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Oil Exploration And Niger Delta Environment

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From the first crude oil export in 1958 to the exploration of its associated products such as gas, the Niger Delta region for the past 60 years has not fared well in terms of sustained development despite being the source of the nation’s means of livelihood.
According to reports from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the region generates between 65% to 75% of all Federal Government’s revenue especially after the end of the Civil War in 1970.
But today, although oil and gas and its associated products still run the nation’s economy, its bye-products and impact on the region are quite devastating on both environment and the socio-economic life of the people of the area. The aquatic life, forests and farmlands have been so degraded that some areas are now devoid of human and animal habitation. Diseases and sickness are now prevalent with some communities are facing great health challenges.
Worried by these hazards, the late renowned playwright, and novelist, Kenuule Saro-Wiwa raised alarm in the late 1980’s about the fast paced degradation of the environment of the Niger Delta region. Although he was eventually killed during the struggle to find an equitable solution to the problem, the fight for a comprehensive study and remediation of the environment continued unabated despite the obstacles placed on would-be environmental activists.
The region is also described as one of the most polluted in the world. It is estimated that while the European Union experienced 10 incidences of oil spills in 40 years, Nigeria recorded 9,343 cases in 10 years which could be described as a deliberate effort to slowly eradicate life from the area through poisoning of the environment.
Following the long agitations and protests from the area, the Federal Government in 2016 finally gave the nod for the implementation of the long awaited United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report beginning from 2016.
In a foreword to the report on the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland as a case study, UNEP had this to say: “The history of oil exploration and production in Ogoni land is a large complex and often painful one that till date has become seemingly intractable in terms of its resolution and future discussion.”
It also says, “It is also history that has put people and politics and the oil industry at loggerheads rendering a landscape characterised by lack of trust, paralysis and become set against a worsening situation for the communities concerned.”
The situation in Ogoniland is peculiar to the rest of the Niger Delta region.
The discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State was the beginning of the environmental crisis bedeviling the Niger Delta region.
It would be recalled that the agitation for environmental reparation of the Niger Delta region dated back to the colonial times.
The agitations led to the setting up of the Willinks Commission of inquiry into the fears of the minorities. Although the commission amongst others, recommended the granting of special developmental status to the Niger Delta, the recommendation was never implemented by successive Nigerian governments after independence.
The exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbon in the Niger Delta region can be said to be of mixed blessings to the region.
On the one hand, it improved the per capita income of the region through the creation of middle and high income earners. But on the other hand, it has led to series of environmental pollutions, thereby depriving communities in the region of their sources of livelihood.
This situation has led to series of crisis in the region such as the Ogoni crisis of 1990 to 1993, the Kaiama Declaration which led to the creation of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), the crisis in Umuechem in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State and others.
Similarly, the development of artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta has also been blamed for contributing to the recent acid rain and black soot in the environment.
Although the Nigerian authorities may have taken some measures to ameliorate the sufferings caused by oil explorations in the region, through the creation of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) which metamorphosed into Federal Ministry of Environment, the creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); inclusion of derivation into the Constitution and the creation of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs have not been able to provide the much-needed succour to the people of the Niger Delta as the problems still persist.
Meanwhile, experts have attributed the high rate of poverty in the Niger Delta to the environmental degradation of the region. At a recent Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) meeting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo shared a documentary of the current situation in the Niger Delta, adding that the region has remained backward despite its huge economic contributions to the Nigerian nation.
Ambassador Toyo who was secretary to the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta during the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration said, “it is frustrating to know that the context has not changed as these challenges still stare the region in the face.
“The Niger Delta is still very much degraded as issues such as the following are still debated upon: gas flaring, abject poverty, militancy, crude oil theft, unemployment, cultism and organised crime, poor state of infrastructure and underdevelopment,” she said.
She also said; “apart from lack of opportunities in the region, there is also the breakdown of law and order in the communities.
“Communities often fight over who gets what when development opportunities arise as seen in some communities in Ogoni with regards to the clean-up,” adding that such fight can scare investors away and the region will continue to suffer underdevelopment.
Also in its policy brief note on insecurity in Rivers State, the Niger Delta Dialogue Secretariat says, “there is an environmental dimension to insecurity in Rivers State. For several years now, Port Harcourt and its environs have been covered by soot.
“This is as a result of increased artisanal refining of crude oil and other forms of pollution in the state.
“These pollution-inducing activities from both illegal artisanal and legal oil production has increased environmental insecurity in Rivers State.
“This has negatively impacted on the quality of life in Rivers State,” it said.
Also speaking on the issue, a civil society activist, Ambassador Christy Iwezor said the Nigerian nation has not done enough for the Niger Delta.
She said 60 years down the lane, some oil producing communities have no water to drink and cited the example of some communities in ogoniland in which sources of water have been polluted.
Also speaking, another civil rights activist, Prince William Chinwo stressed the need for a policy that will incorporate the polluters pay principle into the Nigerian law.
According to him, if multinational companies are fined for pollution, they will be more careful in their operations.
He also blamed environmental problems on sanitary conducts.
“The problems of environmental degradation in Nigerian is caused by poor sanitary conduct of Nigerians and inefficient use of local government council workers on environmental sanitation.”
According to him, local government councils must also wakeup to their responsibilities of ensuring improved level of hygiene in their various communities.
The question is after 60 years of independence, have we really made any meaningful progress in the Niger Delta compared to similar environments across the globe where oil and gas are the mainstay of their economy. It would be noted that the gulf countries where oil and gas are the mainstay of their economy have gone far ahead in terms of environmental remediation.
The 60 years anniversary should provide the opportunity for the country to further look into the Niger Delta issues.

