With so much suffering being faced by communities from gas flaring and pollution in the Gelegele community, oil industry profits gained appear to have blinded companies to the negative impacts.
The issue of gas flaring has been a major source of environmental damage and habitual loss in the Niger Delta region and has adversely affected local populations that are dependent on fishing and agriculture as a major source of their livelihood.
Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) in a capacity building workshop held in Gelegele community in Ovia North-East Local Government Area of Edo State shared ideas on the basics of accountability over resource exploitation by both government and companies operating in their community. During the training, resource persons charged community members to be vigilant to note and report on happenings in their environment.
Community members enumerated ecological problems and livelihood challenges they face related to a giant gas flare near their homes. They lamented the impact of gas flaring which has led to heat waves, widespread health problems and has affected fishing which is their predominant occupation.
An environmentalist, Morris Alagoa, during the training tasked community members to identify and work on the problems they faced.
He said: “After identifying your challenges with gas flaring and oil exploitation, it is time to take action. Once you agree to act as a community everyone must ensure to comply and work in the best interest of the community.”
He insisted that it is very important for people to adhere to collective decision if their actions are to have the desired impact.
He added: “If you see something wrong, be ready to say it out and not be silent over it. Team up with bodies and organisations that fight against injustices. If you speak up, people will come together to fight with you against such injustice.”
He further stressed that everyone has a role to play in the interest of ensuring sustainability of the environment.
HOMEF’s facilitators urged members of the community to put what they had learned into practice to achieve the expected results and secure their goals and objectives.
The training aimed to equip the community with tools for building solidarity and to elevate solutions to their environmental and livelihood challenges.
Earlier in his welcome address, Prince Babs Pawuru of Host Communities Network (HoCoN) expressed gladness over the timely training and urged the community members to be ready to join in the struggle to end exploitations that do not yield positive benefits in the land.
“I am happy we have this gathering today. This meeting will help the youths and other community members to know how to demand accountability from corporations that engage in harmful activities. Together we can also hold the government responsible. To start with, we have to stand together and demand the immediate ending of gas flaring in Gelegele,” Pawuru submitted.
Gelegele community is ravaged by unending gas flaring, belching right in the heart of the community with flow stations close to residential buildings. The community has been living with the sad realities of air and environmental pollution amidst other resultant socio-economic and livelihood stress.
The workshop, facilitated by HOMEF, discussed the environmental, socio-economic and livelihood issues resulting from the activities of oil and gas operations in the community, identified the needed restorative actions and trained them on advocacy using a specially developed advocacy toolkit for community activists.
The workshop also offered community people opportunity for simulative role playing whereby community people play roles of government, corporations, and community. This offered the people opportunity to examine the burden of negative impacts of oil and gas activities created by corporations as well as what government and communities should do.