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FIELD REPORT #486 – Fire Incident at Local Refinery Site Claims Several Lives

Highlight: Over 20 persons die as a direct result of latest inferno

Location: Ibelebiri community, Ogbia Local Government Area (LGA), Bayelsa State.

 GPS Coordinates: Elev: 9m N0456.069’ E 00625.092’ [taken in the main community]

Date of fire Incident: 8th December, 2017

Report by: Akpotu M. Ziworitin and Alagoa Morris

INTRODUCTION

Ibelebiri is the first of Ijaw communities situated upstream along the Kolo Creek in Ogbia LGA of Bayelsa State. Traditionally, the people’s means of livelihood include fishing and farming. Oil bearing pipelines belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company [NAOC] and Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC] traverse this community environment.

Ibelebiri community is accessible by car, as the federal government Road which started at Okaki junction [along Chief Melford Okilo Road/Mbiama –Yenagoa Road] in Yenagoa LGA proposed to terminate at Twon-Brass in Brass LGA passes through the community, dissecting the community into two.

The community has been rumoured to be harbouring bunkering/ local refinery sites for some time. This illegal activity is the reason for the several police check points between the community and Yenagoa, especially passing through Otuasega/Elebele environment. The last time field monitors of ERA/FoEN visited the community in connection with three youths arrested and whose whereabouts were unknown, the paramount ruler repeatedly said he would not like to discuss issues relating to the bunkering activities in the environment.

When a major fire incident occurred in one of the local refinery camps in the environment, the destruction wrought was so massive that it became impossible to prevent the information from spreading. A lot of deaths occurred instantly while some who were rushed to medical facilities died subsequently.

SENSITIVE OPERATIONS

Having worked with communities along the Kolo Creek, ERA/FoEN was not completely unaware of bunkering activities, especially as the Creek has often been polluted and necessitating expression of concern by some of the locals. Unfortunately, because community folks from some of these communities along the Kolo Creek were involved, they were economical with related information.

About two months before the fire incident, the Chairman of the Community Development Committee [CDC] of one of the immediate downstream communities reached out to ERA/FoEN and, complained [via phone] that the Kolo Creek is so polluted as a result of crude oil spreading from upstream. He attributed it to bunkering and related activities upstream.

After he agreed for ERA/FoEN Field monitors to visit the community for independent observation and get testimonies; he later declined. Another executive member of the CDC in that community later revealed to ERA/FoEN that because some community leaders were also deeply involved in the bunkering activities, they would not be disposed to cooperate with our field monitors in exposing what they were part of.

He related how officials of another NGO working on environmental issues who visited the communities and were taking photographs of the sleek in the polluted Creek at another neighboring community were attacked and almost had their camera seized by community folks. Aside the involvement of community members, some security personnel are, alleged to be part of the racket. The syndicated nature of the operation has given confidence to the main operations to continue, especially the camp owners.

TESTIMONIES

Emmanuel Eze, a commercial driver

This operation seems to be operated by a syndicate. I say so because there was a day I drove through Ibelebiri community in the night, at about 11:00pm and, I was surprised to see many persons on the road as I got to the community. They blocked the road and I was even scared of my life. They demanded that I carry them or else I won’t pass.

They wanted me to drop them at the next community, Okaki [which is a community that is administratively part of Rivers State]. Before I knew it, some of them had rushed into my car and were lapping themselves.

Some even occupied the boot. Up till now I cannot tell how many of them I carried in the car that night. Between where I picked them and where they dropped, a team of police men stopped me. The passengers promptly indentified the police men and said, “Officers, nothing today. We didn’t work because there was low pressure; they didn’t transport crude oil in the pipelines today so there is no raw material to work. And the police men understood and allowed us to proceed without demanding anything”

Pointing a guy to ERA/FoEN’s field monitors, he said:

You see that guy, he retired from the police not so long ago within the Ogbia environment where he was serving until he retired. He is now deeply involved in the business of dealing on local refinery products. He has two cars and this one you see him with is the one he uses in the local refinery business. As you see him pass now, I am sure he is heading to the community where the refining is taking place; to load products.

