DAKAR, Feb 9 (TerraViva) – Nigerian environmental rights groups have been making the case for the expulsion of oil companies from the Niger Delta in the southeastern part of the country.
Gas flare at Rumuekpe, Rivers State. Credit: Israel Aloja / Environmental Rights Action Friends Of The Earth Nigeria
Speaking at a meeting organised by a group of Nigerian women’s environmental rights activists, Goodison Jim Dorgu, the Executive Director of the NGO Environmental Health and Safety Network, based in the oil-producing state of Bayelsa, said Nigerian civil society has come to the united conclusion that oil companies responsible for severe environmental degradation should leave without delay.
Other speakers outlined how the oil industry has provoked violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta, with women bearing the burnt of the assaults. Emem Okon, the head of the Women’s Development and Resource Centre in the city of Port Harcourt, alleged that the oil companies’ own security personnel have been involved in attacks on women. She also said the Nigerian army had committed grave violations of human rights.
âIn Ogoniland, the government set up the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force, and what these soldiers did was to use women as a weapon of war. A lot of women were raped, a lot of young girls were taken into sexual slavery.â
The head of Friends of the Earth International, Nnimmo Bassey, said environmental justice for the Niger Delta will be a long struggle. âThe regime of responsibility has been so well entrenched and there’s the military backing for what the oil companies are doing, the govenment is behind them,â he says.
“There are a lot of restrictions. A lot more work is still going to be done, but one day, when nobody expects it… the people will prevail.â