By Ekemini Simon
The Community Development Advocacy Foundation (CODAF), also known as the Rural Community Empowerment Initiative, has accused the federal government of Nigeria and the oil majors operating in the Niger Delta of insensitivity.
CODAF says they are insensitive for allowing the region to continue to experience environmental degradation and climate inaction.
CODAF stated this during the commemoration of the 2nd African Peoples Counter COP 2022 “which was held from Monday, October 17th to Wednesday, October 19, 2022, in two riverine communities, Okutun and Odimodi, both in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria.
The action, which was supported by the Africa Climate Justice Group (ACJG) and Friends of the Earth, was tagged a “Climate Action/Peoples Assembly”.
This action was aimed at amplifying the voices of indigenous people and fisher folks, including women, in the creeks of the Niger Delta and creating an advocacy platform for them to tell their pollution stories and neglect to the world.
Addressing the communities engaged, the Executive Director of CODAF, Benin, Richard urged the women to speak up about the environmental injustices being meted on them, and he told them that they are the only ones who can tell their stories to the world.
In his reaction, the Okuntu community Chairman, Mr. Save Azor, narrated their ordeal, and said that a couple of years ago the abundance of fish in the ocean was unimaginable, as women did not need to go deep into the ocean to catch fish as fish were readily available for catching at the shores.
He expressed his displeasure over the difficulty of getting fish explaining that the situation is the same even if one goes deep into the ocean, as the fishes have either died or migrated.
Azor said he believes the situation is as a result of the pollution caused by constant crude oil spills and discharge of waste water into the ocean by Shell, Agip, and other oil exploration companies.
The community chairman stressed that this has adversely affected the biodiversity of the community and their wellbeing.
Mrs Abigail, from Okuntu, who also talked about the pollution of the waters by Shell activities, lamented her ordeal, showing the team a bag of contaminated crayfish that was caught from the sea. She said the fishes cannot be sold or consumed by her family thus, stand at a great loss to her even as the same is experienced by other fishermen and women.
Mr. Kessington Temewei who is a Former Chairman of the community lamented about the pollution of their water by Shell and how they lie about the level of damage done to the environment, even when the negative effect is glaring.
He called on the government to regulate the activities of the oil companies to enable the community to survive and regain their source of livelihood.
Temewei complained of the scarcity and absence of sea foods such as molluscs, which were common around the sea shore before pollution.
The Former Chairman mentioned that money spent on fuel to sail their boat into the deep sea is alarming because the waste water, which is mixed with other chemicals from Shell, is disposed directly into the sea, therefore leading to the loss of aquatic life.
Also speaking, Mrs. Juliet Egbele, said there is no clean drinking water in the community explaining that the water installed by Shell in Odimodi community is contaminated and the level of salt is high.
She said the impact of crude oil is devastating, even when they request a loan to support farmers, but the oil majors do not oblige their request. “The impact of the oil has caused the loss of fish and other aquatic life.”Due to the pollution of the water, they could barely find periwinkles, crayfish, and other sea foods around the sea shores,” she narrated.
In response, the Director of CODAF, Benin, Richard called on the federal government of Nigeria and the oil majors to be more proactive rather than reactive.
He said, the ecological crisis the people of the Niger Delta are facing presently needs serious commitment and quick attention insisting that it goes beyond standing on a podium at the UN general assembly and making statements that will not be implemented back at home.