBIS) for the poor and vulnerable groups to address the widening gap of inequalities in Nigeria through a national wealth redistribution system that will ensure a monthly stipend to all unemployed Nigerians which the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) is proposing.

ERA/FoEN made the proposal at a National Social Security Expert Group Meeting held in Abuja with funding from Friends of the Earth Norway.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo explained that ERA/FoEN in 2013 proposed this scheme on the basis that Nigeria is one of the countries in the world where the gap of inequality is highest with over 68 million out of the nearly 170 million Nigerians unemployed and living on less than two dollars per day. Millions, he noted, go to bed hungry.

To fund the initiative, Ojo first cited official figures from the Bureau of Statistics which recorded that Nigeria earned N48.4 trillion between 2000-2011, and N8.8 trillion in 2011 from oil wealth hence the nation can afford a minimum Basic Income Stipend of about N10,000 exclusively to the poor and unemployed to halt a decline towards a political class economy.

He recommended a progressive tax of 1% on monthly income of N500,000, sensitisation of policy makers on potential sources of funding, such as reduction of the cost of legislation through the adoption of part-time involvement of legislators instead of the current full-time involvement. Others are significant reduction in the earnings of political office holders in terms of Security Vote for the executives, national assembly members and other political office holders at the national and state levels, among others.

Participants in the workshop included: Senator Fatai Buhari representing Oyo North Senatorial District who agreed with the initiative and expressed willingness to support it. Others are Hon. Wale Okediran, a National Assembly consultant, Hon. Uche Unyeagucha, Hon. Bakura Lawan, among others.

Representatives of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the academia were in attendance.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
By UN estimates, Nigeria will be one of the countries responsible for most of the world’s total population increase by 2050. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and the 9th most populous country in the world. With an estimated population of 170 million, one in every five Africans is a Nigerian.  The country has been undergoing explosive population growth and has one of the highest growth and fertility rates in the world.

Growing youth demography, in the context of developing nations, represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for locally led economic growth which can secure a prosperous future for some of the world’s poorest people but sadly in Africa, youth unemployment has become a threat to socio-economic peace and stability. Records have it that the unemployment rate in Nigeria for the year 2011 stood at 23.9 percent with youth unemployment rate at over 50 percent. Surely today, the figure has risen far beyond this estimate.

ERA/FoEN advocates for the empowerment of rural community dwellers whose sources of livelihood have been seriously impacted through massive pollution from extractive activities by oil companies in the Niger Delta, and other environmentally-degrading impacts in other regions of the country. ERA/FoEN believes that the present insecurity challenges engendered by unemployment in the country can be curbed when the needs of the voiceless are addressed.

Rationale for National Basic Income

There are ethical, legal, religious, economic and sociocultural justifications for national basic income. This underscores the relevance of the national social security scheme in any state because the underlying philosophy of social security is to ensure a minimum level of material living to the needy or helpless ones of the society from the government.

A cardinal objective and directive principle which underpins the policy of the Nigerian government towards its people encompass “security and welfare of the people”. This lofty idea is entrenched in Chapter II, Article 14, subsection 2b of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and declared as the primary purpose of Government. Thus, National Basic Income, which is a social security strategy, is a statutory responsibility of the federal government.

Social security is a shared care arrangement designed to meet conditions of insecurity due to either deprivations or contingencies. The objective of a social security scheme is to ensure that the vulnerable in the society receive the necessary assistance required to make them comfortable. By empowering the citizens, the authorities are also preparing them to stimulate economic activities through their spending since a high household marginal propensity to consume is critical to the enhancement of the national income via the income multiplier effect. The environment stands to benefit from relieving pressure on nature and environmental resources.

The current spate of youth restiveness and insurgencies can be significantly reduced if the federal government takes a bold step to implement significant social security measures, especially the national basic income scheme. The major policy implications of such a scheme to various stakeholders include, but not limited to increased household spending and the attendant multiplier effect, need for managerial commitment to employee welfare, industrial unions’ commitment to the private sector’s protection of their employees, etc.

Antecedents

Nigeria has not been totally social security blind. Some of the attempts made by the federal government of Nigeria in providing social security in the past include Udoji Public Service Review Commission – 1974; Workmen compensation scheme, 1987 – 2011; Pension scheme; 1954 – 2004; Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2004; 2014; Employee Compensation Act (ECA) 2010; etc. In recent times, some state governments such as former Governor of Ekiti state Governor Fayemi, and his Ondo state counterpart paid N5,000 to aged people that were 60 years and above. How many of such practices can we point to in Nigeria and what lessons can we learn from them? In particular, the Ekiti social security example was supported by a legislative backing to allow for continuity. But is this the case at the moment or the project has been jettisoned? What other examples can we draw from?

