A community citizens’ Jury sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State Capital, has identified over 15 Cases brought before it by the affected community members from the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.
The sitting which took place recently at the instance of Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, at Luton Park Hotel, Udo Udoma Avenue, Uyo, was presided over by professor Sofiri Perterside.
In their separate testimonies at the Environmental Tribunal, some communities in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States narrated their ordeals, how they have been impacted, as a result of oil extractive activities going on in their areas. Those who testified through oral and written evidences were drawn from the following communities; Uruan, Eastern Obolo, Ibeno, Gokana, Emohua, Esit Eket and Mbo Local Government Areas.
In a unanimous ruling on concerns raised by the affected communities, the Judge said Exxon Mobil and other indicted companies operating within the Niger Delta Region were guilty of the charge and blamed them for their inability to live up to expectations, by keeping to their own corporate social responsibilities, to ameliorate the sufferings of their host communities.
Earlier in her welcome remarks, the director of Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, Obonganwan Emem Okon said Community Citizens’ Jury was an Environmental Tribunal meant to identify case studies of the experiences in the Niger Delta communities, as a result of oil extractive activities that have been going on in the region over the pass six decades.
Okon noted that the Tribunal sitting was the 3rd in the series and said it was a space they have provided for community members to share their sad experiences.
” So, this is the 3rd in the series, we started in June, 2022 here in Uyo. The 2nd one was held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State during World AIDS Day. It is a space we have provided for community members to share their stories about their experiences in the extraction of oil in their communities.
” When the extractive activities started, many communities had high expectations that oil companies have come and that oil activities were going on and they expected to see developments. Some of those expectations were that; conditions of living will improve; there would be access to education; there would be access to health care services; there would be employments for the indigenes; there would be better life. But how many decades down the line, communities have been impoverished, what they even have is taken away from them.
” So, they came, saying that they were bringing good things to the community, but they are taking from them instead. From the stories we have listened to, there is no more food. We used to get food from farm, fish from rivers and streams. But all these are polluted because of crude oil, because of the way and manner these companies are operating. They don’t do this in their own countries, they are big big companies that have come to do business in Africa,” she maintained.
She decried a situation, where the oil companies have destroyed their means of livelihoods, ranging from clean environment, to water, good roads and other amenities and called on those in government to come to their aid.
The director moreover, stated that the group was creating a space for the community people to speak up, adding that there was need for the group to help escalate their stories, using the media, so that the people that can help address their problems could hear.
Other panelists who made invaluable contributions during the Tribunal sitting were the representative of the state Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, Mrs Ini Umoh, Mr Bieye Briggs, PhD, Obonganwan Regina Fabian among others.