On the 25th– 27th July, 2023 We the People organized a learning and exchange workshop for forest, oil, gas and solid mineral extractive communities in the Niger Delta. Recent research and advocacy engagements by the organization has unraveled similarities in the economic and social patterns of extractives activities in various communities in the Niger Delta, irrespective of the resource being extracted. The extraction of timber and solid minerals in Cross River state, for instance, and the extraction of crude oil and gas in other part of the Niger Delta are resulting in similar paradigms of militarization, pollution, illicit financial flows, corruption, inequalities and conflict.
At the workshop the emerging patterns of extractive sector abused and drivers of inequality were deliberated and put in perspective, while common strategies to confront them were developed.
In his presentation, Executive Director of We the People, Ken Henshaw reiterated the fact that extractivism is throwing up the same challenges to communities where resource exploitation takes place. “In Cross River state, we see an emerging pattern where the extraction of timber from the reserved forests and the extraction of limestone, iron ore, emeralds and other minerals resources are engendering the same problems. We see massive environmental pollution in each instance. We see the militarization of communities, we see the emergence of armed gangs we see a rise in poverty, etc. This is the reality. If the problems are the same, why can’t we utilize the same strategies to confront them”.
Other speakers at the workshop included Prince Edosa of Global Rights, public health physician Dr. Bieye Briggs, community activist Henry Eferegbo, and environmental litigation lawyer Courage Nsirimnovu.
In his presentation, Dr. Briggs highlighted the fact that natural resource extraction, especially in the oil and gas sector was severely polluting the environment and leading to dangerous health impacts for communities. According to him, several Niger Delta communities were already facing widespread illnesses on account of hydrocarbon pollution.
In his remark, Henry Eferegbo reflected on the unequal relationship between frontline communities in these locations and those who drive extraction. “Wherever extraction takes place, contestation over extractive rights emerge. Powerful forces come to play, sometime they use the force of government or they create their own militia. In all cases, the communities who own the land and the resources always end up the weakest and unable to compete. Complete strangers invade their communities and take away all the benefits”.
The 3-day meeting resolved to create synergy among all the extractive communities in the Niger
Delta, and engage in regular collaborative actions to check the spread of extraction and its impacts.