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Category Archives: Press Releases

ERA, FRIENDS OF THE EARTH GROUPS FROWN AT DELAYED IMPLEMENTATION OF UNEP OGONI ASSESSMENT

The Environmental Rights Action, member organisations of Friends of the Earth International and community-based groups from the Niger Delta have called on the Nigerian government to match talk with action in the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Assessment on Ogoniland.

At a media advocacy meeting on the non-implementation of the UNEP assessment report on Ogoniland held in Abuja, the groups said the call became imperative in the light of the observed inactivity in relation to the clean-up of Ogoniland nearly one year after government released a $10 million grant for the commencement of the exercise.

The groups said that on the contrary the plight of the Ogoni have worsened following the politicization of the exercise, a development that has spurred violence in the communities as the local people are denied the basics of life such as clean water, a clean environment and sustainable livelihood.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo said: “As we march towards the fifth year of the release of the UNEP assessment and its non-implementation, no one is in doubt that the Ogonis continue to bear the burden of the environmental degradation, livelihood losses and other fallouts that is blamed solely on Shell”.

Ojo expressed dissatisfaction that even after the announcement of the take-off grant for the clean up by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 the administration is yet to put in place the relevant institutional structures and frameworks to actually instigate the commencement of the exercise.

He explained that while this administration must be commended for taking the bold initiative of committing to take actions that the previous administration did not, the $10 million still remains the only action taken, and this represents a mere 1 per cent of the N1 billion that the UN agency recommended as take off fund for the exercise.

Geert Ritsema of Milieudefensie said: “We stand in solidarity with the Ogoni people in their legitimate demand for immediate actions to remediate their degraded environment. There should be no delay in making Shell take full responsibility for this mess ”

In similar vein, Paul de Clerck of Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Justice delayed is justice denied. The more the delay in commencement of the clean-up recommended by the UNEP the more the people suffer deprivation.”

The groups reiterated their position that Shell is liable and should be prosecuted for the crime of ecocide since it had wantonly destroyed the environment of the people of the Niger Delta consistently and over a long period.

They also demanded among others:

Compensation for Ogoni people, the need for establishment of a clean-up fund of $100 billion for the entire Niger Delta and the baring of Shell from the cleanup process except financial contribution in line with ERA/FoEN recommended Polluter Pays Principle.

The highpoint of the engagement was the release of a report titled: No Progress: Will Shell Evade Justice? which pinpoints specific issues the government has failed to address in getting the implementation of the UNEP report on auto pilot.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

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Prioritise people over profits in provision of water, ERA/FoEN tells state governments

As the world marks 2016 world water day, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has urged the federal and state governments to put the interest of the people and jobs over profits in the pursuit of providing the citizenry portable water for drinking and other uses.

The international World Water Day reminds governments and peoples about the significance of fresh water and sustainability of fresh water resources management. The 2016 commemoration has as theme: Water and Jobs. It focuses on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods and even transform societies and economies.

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said the global commemoration should be a wakeup call to the Nigerian government that water is a human right and in its provision, the livelihoods of people should not be mortgaged to privatisers.

ERA/FoEN Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “as we mark this global event which reminds governments of their responsibility in ensuring citizens have the highest basic standard of life which unhindered access to clean water represents, the sad reality in Nigeria is that the federal and state governments overtly or covertly dodge this duty and would rather go cap in hand to the World Bank and other promoters of privatisation whose interests are solely “for-profit only”

Oluwafemi explained that government at all levels should fully uphold the human right to water as an obligation, and that in doing this, the government should integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.

“Prioritising water for the people will lead to a comprehensive plan that invests in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access, create jobs, improve public health, and invigorate the national economy.

Citing Lagos as an example of a potentially dangerous experiment in water privatization, Oluwafemi explained that, “in this state of nearly 21 million people the World Bank through its private arm – International Finance Corporation (IFC) is suggesting a Public Private Partnership (PPP) which will mortgage the future of the citizens of the state. The PPP water failures in Manila and Nagpur mirror what awaits countries that adopt this model”

The ERA/FoEN boss stressed that, while the World Bank and other agencies talk of the challenges of providing water for people like human rights activists do, their path to solving the challenges differ, even as he added that the solution to the identified challenges rests in keeping public water in public hands and not in the hands of a few who would rather exploit the situation for personal gain.

