Oil discovery in Northern Nigeria: Environmental activists move to enlighten host communities

By Samuel Luka, Bauchi

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FOEN) on Thursday held a town hall meeting for stakeholders on International Oil Companies (IOCs) divestment from the Niger Delta and Oil in the North in Bauchi state.

The meeting, our Corresspondent gathered was to strategize towards enlightening the communities where oil exploration is taking place on issues surrounding its activities and how it affects them.

Welcoming the participants to the meeting, the Executive Director of the Environmental Rights Action, Chimo Williams, said the meeting was convened for a strategic reason.

“We have decided to convene this meeting here for a strategic reason: Oil has been found in your community and you all must be expectant and jubilant”, he said.

He explained that the meeting was meant to sensitize the participants who were drawn from Civil Society organizations and the Media about what is happening in oil bearing communities and also hear from them.

Mr. Williams who recalled that there was jubilation from community members when oil was discovered in the 1950s in Oloibiri, present day Bayelsa State, however, regretted that today oil is been considered as a curse not a blessing due to its attendant disadvantages.

Represented by Programme Coordinator of the Organization, Tijani Abdulazeez, the Executive Director said, in Ogoniland, Rivers State, it was the same thing when Shell discovered oil in
commercial quantity in 1958.

While regretting that Ogoni land today is the emblem of pollution globally, Williams pointed out that Ogoni people have had their lands ruined by oil.

He said an investigation by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
released in 2011 indicated that hydrocarbon in Ogoniland will take 30
years of sustained clean up to achieve regain its former environmental condition.

He said that the Ogoniland has also lost illustrious sons and daughters including the
late playwright, Ken Saro Wiwa, adding that in Iwerekhan in Delta state, gas flaring is ravaging the community and causing illnesses hitherto unknown there.

He said that the community despite taking Shell to court for flaring gas and with the positive court ruling in 2005, flaring still
continues there, adding that the list of communities impacted by oil is endless.

“Worse is the fact that Shell and other International Oil Companies (IOCs) that caused these incidents
are now selling off their onshore operations and going offshore where
their operations cannot be effectively monitored”, Williams revealed.

He said that the oil companies are now trying to dodge responsibility for all the atrocities, even as the indigenous companies buying the abandoned facilities are refusing to accept the liabilities left by the former owners.

According to Williams, the implication is that the local community people are left to carry their burdens.

“It is for this reason that we feel the striking of oil in your communities
will not bring about the prosperity you have been promised. Already
there is strife between the Bauchi and Gombe communities claiming the oil”, the executive director further explained.

Williams who said, in the Niger Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa are in court over
ownership of oil wells, further lamented that former brothers and sisters no longer see eye to eye due to disputes of land ownership.

He regretted that, upon that, the oil multinationals always carry out their business as usual without recourse to the problems of the host communities.

One of the participants, Sadiya Iliyasu who spoke to Journalists, commended the Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria for engaging them to brainstorm on how to enlighten communities where oil explorations are ongoing, including Bauchi state.

Sadiya who is the Executive Director of Nurse is Watching, an organization supporting Women and Children Initiative, expressed optimisms that the move will address issues embedded in oil activities across the affected communities.

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