Friday, 11 January 2013

Niger Delta civil society organisations, ready to fight illegal trade in oil and non-implementation of Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in Nigeria


ASABA- Civil society organisations in the Niger Delta under the platform of Joint Action against Illegal Trade in Oil and Insecurity have expressed determination to take on the problem  of illegal trade in oil and non-implementation of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights by oil companies in Nigeria. This is coming as part of the outcome of  a consultative meeting  of 18 civil society representatives on the theme, “Oil Theft, Violence and Poverty in the Niger Delta” that held on 5 December 2012 at Hotel Binizia, Asaba, Delta State.

The meeting, which was organised by CLEEN Foundation, explored  workable stakeholder framework of engaging with the problem of oil theft and attendant environmental, security, health, economic and social consequences. Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation, Innocent Chukwuma explained the aim  of the meeting and urged participants to decide  how best to respond  to the issue.  The discussions were coordinated by Isioma Kemakolam, Programme Officer with CLEEN Foundation.  

Speaking on the topic, “Responding to Oil Theft in the Delta,” Barrister Chima Williams,  on behalf of Environmental Rights Action (ERA) executive director Nnimmo Bassey, argued that civil society organisations should work to discourage environmental damage, poverty and insecurity being promoted by illegal oil trade in the delta.  He proposed a number of ways in which this could be done, including education and mobilisation of locals, as well as exposing forces behind the business which he identified as people in power, military personnel (retired and serving), and multinational oil companies. Given the expensive nature of the business, local youths involved in the business at the level of local refining must depend on those who have money for transporting the product to the point of sales. They are therefore at the bottom of th ladder among those involved in  the business.
Dr Fidelis Allen,  chair of the network, spoke on “Implementing Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.”  He identified three key elements of the principles as: risk assessment, relations with public security providers, and relations with private security providers. Allen argued that security is wrongly conceptualised in the principles. According to him, security is flawed if the emphasis, as it were, is on protecting physical oil facilities alone. Environmental and human security cannot be ignored in any definition of oil related insecurity. “As it stands, the principles do not promote human and environmental security,” he notes. In addition, oil companies currently making various claims of implementation of the principles are in reality merely making efforts to ensure the social licence for continued operation in the context of capitalist drive for profits. Here lies, according to Allen,  the ideological limitation to effective implementation of the principles. In conclusion, Allen called on oil companies to develop comprehensive strategies in response to public complaints against activities of security forces attached to oil companies with respect to human rights. Environmental and human security should be given corresponding attention in the business.


The meeting came to an end with decisions to follow up on these issues one of which is a summit titled “Responding to Oil Theft, poverty and insecurity in the Niger Delta’ planned for 21st and 22nd February 2013, where stakeholders will discuss the problem of oil theft, poverty, violence and implementation of the voluntary principles with a view of determining practical ways of addressing the issues for security and development in Nigeria.

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