Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt
A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), has urged the Eteo community in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State, to build a resilience spirit to resist further incidents of land grabbing and loss of livelihood in the area as a result of extractive oil activities in the area.
The group also sensitised the community on the need to sustain campaign for clean environment by insisting on the remediation of already oil polluted sites in the area.
This call was made at a three-day sensitisation programme held in the community by HOMEF with the theme “Cycles of Reflection Meeting with Community Farmers to Better Understand Issues of Land Grabbing.”
Speaking during his presentation at the meeting, Mr. Ken Henshaw, described Eteo community as a vital place for oil extraction, oil infrastructure, including pipelines, and regretted that the community have suffered series of oil spills in the recent time.
Henshaw, who is the Executive Director, We The People, but a resource person at the sensitisation exercise, said that few months after the last spill occurred in Eteo, no serious effort for remediation or compensation have been made by either the government or oil companies operating in the area.
He said that a larger percentage of the community land have been taken by “Right of Pipeline Way,” which has affected their farmland, their forest, stressing that the government should ensure the people in the area have a better environment and livelihood.
“What we are seeing is an increasing pattern of land grab and loss of livelihood on account of oil extraction. There is nothing here to show you that this is the place that crude has been extracted from for decades. The people are still living in abject poverty, no good road, no house here supported by the government.
“We know that the age of oil is coming to an end, and so the idea of this project is we come, engage collaboratory with the community, build their capacity, build their solidarity, build their resilience to resist International Oil Companies (IOCs) and their atrocities. And also reclaim their land that have been destroyed by extraction or stolen for right of way for extractive purpose,” he said.
Henshaw added that “we have seen this in the Niger Delta region when the Ogoni people united against the atrocities of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Nigerian government. They united and stopped Shell from extracting oil from their domains. They were able to force the establishment of HYPREP and clean up the mess going on in the land.”
Speaking at the event, representative of HOMEF, Mr. Stephen Oduware, said that they are in the community in solidarity to sensitise the people on how to peacefully fight for environmental justice and secure their livelihood without violence.
Oduware who noted the impact of oil spill in Eteo community, said that the idea of the meeting was to build community power for resilience, resistance and so that they would be able to work in unity, and get the justice that they deserve.
He said: “We are here in Eteo community to see that they have sections of reflection on certain aspect of what community people should know in order for them to come together to push for that which they really deserve, to push for a healthy and clean environment, for their well-being and livelihood justice.
“Most of these communities pay the heavy price for the exploration and exploitation of crude oil. They pay with their health, livelihood, almost everything because they are bombarded from the air, with gas flaring, from the land with pollution in their farm and even pollution on water. Above that we also know that the life expectancy in Niger Delta has reduced because of these issues.
On his part, Coordinator of Oilwatch, Kentebe Ebiaridor, said “We have noticed that most of the situation in the Niger Delta is caused by what we call ‘Divide and Rule’ tactics which has always been used by multinational companies.
We believe that if the community can stand together as one, they should be able to fight and stand against such tactics that would come up. In doing that, it ensures that they can come together, ask for environmental justice, they can seek what is good for the community.”