Environment experts have confirmed that most species of fishes have gone extinct and most others have migrated into the deep waters (Ocean) in the Niger Delta. This is blamed largely on environmental pollution and gas flaring over the years.
Resource persons put together by Natural Justice-Nigeria said at the weekend that the trend is real and that the causes are glaring, saying it is one of the biggest injuries being suffered by the region from oil exploitation.
These were the highlights at the two-day training for Reporters covering the environment held at Visa Karena Hotel on Olu Obasanjo Road in the Garden City anchored by Mike Karikpo, the Programme Manager of Natural Justice-Nigeria, a group of lawyers in Africa fighting to defend human rights and environment activists in the continent.
The outcry about migration of fishes into the ocean came many years back by over 35,000 fishermen between Nigeria and Cameroun who said the Bonga oil spill in the vast waters and the chemicals applied in the clean-up chased hundreds of millions of bonga fish away into the ocean, the remaining ones only found in Cameroonian waters. Nigerian fishermen who went there to catch were being arrested, tortured and bailed with huge sums. They demand for $3.4bn compensation from Shell.
Confirming this migration trend at the recent workshop for Environment Reporters, a resource person, Tekena Amieofori, said many decades of unsustainable exploitation of oil has led to many injuries to the environment and to the lands and waters. “Fishes have gone extinct such that you have to go deep to the ocean to find fish.”
He said many species have fishes have been lost because the ecosystem has been devasted. One life supports the other and when you harm one, you have harmed all. Thus, fishes have died and you have to go deep into the ocean to find fish.
He also talked about flooding which is now rampant in the oil region where the Niger and Benue empty into the ocean.
Talking on ‘Climate Change: Today’s matter or tomorrow’s reality’, Amieofori urged journalists to approach their task from a rights-based perspective. He said right to land is right to life because land is where reproduction takes place. So, it’s a right to live in a safe environment, he added.
Giving causes of environmental pollution, he mentioned production, mining, oil extraction, farming (bush burning), saying production ought to leave the land/earth safe to reproduce, but capitalism has focused more on profit to the detriment of the health of the environment.
He dwelt on carbon emission, saying gas flaring is making people darker and that it depletes the ozone layer. “Drought is coming from the north toward the south. Pastoralists are thus pushing southward, and this is causing clashes. Bio-diversity requires that species should be allowed to live together in an inter-dependent way. Extinction of species of plants and animals is happening due to depletion of the forests.”
Reporters, the last man standing:
The experts said the duty of keeping the society awake to its duty to the environment lies on environment reporters in the face of laxity of complacency of institutions, government agencies entrusted with the responsibility to protect the environment. Reporters must support the few NGOs still working to defend the environment.
Asking Reporters why they should care, he reflected on the industrial revolution in Europe which he said changed the environment due to massive exploitation of the environment to produce raw materials in massive volumes never seen before.
He however said the UN has created some protocols which he said Reporters must study and integrate into their reporting. “Try to track national laws on the environment too: eg; Common Concern (law).”
Sustainable mining rule demands that you don’t destroy others to produce; and that the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) demands that if you must pollute or you polluted by negligence, you must pay. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is important in reporting because one must use it to know whether EIA was conducted before any major construction project was carried out.
“In reporting, know about civil rights, political rights, natural rights, and environmental rights. Right to healthy environment is the mother of all rights, its humanity’s first right. “The Reporter must focus on it first and at all times. In oil spill situations, find out if the wellhead was capped; how old is the oil well, how often is it maintained?”
He said consciousness made the response in the Gulf of Mexico 2012 spill different from the ones in the Niger Delta. “Compare how theirs was responded to and how the oil spills of Ogoni/Niger Delta were and/or are being
responded to. The company budgeted and spent $1.6Bn to do clean up in the Gulf of Mexico case and paid $8.4Bn compensation (totalling about $10Bn), but in the Niger Delta/Ogoni, it is $1Bn, which is only for clean-up. Nobody talks about compensation.”
Amieofori said there was need for research-based reporting, need to read because a writer must be a reader.
In his intervention, Lawrence Dube said reporting the environment is the most exciting part. “Know that the environment is a life-support system. Female issues within the environment crusade are very important. There is need for a social movement to protect the environment.”
Summing up the learning of the previous day, Karikpo said the government and others know what to do but they lack the willpower. “So, media is very crucial to push the society to do what it should. Distil the rivers to allow water flow to the ocean. Media must be supported to push the war for the protection of the environment. Media has to be consistent on presenting issues of the climate.”
Klem Ofuokwu: Reports must have human face
A media guru and environment reporting expert, Klem Ofuokwu, speaking on ‘Role of the media in improving climate accountability’, said one of the biggest setbacks for climate movement is communicating science in an accessible and an inclusive way. He said the media should help translate this information to the public.
“Media must do the work of connecting people to news that may directly or not directly impact the viewer. This means covering the crisis in a global way. Media must hold people in power accountable. Fact check and press public officials to answer what they are doing to improve climate information dissemination to combat the climate crisis.”
Listing some critical questions on environment reporting, he asked how the ecological fund has been utilized; how extreme climate event intervention is funded; how critical response agents are funded; how much states and LGAs spend on climate response and disaster risk reduction; and what the quality of investment in research on climate adaptation is.
He insisted that the media must own the climate justice narrative and push the Nigerian perspective of climate justice. “If you’re telling a story, the ‘why’ is more important than the ‘what’. “
He said because environment issues sound dull or boring, the reporter must tell it in compelling language, show impact and make it interesting by humanising the story line. “Story, statistics and sound bites make your story interesting. Women are more connected to stories than men. Men are more statistical and factual.”