For a Safer Earth, Healthier Climate

CODAF Decries Government Insensitivity in the Niger Delta

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja

A group, 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 for allowing the region to continue to experience environmental degradation and climate inaction.

CODAF made this known during the commemoration of the 2nd African Peoples Counter COP 2022 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 “Climate Action/Peoples Assembly” and 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, Executive Director of CODAF,  Richard Benin, urged the women to speak up about the environmental injustices being meted on them, telling them that they are the only ones who can tell their stories to the world.  

The Director 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, and goes beyond standing on a podium at the UN general assembly and making statements that will not be implemented back at home.”

In his reaction, 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 regarding the difficulty of getting fish even if one goes deep into the ocean, as they have all died or have migrated. 

And he believed this is a result of the pollution caused by constant crude oil spills and the discharge of wastewater into the ocean by Shell, Agip, and other oil exploration companies. And this has adversely affected the biodiversity of the community and their well-being.

Lamenting her ordeal, Mrs. Abigail, from Okuntu, also talked about the pollution of the waters by Shell activities. She showed the team a bag of contaminated crayfish that was caught from the sea, saying it cannot be sold or consumed by her family. “Thus, it is a great loss to her and it is same for other fishermen and women.”

Mr. Kessington Temewei (Former Chairman) lamented the alleged Shell pollution of their water 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 oil companies to enable the community to survive and regain their source of livelihood and decried the scarcity and absence of seafood such as mollusks, which were common around the seashore before pollution. He mentioned that money spent on fuel to sail their boat into the deep sea is alarming because the wastewater, which is mixed with other chemicals from Shell, is disposed directly into the sea, therefore leading to the loss of aquatic life.

Mrs. Juliet K. Egbele, lamented “There was no clean drinking water in the community as 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 requested for a loan to support farmers and were denied by the oil majors.

“The impact of the oil has caused the loss of fish and other aquatic life. Due to the pollution, we can barely find periwinkles, crayfish, and other sea foods around the shores,” she narrated.

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