Proposed Strategy for Income Redistribution

A publication in The Vanguard Newspaper (Monday, 5th September, 2016 edition) indicates that the total annual salaries of 469 national legislators (senators and House of representative members) is about N4, 834,032,493. This amount can pay about 40,284 unemployed Nigerian citizens the National Basic Income of N10, 000 for one year.

If we consider the earnings of the state legislators and those of the ministers (Junior and senior) as well as the local government chairmen and vice chairmen, the councilors in the approximately seven hundred and seventy local government areas in the country; the special advisers at the national and state levels; as well as the secretary to the state governments and local governments, then the undisclosed security votes at the state and national levels by those in power, then we will begin to realise how much we can salvage for the national basic income.  A purposeful progressive income taxation should also be explored.

Some strategies/ideas to consider

  1. A progressive tax of 1% on monthly income of N500,000. (How is this realistic with the current tax system? How many people could be in this bracket? And what monetary projections can be derived from such calculations?)
  2. Sensitisation of policy makers on potential sources of funding, such as reduction of the cost of legislation through the adoption of part-time involvement of legislators instead of the current full-time involvement
  3. Significant reduction in the earnings of political office holders in terms of Security Vote for the executives, national assembly members and other political office holders at the national and state levels
  1. The adoption of unicameral legislature instead of the current bicameral system;
  1. Establishment of an institutional framework for the scheme to ensure a successful implementation of the national basic income scheme. In this regard, the following should be provided:

        i. A legislative backing from the national assembly to support Executive Order or gazette.

        ii. Biometric Verification, to ensure that only qualified citizens’ benefit from the scheme;

        iii. National identity card, to ensure that every person’s unique identity is secured and procedures should be put in place to make the exercise continuous

        iv. A comprehensive database of all employed people to enable easy verification of their employment status

        v. A comprehensive database of all unemployed people with the individuals’ biometrics and national identity card numbers that can be used to verify their unemployment status              by logging online with the appropriate details at any given time.

     vi. An electronic database of all unemployed and aged people to make it easy for government to determine the proportion of aged people that should be included in the National                basic income scheme

   6. Stipulation of Penalties for Potential Abuses and Multiple Registration to serve as a deterrent to people who may want to indulge in frivolous acts. Such penalties should include          blacklisting, forfeiting of any benefits associated with the database and possible jail terms of at least three years with hard labour.

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Lagos State Water Courts Illegal, Unacceptable – ERA/FoEN

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has described Lagos State government’s establishment of special courts to prosecute individuals it ascribed to as illegal water service providers as a cover for promoting water privatization.

ERA/FoEN position is coming on the heels of media reports which indicated that Dr. Babatunde Adejare, commissioner for environment, announced the introduction of the courts at a two-day retreat organised for officials of the water sector, which had as theme: ‘Towards achieving a safe and sustainable water sector in Lagos State’.

Adejare who was represented by Babatunde Hunpe, special adviser to the governor on the environment dismissed reports that the state planned to privatize water but surprisingly added that a ‘public-private partnership’ is necessary. He also said the state government is not pleased with giving bail-outs to the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC) because of no- payment of water bills by water consumers.

But in a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said the establishment of the water courts is an “unacceptable” violation of the rights of Lagos citizens to water and has no legal backing anywhere in Nigeria.

ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “We find this development totally absurd. Criminalizing the right of people to source for water when government has consistently failed to live up to its responsibility is simply scape-goating and passing the buck. There is no edict existing or in the works that allows any state government to set up a court for punishing anyone who has decided to provide water to his neighbor free”

“In the layman’s understanding, what this means is that anybody in our communities that carries a jerry-can of water from one house to the other is going to be accused of violating the law and sent to jail. This is absolutely disturbing”

Oluwafemi frowned at references to already budgeted and appropriated funds to the LSWC as bail out, insisting that Adejare’s description of appropriated funds as rescue connotes that the state government has converted the Corporation into a private enterprise whose statutory due in the state budget is now called bail-out.

The ERA/FoEN boss pointed out that it is offensive that the Lagos State government is using its resources to establish a “special court,” round up people attempting to provide people with an essential human need, and prosecute them, even as he added that Lagosians are not the problem that need to be solved.

“The proper move for the state government would be to require invest financial resources in strengthening the public water system so more people have access to water. After all, of what use is government if it is not protecting basic human rights, like water? What Adejare calls an undesirable “bail-out” is in fact the proper role and responsibility of government.”

