The Environmental Right Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has charged host communities in the Niger Delta to hold International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in their communities’ accountable for the degradation of their environment and demand adequate compensations. ERA/FoEN also cautioned from IOCs from hiding under the guise of divestment to dodge compensating the oil producing communities for the negative impact of their oil extraction activities.
ERA/FoEN executive director, Chima Williams said this in Warri, Delta State at a Civil Society – Community Engagement on IOC Divestment in the Niger Delta organised by the organisation.
Participants were drawn from oil impacted communities in Warri, Effurun, Ughelli, Ozoro and other parts of Delta State.
Williams said: International oil companies embarked on divestment to cheat Niger Deltans as they sell their companies to indigenous industries in order to escape their supposed responsibilities.
“When the divestment started taking place towards end 2021 early 2022, we felt that this is abnormal and we did internal analysis of the situation. We discovered that the concept of divestment turning the concept of divestment upside down. Whereas, in global setting, the issue of divestment is removing public funds from private business but what we have in Nigeria is multinational selling off their investment … “they are moving to shallow water where we lack the capacity to monitor their activities so they can continue to pollute our environment..”
In his intervention, Community activist, Omafume Amurun explained that “oil companies use propaganda to confuse us. We don’t look at the long term effect of the oil exploration. Today many of the communities are suffering. The oil companies act as if without their companies we can not eat to look as if, before they came, we were not eating..”
He cautioned the youths from fighting each other in name of what they will get from oil companies, adding that the people should not collude with the government to work against themselves.
Coordinator, Kristal Kare Foundation, Jonah Gbemre said the IOCs have impoverished Niger Deltans as their exploration and exploitation activities like gas flaring continue to impact negatively on the people. According to him, gas flaring has reduced the life span of the people in Iwerekhan as many now suffer from blindness, cancer, miscarriages among women among others. He said, due to the activities of the oil companies, poverty is in the land because many of the fishes have died, lands for agriculture have been taken over by the oil companies yet, no adequate compensations are paid to the various communities.
Founder, Development Initiative For Communities Impact, Dr. Rachael Misan Ruppee said, divestment has negative impacts on the women as the domestic companies can not afford to pay what is due for the women in the various communities whereas most women are heads are household. According to her, many of women can not engage in farming as there are no lands for them due to the actions of the multinational companies which according to her, lead to malnutrition and ill health as when most of the women can not feed well, provide for their children’s education which in turns, leads to their children’s drop out from school among others.
She said: When the domestic companies inherit the multinational companies, they can meet up the obligation left behind by these multinational companies hence there would always be problems”. The discussants therefore advocated for Niger Deltans to stand firm to ensure that the International Oil Companies stand to their responsibilities in this regard. The highpoint of the programme was questions and answer sessions.