United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues- Rita Izakand her team arrived Port Harcourt the Rivers State capital for a one-day working tour to Rumuekpe and communities in Ogoni where the marginalized and oppressed people are already grappling with the negative effects of a devastated environment and unfavorable state policies that does not protect minority rights like their language, religion and ethnicity.
In Ogoni the team held meetings with community groups who complained about political marginalization and gross under representation in Nigeria institutions. Citing the ongoing selection of delegates for the National Conference, Ogonis lamented that why the Hausa Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba ethnic nationalities would be having several delegates, the Ogoni ethnic nationality and other smaller groups like the Ikwerre, Ekpeye and Etches, would be struggling to have just a space.
Special Rapporteur Rita Izak, Graham Fox, Human Rights Officer and Maggreta listening to Celestine AkpoBari at a spill site in Ogoni on Tuesday 25 February, 2014.
The people also draw the attention of the visiting team to the difficulty community people were having as a result of the non implementation of UNEP Report recommendations on Ogoni environment by the President Jonathan led federal government of Nigeria.
Another issue raised by the Ogoni community was the issue of a dying language and an ugly situation where their children were being forced by unfavorable state education policies to compulsorily study other languages and not as a choice. Continuing, they said it was sad that up coming Ogonismay not be able to read and write in Ogoni excepting something is urgently done to reverse this.
Rita Izak led UN Team with community people in an Ogoni community.
According to the Ogoni, the worst victims of the various problems faced by the people are the women and children who directly are at the receiving ends of living in a polluted environment with its attendant loss of livelihoods, hunger and strange ailments associated with such poisonous environment.
The team departed Ogoni to Rumuekpe late afternoon same day to see for themselves what oil fuelled crisis can do to a people. In Rumuekpe it wasn’t difficult to see the real meaning of ‘Resource Curse” as there was nothing to show that the small community has four giant oil companies (Shell, Agip, Total/Fina’Elf and NDPR) operating twenty fours every day for over four decades. The community cannot boast of any source of drinking water, good road and even a school at the time of visit last Tuesday 25 February, 2014
In one of her reports “Fuelling Discord”, Social Action has published what role the multinational companies play in fuelling conflicts in communities where they operate through the usual divide and rule tactics; from Umuechem in 1990, Ogoni 1993-1996, Rumuekpe 2004 till date and several other communities.
Incidentally, Social Action has been working very hard to reconcile the different factions in the Rumuekpe crisis since 2010 and has commenced engagement with different stakeholders in ensuring the full rehabilitation of community people who were forced into exile in 2005 by the crisis that engulfed the community.
Celestine AkpoBari of Social Action and the UN Team arriving Rumuekpe
Addressing the team at Rumuekpe, the community Youth Leader, Prince Chimnarrated the sad story of the crisis that sent the community packing and how oil companies especially Shell provided funds that fuelled the conflict which engulfed the area.
MrLegborsiPyagbara-MOSOP President who has earlier received the team in Ogoni accompanied the team to Rumuekpe. He said the people share the same faith with the Ogonis and suffers same negative consequences associated with oil extraction.
The community representative while commending the team for finding time to visit, called for urgent intervention from the government and development agencies to quicken the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation of the exiled community members. According to him, constant oil spill in and around the community was affecting economic and agricultural activities negatively.
It should be noted that the Executive Governor of Rivers State, RtHonourableRotimiAmaechi recently promised to support the rehabilitation process and has actually set up a small committee to look into this.
In her response, the UN Special Rapporteur expressed the team’s appreciation to community people for their peaceful disposition in the face of life threatening challenges and promise to draw attention to their plights nationally and internationally through the report she would be presenting to the United Nations on her visit.
Meanwhile, the team has arrived Abuja for a press briefing schedule for Friday 28 February 2014.