SERAP Strives to Protect Niger Delta’s Rights to Healthy Environment
By Yemi Olakitan
The Federal Government of Nigeria has been encouraged by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to establish a legal framework that will ensure that oil and gas firms acknowledge the right of the Niger Delta’s residents to a healthy environment.
“Promoting Transparency and Accountability in the Use of Public Funds in Nigeria With a Focus on the Niger Delta” was the topic of a journalist-interactive session that SERAP held in Lagos.
Dr. Bunmi Afinowi, a lecturer at the University of Lagos’ Faculty of Law, who spoke on the subject, asked the government to ensure that the framework is implemented, first in the Niger Delta and then across the entire nation.
Afinowi claimed that doing this was essential to ensuring that when the rights of people in the Niger Delta were violated, individuals, communities, and civil society organisations would have access to both domestic and international tribunals to seek remedy.
She believed there was no justification for the Niger-Delta region, which provided a large portion of the resources on which the nation depended, to be impoverished and for oil and gas companies to abuse the rights of the local populace.
Afinowi suggested hiring legal, environmental, and policy experts and decision-makers on a recurring basis to evaluate and strengthen current laws, rules, and policies pertaining to the oil and gas industry in terms of resource management and extractive operations.
She also encouraged the federal government to establish a forum or channel for informing regional people about oil and gas operations, revenue distribution, and environmental impact assessments.
Afinowi stated that educational materials must be created and disseminated in order to increase public knowledge of the impacts of the industry on communities and the value of openness.
In a message of goodwill, Mr. Eze Anaba, President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, urged people to make sure that the Niger Delta’s resources were used to advance the area.
In order to encourage good governance and respect for the rule of law, he reiterated the importance of transparency and accountability in all facets of government.
Anaba stated that in order to accomplish the goal, the media had a role to play.
In the Niger Delta, specifically, he added, “Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, stated the roles that members of the profession are expected to play in contributing to efforts to promote transparency and accountability.”
The Niger Delta’s strategic importance cannot be overstated, according to Dr. Dasuki Arabi, Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reform.
He pointed out that various administrations have made daring moves to assure the region’s prosperity.
He claimed that one of the courageous actions taken to address the problems in the area was the creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission, which would promote sustainable development.
Invoking Solomon Funkekeme Gov. Sinminalayi Fubara of the Rivers was represented by Solomon, who stressed the significance of the area’s defence and safety.
He continued by stating that the terrain in the area was unique and challenging and that, for instance, less money was spent building a road in Abuja than in the Niger Delta.
In his welcome speech, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, the deputy director of SERAP, stated that around 122 million Nigerians were living in poverty.
Oluwadare claimed that corruption played a role in Nigeria’s status as one of the world’s poorest countries.
He asked Bola Tinubu’s administration to go after the “big fish” in government circles in order to show that it had the political will to combat corruption.
He asked the administration to uphold the rule of law and ensure freedom of speech.