He listed fallouts of PPPs in the water sector to include rate hikes, poor service quality, and shut-offs to the poor who may not be able to pay the cost of water. He added that, “these happenings do not guarantee our right to water as espoused by the United Nations in 2010”

“Like the power sector privatization in Nigeria, water privatization will rob our people of their jobs in addition to other unanticipated fallouts. Privatisers in any cloak are only interested in maximizing profits to the detriment of workers in the sector. We reject this idea”, Oluwafemi insisted.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

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Holloway resignation: Groups commend Ambode’s first step on water, call for probe

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has commended Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for playing a pivotal role in spurring controversial former Group Managing Director of the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC) Shayo Holloway to resign his post. The group urged the governor to go beyond merely accepting the resignation of Holloway by probing the management of the agency since 1999.

Holloway quit the LSWC on Friday 16 October 2015 following a strongly-worded query issued by the office of the Head of Service demanding he explain the parlous state of water infrastructure in all parts of Lagos even after receiving huge sums in the last 16 years.

Holloway became head of LSWC in 1999. The agency, apart from budgetary allocations, has attracted loans from the World Bank and international donor agencies to fund water supply expansion schemes such as the Iju, Adiyan, and Ishasi Waterworks, as well as expansion of distribution networks. These loans, running into billions of naira have not translated into improved water supply for residents. Over 18 million Lagos residents – about 90 percent – still lack daily access to clean and safe water, exposing citizens to water-borne diseases like cholera.

ERA/FoEN and partners – Corporate Accountability International, Public Services International (PSI), the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and a coalition of civil society advocates including Dr. Joe Odumakin, Priscilla Achakpa, and Auwal Rafsanjani, had written to Ambode on 9 October 2015 demanding that he publicly reject the public-private partnership-model (PPP) water privatization scheme that Holloway was promoting, on the grounds of proven failures across the globe.

Former governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Oba of Lagos, His Royal Highness Rilwanu Akiolu also received similar letters from the groups, asking that they side with the ordinary citizens of Lagos in rejecting the PPP.

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN described Holloway’s ouster as “a welcome development” which should send a clear message to the World Bank and promoters of PPP-model water privatization schemes that Lagos citizens will defend their rights to a free gift of nature which water represents.

ERA/FoEN Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “We commend Governor Ambode for taking this first step to deliver universal access to water for Lagosians, and the obvious next step is to reject the PPP water privatization scheme Holloway has been promoting once and for all. Holloway’s resignation will only make sense to Lagos residents if he now explains what the funding from donor agencies in the last decade was used for.”

Oluwafemi noted that resignation does not answer for the poor performance of LSWC in delivering water to the people nor the grievances of staff of the corporation who have been sidelined in decision-making and initiatives that would have made the agency work better. He added that it was not only the responsibility of the Ambode administration to get to the root of the causes of the decay, but also a welcome opportunity to show pro-people leadership.

The ERA/FoEN boss also said, “We feel encouraged by the governor’s latest action, and want to re-echo our demands that Governor Ambode’s administration fully uphold the human right to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people and integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.”

“The governor should openly reject contracts that pursue corporate water management, especially those designed by or involving the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the private arm of the World Bank which operates to maximize private profit – and disclose all IFC and World Bank activity and discussions with Lagos government officials regarding water, including formal and informal advisory roles.”

“With Holloway’s resignation, we look forward to working cooperatively with the next LSWC head and Governor Ambode to grow public investment in a democratically accountable public water system, rather than enable corporate profiteering,” Oluwafemi insisted.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

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Groups urge Ambode, Tinubu and Akiolu to reject Lagos water privatisation

A coalition campaigning against water privatisation has written the trio of Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, former Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu to ask that they publicly reject water privatisation in Lagos and promote solutions within the parameters of the human right to water.