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Compromised People Accuse Judiciary Of Corruption, Wike Affirms

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has said that those accusing the Judiciary in Nigeria of being corrupt, are not clean themselves.
He noted that while corruption in the Judiciary undermines the courts’ credibility, those who often are quick to throw tantrum at Judiciary, particularly legal practitioners, are culpable as well.
Wike made this assertion, last Monday night, during a state banquet organised at the Government House, Port Harcourt, in honour of Hon. Justice Mary Peter Odili, on her 70th birthday and retirement from the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“For me, those who are abusing the Judiciary of corruption, their hands are not clean. Anybody who is abusing the Judiciary or judges, their hands are not clean. But that does not also mean that even you in the Judiciary should not keep your house in order. That is the truth.”
Ahead of the 2023 general election, the governor urged state High Courts to abide by the provisions of the new Electoral Act, which prohibits them from handling pre-election or electoral matters.
According to the governor, some state High Courts are already acting in contravention of the law.
“The truth is that the Electoral Act says anything about pre-election or electoral matters, is now to be decided by the Federal High Court.”
Wike declared he would remain eternally grateful to Hon. Justice Mary Odili, for creating the opportunity for him to meet her husband and former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, when he ventured into active partisan politics in 1998.
The Rivers State governor reiterated that there was no politician serving at the federal or state level since 1999 that would deny the fact that they did not pass through the tutelage of Peter Odili.
He said despite the generosity of Peter Odili and his family, some of those whom they had helped politically, have regrettably betrayed and humiliated them.
“I have never seen a man who has suffered humiliation; I have never seen a man who has suffered betrayal in life like Peter Odili.”
Wike further explained that Peter Odili’s insistence that someone from the Ikwerre extraction should succeed him as governor in 2007, earned him some enemies.
“Dr. Odili’s biggest problem in this state today, people must know the truth, is because he said Ikwerre man must become governor, that’s it. If any man tells you that Odili has committed any other sin, it’s a lie. It’s just because he said Ikwerre man must become governor.
“Unfortunately, we the Ikwerre people whom he said should be governor, are the ones that put him in the witness box. But I want to appeal to him, forgive, you are a Christian. Forgive all of us.”
Wike, who recalled how the Odili family suffered blackmail and humiliation because of him, vowed never to grieve or engage in acts that would bring them into disrepute.
He reaffirmed that Dr. Odili’s fatherly counsel has been one of the reasons why he has succeeded in the governance and transformation of Rivers State since 2015.
In his remarks on behalf of his family, former Rivers State Governor, Dr. Peter Odili, said all through his wife’s career as a judicial officer, he never for once attempted to influence her in any matter.
The former recalled two instances when a late traditional ruler in Port Harcourt and his extended family members from Ndoni had approached him to intervene in matters before his wife’s court, but he declined and offered to help them pay their legal fees.
“When I finished being governor and went to Abuja to spend time with her, and a lot of political cases as you know were rolling over each other. All my friends in Abuja know and they tell each other, the moment you have case either at the Court of Appeal when she was there or at the Supreme Court, the access you use to have to come as a personal friend ceases until the case is over.”
Odili thanked Wike and the people of Rivers State for honouring his wife after 44 years of meritorious service in the Judiciary.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, described Justice Odili, as an epitome of dignity, hard work, fairness and excellence.
Represented by Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, he said Justice Odili remains an inspiration to the girl-child.
“My Lord has shown what is possible with diligence, hard work and integrity. Through you we see that the sky is the limit.”

