Environmental Rights Action's Background
WOMEN'S PROTEST AGAINST OIL COMPANIES
DESPATCHLINE: ESCRAVOS, WARRI SOUTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA, DELTA STATE.[NIGERIA]
FROM: ADEBAYO COKER
DATE: July 14, 2002
"For about 38 years since Chevron has been taking oil
from Escravos, nothing to show for it. No development. We cannot bear it
again. We used to catch fish and crayfish for food, but that is not
possible. The fishes and crayfish have gone away. They left because Chevron
has polluted the rivers and creeks."
- Mrs. Queen Uwawa, Deputy Chairperson, Escravos Women Coalition
"We want Chevron to employ our children. If Chevron
does that we the mothers will survive, we will see food to eat. Our
farms are all gone, due to Chevron's pollution of our water. We used
to farm cassava, okro, pepper, and others. Now all the places we've
farmed are sinking, we cannot farm. We cannot kill fishes and crayfish.
That is why we told Chevron that Escravos women and Chevron are at war."
- Christiana Mene, Executive Member, Escravos Women Coalition
Escravos comprises of six rural communities (Ogidigben, Ugborodo, Madogho, Ajidigho, Imaghagho, and Iyala) in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State. The people depend on subsistence farming and fishing. Gulf oil, which later became Chevron, started oil exploration in Escravos in 1964. Chevron has both flow stations and oil fields in one of the largest oil producing community in the country.
As a result of decades of environmental degradation and pollution caused by Chevron's oil exploration activities in the Escravos communities, the local people have been impoverished and sources of their livelihoods destroyed by oil extraction activities.
Escravos communities and environment have been severely degraded and Chevron is not doing anything to restore the environment and safeguard the livelihood of the people. Rusty zinc shacks covered by soot and acid rain line the narrow streets. There are stretches of marshy soils and oil stained ponds, oil films floating on the water endangering marine life, and parched looking palm trees that were once sources of livelihood.
WE WANT DIALOGUE
By June 2002, the women in the Escravos communities had reached their wits end. They could not fish on the Warri River or the Ogborodo Creek because Chevron's oil exploration activities had driven the fishes and crayfish beyond their reach. If you do not have a boat, fishing meant a two-day affair for a meal.
Feeding for the women was becoming difficult as farm yield dipped through degraded soils and the fact that Escravos itself is sinking. When there is high tide from the nearby Atlantic Ocean the community is highly flooded. To make matters worse, their children and husbands who could have succoured them were not employed by Chevron, who preferred to employ people from other communities outside Escravos.
Angry at this, and to press for dialogue, over 700 women of Escravos held a meeting and then resolved to write Chevron and to ask for a clean environment and employment for their children. After they wrote a month ago, Chevron did not bother to acknowledge the letter let alone address the concerns raised by the women. The women met again and resolved that they were going to barricade Chevron and prevent it from working in order to get them talking. On July 6, 2002, over 700 of them, not accompanied by their men, invaded the Chevron platform at Escravos and brought work there to an end, promising only to leave after they have spoken to the Managing Director of Chevron.
LACK OF JOBS
Alice Oyuche, an Executive Member, lamented that Chevron employs people from other places including other incentives but the people who owned the land are not giving such facilities.
Christiana Mene, another Executive member of the Escravos Women's Coalition, which barricaded Chevron, complained that what grieved Escravos Women was the fact that Chevron was operating in Escravos and they were doing nothing towards the welfare of people of the town especially the youths. Chevron destroys the environment, farmlands and sources of livelihood without restitution.
- Chevron should take immediate steps at looking into the complaints of women of Escravos in particular and the Niger delta in general because women and children suffer more from environmental degradation and threat to livelihoods. - Chevron should overhaul its mechanism for cleaning up Escravos degraded environment and safeguard the community faced with the problem of subsidence.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
(a) Send letters to Chevron urging them to show good neighbourliness and engage in dialogue with the local people. They have rights to be heard.
(b) Send a letter to Delta State Government to pressure Chevron to adhere to environmental standards.
(c) Send a letter to the Legislators acquainting them of the problems Chevron has caused to the people and the environment, which requires immediate action for restoration and to amend and respect the laws of the land.
(d) Send copies of your letter to editors of your newspapers,
concerned local groups and international environmental rights outfits.
ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS ACTION/ FRIENDS OF THE
EARTH (FoE, Nigeria)
#214, Uselu-Lagos Road, P. O. Box 10577, Benin City, Nigeria
Tel/Fax: + 234 52 600165 Email: email@example.com
Port Harcourt: # 13 Agudama Street, D-Line, Port Harcourt Tel: + 234 84
236365 email: Oilwatch@infoweb.abs.net
# 1 Balogun Street, Ikeja
Tel/Fax: + 44 181 7800574 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org