The Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) has embarked on the training of about 80 residents of Ogboibiri, an oil-bearing community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State on how to monitor oil producing activities in their community.
Addressing volunteers during the training, the Programmes Manager, HOMEF, Mr. Stephen Oduware, said the training of volunteers from oil bearing communities was imperative because it was the people that were impacted by the activities of oil and gas industry and thus were better placed to monitor the environment.
He identified International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the area notably Agip and Shell as the dominant polluters and have had series of oil spills in 2015, 2021 and 2022.
Oduware said the aim of environmental monitoring and reporting training was to bring the people together to highlight and document the environmental impacts, the changes they are going through and the sufferings of the people.
He noted that through the capacity building they will be able to advocate sustainable environmental practices and speak up on what they want in their community.
Oduware explained that the session also covered community governance organising because as communities, they have the numbers and the backing of civil society organisations like HOMEF and ERA and that amplify their voices.
He said, “Ogboinbiri is one of the communities heavily impacted by pollution and that is why we came here today to stand in solidarity with the people and to tell them that together we can push and fight for a healthy environment, it may take time but we will win it at the end of the day.
“They have mentioned that they have been having a series of oil spills and gas leakages that have resulted to environmental pollution degradation.
“They have lost their livelihood because they are fishermen and farmers. You hear today that a particular species called ‘Mama Coco’, a cherished specie of cocoyam is extinct in the community and their farm produce is no longer yielding desired harvest.
“The fishermen and women can no longer go to the river to fish because the water body is highly polluted and you know you cannot find fish in the soup of oil,” he said.
The Programme Manager, Head Environmental Right Action (ERA), Niger Delta Resource Centre, Mr Morris Alagoa, said that the event is to educate the people on the importance of the environment and pollution and it’s mitigation procedures.
He said due to the activities of man in the environment, most of the aquatic animals and food items and crops have become extinct.
He said oil spill is one of the things hindering healthy living amongst the rural dwellers, stating that the environment has been polluted over time.
“We are in the community to empower them on how to reach out to their people on what to do in order to reach out to the government, the oil firms, the media and to be self-reliant in dealing with their issues,” he said.
He commended HOMEF, for the training and sensitization of the rural people who are the host community.
The Project Officer, ERA, Mr. Monday Zeworitin, said oil spills load the marine environment with a lot of dangerous chemicals that are detrimental to life under water.
“When exposed to oil, adult fish may experience reduced growth, enlarged livers, changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion, and reproduction impairment. Oil also adversely affects eggs and larval survival,” he said.
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