Irish Ambassador Visits SACA and Bayelsa Communities Again
Without any particular investments or business interests in the Niger Delta, the Republic of Ireland is arguably one of the countries that has demonstrated the most concern for the safety and livelihoods of the host communities in this area. This is evident, not only in the passion with which the founder and Board Chairman of SACA, Fr. Kevin O'Hara, an Irish priest, has worked for human rights, environmental, economic and social justice in the Niger Delta for over 2 decades. But it is not only him; the government of Ireland, since the pre-colonial times, has supported the region in development, agriculture, healthcare and education. More recently, the country's embassy in Abuja has shown particular interest in the plights of the host communities in the hands of the multinationals.
Barely 2 years after his first visit in August 2016, the ambassador of Ireland to Nigeria, Mr. Sean Hoy, has visited Bayelsa State again, from July 26 to 28, 2018. Recall that the embassy under Mr. Hoy had, in 2015, sponsored the building and stocking of 4 fishponds for Ikarama women and youths in Okordia/Zarama Cluster. During his first visit in 2016, Mr. Hoy had visited Ikarama community in Okordia/Zarama Cluster, Imiringi in Kolo Creek Cluster, Koroama in Gbarain/Ekpetiama Cluster and Shell's Central Processing Facility (CPF) at Gbarain, where he met with some top Shell officials regarding best practice in the area. This time, he met with representatives of all the Gbarain/Ekpetiama host communities and their nominated negotiators for the new GMoU, in Obunagha townhall.
The ambassador, who first met with SACA staff, was received at the State Government House by the State Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd.) and some of the State commissioners. He then proceeded with SACA staff to Obunagha townhall where he met with representatives of all the communities in Gbarain-Ekpetiama Cluster and had discussions with them, SACA staff and government officials, on the various problems the Cluster have been having with the implementation of Shell's GMoU in the area.
The ambassador and his entourage also visited the 2 clan heads of the Cluster, King Gabriel Aka of Gbarain Kingdom and King Bubaraye Dakolo of Ekpetiama Kingdom, in their palaces.
SACA Trains NSCDC on Business, Security & Human Rights
For some years, there have been allegations of human rights abuses by some men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) in the course of executing their federal mandate of securing oil/gas facilities. These happened mostly in the Okordia-Zarama axis where dozens of oil spills have been recorded over the past couple of years. To help address this, SACA organized a workshop for the officers of the corps in the State, on the United Nations Guiding Principles and the Voluntary Principles on Business, Security and Human Rights. The NSCDC are the security forces with the statutory federal mandate to protect the oil/gas installations and other critical national assets of the country. The workshop, which took place on April 12, 2019 at the Command's State headquarters in Yenagoa, was attended by all the senior officers and management of the Corps, representatives of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), other NGOs including the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, the State Ministry of Environment and some traditional rulers and representatives of Okordia-Zarama Cluster.
The workshop started with a welcome and opening address by the Corps’ State Commandant, Mr. Pedro Awili Ideba. Mr. Ideba lauded SACA for its interventions in the State, specifically acknowledging SACA’s Anti-vandalism workshop in 2018 which he described as very wonderful, and how SACA had interfaced with NSCDC, playing vital roles in ensuring that the mandate of the NSCDC was delivered. He expressed his wishes that there were other NGOs working the way SACA does to promote environmental accountability. “My personal interest is that this organization is a non-governmental organization, which means that how they generate money, I do not know. And yet they are doing so much for the nation. I just hope that Nigerians and other well-meaning organizations will be able to emulate the gesture of this company in ensuring that our people live a clean and healthy life, and ensuring that the environment is kept healthy. For we know that if there is a healthy environment, development will thrive.”
More Community Volunteers Joining SACA
SACA has won the hearts and minds of host communities under Shell's Integrated Oil and Gas Gathering Project. Even though many youths, due to the increasing hardships in the country, are joining the dangerous business of illegal bunkering and oil refining, some other youths who are more sensible have decided to tow the way of honour. These have identified with SACA and are innovative ways of stopping the trend of vandalism. SACA trained some of the dozens who volunteered last year. This year, more have been recruited. A report of the training/orientation for last year's volunteers is here.