He stressed that the Our Water, Our Right Campaigners who have staged various protests across the state to reject water privatization reject the water courts and still remain resolute in rejecting all forms of water privatization, semi-water privatization or so called Public Private Partnerships.

“What Lagos residents have consistently asked for and will not negotiate is informed and active participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water. The solution remains within the realm of public control. We are unequivocal that the so-called water courts are a gross violation of our right to life”, he insisted.

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President Buhari Reaffirms His Commitment To Ogoni Clean Up

era-url-iconNigerian Current

President Muhammed Buhari has reaffirmed his administration commitment to the clean-up of Ogoniland in Rivers State.

President Buhari speaking at the inauguration of the governing council and board on Thursday for the clean-up at the Presidential Villa, Abuja asked for the communities cooperation as they kick off the recommendation of UNEP.
However, a coalition of civil society organization led by , Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria(ERA/FoEN) has called on President Muhammed Buhari to put in place a gazette or law to ensure the process is institutionalized and sustained beyond his administration.

The group in a meeting with the theme Monitoring Agenda for the Implementation of the UNEP report cleanup of Ogoniland in Portharcourt, Rivers State yesterday also said that the present administration should wean itself of fossil fuels dependency and halt all forms of pollution by the oil industry in the Niger Delta by enforcing the deadline for the cessation of gas flaring and exploring safe renewables.ogoni

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Shell should not oversee Ogoni clean up —Civil rights group

era-url-iconVanguard

PORT HARCOURT—  Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth of Nigeria has called on the Federal Government not to include Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, in any body constituted to oversee the clean up exercise in Ogoni, Rivers State. Executive Director of the organisation, Dr Godwin Ojo,  in his opening remark at a colloquium,  yesterday, in Port Harcourt, to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the release of the recommendations of United Nations Environment Programme,  UNEP, on Ogoni-land, said that the alleged insistence by the oil company to sit on the Governing Council and Steering Board was worrisome. He said that since  the oil company was largely responsible for pollution of the area, it would be unfair for the same firm to be part of the team overseeing the clean up exercise. Ojo also expressed fear on the seeming undue political influence Shell has  on issues in the Niger Delta, stressing that this could derail the clean up process.
shell-main

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Buhari says Ogoni cleanup will take two decades as ERA/FoEN demands a state of emergency for the entire Niger Delta

era-url-iconDelta Newsroom

President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that on -going cleanup of Ogoniland and other oil-impacted communities in Niger Delta region would last two decades.

Buhari, made the disclosure, while inaugurating Governing Council and Board of Trustees of Trust Fund for Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project for Implementation of UNEP Report on Thursday at Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said “The clean-up exercise is expected to go on for two decades. The first five years will address emergency response measures and remediation while the subsequent years will look to restore the ecosystems in the Delta.

Niger-Delta-Oil-Spill-2-1024x512

“The governance framework we lay today, following extensive consultations, will form the bedrock for sustainability for years to come.

“Together we will be able to transform what is today a tragic tale of desolation and destruction to one of restoration and opportunity for the coming generations. The expertise and technology exist to make this a reality.

“In the end, this project will serve as the ‘gold standard’ for the cleanup of similar pollution in other parts of the Niger Delta, and the world at large.”

Meanwhile, the Environmental Action /Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in a organised a one-day advocacy meeting to mark the fifth-year anniversary of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Assessment Report on Ogoniland today, August 4, 2016 recommended among others

Oil pollution

  1. A state of emergency should be declared in Ogoniland and the entire Niger Delta in view of the mammoth environmental challenges inflicted on the region
  2. The clean up of Ogoniland should commence immediately without further delay. There is need for legal framework and supportive Act for the implementation of the UNEP report. The exercise should include health audit of the people in view of declining life expectancy among the people of the region
  3. We strongly recommend the release of the gazette of the UNEP report implementation to ensure sustainability beyond the present administration since the cleanup will take 30 years to complete from the take-off date of commencement
  4. Shell must be removed from the Governing Council of the UNEP clean up exercise to ensure no conflict of interest in the work of the Governing Council and Board of Trustees
  5. Need for unity among the Ogoni people to ensure the process of cleanup of Ogoniland is not stalled
  6. The cleanup of Ogoniland should be the entry point of the cleanup of the entire  Niger Delta.
  7. Adequate awareness creation on the cleanup process to address the concerns of the Ogoni and the generality of Nigerians interested in ensuring the current processes work.
  8. Adequate civil society representation in the Governing Council and BOT of the implementing committee
  9. An independent monitoring system be set up with representatives of the Ogoni and civil society playing prominent and active roles
  10. Nigerian government should wean itself of fossil fuels dependency and halt all forms of pollution by the oil industry in the Niger Delta by enforcing the deadline for the cessation of gas flaring and exploring safe renewables.

