Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre collaborated with WOMIN
African Alliance to organize one week Learning Exchange Meeting and solidarity visit to
provide opportunity for civil society organizations from Botswana and Sierra Leone have
direct engagement with the experiences of oil impacted communities in the Niger Delta.
The aim of the visit was to help Sierra Leone and Botswana activists to learn from Niger
Delta communities on how to engage with government and the international oil
companies to strengthen their own engagement process with their government and
companies operating in the mining sector. Furthermore, the visit revealed strategies
deployed by communities in the Niger Delta in the engagements with mining and
extractive companies to protect the rights of communities and mitigate human rights
abuses and environmental degradation.
There were 10 persons from Botswana and 4 from Sierra Leone. The team visited oil
impacted communities in Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states. In Bayelsa state, the
high point was the visit to the Palace of His Royal Majesty King Bubaraye Dakolo
(Agada IV), The Ibenanaowei of Epetiama Kingdom. King Dakolo is the author of ‘The
Riddle of the Oil Thief’. The book details the environmental issues and socio-economic
challenges associated with hydrocarbon extraction in the Niger Delta. In his speech
during the visit, His Majesty stated that oil and gas exploitation came with serious socio-
economic disruptions which the government and oil companies failed to handle and this
has resulted in very negative behaviours and sociological patterns amongst youths. The
King also noted with dismay that there is no sustainable livelihood programme in place
to address the destruction of the ecosystem by the activities of the oil corporations.
The group also visited the Oloibiri Oil Well 1 located at Otubagi community, the first oil
well in Nigeria which symbolizes the tragedies and pains of the Niger Delta experience
in hydrocarbon extraction. Oil Well One was the first commercial oil well drilled by Royal
Dutch Shell in Nigeria. The Well has since been abandoned and decommissioned by
Shell and is now a national monument. The Otuabagi women, who received the team
lamented how Shell and the Federal government have neglected them after making huge profits from oil taken from their land.
In River state, the visit to a Umuobizi community, Ibaa clan in Emuoha local
Government Area where the team saw several holes locked with metal pipes where a well drilled for water bore-hole is filled with crude oil instead of water. The residents of the compound narrated how Shell staff often go to the compound with tankers to pump the crude from the well. The well is covered with a metal with eleven holes scattered all over the compound.
Ogoni women spoke passionately about the polluted environment, the report released
by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2011 and the ongoing clean up in Ogoniland by the Federal Government through the Hydrocarbon Pollution
Remediation Project (HYPREP). This led to the visiting HYPREP water treatment
facility in Alesa- Eleme. The water intervention was from the recommendation of UNEP report of OgoniLand.
There was also a visit to the Goi community, which suffered heavy impacts of the 2008 and 2012 major oil spillage that occurred in Bodo community. Goi is not an oil producing community, but community lost major businesses such as commercial fish ponds, bakery, and cassava farms. The water pollution led to massive losses in fisheries and aquatic lives. The community recently won a lawsuit against Shell in the Netherlands and is demanding compensation for farmers, fisher folks etc.
Other places visited during the learning exchange are:
Ikot Ada Udo in Ikot Abasi Local Government in Akwa Ibom State, a community
with an abandoned oil well. Ikot Ada Udo a major spill in 2006.
Upenekang community in Ibeno Local Governmet Area, where Exxon Mobil
have been operating over the past decades with several incidnets of oil spill.
This brief will be concluded with a quote from one of the Ogoni women “we don’t want
our friends from Botswana and Sierra Leone to make the same mistakes we have made
by not asking questions early. They should fight for their rights and demand inclusion
and community participation” – Lezina Patrick.
More photos from the learning exchange visit below.