Since the policemen on the route are his former colleagues; how do you think they will ask him any question? He may decide to give them something if he likes, but I don’t think he has any problem from the police patrolling the route especially as he was a Senior Officer before he retired

Due to the sensitive nature of the operation and related risk, it was not easy for ERA/FoEN to get the real facts in time. Anyone that is sighted with camera in the community where the incident happened is highly suspected and confronted by community youths. However, when was identified by ERA/FoEN volunteer in another community and the victim indicated interest to speak on the matter; that window was explored promptly by ERA/FoEN. That was about three weeks after the unfortunate incident. Narrating his ordeal, how the incident happened and how he managed to survive while his best friend didn’t survive it; he said.

Obonin Austin (eye witness who narrowly escaped death) from Imiringi community, Ogbia LGA of Bayelsa State

It was because of the bunkering fire incident that happened on the 8th of December, 2017 that you are seeing part of my body like this. That night we went there around 7pm. It happened when one lady struck match so that she could put on a stove and prepare Indomie noodles. She used to be one of the women in the camps preparing food and selling to customers. That actually caused the fire because the bush was already saturated with enough gas evaporating from refined products and refining operations were still ongoing.

The flame from the match attracted gas from the refining oven. There was an immediate explosion. When it happened, workers who were working at the upper side started rushing down like rain. When I looked up, I saw huge fire so I started running away from the area. As I was running, some of the refined products splashed on my hand and so my hand caught fire too. As I was running I noticed that my shoes were on fire too. So, when I ran a certain distance I stopped and removed the shoes so as to avoid them burning to melting point. I was later taken to Christ the King Hospital. But we were three who went together that evening. One was rushed to another medical facility where he later died. The third one was admitted at the Cottage hospital, at Otuasega community. That is what I know about the incident. But, according to people who went there the next day, they saw a lot of dead bodies; some burnt beyond recognition and so only their bones were left and they gathered the bones to go and bury. It was a mass burial. Some dead bodies started floating on the Creek after about two days, because that night of incident; even the water in the Creek was on fire. Some of us were able to swim across to the other side

When asked if he would be able to estimate the total number of deaths occasioned by the fire, Obonin Austin said:

Over twenty people died that particular night. It is difficult to say the total, because some also died in the hospital. All I know is that the dead were more than twenty. There were over a hundred people that were there before the incident. But in the morning, you will observe that the number of people there is more than one community. The fire incident occurred at about 3:00am, that night. Not only workers were there, some were there as customers to buy and arrange for finished products to be transferred to various destinations in the morning. The environment was a hustling place

I cannot tell people to stop going there because, we take that place as a hustling ground where we use to go and hustle instead of to go and steal. I will advise people not to go in the night, but in the morning when all the ovens have been put off. The ovens are normally put off around 5:00am. They should avoid anything like naked flame, matches, lighter or anything that will cause flame. 

Government should formalize this business because, without this the crime rate would be high. This has presented an avenue for people to get busy and assist themselves and I can say it has reduced the rate of crime. Government should please allow them do it. The death rate is the only big issue in the operations. For me, they should look for a safer, modern way so that it will not cause these types of death anymore. This is my advice

When asked to comment about the other two who went with him, he said:

Yes, we were three who went together and one of the other two was my best friend. Unfortunately he died at the hospital. I knew him as Trust, but I don’t know his surname. His father is from Kolo community but the mother is from Onuebum community, all in Ogbia LGA. Three of us went there but, to God be the glory, two of us are still alive to see Christmas and New Year.

For my friend, God chose to take him and I don’t know why. I pray that God should see him through because our going to the site of the unfortunate incident was not for any trouble. It was for us to struggle to survive. But my late friend was burnt from head to toe. Parts of his burnt body were falling off. He died at the hospital around 8pm, three days after the fire incident. He was about twenty years of age when he died. Before he died he was calling the names of several people and screaming before he fell off the hospital bed and died

 Chief from Ibelebiri community (who wants to remain anonymous for security reasons)

The fire incident, which occurred in our community environment is common knowledge. It is not a secret. It was a most unfortunate incident, even though no one from this community died as a result of the fire. But over sixteen souls perished in the inferno. None of them was a member of this community. A lot of strangers are involved and in the operations in the environment and, I reliably heard that the refining camp where the fire incident happened was owned by an Ijaw guy, not from Ogbia LGA. It is being rumored that the guy also own refining camp in Rivers state and a similar thing occurred there too; at his camp. Some people are suspecting it to be related to rituals for money and so, when the owner of the burnt camp came with a brand new jeep; he was booed by people here.

