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New report reveals depressing conditions in Niger Delta communities

By Silver Nwokoro
30 September 2022   |   6:08 am
New report by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has revealed that “communities in the Niger Delta have continued to live in depressing and deplorable conditions

[FILES] A resident stands on marshy shore of a river polluted by oil spills at B-Dere, Ogoniland in Rivers State, southern Nigeria, on August 23, 2021. – Oil firm Shell has agreed to compensate the Ejamah community and three villages in Ogoni community in southern oil and gas-rich Niger delta, which recently won $11 million in compensation to the community over a 1970’s spill that polluted over 225 hectares of their farmlands and fishing waters. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

New report by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has revealed that “communities in the Niger Delta have continued to live in depressing and deplorable conditions, despite the fact that the wealth derived from these areas is the main economic mainstay for the country.”

According to the report, communities in the region remain the poorest in the country. The eight-page report launched, yesterday, at Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, is titled: ‘We Are All Vulnerable Here: How Lack of Transparency and Accountability is Fuelling Human Rights Violations in the Niger Delta.’

The report presented to the media by Dr. Olubunmi Afinowi, Faculty of Law of the University of Lagos, disclosed that the region remained deeply in the grips of squalor, poverty, and environmental degradation.

The report shows that corruption contributes to poverty and consequential suffering of many people in the Niger Delta and that the right of the people to a clean, safe and healthy environment is routinely violated and abused by the government and oil companies.

The report reads: “Extensive social, economic, and environmental degeneration has largely affected the lifestyles and wellbeing of the people of the Niger Delta. Also, apparent is the continued disregard and abuse of the human rights of the people of the region.”

Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, said at the report launch: “The management of the Niger Delta Development Commission by interim administrators is illegal. The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) should advise President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently reconstitute the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Board of Directors.

“Since the appointment of interim administrators is unknown to the NDDC Act, all contracts awarded by them are illegal and liable to be set aside.”

Falana also called on the Federal Government to release the report of the forensic auditing of the NDDC to enable oil-producing communities to demand accountability from many contractors, who collected huge funds and abandoned development projects in the Niger Delta region.

Among people at the report launch were the Speaker of Cross Rivers State House of Assembly, John Etim; the Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), represented by Dr. Grace Chinda; and the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), represented by Kareem Lamidi, team lead advocacy for NEITI.

All participants expressed commitment to ensuring full implementation of the recommendations contained in the report.

The research for the report was conducted under the Niger Delta project supported by the Ford Foundation. The report also reads: “While the oil and gas upstream operations span the entire Niger Delta region, the empirical study in this research focuses on Delta, Bayelsa, and Rivers states.

“The doctrinal study, on the other hand, is more encompassing and examines the challenges and adverse impacts of the oil and gas industries in the host communities and government’s response mechanisms through the various regulatory and institutional frameworks.

“The relevant monitoring agencies have not effectively carried out their duties and functions and this has led to a continued disregard for the rights of the people and the need to protect the environment.

“Corruption is a major factor in the continued degradation in the region. There is the lack of an effective governance and feedback framework to foster interactions between regulators, companies and communities. This implies the lack of transparency and accountability from the companies and the government to the people.”

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