The Niger Delta is home to one of the largest mangrove forests in the world and doubles as the region with the largest mangrove forest in Africa. The region is generally rich in biodiversity. Unfortunately, oil exploration and exploitation have had, and still have, huge impacts on these ecosystems in the most devastating manner. Among the drivers of these impacts are oil pollution and gas flaring, which have not only destroyed the environment but has had grave impacts on the health, livelihoods, and wellbeing of communities. To bring the issues to the remembrance of stakeholders, especially the organs of government and policy makers, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) embarked on advocacy visits to government agencies in Rivers State.
Speaking during the advocacy visits, HOMEF’s Director Nnimmo Bassey noted that it was important and timely to meet with government agencies at this time of political leadership transition and to explore opportunities and ways of strengthening the push for a pollution free and healthy environment for communities in the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large.
In a visit to Hydrocarbons Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), while congratulating the new HYPREP Coordinator, Bassey noted that HOMEF believes the success of the Ogoni clean-up is cardinal trigger for the clean-up of other polluted areas of the region. There, are a whole lot of expectations placed on HYPREP and there must be transparency and accountability and we request that CSOs and other critical stakeholders should have access to the work sites and project milestones for the purpose of regular evaluation and assessment of work being done.
While responding, the Coordinator of HYPREP, Prof. Nenibarini Zabbey, expressed gratitude for the show of support and pledged to hit the ground running with a human-centric approach. “Things are beginning to take shape and in the coming weeks, there will be a lot of activities because the Federal government has awarded 39 plots for remediation, 34 shoreline cleanup contracts, and 9 mangrove regeneration contracts. We are also contracting an ecologist who will train youths on how to setup mangrove nurseries. We are not just doing the training, there will be grants to start up their mangrove nurseries, as a means enhancing livelihoods”.
Prof. Zabbey further stated that his approach will be a human-centric cleanup and restoration approach which will be participatory. “We are going to have 60 percent men and 40 percent women participation in some of the cleanup processes. We are strengthening our Monitoring and Evaluation abilities in cooperation with UNEP.
In a related development, HOMEF extended the advocacy visits to the Rivers State Ministry of Environment where they were received by Dr Ken Okoro, Head of Department, Planning, Research and Statistics. During the visit, Dr Okoro stated, “We are happy to work with NGOs that are focused on environmental management. The Ministry will continue to support organizations like HOMEF to address the environmental issues affecting the state”.
During the visit to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Coordinator of the Eastern Zone (CEZ) and the officer in charge of the Marine Environment Management Department (MEMD) – Mr Yusuf Barde and Mrs Bapakaye Youngharry respectively welcomed the team and gave a presentation on Agency’s responsibilities in the maritime sector. The CEZ noted that they are open for exchanges with CSOs to ensure the quality of their work and deliver on their mandate.
HOMEF used the opportunity of the visits to present some of the organization’s publications including Eco-Instigator, Politics of Turbulent Waters and a Policy Brief on Socioecological Justice in the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large.