Signatories to the letters include Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Corporate Accountability International, Public Services International (PSI) and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE). Others are Women Arise led by Dr. Joe Odumakin, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HoMEF), led by Nnimmo Bassey, Women Environment Programme led by Priscilla Achakpa, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) led by Auwal Rafsanjani, Peace and Development Project led by Francis Abayomi, and Grassroots Africa led by Hawa Nibi Amenga-Etedo.

In letters delivered to the trio on Monday, the groups report that the public-private partnership (PPP) model of water privatisation has proven exceedingly difficult for cities around the world to exit, despite rate hikes, service cutoffs, contract violations, and unfulfilled infrastructure promises. They prevent cities from making crucial progress toward real solutions to water access challenges.

The Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC), according to media statements and its website, is pushing a water PPP plan in Lagos that experts say mimics failures in other parts of the world. The groups urged Governor Ambode and other decision-makers to stop this and any other form of water privatisation in Lagos, while asking Asiwaju Tinubu and Oba Akiolu to support and lend their voices to the pro-people campaigns by Lagos citizens to halt the privatisation plans through public statements.

As a workable solution to water shortages and access issues, the groups demanded real solutions that truly address people’s access to water from the prism of human rights. They insisted that solutions cannot be found in corporate management of public goods, but rather in collective investment in water infrastructure and democratic decision-making prioritising the human right to water above profits.

As the letters point out, decades of influence by the World Bank and the private water industry have pushed the currently proposed public-private partnership (PPP) model of water privatisation in Lagos and similar schemes throughout countries of the Global South. The groups stressed that a conflict of interest drives the World Bank Bank’s misleading marketing, especially its promotion of key “success stories” like Manila, Philippines, Nagpur, India, and Bucharest, Romania, where water PPPs have failed.

Most recently, a top executive of Veolia, one of the world’s largest water corporations, has been formally charged with bribery and influence peddling as part of Romania’s crackdown on corruption. As part owner of water corporations that win PPP contracts, the World Bank has positioned itself to profit from this model.

In addition to calling for leadership in rejecting water privatisation, the groups also asked the state government to disclose all International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank activity and discussions with the state government officials and the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC) regarding water, including formal and informal advisory roles.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

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Oronto Douglas demise a loss to the nation – ERA/FoEN

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has expressed shock at the death of Barrister Oronto Douglas, Senior Special Assistant on Research, Strategy and Documentation to President Goodluck Jonathan, describing his demise as a loss to the nation and the human rights community.

Douglas died of cancer-related complications today (April 9) in Abuja.

As special assistant to the president, Douglas used the platform to continue advocating for the rights of Niger Delta communities suffering from environmental degradation and marginalisation. Despite his worsening health condition in the last four years he worked tirelessly for the cause of the down-trodden.

Along with Nnimmo Bassey, former chair of Friends of the Earth International and ERA/FoEN executive director, Godwin Ojo, Douglas co-founded ERA/FoEN in 1993, and has used this platform to increase environmental awareness and citizens’ response to environmental issues in Nigeria.

Oronto served as one of the lawyers of the late Ogoni playwright and activist, Ken Saro Wiwa who was executed by the Abacha junta on 10 November 1995. He is the first Niger Delta activist to have been hosted at the White House by a serving American President in the person of Bill Clinton.

“Oronto was a model of relentless and untiring defence of the oppressed and the cause of the environment, the cause for which he was molested and suffered greatly. He was the voice of the voiceless and a strong defender of freedom of speech. He was an epitome of peace, justice and the rule of law. Nigeria has lost a rare gem”, said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Uyi Ojo.

“Nigerians and particularly the human rights community will never forget his dogged struggle during the military repression years particularly during the General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha years when the rule of law was trampled upon with impunity.

“We extend our condolences to Douglas immediate family and pray that God will strengthen them at this time of grief. As the nation mourns, the government and the people of this country should reflect and interrogate on those issues that Douglas stood for, lived for, and died for,” Ojo added.

Philip Jakpor

Head of Media

ERA/FoEN

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Clear your mess before divesting, ERA/FoEN tells Shell

The Federal government must not allow Shell to sell off its assets that have ruined the environment and livelihoods of Niger Delta communities without remediating the impacted environments and adequately compensating the locals, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has said.