When ERA/FoEN field monitors expressed surprise as to people owning camps and whether there were several camps in the community environment, the chief said:

There are several camps in the environment, about 30 [thirty] such camps. Security agencies are aware; even some top state government officials might be involved in this.

If not for the involvement of security agents and government officials, what else would explain why the business still thrives here? After the fire incident, the security agencies just came around and did some kind of controlled burning of what could be termed condemned oil and part of the already burnt environment and left. Operators and some government/security agencies that ought to ensure the business is completely stopped here settled at last. From an initial demand of N50million, I heard they brought it down to N11million. And, that settled it. It has returned to business as usual since then.

 

PICTURES FROM THE COMMUNITY

The earth shows field was spilled

 

 

Burnt hands of Obonin Austin

 

 

Spilled crude at Imiringi end of Kolo Creek

 

OBSERVATION/CONCLUSION

When ERA/FoEN visited Ibelebiri community again on 8th January, 2018 the transfer/loading of refined products into cars and tricycles was still ongoing. For strangers passing through the community environment, it would be difficult to have any idea such things are happening there as there are no rising column of dark smoke for anyone to observe during the day. The crude oil polluted Kolo Creek is not visible from the road and the refined products are not transferred in conventional containers associated with liquid substances.

Refined products are put into special bags and loaded into cars or tricycles. Trucks also have points where loading takes place at night only. Some who also confirmed how the fire incident happened informed ERA/FoEN that the lady who struck the matches and other customers who were within the camp to buy products died in the inferno. A lady whom they said usually bought in large quantity also died.

A tell tale sign of any environment where refining of crude oil is ongoing is thick column of smoke rising and spreading above the particular area. Two other signs are large presence of strangers in the locality and crude oil freely spreading on the creeks within the environment. However, since security agencies and contractors like the Oil and Gas Task Force took the fight to operators of local refineries and did colossal destruction of many of the sites and equipment, most have since closed down in Bayelsa State [especially in Southern Ijaw LGA which used to be like the headquarters of the business] and the few that are still in operation have taken to operating mostly at night.

We had earlier been informed that some security operatives had suggested/supported the night operations; since the accompanying think column of smoke cannot report the incident to the public at night. Be that as it may, the pollution of creeks in areas of operation has continued to tell the story. Unfortunately, because folks from communities along the polluted Kolo Creek are involved, such environmentally inimical hydrocarbon in the water has not elicited the sort of outcry expected from the communities.

Incidentally, the route where refined products leave the community where refining is taking place is highly policed by security agencies; especially the Police and civil defense. This, instead of curtailing the act, seems to be providing security coverage and rather embolden those engage in the business. Some petrol stations in Yenagoa are identified as dispensing products from such sources to unsuspecting members of the public.

The activities of local refinery operators are remotely encouraged by greed, unemployment, unavailability of refined products, cheap price of the locally refined products, high demand for the products, inadequate monitoring/inspection of petrol stations to ascertain source of products by the Department of Petroleum Resources [DPR], etc.

No matter how unhappy and uncomfortable some fellow community leaders/folks may be about the local refinery related hazards in their community environment; unless the government and security agencies do the needful; lives of those who oppose the operation could be on the line. The culpability of the military, police and civil defense cannot be ruled out; especially as the environment of interest is just few kilometers from the Headquarters of these relevant security agencies in the state capital. And yet the business is thriving.

 

ERA/FoEN DEMANDS

[1.] The Federal and state government encourage youths by providing willing scholarship for training in the area of renewable energy as the world is gradually moving away from fossil energy.