 

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Ogoniland clean-up: Activists ask government to declare state of emergency

era-url-iconEnviroNews Nigeria

Despite the announcement of the supposed take-off of the Ogoniland clean-up exercise and a $10 million take-off grant in 2015, the institutional framework is still not in place to give hope to the Ogoni people that anything tangibe will come out of the process.

Bayelsa State Commissioner for Environment, Iniruo Willis (standing), Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr Godwin Ojo (sitting by Willis' right), and some other participants at the event

Bayelsa State Commissioner for Environment, Iniruo Willis (standing), Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr Godwin Ojo (sitting by Willis’ right), and some other participants at the event

This was the submission of Dr Godwin Ojo, executive director of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) on Thursday (04 August, 2016) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in an address at an Advocacy Meeting on Monitoring Agenda for the Implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report on Clean-up of Ogoniland.

Themed: “Monitoring Agenda for the Implementation of the UNEP report cleanup of Ogoniland”, the daylong forum discussed new developments on the implementation of the report, including the announcement and inauguration of a 13-member Governing Council and Board of Trustees to oversee the take-off of the actual clean-up exercise by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

The participants declared that a state of emergency should be declared in Ogoniland and the entire Niger Delta in view of the mammoth environmental challenges inflicted on the region.

Additionally, they want the clean-up of Ogoniland to commence immediately without further delay, even as they underlined the need for a legal framework and supportive Act for the implementation of the UNEP report. The exercise, they noted, should include health audit of the people in view of declining life expectancy among the people of the region.

Ojo lamented that, five years after the release of the UNEP Assessment report, Ogoniland still remains an emblem of pollution and ecocide in the Niger Delta region.

Indeed, the gathering, which comprised representatives of Niger Delta communities, civil soceity, lawyers, community campaigners, academia and the media, observed that though government has shown a positive attitude towards implementing the UNEP report by inaugurating a Governing Council and Board of Trustees, the absence of a gazette or law to ensure the process is institutionalised and sustained beyond the Buhari administration is not in place.

According to them, there is still legitimate outrage among Ogoni on the inclusion of the same polluting oil companies in the Governing Council and Board of Trustees of the UNEP report implementation. They describe Shell sitting on the Governing Council and steering Board set up by the government to oversee the clean-up as an anomaly.

Shell, the participants allege, is orchestrating a strategy of hijacking the clean-up process in its attempts to evade justice and undermining the clean-up process.

“Since the publicised approval of the $10 million take-off grant which is a paltry sum for start-up compared to the UNEP recommended $1 billion for clean-up of Ogoniland made by President Buhari in August 2015, there has been no information in the public on how the fund will be expended, or how oil companies are to fund the clean-up exercise,” the forum declared, stressing that there is still no work plan or timelines for deliverables in the UNEP report implementation process.

They observed that civil society representation in the composition of the Governing Council and Board of Trustees in the UNEP report implementation is virtually nil and would make monitoring of implementation near absent.

Despite the current administration mantra of diversification from a monoculture economy solely reliant on fossil fuels, it still relies heavily on fossil fuel to the detriment of proven alternatives that are clean and sustainable.

The gathering further recommended thus:

  • Release of the gazette of the UNEP report implementation to ensure sustainability beyond the present administration since the clean-up will take 30 years to complete from the take-off date of commencement
  • Shell’s removal from the Governing Council of the UNEP clean-up exercise to ensure no conflict of interest in the work of the Governing Council and Board of Trustees
  • Need for unity among the Ogoni people to ensure the process of clean-up of Ogoniland is not stalled
  • The clean-up of Ogoniland should be the entry point of the clean-up of the entire Niger Delta region.
  • Adequate awareness creation on the clean-up process to address the concerns of the Ogoni and the generality of Nigerians interested in ensuring the current processes work
  • Adequate civil society representation in the Governing Council and BOT of the implementing committee
  • An independent monitoring system be set up with representatives of the Ogoni and civil society playing prominent and active roles
  • Nigerian government should wean itself of fossil fuels dependency and halt all forms of pollution by the oil industry in the Niger Delta by enforcing the deadline for the cessation of gas flaring and exploring safe renewables.
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Groups Petition Lagos House of Assembly, Demand Halt to Planned Water Privatisation

Civil society, community-based groups and unionists in Lagos have petitioned the Lagos House of Assembly, asking it to step on the brakes on plans by the Lagos State government to embark on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model of water privatisation in the state.

