Women in Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta region, operating under the aegis of the Ala-uchi Women Development Initiative and several other organisations, call on the authorities to equitably share revenue from oil exploration in the country, saying that women bear the greater portion of the pain of oil business yet enjoy the least of its benefits
The Niger Delta has for over five decades produced much of the revenue that fuels activities of the Nigerian government and by implication, the economy that sustains Nigeria as a nation.
In the process of extracting oil and gas from the vast mineral endowed fields in the region, farmers and fisher folks have been dislodged from their traditional occupation while pollution has degraded the little left land and waterways, creating serious livelihood problems and poverty.
Long untreated or half-hazard cleanup have further compounded the matter, creating health hazards resulting in respiratory, skin, cancer, infertility conditions, stunted and deaths especially among children while agitations for better conditions have resulted in killings and arrests of the men and youth as well as destruction of communities by state security forces acting on behalf of the multinational oil companies and the federal government.
As mothers, wives and daughters, women bear the greater portion of the pain of this oil business yet enjoy the least of its benefits. Our livelihood has been destroyed as our waters are polluted; our farmlands are no longer fertile and these mean that more women in the Niger Delta battle everyday with hunger, diseases and poverty.
The Nigerian government has earned trillions of dollars from oil and gas from this region while our state and local governments have collected trillions of naira from the federal purse but there is no corresponding development to signify our sacrifice.
As citizens of this country, Nigeria, we deserve enough social services, enough industries, quality schools and health centers to adequately compensate us as people from the oil producing region.
Recognising that it is the duty of government at all levels to ensure quality living standard for citizens and aware that oil companies owe a duty to host communities and that host communities have a 13 per cent statutory allocation from the Federal Allocation Commission, FAAC, the Alau-Uchi Women make the following demands:
- That Federal, State and Local Governments should embrace transparency and accountability in their governance systems.
- That all strata of government must make their presence felt in our communities through the provision of social amenities critical to life enhancement like potable water, standard health centers, provision of affordable and efficient sources of energy and quality education facilities.
- That the worrying high unemployment rate in the region be tackled fast with the creation of jobs and conducive environment to promote private investment in the region.
- That Niger Delta state governments should intentionally pursue even development in the states and the inclusion of women in the governance structure in all relevant sectors especially, in education, agriculture, energy and environment.
- That government at all levels should design special and sustainable agriculture and economic empowerment programmes to groom women for self-sustenance to atone for their displacement by oil and gas activities.
- That credible efforts be put in place to check insecurity, violence and mass atrocities in the communities.
- That in view of rising cases of violence against women, critical steps be taken to protect women and girls as well as ensure the sanctioning of violators through the enforcement of existing laws especially, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act.
- That traditional rulers and community leaders should encourage the mainstreaming of women into governance at the family and community levels to promote gender accountability.
- That Local Governments should promote the actualization of the 35% Affirmative Action by consciously bringing qualified women into governance at committee and supervisory levels to ensure inclusion.
- That Niger Delta communities should support advocacy for beneficial ownership disclosure (the real owners of oil wells should be known), which will help them manage relationship with oil companies and bring about better development and,
- That communities demand periodic accountability forums on the disbursement of the 13 per cent derivation fund for oil bearing communities as a check against corruption.