Community women leaders in Bayelsa State have demanded the inclusion of women as beneficiaries of the benefits that accrue from oil spill-related incidents in their communities as they suffer huge livelihood losses as a result of pollution.
They spoke at a one-day sensitisation programme themed, ‘Oil on Water: Women suffer oil spills in marine ecosystem in terms of livelihood and health’, which was held at the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria office in Yenagoa, on Tuesday.
It was organised by a community rights advocacy organisation, Ondewari Health, Education and Environmental Project, with support from the Global Greengrants Fund.
The women, who were drawn from several communities in the Southern Ijaw, Ogbia and Yenagoa Local Government Areas of the state, vowed to assert their rights as they mostly bear the brunt of oil pollution and environmental degradation.
Speaking, a women leader from Ikarama community in the Yenagoa LGA, Ayibakuro Warder, said, “We are marginalised in oil spill matters. Even during Joint Investigation Visits (conducted on oil spill impacted sites), women will not be carried along, only men will be there.
“But in terms of oil spill, women are the most affected in the Niger Delta. We are farmers and oil spill affects our farms and farmlands. There is hunger in the Niger Delta because oil spills have destroyed farmlands and rivers.”
Another participant, Philomena Lafieghe, from Ondewari community in the Southern Ijaw, said the marginalisation of women over oil spill compensation was unacceptable, stressing that the women folk would no longer be relegated to the background.
In their separate goodwill messages, the second Vice President of the Ijaw National Congress, Nengi James; Head of ERA/FOEN, Bayelsa State, Alagoa Morris; a community opinion leader, Dr Tari Dadiowei, noted that women were often neglected in the distribution of benefits arising from oil spills.
They urged community women to unite and forge a common front in order to promote and protect their rights and livelihood.
Alagoa said, “Community women always complain about marginalisation in terms of benefits. When oil spills occur around their environments and their farms, fishing traps, among others, are usually destroyed. The women have been so impacted.
“Bringing you (community women) together will make you stronger so that together you can influence things and issues to better your lot as community women leaders.”
Also speaking, the Secretary of OHEEP, Yeiyei Tontiemotei, said the time had come for community women to embrace unity and support themselves to ensure that their rights were respected.
In a presentation titled, “Women Inclusion in Post-Spill Activities”, a guest speaker and political scientist, Mrs Inokoba Werikumo, advocated that community women should be included in the payment of compensation by oil firms.
She said, “To do this, there is need for proper documentation of lands apportioned to women that are into farming as well as collation of items destroyed as a result of oil spillage.
“Crude oil exploration activities have impacted negatively on their health and livelihood as those depending mostly on fishing and farming have now been subjected to untold hardship due to oil spill/pollution on land and waterways.”