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Wike Slams NBA’s Lacklustre Approach To Social Change

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has urged the leadership of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to go beyond issuing of statements, to taking concrete actions against attacks on the nation’s Judiciary.
Wike gave the charge at the book presentation in honour of Justice Mary Odili as part of activities marking her retirement from the Supreme Court of Nigeria and her 70th Birthday celebration, which held at Dr. Obi Wali International Conference Centre in Port Harcourt, last Monday.
Governors present at the event were: Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia); Rt. Hon. Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa); Mr. Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom); Senator Douye Diri (Bayelsa); Samuel Ortom (Benue); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); and Engr Seyi Makinde (Oyo).
The governor expressed regrets at the NBA’s lacklustre approach to social change, which is more of a disservice to the nation and exposes it to contempt.
“What is even worrisome on the part of the president of the NBA is his failure to admit that the NBA, including the inner and outer Bar, which he leads, have failed in their responsibility to protect the rule of law and defend the judiciary from punitive intimidation and erosion of its independence by the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government.
“It is quite unfortunate that the NBA is only good at issuing bland statements of condemnation without more, while the judiciary continues to suffer ferocious bouts of harassment from a Federal Government that has become notorious for its contemptuous attitude towards the rule of law and the rights of Nigerians to an effective justice system.”
Wike also expressed his disagreement with some speakers in last Thursday’s valedictory court session organised in honour of Justice Odili, who laid the blame on politicians over the problems that the judiciary suffers.
Specifically, Wike said Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, speaking for the Body of Senior Advocates at the valedictory court session, identified corruption as the bane of the Nigerian Judiciary and pointed fingers of responsibility at politicians, lawyers and the Federal Government.
Wike noted that while the learned Senior Advocate was largely correct with respect to the issues of forum shopping by lawyers and the intimidation of the courts by the Federal Government, he was, however, wrong in his allusion to political cases as responsible for the debasement of Nigerian courts.
“Now, if I may ask: are lawyers not behind the contemptuous criticisms of judges by clients? How many lawyers have withdrawn from political cases in protest against unwarranted castigation of the court by clients?
“How many lawyers have withdrawn their services to clients on account of frivolous petitions against the court without their consent? Who are those who advice politicians to reach out to judges? Where are the lawyers that have ever advised their clients against reaching out to judges handling their matters?
“For me, let us stop the scapegoating and tell ourselves the truth that as lawyers, most of us are all involved in this despicable conduct, perpetrating the same evil, only at different levels because of our predisposition for success through backdoors without any regard to the damage we are doing to the reputation of the entire judicial system.”
The governor said the Federal Government had in 2016 unleashed premeditated midnight raids on judges’ homes, including the Justices of the Supreme Court, in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Gombe, Kano, Enugu and Sokoto states.
“In 2020, when the sanctity of Justice Mary Odili’s home was violated by hired members of the APC over the Supreme Court’s judgement that sacked the party’s governorship candidate for Bayelsa State, the NBA just condemned it, without any further follow-up action to forestall a reoccurrence.”
Wike also pointed out that there was need not also lose sight of the fact that the Judiciary is also a problem to itself because it is weak and incapable of asserting and safeguarding its independence from the predatory tendencies of other arms of government.
He noted that when judges are lacking in courage and integrity, they easily give up to improper pressure, influence and control, and the entire Judiciary suffers.
Wike assured that if elected the President of Nigeria in 2023, he will work with the National Assembly to prioritize the welfare of all judicial officers, including the provision of official cars and life-long accommodation as we have done here in Rivers State.
“With me on the saddle as the President and Commander-in-Chief, the Judiciary in Nigeria shall be in safe good hands and Nigerians will again experience the glorious days of an independent, vibrant and progressive Judiciary.”
In her remarks, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justice Mary Odili, noted that though Nigerian judges are among the best in the world, they have never been treated right.
“A lot has been said about judges, judgements and corruption and what have you. The truths be told, the Nigerian judges have not been treated right, and the truth has not been said of Nigerian judges who in my view are the very best in the world. I’ve not delivered any judgement and have gone to sleep easily.”
Justice Odili, who was the first lady of Rivers State between 1999 to 2007, expressed delight that some of her judgements have been published for the public to assess.
“I am very happy that some of my judgements have been captured in print. And as I peeped through the judgements of those big judges and magistrates of the old Bendel State, my own judgements are now in the open for everyone to look at. All anyone can say is that she didn’t apply the law properly here; she did not understand the law properly. But, no one can ever say she gave judgement because of an interest in the matter.”
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, described Justice Odili as an epitome of humility.
Chairman of the occasion and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze C.J.Okocha, SAN, noted that Justice Odili served the country meritoriously, honourably and without blemish to her character.
The five books written in honour of Justice Mary Odili are: Judicial Journey of Hon. Justice Mary U. Peter Odili; Essays in honour of Hon. Justice Mary Ukaego Peter Odili; Icon and On: Leading judgements on women’s rights in Nigeria in honour of Justice Mary Peter Odili; Mary Odili and the Law: Legal essays and Understanding the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria through the eyes of Hon. Justice Mary Ukaego Peter Odili.

