From: Bamidele Fashube, Abuja
WOMEN groups numbering over 3, 000 in the Niger Delta are calling for environmental justice over continuous depletion of the region’s environment through oil exploration and other pollution related activities.
The group women lamented on the environmental impacts of the sector on the oil rich region.
Joined by other women groups from the South East in solidarity, they highlighted numerous effects of the oil activities, as it threatens their rural livelihoods, agricultural practices, water and the ecosystem.
The event, themed “Building Women Resilience For Climate Action”, held in Uyo, Tuesday had women participants from Edo, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa, Imo and Enugu.
Speaking at the annual event organised by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre, as part of activities to commemorate the 2019 Niger Delta Women’s Day of Action for Environmental Justice, Dr. Heoma Worlu, from the Centre for Conflict and Gender Studies at the University of Port Harcourt, tasked the participants to brace-up actions against environmental degradation.
Worlu, who was represented by Prof. Roibito Ekpiken – Ekanem identified need for the women to take advantage of the platforms presented by the NGO and other stakeholders in the sector.
The event was supported by Ford Foundation, Both ENDS including Development and Peace Group.
According to her, said since 1956 when crude oil was discovered in commercial quantity in Oloibiri, present day Bayelsa State, and in 1958 when the first exportation of crude oil started through Bonny terminus in Rivers State, the Niger Delta region has continued to remain a wetland with delicate environment.
This, she noted has been of enormous economic, political and social importance to the nation – Nigeria.
Her words: “Due to unfavourable alterations of the physical, chemical, or biological balance of the environment, there are adverse effects on the normal functioning of all life forms, including humans.
“The presence of crude oil on our environment can bring about death of aquatic lives, birds of the air, animals on the land, unproductive land and gas flaring.
“Other effects include; increasing rate of flooding and erosion, poor road network in the region as a result of activities of International Oil Corporations (IOCs), militarization among others.”
Earlier, in her remarks, Obonganwan Okon, the Executive Director of Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre said every 17th December was set aside by the group for the Niger Delta women to reflect, as stakeholders on the issue of pollution and environmental degradation.
She emphasised that it would serve as a persistent reminder and need for urgent action to curtail the menace.
Okon reiterated the group’s commitment to draw government’s attention to the fact that many oil bearing communities in the region still suffer impact of oil spillage and manifestation of climate change, through flooding and erosion menace.
She urged government at all levels to take urgent steps to address the challenges.
Moreover, she said all what the group was doing was to strengthen the capacity of the women to continue to lead an advocacy for environmental justice.
This, she added would serve as an encouragement that the women were not alone in the fight to sanitise the region until justice is achieved.
In addition, the event also featured solidarity messages, discussion session, song and drama presentations and interactive sessions.
It ended with an award presentation to Emem, the CEO of Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre by two different women groups.
Some of the women groups present from oil communities in the region are: Ogoni Women Alliance Land Grabs, Ugborodo Women of Delta State, The Voice of Mbo Women of Akwa Ibom, Gelegele Community Women of Edo state, Egi Women Human Right & Environmental Initiative of Rivers State among others.