The groups – Environmental Rights Action, Public Services International (PSI), Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and representatives of Epe, Ikorodu, Ketu, Agege and Shomolu communities staged a protest march from Ikeja under bridge to the House of Assembly, Alausa today (July 27) to deliver a petition to the Speaker.

In the petition titled PRIVATISATION IS NOT SOLUTION TO LAGOS WATER PROBLEM and presented to Hon. Obasa Mudashiru, Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, the groups said they were deeply worried that the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC), with the support of the World Bank and private water corporations, had been pushing very hard for a PPP model of water privatization that has failed in other parts of the world. The groups noted that despite the World Bank announced pull back from the project in December 2015 the Lagos government was still bent on pressing ahead with it.

They revealed that failures in water PPP models have been recorded across the globe where, as part owner of water corporations that win PPP contracts, the World Bank has positioned itself to profit from this model. They added also, that ”this conflict of interest drives the Bank’s misleading marketing, especially its promotion of key “success stories “like Manila, Nagpur, Paris, and Dar Es Salaam that have attempted to solve water crisis with PPPs that failed and have instead rolled back water privatisation and advanced down the road of remunicipalisation.

ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “We urge the Speaker and the entire members of the House to side with the people rather than promoters of privatization who put profits before the right to water which is upheld as a human right by the United Nations”

Comrade Sani Baba, Sub-regional secretary of PSI said: “PPP promoters in the water sector advance arguments that are tailored to dousing apprehension of workers towards the initiative but time and again, and global experience shows that workers get laid off and rate hikes follow. The Lagos House of Assembly should reject this initiative because that is the path this PPP arrangement will follow”

In the same vein, Comrade Abiodun Bakare, the state secretary, AUPCTRE said that the Lagos state government must of utmost priority ensure adequate funding for the water sector. This administration must also investigate funding that was expended on expansion of water infrastructure by the immediate past Group Managing Director of LSWC”

The groups asked the Speaker to take the lead in putting the people first. Among the key demands, the groups urged decision-makers to stop any form of water privatization in Lagos, including PPPs that are based on a model that has failed to uphold the human right to water and has locked governments in long-term contracts and enslavement of their people. This is further proven in facts that such deals have proven exceedingly difficult for cities to exit, despite rate hikes, service cutoffs, and unfulfilled infrastructure promises. They prevent cities from making crucial progress toward real solutions to water access challenges.

In the petition, the groups urged the Speaker to use his good office to lead Lagosians in developing real solutions that truly address people’s access to water from the prism of human rights. The Speaker was urged to ensure that the Lagos State Government:

  1. Reject all forms of water privatization and commodification.
  2. Revise all water sector laws that promotes PPP
  3. Make adequate budgetary allocations to the water sector
  4. Fully uphold the human right to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people.
  5. Integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.
  6. Reject contracts designed by, involving, or influenced by the IFC, which operates to maximize private profit.
  7. Disclose all IFC and World Bank activity and discussions with Lagos government officials regarding water, including formal and informal advisory roles.
  8. Build the political will to prioritize water for the people, therefore leading to a comprehensive plan that invests in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access, which will create jobs, improve public health, and invigorate the Lagos economy.
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Earth Tremor Occurring in Rivers, Bayelsa Communities? – Field Report #376

Highlight: Vibration of the Earth and Cracks in Buildings confirmed by community folks

Location: Communities in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State and Yenagoa LGA,Bayelsa State.

GPS Coordinate: Elev 26m N 05°04.841’ E 006°27.821 [taken at Oroama community where a building  allegedly cracked as a result of the Earth Tremor].

Date of Visit: Wednesday 13-07-16

Report by: Akpotu Monday Ziworitin and Alagoa Morris

INTRODUCTION:

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria [ERA/FoEN] can reasonably say that earth tremors would become another environmental challenge the peoples of the Niger Delta region will contend with aside oil pollutions and coastal erosion.

In June 2014 ERA/FoEN had reported an earth tremor in Ikarama [Okordia clan] Yenagoa LGA of Bayelsa State. Also, during a field trip to Oboburu on 25th October, 2014 [in Egiland] in Rivers State, community folks informed ERA/FoEN they experienced earth tremor not long before ERA/FoEN visit.