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Inflation Hits 16.82%, Exceeds IMF’s 2022 Projection

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The Consumer Price Index rose to 16.82per cent in April from 15.92per cent in March, latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have revealed.
The NBS disclosed this in its ‘Consumer Price Index April 2022’ report, last Monday.
The report read in part, “In April 2022, the consumer price index, which measures inflation increased to 16.82per cent on a year-on-year basis.”
The International Monetary Fund had recently projected that Nigeria’s Consumer Price Index would hit 16.1per cent in 2022.
This projection was presented in a tabular illustration in the IMF’s ‘Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa’, which was published on its website.
The latest inflation rate in April is the highest in the country since August, 2021 when it was 17.01per cent.
The rise in the inflation rate in April shows that Nigeria is not left out in the global inflation surge.
But it is also an indication that citizens are becoming poorer, especially given the weakening state of the currency.
In the World Economic Outlook report, the IMF warned about the effects of inflation.
The report read in part, “In sub-Saharan Africa, food prices are also the most important channel of transmission, although in slightly different ways. Wheat is a less important part of the diet, but food, in general, is a larger share of consumption.
“Higher food prices will hurt consumers’ purchasing power, particularly among low-income households, and weigh on domestic demand. Social and political turmoil, most notably in West Africa, also weighs on the outlook.”
Recently, the World Bank said COVID-19 pandemic-induced inflation pushed about 23million Nigerians into a food crisis in 2021, especially in regions battling conflicts.
It added that the war-driven disruptions in the food trade, higher food price inflation, and higher costs of administering food assistance efforts are likely to make more people food insecure.
Aside from the pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, the World Bank in a different report had said that import restrictions and non-flexible exchange rate management of the Central Bank of Nigeria were the major driving forces for food inflation in Nigeria.
The report had read in part, “Rising food prices are the underlying factor behind the surge of headline inflation in Nigeria. Food prices have increased due to import restrictions and a nonflexible exchange rate management.
“The current regime is keeping the official exchange rate of the naira artificially strong while the naira has weakened significantly on the parallel market. Additionally, the central bank has restricted importers’ access to foreign currency for 45 products and has reduced the supply to other importers.”
This, coupled with border closures across Nigeria in recent times, also worsened inflation, analysts said.

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