SACA Partners Federal Government of Nigeria Agencies, the Bayelsa State Government and NAOC on Grievance Mechanism

On 13th July 2023, the Stakeholders Alliance for Corporate Accountability (SACA) organized a one-day event with the theme “Triggers of Human Rights and Community Gatekeepers Action Reflection Forum”. The program was organized to reinforce community leaders’ understanding on the hazards associated with high exposure of human and the environment to crude oil pollution; to know the actions that community leaders have been taking after the Project’s Environmental Management Committee raised the awareness in their respective communities. The Human Rights Due Diligence Committee educated them on how to demand their rights through non-violent and non-judicial mechanism.

The event held at the Ebiis Hotel in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Key institutions that made presentations at the event were the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment, the Bayelsa State Ministry of Health, the Bayelsa State Ministry of Agriculture, the Bayelsa State Ministry of Education, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), and the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) .

SACA’s Executive Director delivering an opening remark.

In his opening speech, the Executive Director of SACA, Mr. Kingsley Ozegbe noted that the program will help both the right holders and duty bearers to strengthen their resolve to end high spate of crude oil facilities attack in Bayelsa State and its huge consequences on the people.

He also expressed his concerns over the effects of oil pollution on humans, aquatic life, and the environment at large. He said: “SACA’s quest in carrying out continuous sensitization was hinged on its resolve to end the threat posed by Oil spills from either third-party interference on oil facilities or equipment failure on the other hand…”

‘‘This project began in 2022, and it’s expected to last for three years. So far, we have 72 communities that we are expected to sensitize on this project as well as other programmes. Although, we are yet to reach all, but we have been to more than 30 communities in the course of this project. Today, we have invited the leadership of 40 communities to participate in this programme’’, he said.

The representatives from the various ministries made presentations to educate the communities gatekeepers on the diverse ways in which crude oil spills affect life generally, urging the immediate cessation of spillages caused by third party interference or willful damage. They also noted that the spills, while causing several health challenges, also lead to loss of food security and cause a myriad of environmental degradation in addition to biological problems in the form of neonatal deformities and deaths, among others. The Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment was represented by Engr. Enai Reuben, Director of Petroleum and Pollution; Ministry of Agriculture was represented by the Acting Permanent Secretary, Dr Okoya Embasi while the Ministry of Health was represented by Dr. Stow Jones, Director of Public Health, Ministry of Health.

The Grievance Coordinator, Stakeholder Management and Community Development Division, NAOC, Mrs. Diepreye Torubiri, in her presentation on NAOC’s grievance mechanism also assured the oil company’s willingness to cooperate with stakeholders in order to address their grievances and also improve quality relationship with the host communities.
She enlightened the communities about the NAOC Grievance Mechanism, the processes involved, and the appropriate channels to submit grievances, just as she assured communities that NAOC is open to dialogue. She said: “Regarding the issue of inadequate information on the part of the host communities on how, and where to channel your grievances to, every complaint or question directed at NAOC should be put in writing and submitted through a credible and recognized body like SACA, CLOs or NAOC offices for further actions to be taken”

The State Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), DSC. Diri Solomon Ogbere in his presentation, reassured the Corp’s commitment to ending the menace of oil spills, noting also that the NSCDC was established to protect critical national assets and infrastructures like the oil facilities against vandalism, hence the collaboration of NGOs such as SACA, host communities and all stakeholders is needed to checkmate the threat posed by vandals in order to mitigate the occurrence of oil spillages.

A power point slide showing cracking methods in petrochemical refineries was presented by the Program Manager of SACA, Mr. Augustine Anyio, who explained the complicated step-by-step processes involved in the separation of crude oil into its various components. He further advised the stoppage of oil pipeline vandalism and discouraged the involvements in illegal oil refining, noting that a large percentage of the locally refined oil component is being emptied into the environment due to absence of appropriate facilities and the required skills, which in turn causes environmental and health hazards.

A team of human rights lawyers from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Bayelsa state, also made astounding presentations on Business and Human Rights. Barrister Goselle Vining Nimnan, Barr. Douye Selekere, and Barr. Bulodisiye Okumoko, in their presentations, educated the communities on their rights and effective measures to put an end to oil spillages around their communities.

The meeting was an interactive one with thought-provoking panel discussions, reflection, experience sharing and action. A total number of 79 participants partook in the meeting, including the founder of the NGO (SACA), Fr. Kevin O’Hara, and the Child Safeguarding Officer of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, Mr. Raphael Okusaga, who participated virtually via google meet. Twenty six (26) community gatekeepers, which include paramount rulers were present at the meeting to share the challenges preventing them from taking actions to protect themselves against harm from abuse/violation.

Towards the end of the event, the community gatekeepers and individuals from the various communities in the creeks presented feedbacks on grievance mechanisms that were earlier submitted to NAOC. They had the opportunity to ask pressing relevant questions to the state’s ministries and most importantly NAOC, and were given answers appropriately.

This initiative, carried out in collaboration with the state and federal government agencies, marks a significant step towards promoting human rights and community engagement, and is aimed to create a platform for dialogue, reflection, and action on human rights issues between target communities and multinational oil companies operating in them. SACA remains committed to our mission of bridging the gap between stakeholders, and promoting positive change within the communities. We look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts to create a more just and sustainable future for all.

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