[2.] The Federal Government build more refineries in the country and ensure that the existing four are functional and producing in full capacity. This will make refined petroleum products available and at cheaper prices to the Nigerian public. The export of Crude oil and importation of refined products is not only a bad business principle; it makes Nigeria a laughing stock in the committee of nations.

[3.] As promised by the Federal Government, Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] be visible and ongoing in the Creeks, as a confidence building action preceding approval for the location of modular refineries promised by the Federal Government during the tour of the Niger Delta state by the then Acting President [Vice-President]. This is critical and would go a long way to minimize risks associated with lives and environment in general.

[4.] The Bayelsa State Government and Security agencies inform the public whether the refining operation ongoing within Ibelebiri environment is approve by them and, if so; why other sites in the Creeks have been destroyed?

[5.] Communities along the Kolo Creek take measures necessary for the protection of their natural fresh water. They should join in condemning the crude oil pollution of the Kolo Creek by operators of local refineries. Keeping silent on such self-inflicted injuries weakens any argument against oil industry related environmental degradation.

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FIELD REPORT #385 – Conoil Aunty Julie Platform on Fire…Still in flames seven hours after

ERA/FoEN received information from community contacts at Sangana community on 29th September, 2017 that, Aunty Julie – Conoil’s offshore platform within the community’s waters was gutted on the night of 28th September 2017.  The inferno was still on at the time information reached ERA/FoEN. Apart from the first source, ERA/FoEN received confirmation promptly from two other contacts within the community.

Sangana community is part of Akassa Clan in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and, the community was also impacted by the KS Endeavor explosion/fire at Chevron’s North Apoi gas well facility in 2012 which caused pollution of the environment and death of aquatic lives. The community folks also lost their livelihood which is mainly fish farming.

TESTIMONIES

Barr. Benjamin Ayibatonye the Chairman of the Community Development Committee [CDC] of Sangana ‘’There is fire outbreak from Aunty Julie, the Conoil platform in Sangana at about 3:00am this morning. The fire ensued from the production tanks and is below the platform. A man name Peter, an Itsekiri man from Delta State got an injury on his leg and is being treated at the Sangana Cottage hospital. Every crew member has been evacuated to the gunboat around the Aunty Julie platform. However, a fire fighter vessel is on the way from the Chevron field to put off the fire now. A man named, Blessing [other name unknown], a Supervisor on board the platform is with the man who sustained the injury in the cottage hospital’’

As per the possible cause of the fire, the CDC Chairman said ‘’ Cause of the fire was as a result of pressure from the Koluama end that they were unable to manage; that caused the incident’’

Not so clear as per what pressure, ERA/FoEN asked for clarification and, the CDC Chairman replied thus, ‘’Pressure on the crude pipeline to Aunty Julie’’

 

FIRE PUT OUT:

As at the time of concluding this brief report, the CDC Chairman confirmed that the fire has been extinguished. According to him, ‘’The fire has been put off from burning Aunty Julie platform at about 10:30am to 11:00am. For now there is little or nothing I can say about our environmental concerns. I will get back to you later with more details on this; if the need arises.’’

ERA however, suggested that the environment be monitored and observed for the next two days; even if there might not be anything observed as unusual for now.

OBSERVATION:

Although the immediate and remote cause of the fire incident has not be officially made public, it is important to note that, since there was no breach of the facilities from a third party, the incident is most likely another operational failure case. There is need for more caution on the part of operators. Besides, all such facilities ought to have some reasonable level of firefighting equipment to contain emergency situations before they spread or becomes overwhelming.

Photos obtained from community sources at about 10:00am on 29th September, 2017

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UPDATE ON THE AUNTY JULIE FIRE INCIDENT ON 29th SEPTEMBER, 2017

By Alagoa Morris

ERA/FoEN did a follow up to the Aunty Julie fire incident which occurred in the night of 28 September and documented on 29 September. The thrust was to get more photos and hear exactly how the fire was put out.

To this end, ERA/FoEN reached out to the Chairman of the Community Development Committee [CDC] of Sangana, Barr. Benjamin Ayibatonye While it was initially reported that help was being awaited from Chevron fire fighters and equipment; it turned out to be it was community folks who put out the fire at last.