When ERA/FoEN received information again on 11th July, 2016 that some communities in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State and Yenagoa LGA of Bayelsa State experienced earth tremor in the night of Sunday [10th July,2016], preliminary steps to confirm the incident were taken, reaching out via telephone to contacts in the communities mentioned to ERA/FoEN. On the 13th, July, 2016 our field monitors in the company of Alambo Fred Datonye a correspondent of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria [FRCN] embarked on a field trip to obtain testimonies from locals in the affected areas. It was interesting to note that testimonies obtained from witnesses 14.5 kilometers apart concerning the current earth tremor were similar. The 14.5 Kilometers covers the distance between Akinima and Igbogene [Rivers and Bayelsa State communities].

The investigation started from Akinima community and was concluded at Igbogene community. Akinima is one of the communities in Engenni clan of Ahoada West local government area in Rivers State. Igbogene is also one of the communities which made up Epie clan in Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State.

Testimonies

Mike Ogbakusi from Akinima

My house is just after the Shell road leading to an oil facility or location before the Akinima market. Three days ago there was an earth tremor at about 11:15pm [Sunday night]. The whole place was shaking, though it didn’t last long. It just shook and everybody was shouting. The tremor even extended up to Mbiama and Igbogene. People at Igbogene also noticed that there was an earth tremor. We don’t know the cause, but people are afraid. It has happened in the past and, I think this is about the fourth tremor we have experienced here. And Akinima community has written to the Ministry of Environment, Rivers State. But up till this moment nobody has come from the Ministry to ask the people what is actually happening; whether there was tremor or no tremor; nobody has come, not even Agip or Shell. So, that is the situation we are in in Akinima now; we are living in fear’’.

When asked as to what he thought should be done, he replied thus:

What I think should be done, firstly, we are not geologists, we don’t know anything. We want experts to come and tell us what actually happened and precautionary measures to be taken. So that we will be guided, we don’t know when; maybe the earth will open and all of us will go in; we don’t know. We are not experts, we don’t know what is actually happening so we need experts to come and educate us on what has actually happened.  There is a lot of exploration going on in our environment and people are shooting dynamites here and there; and we don’t know what is happening, buildings are cracking.

When asked whether there was a sound before the tremor was experienced, Mike responded thus [pointing in the direction of seismic workers],…’’ Like as you are seeing now, they are entering [the bush], they will be shooting and, running their lines. If you go inside our community now you will see  their seismic operation related lines running in between buildings. They explore in the day, but the tremor was experienced at night.  When we experienced the tremor; it was like something shifting; not necessarily hearing the sound of an explosive. But you can feel that the earth moved, shook. People ran out from their houses when it occurred; to find out what was happening. This is the fourth time such a thing is happening in this environment. If you go to the home of the paramount ruler, the Secretary of the community will tell you the date of the letter the community wrote to the Rivers State Ministry of Environment. The other one happened about two years or one and half year ago; now this one has happened again.  I witnessed the tremor which just occurred two days ago and the previous ones.  I cannot say which company is responsible for the seismic activities going on around us presently; what I know is that this area is covered by Shell and Agip…’’

Animasum Emeka Mark from Akinima, Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State

 Between 11:00pm and Mid-night on Sunday, there was a sound and at that same moment; the building shook heavily. Although the shaking or tremor didn’t last long [few seconds], there was an accompanying sound.

When asked if she had experienced such before, she said: Yes, I have experienced it in the past. But I was shocked by this one; I thought it was an earthquake. I even tried to run to my husband to ask him what was going on but because he just returned for the weekend and was tired I decided not to bother him; pending whether it will repeat again [the shaking]. But, my mind ran amok; thinking of possible causes and also whether the world was coming to an end.

Nwakam Paul from Akinima community

 Very recently we experience earth tremor; about three or four days ago. But this isn’t the first time; it is about the third time since I returned from the North that I have observed it. This one was a little mild than the rest. It normally happen like an accident, within the twinkling of an eye it is gone. But we just noticed it; that something strange had happened.  I don’t know if we can attribute the cracking of buildings in the community to these earth tremors. The other time it happened even electric poles and wire were obviously seen shaking, moving.  People ran to the street when it happened in the past because it was a strange phenomenon. We are neither geographers nor geologists and we have never subjected the incident to serious scrutiny and reach logical conclusions and so; even though there are exploration activities going on around us; we don’t know what to attribute the cause of the earth tremors to right now. We cannot say it occurs annually, maybe bi-annually. And, I didn’t hear any accompanying sound when it happened few days ago and; it happens quickly, like lightening. Within the space of one to five seconds; it is done.  I was wide awake with it happened…’’

Paul E. Peters from Akinowiso; formerly called Oruama

When we experienced the movement or shaking of the earth last time, it led to cracks in my building [pointing at the cracks]. I managed to patch some of the cracked spots because I had little cement in the house but no money for major repairs. Then, with this very recent tremor the cracks have widened in the building. I am confused, but I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the government to investigate the phenomenon and take appropriate steps to prevent it from happening again. I am saying so because I am not the only victim. If you move around this community you will discover others who suffered the same fate; whose houses have cracked as a result of the earth tremors. And, we are afraid, not knowing what might happen the next day. So, the government should listen to us and take proactive steps before more damage is done. We are yet to see any government official since we are experiencing this earth tremor in our environment.

