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Nigeria’s Ikwerre people describe oil and gas legacy of poverty and pollution

15 March 2004

Representatives of Nigeria’s Ikwerre indigenous community of the Niger Delta region have described primitive conditions and poverty faced by the community, whose lands and environment have been polluted by years of oil and gas exploitation. Far from ushering in an age of prosperity, damage to the Ikwerre lands, discrimination and failure to compensate or assist the community, has left them in a ‘nightmarish’ situation in which many live on an income below one dollar a day. The Ikwerre have called upon the government to live up to its responsibilities to protect their rights.

Representative of the Ikwerre Movement for Justice, Modestus Achinonu, spoke of conditions faced by the community ‘akin to that of the stone age’, in his account of how the Ikwerre had suffered from the effects of the oil and gas industry on their lands since 1957. He spoke of damaged farmlands and polluted rivers and drinking water, and a lack of basic social amenities including electricity. Few if any tangible benefits from the multi-million dollar industry had been seen by the Ikwerre, which has in fact been left struggling to sustain itself from the damaged land and rivers.

Many of the Ikwerre are unemployed and have been discriminated against even in employment in the oil and gas industry itself, which dominates the Ikwerre landscape and has proved so destructive. Mr Achinonu highlighted daunting socio-economic circumstances and neglect and failure by the government in providing necessary infrastructural facilities to support the needs of the communities resulting in a ‘state of despondency and a collective sense of doubt in our ability to sustain ourselves’. According to the Ikwerre Movement for Justice, the government has failed to live up to its responsibilities under the Declaration on Minorities and other international human rights standards that it has ratified.

The Ikwerre Movement for justice asked the government for ‘rights, justice and fair play’ in its recommendations that Ikwerre people be allowed to participate in the control of their resources and be consulted in decision making concerning development in Ikwerre land. It suggested as a practical measure that parents in every family of the Ikwerre community should receive a payment on monthly basis either by the government or the oil company operators, to help augment their living. Further recommendations called for the urgent provision of electricity, improved standards of education, employment opportunities for the young people, and the provision of internationally certified healthcare.

Notes for editors

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