In the words of Benjamin Ayibatonye:

 ‘’ Actually, at the end of the day, It was not the Chevron people who came and put off the fire. One Ene Owei, a fire fighter from Sangana community at about 9:00am on Friday, went to Aunty Julie, Conoil platform with the team of boys from the community to fight the fire and, did so for about two hours and was able to put the fire off at about 11:00am on the platform and, in the presence of Engineer Oma, the Operational Manager of Conoil and one Mr. Bello Bina, who flew with helicopter to the platform. Thereafter, the team of boys were appreciated with a token of N1. 5million as a way of saying, well done by Engineer Oma’’

Earlier, the CDC Chairman had informed ERA/FoEN that the community person who led the team of community youths, Ene Owei is a fire fighter and works with the Nigeria Agip Oil Company [NAOC]. He was on off-duty and in his community when this incident happened and he intervened. This is highly commendable. ERA/FoEN reached to a staff of NAOC and, it was confirmed that actually Ene Owei is a staff currently with Agip and on off duties.

 

OBSERVATION

The role played by Ene Owei and other youths of Sangana community on this matter is highly commendable; not only for their bravery but considering the negative image oil companies also associated with youths in their areas of operation. This is a positive example of community assistance to oil operations.

 

PHOTOGRAPHS FROM COMMUNITY SOURCES

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Ogoni at 6 Events

 

Enough of Motion Without Movement – Clean up Ogoniland now

Opening Remarks by Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) during the press briefing to mark one year of flag-off of Ogoni clean up exercise by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration held at Aldgate Hotel, Port Harcourt, August 3, 2017.

Introduction

Gentleman and ladies of the press I want to use this medium to commend you all for your consistency which has ensured that not only the plight of the Ogoni remain in the public space, but also the drama that has characterized the cleanup exercise flagged off in June 2016.

On August 4, 2011 (exactly six years ago), the Nigerian government received the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Assessment report on Ogoniland. The report x-rayed the Ogoni environment – land, vegetation and water, and came out with damning findings on how Shell callously ruined the environment and livelihoods of the people. Notably, benzene a cancer causing chemical was found in drinking water 900 times above WHO standards, and soil contamination was found over the depth of five meters in places claimed to have been cleaned up by Shell.

Most of you know the story, including the cosmetic complacency and lip service past administration paid to the cleanup process. It was only in 2015 that any semblance of action began with President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of a $10 million grant for commencement of the clean up of Shell’s mess in Ogoniland.

The flag off of the clean-up proper was in June 2016 and the exercise was performed by Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo. Though the people greeted the event with joy, they are now disappointed that the road to justice is still bugged down with bottlenecks and meaningless bureaucracies.

The unease of the Ogoni people has been further heightened by statements credited to the minister of state for environment that government was not in a hurry to commence clean up and fail, and would rather take its time to get it right before commencing. The recourse to such lame excuse for the delayed commencement shows that government is yet to grasp the challenges the Ogoni communities face and the need for deliberate speed in the cleanup process to protect the environment and rural livelihoods of the people.

One year after the flag-off exercise, the relief measures and clean water supply to the impacted communities have not been carried out meaningfully. The communities are yet to get a breather as the polluted soils, blackened waters and foul-smelling mangroves remained. In Ogale –one among the many documented impacted communities, the locals are left with no other source of water than contaminated boreholes. Here, immediately the taps are turned on, noxious odour and smell of petroleum assail the nose and hang thickly in the air. The situation is so bad that a stroke of match could ignite a fire. Residents depend on the polluted water source or forced to expend a fortune on water from vendors. The situation is so bad that that many are asking: When will the pre-clean up measures be put in place? When will a drop of oil be cleaned in Ogoni?

Even with all these tales of woe, the polluter – Shell – has continued with business-as-usual. Shell has failed to properly decommission its corrosive oil facilities in Ogoni as recommended by UNEP. We have said it time and again that decommissioning of Shell’s facilities should be the first step as it would stop the continuous oil spills from ill-maintained pipelines in the Ogoni environment. Added to this, are reports that the oil company has not stopped engaging in divisive activities to split the agitating youths.

