Owerri — The traditional Ruler of Umuokanne Community in Ohaji Egbema council of Imo State, Eze Cyriacus M. Nwokoma, has advised aggrieved indigenes of the oil-bearing communities to shun violence and confrontation in their agitations.
The monarch and an expert in educational technology gave the advice in his speech, "Human Rights in the Extractive Sector," at a one-day workshop on "Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in the Ohaji Egbema council organised by the "CLEEN Foundation."
He warned that unless the people come together, speak with one voice, articulate their demands and present same to the appropriate quarters for meaningful attention, their aspiration would ever remain a tall dream.
The Okaa-Omee II of Umuokanne who has over 15 years experience in alternative energy technologies including solar power, while decrying the environmental pollution in the Niger Delta region and the consequences to the people, said, "if you do not know the source, origin and magnitude, remote and immediate results of your problems, you cannot find a lasting solution to it. If we do not work together and respect one another, we cannot achieve anything".
The adjunct professor of Economics and IT project management at the Portland Community College in Oregon was worried that such facilities as access road, hospital, schools, potable water, electricity, gainful employment among other necessary amenities had continued to remain elusive among the oil producing communities several years since oil exploration began in their region but cautioned them to shun violence in their demands.
"Kidnapping of oil company officials cannot be the solution to our problem but dialogue, consultation and compromise", he cautioned.
At the workshop, which also featured lecture on "the Role/Responsibilities of the National Human Rights Commission by Dr. Val Madubuko, the programme officer of the CLEEN Foundation, Mr. Ifeanyi Anyanwu identified Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VP) as non-binding soft laws established in 2000 to offer guidance set to guide extractive companies (oil, gas and mining companies) in maintaining the safety and security of the facilities and operations with respect for human rights.
Anyanwu listed three elements of voluntary principles (VPs) as a Risk Assessment, Interaction with Public Security and Interaction with Private Security.
He said that the extractive companies in the country which include the Chevron Corporation, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Statoil, Total have an interest to ensure that actions taken by security operatives are consistently in line with the protection and promotion of human rights.
To mitigate risks of human rights abuses and promote respect for human rights, the programme officer said that extractive companies should consult the host government and host communities about the impact of the security arrangements on the host communities.
At the workshop, which was well attended by indigenes of the Oguta L.G.A, Anyanwu, dwelling extensively on ethical conduct and human rights policies, deployment and conduct consultation and advice said that while companies should communicate their policies to public security, they should equally organize meetings with public security personnel on regular basis to deliberate on security and human rights.
Anyanwu charged extractive companies to always demonstrate a high level of accountability and transparency by recording reporting allegations of human rights abuses by public security in their area of operations to appropriate host government and to monitor the investigation for proper resolution.
He explained that the VPs can promote respect for human rights by ensuring that the security arrangement and actions of security personnel do not violate the human rights of the host communities while encouraging communities participation in security arrangements of companies operating in their communities.
According to Anyanwu, the VPs contribute to bridging the gap in the relationship between the companies and host communities, contribute to bridging the gap in the relationship between members of the host communities and security agents, promote corporate social Responsibility (CSR) through regular consulting of the host communities, promotion of proactive measures in security management through risks assessment, accountability and transparency in security arrangement in the extractive sector.
According to him, the role of community members in the extractive sector towards promoting VPs is to contribute to encouraging the oil companies that had signed on to VPs to where adhere to VPs in a manner that they objective of the establishment of VPs could be achieved.
This, he said, could be done by encouraging the community representative represent the interest of the community by electing the right people to represent them, demanding accountability from their elected leaders/representatives, tracking and recording of human rights abuses by security agents attached to oil companies.
Others, he said, are contribution towards providing security to the operations of the oil companies, reporting oil theft and pipeline vadalization to security agencies and legal oil companies in addition to creating awareness on the VPs to encourage Nigerian government to sign in to VPs.
He assured that the CLEEN Foundation in liaison with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRS) would hold periodic meetings with such bodies as the Community Government Council (CGC), Natural Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Niger Delta Youths Council (NDYC), Presidents General (PG) from the CGC, core oil landlords association and Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI) on human rights violation.
Anyanwu, who decried deliberate misinformation and cheep propaganda against imagined enemies, enjoined the workshop participants to sensitize their community members for them to appreciate what they are doing.