1 October, 2018
1. The Ijaw Professionals Association (IPA), Homeland Chapter – covering Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States – rose from its general meeting on Sunday the 30th of September 2018 with a unanimous resolution to sound an alarm on the ongoing multiple ecological emergencies and humanitarian crises threatening the continued existence of hundreds of communities across the Ijaw Nation Homeland in Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States in particular and the Niger Delta region in general.
2. This call goes to the Federal Government of Nigeria; the International Community (particularly the United Nations Environment Programme and World Health Organization); the Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States’ Governments; the development and donor community; the Niger Delta Development Commission; concerned corporate organizations; the national and international media, and all humanitarian agencies, to rescue the Ijaw populations and neighbouring communities from the following present threats:
I. The massive 2018 floods ravaging our communities in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States particularly, causing the current displacement of hundreds of thousands of dwellers, with no shelters, food, water, medication and other human necessities, and the fear of an epidemic of diseases that may spread beyond national and international borders.
II. The warning issued a few days ago by the National Space Research and Development Agency about impending earthquakes in 5 states, including Bayelsa State, especially around the petroleum producing communities of Igbogene, Biseni etc, thus adding another troubling dimension to the mortal cocktail of environmental hazards faced by the Ijaws and the Niger Delta peoples.
III. The rain of toxic soot (black particulate matter) in and around Rivers State that has continued completely unchecked and unabated for over two years now, leaving the entire population increasingly at the risk of cancer and other terminal or debilitating diseases.
IV. The continued menace of daily hydrocarbon pollution of our communities, waters and forests in these states, with grossly ineffective regulation or control for sixty years and counting.
THE FLOODS THIS TIME
3. While we commend the selfless and courageous efforts of the Ijaw Flood Control Unit (IFCU) Ijaw Women Connect (IWC), Ijaw Youths Development Association (IYDA) and various individuals and community based organizations that have intervened in the last two weeks with their meagre resources to mobilize facilities and coordinate community self-help in the face of gross neglect by local, state and federal governments, we call on these governments to immediately swing into action to provide adequate social relief (shelter, healthcare, food, water, hygiene, etc) and effective short, medium and long term measures for flood and other ecological control and mitigation.
4. We express the utter disappointment of the Ijaw people that, despite the heavy human casualties and social consequences from previous occurrences like the 1999 flood, the catastrophic 2012 deluge, the annual warnings by NIMET (Nigerian Meteorological Agency) and NIHSA (Nigerian Hydrological Surveys Agency) since 2013, recurrent recommendations and reports by relevant authorities and government committees, and the several months of warnings by these agencies in 2018, neither the Federal Government nor any of our state governments took any credible action to protect our vulnerable communities from the foreseeable floods and only sparingly resort to fire brigade and cosmetic responses after populations are displaced and long public outcry.
5. We condemn the Federal Government’s typical attitude of burying its head in the sand whenever Ijaw and Niger Delta communities are affected by ecological disasters and the discrimination against our communities reflected in the difference between how much and how fast the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) responds to emergencies in other parts of the country and how little and slowly it responds to disasters in our homeland.
6. We equally condemn the utter neglect of the environment sector by state governments in the Niger Delta and the Niger Development Commission (NDDC). These governments and NDDC receive billions of dollars (hundreds of billions of Naira) every year since 1999 by way of the 13% petroleum derivation funds, the statutory NDDC Fund and the Ecological Fund, mostly for the precise reason of protecting the advertized coastal terrain of the core Niger Delta. Yet, they are culpable for the near-zero budget provisioning for environmental exigencies in the region, whilst obsessed instead with the award of contracts for physical projects.
7. We welcome the action of the Bayelsa State Government in setting up a committee to assess and respond to the damage being caused by the floods in the state. We however appeal to the State Government to do far much more, so our communities can avoid the same fate in the event of the floods next time.
8. We therefore call for the following actions:
A. BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT (PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA)
I. Direct NEMA to immediately deploy adequate relief supplies, shelters and services to all flood affected and threatened communities in the Niger Delta region.
II. Declare a state of environmental emergency in the coastal states of the Niger Delta and other flood-affected states, and mobilize all necessary men and materials, including private sector personnel and facilities, to deal with the situation within the ambits of international humanitarian best practice and law.
III. Direct the Ecological Fund Office, NDDC, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and the Federal Ministry of Environment to work in collaboration with the concerned state governments to URGENTLY commission an integrated ecological and water resources management masterplan, backed by clear implementation timelines, a credible monitoring and evaluation framework, dedicated funding, and sovereign/World Bank guarantees for service providers.
IV. Direct and adequately fund the Nigerian Geological Surveys Agency to commission or conduct in consultation with concerned state governments a thorough study to monitor and predict earthquake flash points and adequately prepare to avert or deal with any event or risk of earthquakes and tremors, to avoid the national threat and shame of being caught napping as with the recurrent flood disasters.
V. Promptly release all the held-up funds due to Bayelsa State and other affected states from the Ecological Fund, and avoid any politicization or discrimination in this humanitarian emergency.
B. BY THE DELTA, BAYELSA AND RIVERS STATE GOVERNMENTS
I. Support and cooperate with the IWC and IYDA to boost the efforts, resources and impact of the Ijaw Flood Control Unit.
II. Demonstrate that charity begins at home by equipping, ADEQUATELY FUNDING and deploying the respective State Emergency Management Agencies and Ministries of Environment to respond robustly to the scandalous humanitarian crises besetting our flood-ravaged communities.
III. Work with the States Houses of Assembly to present and pass a supplementary budget for the purpose, and declare and implement a constructive state of environmental emergency, as amply allowed under the Constitution of Nigeria.
IV. Enact laws to establish and equip State Ecological Management Boards for effective protection, enhancement and economic beneficiation of the states’ ecological terrain and resources.
C. BY THE DEVELOPMENT, HUMANITARIAN, DONOR AND PRIVATE SECTORS (INCLUDING RED CROSS)
I. Urgently come to the aid of affected communities with medical support and other forms of emergency aid, and pay special attention to vulnerable persons: the aged, children, physically challenged persons, and women.
D. BY THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR PETROLEUM (DR IBE KACHIKWU), RIVERS STATE GOVERNOR (NYESOM WIKE), MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT AND NOSDRA
I. Take action NOW to stop the toxic soot rain on Port Harcourt and environs, caused by the formal and rogue petroleum operators, save our peoples’ lives and stop the blame-trading game.
E. BY IJAW AND NIGER DELTA SENATORS AND FEDERAL REPRESENTATIVES
I. Be alive to your electoral mandates and actively work to ensure that respective federal and state authorities implement the recommendations made above.
F. BY THE NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL MEDIA
I. Help our devastated communities by giving maximum local and international media coverage to the current floods, the threat of earthquakes and other present ecological disasters ravaging the communities, with attendant humanitarian crises.
President, Homeland Chapter
(Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States)
Stella Alaere Raine
Vice President , Homeland Chapter