In light of the above it is worrisome that even with the governing structures already in place, there is still no phased workplan covering 1-5 years in the short term. In the long term, a phased workplan covering the entire clean up process that will take 25 years should be put in place. Transparency and accountability demand that Workplan should be put in place before public advertisement to hiring of contractors. There is little or no CSOs engagement on the process. Critical stakeholders and community members have been sidelined and have not been invited to make input.  Clearly, when the clean up proper will commence or when equipment will be deployed to site is still up in the air. Cumulatively, these foot-dragging activities have further lengthened the period for which the people have to wait for justice to come.  Notwithstanding President Muhammadu Buhari’s seemingly good intentions, there is gross inadequate funding and only US$10 million has been released from the US$200 million pledged by Shell and the federal government of Nigeria for the 2017 fiscal year. Furthermore, there is no statutory budgetary provision for the clean up in the 2017 national budget. We condemn in strong terms the piecemeal approach to the clean up planning and implementation process by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) and the “snail pace” approach of the federal government that is motion without movement.

In particular, the UNEP report indictment of Shell for the company’s deployment of a one size fits all clean up measures through the Remediation by Enhanced Natural Attenuation (RENA) technologies that is widely used by Shell in Nigeria. Rather the UNEP report had recommended site-specific remediation measures that require soil excavation, and overlaying by new sediments. The report said that RENA is inappropriate because of the proximity of communities to spill sites or degraded areas, shallow aquifer and heavy and lengthy periods of rainfall.

That Shell sits comfortably in the Governing Board with oversight functions wielding undue political and financial influence may have already compromised the cleanup process hence we call for their immediate removal from such governmental institutions.

As we mark two years of the flag off exercise, ERA-led coalition of civil society groups and Host Communities (HoCON) join voices with the Ogoni people to insist that, so far, the Ogonis have been short-changed and no justice in sight. They join their voices to ask: “When will the Ogonis get justice? When will the first drop of oil be cleaned up in Ogoni?” Justice delayed is justice denied.

The UNEP recommendations and clean up is non-negotiable. Clean up should commence without further delay and to serve as prelude to a comprehensive environmental and social audit of the entire Niger Delta and other impacted regions. We urge the federal government and Shell and the other transnational oil companies to establish a US$100 billion restoration fund for the clean up and remediation of the entire region.

Our Demands:

  1. The federal government should declare the Ogoni clean up as environmental state of emergency and channel resources to it so that clean up will commence immediately. No more delays, clean up now.
  2. HYPREP should put in place a definite workplan and timeline for the clean up process through an inclusive planning process that accommodates input from stakeholders.
  3. Shell and the federal government should be compelled to commit fully to funding the clean-up costs, including but not limited to, the initial fund of $1 billion. They should declare their contributions for the year 2017 and pledges for 2018.
  4. The National Oil Spills Detection and Remediation Agency (NOSDRA) and other government agencies being starved of funds and roles in the clean up process should be empowered to monitor the process.
  5. Shell should not force HYPREP to use RENA technologies that is inappropriate to the Ogoni environment.
  6. Shell should not use the clean up process as a guise to re-entering Ogoni oil fields for drilling. They should vacate the governing council, and decommission its old oil pipelines responsible for frequent oil spills.
  7. Conduct an environmental and social audit of the Niger Delta and ensure the establishment of $100 billion remediation fund to be funded by Shell and all the oil companies operating in the region.

Once again, welcome, and thank you for listening.

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Uphold Edo State Government Revocation Order on Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc

Hello Friends,

We urge you to support us in adding more voices to our struggle against large-scale industrial oil palm plantations by Okomu Oil Palm PLC (a member of the global SOCFIN).

After successful protest marches on the streets of Edo State where Okomu Oil Palm has operational base, anti-land grab campaigners led by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) are are writing to the Edo State Government to stop Okomu from further land grabbing for industrial agro commodities business in the name of development.

We are contacting you to support our e-action to Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State asking him to enforce the revocation order of 13,750 hectares of illegally acquired land  in Owan and Okomu Forest Reserves by Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc.