When asked as to actual time the recent incident happened, Paul E. Peters said…It happened around 11:00pm Sunday night and I was sitting right here in front of my house [pointing].  I almost fell off from the chair I was sitting when the tremor occurred. Then I just got up, asking myself what was happening. I noticed a lot of fellow community folks running and enquiring from neighbors to know if their neighbours also experienced the tremor. That was how I got to know that it didn’t just happen in my house but covered everywhere in the community. There was a sound and shaking; which almost threw me off my chair. A hanger inside my house even fell to the ground…

Paul Harrison from Delta State residing in Oroama/Akinowiso community in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State

 The truth is that this shaking of the land has happened other times but this one of last Sunday was very serious. And anywhere such incidents are being experienced and the people have no channel available to express themselves; such could be very disturbing. That is why I was pleasantly surprised that you have come this morning to inquire about the matter. Well, the thing is that I am a stranger and if the earth tremor continues I can take my wife and children and relocate. Such relocation of strangers can affect the place in terms of commercial activities and development. I have spent about seven years in this community and this earth tremor has happened up to four times. I am really delighted that you came to confirm from us this morning; as to whether this earth tremor is happening in this environment. I experienced it physically.

When he was asked to narrate what happened last Sunday in respect of the above, he said: ‘The day before yesterday [being Sunday], around 11:00pm some of us had already retired to bed. And suddenly everywhere shook. I thought somebody was knocking on my door and, when I went out I saw people running out from their houses towards the roads. They later said it was a vibration from the ground; just like an earthquake, very seriously. So, we had to check around the house whether it had cracks as a result of the quake. But we didn’t discover any crack. The shaking happened twice and it was brief; lasted just about five seconds. We even heard a loud sound; as if someone used dynamite; very serious.

IGBOGENE COMMUNITY, YENAGOA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF BAYELSA STATE:

At Igbogene, ERA/FoEN obtained testimonies from some residents who confirmed they personally experienced the earth tremor.

Victor Idiedo, resident of Igbogene

It was two days ago [Sunday], at exactly 11:22pm. There was a kind of quake that was very serious. It lasted for almost one minute. To me, the first thought that came to my mind was whether armed robbers have come to invade my compound, de-roofing my building so I started shouting armed robbers, armed robbers. My elder brother who lived behind me also came out. When we came outside we saw people trooping out and asking ‘what is happening that the earth is moving, quaking everywhere?’ A neighbor recorded crack in his house. And, since we didn’t hear or read about the incident in any of the local media houses, I decided to reach out to ERA/FoEN. Meanwhile, I read from one of these online news on 29th June, 2016 that about six states are likely to be affected by earthquake. This raised my fears on the spur of the moment, because Bayelsa State was named among the six. I was scared and, that was why I got in touch with ERA/FoEN. When I made further inquiries, I received information that some communities in Ahoada West local government area of Rivers State were also affected; even Akenfa, though mildly felt in Akenfa [in Yenagoa LGA,Bayelsa State].

When asked as to whether he has experienced such quakes in Igbogene before, he replied thus: ‘’No, no, no [shaking his head from left to right and back], I have lived in this community for over ten years and this is the first time I am experiencing such a thing…

As to whether there was some sort of explosive sound before the earth tremor, he said…No, there was no such sound, just that the building was shaking. I was fully awake and; I have never experienced such in my life before. A minor crack occurred as a direct result of the earth tremor in the neighbourhood.  Plates and other things in my cousin’s house fell down from where they were kept as a result of the quake. Some of the breakable ones got broken…’’

 

Chief Etekpe Friday, a retired Principal

On Sunday, after 11:00 [that is in the night]; we were about going to bed when I heard a very high vibration. My window shook heavily; even the ground vibrated. I thought immediately of what the cause could possibly be; thinking if rodents around could be responsible. I had to resort to prayers. So, I had the vibration experienced in my house.

