On June 23, 2022, frontline civil society organizations, socio-cultural groups, academics, traditional rulers and individuals drawn from the Niger Delta states of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers gathered at the city of Uyo in Akwa Ibom state to discuss the socio ecological issues that currently confront the region and its people. The Niger Delta Alternatives Convergence interrogated the current realities and impacts facing the region from impacts of oil extraction on the people and environment, the moves by oil companies to sell off their assets and leave the region, the emerging threats of climate change, the Petroleum Industry Acts and its failures in addressing community issues, the failure of benefits transfer structures like the Niger Delta Development Commission and the 13% derivation, etc. The Convergence which was chaired by his Excellency Obong Victor Attah, former Governor of Akwa Ibom state, and had a keynote presented by Professor G.G Darah, thoroughly examined the above socio ecological and economic issues facing the region and noted thus;
That while the world is transitioning from the use of fossil fuels, Nigeria does not seem to be making any serious plans in that regard. Without a transition plan, the Niger Delta risks being stranded with derelict oil infrastructure and its attendant pollution impacts.
That the region has become an ecological wasteland, utterly devastated by the mindless pollution which has attended the activities of multi-national oil companies. The Convergence also noted that the contamination of soil, air and water in the region has resulted in the poisoning of its people, which has in turn manifested in an alarming increase of illness and a reduction in life expectancy in the area, far below the national average.
That while the findings of UNEP in 2011, following scientific examination of the soil and water in parts of Ogoniland revealed irrefutable evidence of widespread contamination and destruction of the natural environment, 11 years after, the Nigerian government has not deemed it expedient to commence an all-Niger Delta assessment of the ecological damage caused by extraction.
That oil companies that have operated in the Niger Delta for over 6 decades with devastating ecological footprints, are making frantic efforts to sell off their assets and leave under the cover of divestment. No plans have been made for remediating the massive ecological damage that has attended their activities.
That the Petroleum Industry Act (2021) is inadequate in addressing the challenges currently facing the Niger Delta region. Several provisions in the Act rather reinforce the challenges of the region.
That efforts to address the poverty and despoliation of the Niger Delta have largely failed. The management of the 13% Derivation Fund and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), just like other initiatives before them, have become cesspools of corruption.
That government’s natural resource management system has resulted in loss of livelihoods and land rights in forest-dependent communities. Of note is the UNREDD+ scheme and the massive deforestation in Cross River state that is destroying the ecosystem and threatening the livelihood rights of people.
That the impacts of reckless extraction in the Niger Delta have been worsened by climate change among coastline communities,manifesting as sea level rises, sea encroachment, coastal erosion and disruption of farming systems.
Based on the above observations, participants at the Niger Delta Alternatives Convergence endorsed the Niger Delta Manifesto for Socio Ecological Justice and resolved to work in unity and deliberately to drive the following demands therein;
- An immediate and comprehensive audit of the entire Niger Delta region. This audit should cover environmental, livelihood, health, social and economic impacts of crude oil and gas extraction, and should be immediately followed by the remediation of impacted places, restoration of the human and ecological damages causes by extraction activities, and reparations for the irreversible damages caused by oil extraction.
- That the federal government immediately produces a framework and guide for how oil companies disengage from areas where they have operated.
- An immediate review of the PIA by the National Assembly to do the following;
- Provide a definite deadline for gas flaring by oil companies and eliminate powers to permit flaring.
- Review gas flare fines to reflect the same amount as commercial value of natural gas in the international market, while transferring flare fines to host communities.
- Eliminate the section of the PIA that places the responsibility to protect oil installations on host communities.
- Remove the powers to establish Host Community Development Funds from the ‘settlor’ or oil companies, and bestow same on each host community.
- Immediate release to the public of the forensic audit report on the NDDC and the prosecution of all those found to have fleeced the Commission. An immediate review of the NDDC Act to ensure to ensure greater accountability, prudence and participation of people in the affairs of the Commission.
- That all states in the region establish special agencies for the administration of 13% derivation revenues for the benefit of oil producing communities.
- That the land and forest rights of communities are restored and respected, especially in Cross River state, and deliberate efforts are made to check the spate of deforestation.
- That detailed plans are produced to respond to new and emerging climate change threats to include strategies for supporting community resilience, controlling flooding, relocating communities, addressing health concerns and providing for the social and economic needs of affected people.
The Niger Delta Alternatives Convergence will continue as a peoples’ space for advocacy and engagement, guided by the Niger Delta Manifesto for Socio Ecological Justice. *See link to read and endorse Niger Delta Manifesto for Socio Ecological Justice