Governor Godwin Obaseki cares about his image at the international level particularly as he brands himself as an investor-driven Governor at the detriment of local communities and livelihoods with differentiated impacts on women.

Support our petition as we internationalize our struggles against deforestation and corporate land grabs for large-scale oil palm plantation business.

Okomu Oil Palm Plc is fighting back so your support is key as we make this final push

Two things you can do:

  1. Sign on to the petition below calling on the Edo State Governor to enforce its revocation order of 13,750 hectares of de-reserved land by ensuring that Okomu Oil Palm PLC vacates the area and stop oil palm plantation business in the area.
  2. Share the petition with others for sign on as we look forward to one million signatories.

 

Uphold Edo State Government Revocation Order on Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc

  

On November 5, 2015, the Edo State Government through government revocation Order under the leadership of former Governor Adams Oshiomhole revoked 13,750 hectares of land in Owan and Okomu Forest Reserves from Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc- a member of the global SOCFIN group which it illegally acquired.

Two years after, the company has continued to defy this order to further its plantation business under the watch of the current Edo State Government. Yet, such initiatives in the name of development and job generation has continued to fuel more deforestation, land grabbing, biodiversity loss, and local livelihoods destruction of more than 60,000 rural farmers and forest dependent peoples rife with human rights violations in areas where this large scale industrial oil palm plantation company is operational.

As a state currently with the second highest deforestation rate in Nigeria after Cross River State, with Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc becoming one of the major drivers of deforestation for oil palm cultivation in Nigeria, the Company has continued to disregard the revocation order by the Edo State Government under your watch to further its expansion work.

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria led Coalition of impacted communities, farmers and civil society organizations and the global environment movement is watching as you and your colleagues in Edo State Government move towards making a decision about the future of sustainable Community Based Forest Management system in Edo state. We urge you to enforce the revocation order on Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc in Edo State and commence regeneration of the areas destroyed.

Plantations are not forests! Communities’ forest is not for sale. Host communities and NGOs over the years have known that industrial plantation companies bring far more harm than good, contribute to climate crisis through land use change, livelihood and local food systems truncation, soil contamination and pollution of water bodies which the people depend on for survival.

Your Excellency, the time to act and make your voice count for the people is now.

Signatories:
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
Community Forest Watch Nigeria

[your signature]

937 signatures

Share this with your friends:

   

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FIELD REPORT #384 – How Poor Town Planning Aggravates Bayelsa Flooding

Introduction: Bayelsa State presents one of the most deltaic scenarios in the Niger Delta in terms of geology or geography. There are no high grounds, which makes communities in the state susceptible to sea level rise and other Climate Change fallouts. It has a topography that is low-lying, with several natural water channels, swamps, creeks and rivers that empty into the Atlantic Ocean. Experts in the field of Survey have observed that the gradient of the environment remains the same even for distances running into kilometers. Experts document that some of the communities are below sea level, predisposing them to flooding whenever it rains.

The impacts of the floods in June 2017 necessitated a visit by ERA/FoEN field monitors to Epie/Atissa and communities around Yenagoa that suffer flooding as a result of physical structures conceived without Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] or recourse to safety.

The ERA/FoEN team, while observing some natural water channels within the communities, documented the testimonies of the locals.

FIELD REPORT #384 - How Poor Town Planning Aggravates Bayelsa Flooding
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FIELD REPORT #383 – Environmental, Social and Health Impacts of Lagos Floods

Introduction: Lagos received another bout of the climate change phenomenon with unusually heavy rains in the month of July 2017. The downpour between 5-8 July resulted in the flooding of many parts of Lagos with Ikoyi, Lekki, Victoria Island and the Ajah axis witnessing the most severe inundation of homes and business properties.

From Ahmadu Bello Way near the former Bar Beach to Lekki Phase 1 and extending to Ajah and adjourning communities, residents were trapped as the raging waters took over entire streets, cut off others, inundated cars and other valuable property, and surged into their homes.

FIELD REPORT #383 - Environmental, Social and Health Impacts of Lagos Floods
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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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