ERA/FoEN demands are coming on the heels media reports that Shell is planning to sell a productive Nigerian oil block to a consortium led by oil-trading firm Taleveras Group for more than $2.5 billion.

Media reports indicated that in addition to OML 29, the largest of the southern Niger Delta assets Shell put up for auction last year, the current deal includes the 60-mile Nembe Creek pipeline, which moves oil through the Delta to the Atlantic coast and serves as one of the country’s main crude arteries.

Shell has been working to sell several of its onshore Nigerian holdings, which have been plagued by leaks coming largely from poor maintenance and poor monitoring to check the leaks.

The Nembe Creek pipeline for instance, has been responsible for a host of spills, some of which the local communities have accused Shell of trying to cover up or blame them for. In a multiple spill incident of August 2012 the communities alleged that Shell even attempted to forge the report of a Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) which involved representatives of the locals.

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN insisted that, “Shell cannot divest without clearing its mess and paying the full price”

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo said: “It is evident that Shell is divesting its toxic infrastructure in order to shore up its dwindling capital caused by heavy environmental burden and social risks it has incurred. The company is attempting to flee from the nest it has fouled thereby shifting the odium to local communities of the Niger delta. This will not be accepted”

Ojo said that the Nigerian government should immediately halt the divestment plan until Shell cleans up every pollution it has caused and provide verifiable remediation in line with global standards.

“We are in solidarity with the impacted communities and Friends of the Earth International groups that recently at its Biennial General Meeting in Sri Lanka demanded that the Nigerian government must muster the political will to implement the UNEP report recommendations on cleanup of Ogoniland after three years of inaction on the report.”

The ERA/FoEN boss said: “There is no doubt that Shell has been a very bad investor that the communities of the Niger Delta will like to get rid off but it must be held accountable for donkey years of pollution and devastation which cannot be erased by the whim.

This is also to sound a note of caution to companies buying Shells toxic assets that they will be liable to the assets and liabilities which will continue to hunt them until environmental justice is served. Shell’s divestment without doing the needful is not acceptable and must be halted,” Ojo stressed.

Philip Jakpor

Head of Media

ERA/FoEN

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19 years after: Saro-Wiwa ‘s death will not be in vain, says ERA/FoEN

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has flayed the Federal Government for failing to address issues that led to the extrajudicial murder of playwright Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders in 1995 and a public apology from the government and Shell for the incident .

In a statement issued in Lagos to commemorate the 19th year of the murder of Saro Wiwa and the other Ogoni leaders, ERA/FoEN said that justice has not been served over the murders even as the insatiable appetite of the oil industry, particularly Shell which has ruined the environment and livelihoods in the Niger Delta continues to grow.

Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni leaders were executed by the General Sani Abacha junta for mobilising and speaking out against the impact of Shell’s activities and that of other oil companies operating in Ogoniland.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo said: “Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed because of his opposition to Shell’s environmental atrocities in Ogoniland and the decision of government to look the other way. It is sad and shameful that the kangaroo judgment that sent him to a cruel and undeserved death is yet to be quashed by the successive civilian administrations till this day”

Ojo lamented that in spite of the misery inflicted on the people of Ogoniland by Shell, none of the successive civilian governments including that of the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan administration failed to demonstrate the political will to bring the violator to justice.

“The sad reality is further rubbed in by the fact that more than three years after the submission of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Assessment of Saro-Wiwa’s homeland in Ogoni, there is nothing to show on ground that the implementation will be carried out as stipulated by the UN agency”

The ERA/FoEN boss pointed out that, rather than engaging the issues frontally, “this administration has been going round in circles from setting up a Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) to initiating projects that do not have input from the Ogoni community”

“What we are demanding like we have in previous years is the immediate quashing of the kangaroo judgment on Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni eight by the Justice Kuta tribunal and public apology from Shell for instigating the crisis that led to the fiasco in Ogoniland. We also insist that the sacrifice made by the Ogoni nine will be utterly meaningless if the implementation of the UNEP Assessment report is rubbished as is the situation at the moment. This 19-year gimmick must stop. We demand action”, Ojo insisted.

Philip Jakpor

Head of Media

ERA/FoEN

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