One of the major concerns of stakeholders in the Niger Delta is the lack of awareness of a greater percentage of the people of the area, of the risks they are exposed to by the activities of oil and gas companies operating in the area, and their own contribution to these risks through reckless behaviours towards oil/gas installations. The incessant cases of oil spills due to sabotage in some of the communities have given SACA so much concern that we had to intensify our efforts at enlightening the youths and women of the communities we monitor, on the dangers of bursting pipelines. Other concerns we have for the communities are the prevalence of HIV/AIDs as well as issues of child-abuse. We therefore organized trainings in some of the communities to educate them on how to protect their environment from pollution due to oil spills, how to respond to cases of spills and how to report them. We also taught them about the JIV process and the need for them to participate actively in the process.
The first training was held in Gbarain town hall and was attended by over 40 participants from various parts of the Cluster. At the training, the Director of SACA, Mr. Abba Ayemi, took time to explain to the participants what the Nigeria law says about sabotage of oil facilities and the penalty for such acts. He also fielded a lot of questions from the participants on various issues pertaining to their roles in the oil and gas industry and the environment.
Other staff of SACA including Irene Njoku and Willem Schade also talked to the participants on Child Abuse and HIV/AIDS respectively, admonishing them on how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS, how not to stigmatize HIV/AIDS patients and how to bring up and protect children. Citing the Nigeria Child Right Act and the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the St. Patrick's Missionaries' Policy on Safeguarding of Children, Mrs. Njoku explained how to correct and discipline children without meting violence on them or taking advantage of their vulnerability.
The SACA team presented short video clips, including part of our documentaries as well as some relevant Nigerian music videos, to help the participants understand the lessons at the very basic levels.
The second training was held in Okordia, part of Okordia-Zarama Cluster, on ….. Like the first training this one also was successful and was highly appreciated by the communities in attendance including the King of Okordia Clan, HRM Richard Seiba. Chief Seiba and his cabinet who were in attendance praised SACA for their interest in the welfare of the communities and particularly for that training, which they described as an eye-opener.
However, on ……….. we went to the Zarama axis of the Okordia-Zarama Cluster to conduct the same trainings for them as well, but were rejected. On arrival to the venue, Zarama Town Hall, we were greeted by some apparently angry and confused youths. The youths were divided among themselves on whether we should talk to them or not, on who among them had the right to receive our training. One group who claimed that they were the ones hosting oil facilities insisted that the other group who hosted no facilities must leave the hall, otherwise no training would be held. They threatened to destroy our camera if we did not leave the community immediately. Sensing the apparent danger, we hurriedly made to leave the community when the community’s traditional ruler whom we had long awaited, came in and doused the tension. The traditional ruler invited us to his home, claiming that he was not properly informed of our coming, but promised to get this issue resolved. He asked us to reschedule our training for another day.