By Anolu Vincent, Owerri
The traditional ruler of Umuokanne autonomous community, in the Ohaji/Egbema council area of Imo State HRH Eze Dr. Cyriacus M. Nwokoma has raised an alarm over the unbridled environmental degradation of the area by oil companies operating in the community.
The American trained system scientist and educational psychologist regretted that uncleared oil wastes, degradation and water pollution in the oil and natural gas rich community emanating from oil exploration has become a serious impediment to agriculture which the community is traditionally famous for.
Nwokoma who is the Okaa-Omee III of Umuokanne stated this at a one day sensitization workshop on Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Right in Ohaji organized by a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) CLEEN FOUNDATION”
“The degradation in our community is rather unimaginable and Ohaji which is endowed with abundant human and material resources is being threatened by oil exploration and a lot of people are running away from agriculture to oil business” he lamented.
The monarch however cautioned indigenes of the community from taking the laws into their hands, stressing that violent confrontation, militancy and aggression against the oil companies in the area was not the solution to the problem.
He rather advised them to embrace regular dialogue, consultation and compromise in a peaceful extractive manner saying “ Awara is almost a police community but violence, such as killing, kidnapping and shooting cannot be the solution to our problem rather we should cooperate with the oil giants in our midst to get what we want”
The Programme Officer of the FOUNDATION Mr. Ifeanyi Anyanwu in all address explained that the FOUNDATION established over a decade ago with branch offices inLagos, Abuja and Owerri partners with the government and other civil society organizations to enhance relations with stakeholders in the extractive sector.
Mr. Anyanwu who similarly sued for sustained peace and mutual understanding between the oil companies and their host communities. Advised indigenes of the community to embrace community policing and to report Human Rights Abuses perpetrated by security agents attached to the companies, stressing that the FOUNDATION was keen to reduce the cancer of Human Rights Abuses.
He listed potential benefits of the Voluntary Principles to include: promotion of respect for Human Rights, encouraging communities’ participation in security arrangement of companies and host communities, bridging the gap in the relationship between members of the host communities and security agents as well as promoting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) through regular consultations of the host communities.
Adding his voice, the Central Coordinator, Niger Delta Anti-corruption Network (NIDAN) Dr. Jude Ohanele in a lecture on “Creating a Healthy Environment for the Development of Ohaji Egbema LGA – The role of Ohaji Egbema people” reminded them that development does not thrive in an atmosphere of insecurity.
Dr. Ohanele who called for community mobilization regretted that the South East while lacks international borders with the outside world had lost the capacity to feed itself.
“Oil spillage is thus a problem and we must preserve every bit of our land to be able to feed ourselves and no amount of militancy will help to develop Ohaji/Egbema” he stated.