When asked if he was an indigene of the community,how old he was and if he has had such experiences in the past, Chief Etekpe replied…’’Apart from thunderstorm whose vibration is not as much as this earth tremor; this quake is much. I am from Okordia, Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State. Since 15th August, 2007, I have been a tenant landlord here in Igbogene.  Apart from thunder vibration; this recent earth tremor is an experience of its kind. I am above sixty years and, I haven’t experienced this sort of tremor before. We use to hear that when seismic operations are being carried out such things happen, but here in Igbogene; this is the first time…’’

Emmanuel Eze from Okaka community in Yenagoa LGA of Bayelsa State

On Sunday night, around 11:15PM, I was at Igbogene in connection with a burial. And suddenly, the house we were in started shaking and, initially I thought it was a python moving on the roof of the house. I even jokingly asked our host when he started rearing python in his house. Then, a bigger sound was heard and, I even thought it was Niger Delta Avengers attacking oil facilities nearby. In fact, I never knew it was another thing; even up till now I don’t know what it was.

When he was asked to explain more about the sound and quake, Emmanuel said:

Yes, there was a loud sound after the initial shaking I talked about. The building itself was visible shaking and I felt it physically. Other persons also came out and said even their beds were shaking inside their houses. I never knew it was an earth tremor which you just mentioned; I never knew then. It was strange to me; I have never witnessed such a thing before. Our minds also went spiritual; attributing the shaking to the deceased lady coming to take some of her belongings. Yes, we never thought about the phenomenon called earth tremor; we thought it was spiritual manifestation.

As per the possible cause of earth tremor, now that he has heard from ERA/FoEN, this is what Emmanuel said…Well, according to some people such things can result from oil exploration/exploitation activities. If that is the case, we know that when the crude oil and gas is removed from the ground there would be some vacuum which even water cannot adequately replace. In that sense, I am suggesting to the government that, instead of such incidents to wipe away Niger Deltans, they should leave the oil/gas in the soil. If actually there was a real earthquake and the ground opened that night; we would have all gone. About two years ago it happened at Ikarama, same earth tremor. I also heard it happened in Egiland in Rivers State sometime ago. So, if this is happening only in Niger Delta in this country then it can be rightly attributed to what they are taking from our soil, under the ground. I have not heard of this sort of thing happening in the North or other part of the country. If this happened in places like Kano, I am sure the National Assembly would be debating it right now. There would have been a state of emergency, to tackle it. But because such happened here in a marginalized section of the country, it has not even been reported in the media up till now

 

PICTURES FROM THE COMMUNITIES

A crack in one of the houses visited

Pointing to a crack in his house

 

OBSERVATION/CONCLUSION:

From testimonies taken from the locals in the course of the field trip there is sufficient reason to demand investigation of the alleged tremors. While it is understandable that some said they did not hear any accompanying loud sound [like use of explosive] and others said they did, most of those interviewed reported experiencing the incidents at the same time of the night the incident is said to have occurred and the duration. This is so even when those who testified were 14.5 kilometers apart from each other. The distance between Igbogene and Akinima was recorded during this field monitoring trip as 14.5 Kilometers. And, between Akinima and Igbogene, a stop was made at Oruama where residents also confirmed the incident; tallying with statements made at Igbogene and Akinima.

Although the immediate or remote cause of the tremor cannot be ascertained at the time of this report, experts need to step in and explain to the general public what is going on. However, ERA/FoEN is very much aware of renewed and heightened search for oil and gas within the identified environment in Yenagoa and Ogbia LGAs of Bayelsa State and beyond as attested by one of those who spoke with the team at Akinima. This has been on for about three months or more now. It is also a common knowledge that explosives are often used during these seismic operations.

When a similar incident happened at Ikarama community in June, 2014; it attracted the attention of the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment. What is not clear is whether anything significant was made beyond the visit of officials of the Ministry then. Ordinarily, not just for the records; experts would have been invited to investigate and come up with reports for stakeholders to know what the prognosis is and allay the fears and concerns of the people/communities. Currently, the people in affected communities are apprehensive.

ERA/FoEN DEMANDS

  • The government at all levels rise up to the occasion and take appropriate steps to identify what actually happened and why.

 

  • The relevant agencies of Federal Government, including the Science Ministry, Environment, NDDC and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs bring in experts who will work effectively with the State governments, Local governments and communities affected to unravel the mystery around these sailing earth tremors in our communities and come up with practical solutions to, not only allaying the fears and concerns of the affected communities; but take steps to prevent real EARTHQUAKE from happening.

 

  • All stakeholders, including the media follow up on this with a view to alerting on the danger that lies ahead. Communities should be more alert, document and keep accurate records of happenings around them. They should also report such strange occurrences to relevant NGOs, media and the government.

 

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