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ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS ACTION (ERA)
214 Uselu-Lagos Road, P.O. Box 10577, Benin City, Nigeria
tel/fax + 234 52 600 165 e-mail: eraction@infoweb.abs.net

SUBJECT: SHELL'S TOXIC WAR AGAINST UMUAKURU-IGBO PEOPLE
ERA FIELD REPORT NUMBER 21
Dispatch: Umuakuru-Igbo, Etche LGA, Rivers State
From: Patrick Naagbanton
Date: April 2, 1999

HIGHLIGHTS

1.0 BACKGROUND
UMUAKURU-IGBO, is a community in Etche ethnic nation in the North Eastern part of Rivers State. It has two local government areas (namely Etche LGA and Omuma LGA.) North Eastern parts of Rivers State, Etche occupies a land mass of about 1500 square kilometres and has a population of about 600,000 peoples. Etche is bounded on the North by Imo State, on the East by Abia State and Oyigbo in Rivers State, on the West by Ikwere LGA and on the South by Obio Akpor LGA. Etche is the 4th largest ethnic group in the present day Rivers State Agriculture is the main economic base of the people with about 90% of the population engaged in agricultural activities. The land is "blessed" with crude oil.

Umuakuru Igbo is one of the 372 villages (and 50 towns) that make up Etche villages. The Etche community lacks basic social amenities/infrastructures like electricity and water.

2.0 ENVIRONMENTAL/HUMAN RIGHTS HISTORY
The infamous massacre of Nov. 1, 1990 took place in Umuchem a community in Etche. During that massacre, units of the Mobile Police unleashed terror on the Umuchem people, razing down their homes and murdering scores of people.

The Risonpalm oil mill and the Delta Rubber crumb factory are situated on Etche soil. Despite the well-documented environmental hazards nothing has been done to salvage the situation.

3.0 THE MATTER
The project is supposed to be the dump site for all industrial wastes collected from Shell's Eastern division Warri, Bayelsa State, Rivers State, Imo State etc, using industrial incinerators.

In 1997 SPDC displayed an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) they had conducted on the community land without the knowledge of the Local Community of the Umuakuru-Igbo people.

When the people discovered the "plot" pressures were mounted on SPDC and the Rivers State Government and other NGOs in the area over the issue.

At a meeting between Shell and the people on June 3rd, 1998, the community unanimously and vehemently rejected the proposed project. Traditional rulers, opinion leaders, elders, students, women and youths represented the community. The meeting was held at the community Town Square and the deliberations on the project were exhaustive.

Conscious of the enormous disaster the project portends for the community, the people conducted an independent assessment on the project, as a direct response to the SDPC's EIA christened, "INTEGRATED WASTE MANAGEMENT FACILITY (IWMF)."

4.0 ERA INVESTIGATIONS
Environmental Rights Action.s investigation reveals that the project is hazardous to human, marine, flora and fauna. The project will contain industrial wastes and chemical that are capable of causing cancer, altering genes and the growth and development of foetuses.

The wastes would cause significant and irreversible damage to the ecosystem. Worst still, ERA's study of Shell/IWMF's EIA exposed serious technical lapses clearly showing that it falls short of internationally acceptable standards for a project of such magnitude and complexity.

5.0 THE PEOPLE'S CALL ON FEPA
The people have demonstrated their outright rejection of the proposal, and have taken their case to the Federal Government through the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA), the Rivers State Government and others.

Community youths and elders vow that they "are vehemently opposed to the siting of the Toxic Waste dump on our soil anywhere in Etche Kingdom. We do not need neither compensation nor remediation, instead we demand for total rejection of the hazardous facility which is not in line with our fundamental rights to a good environment".

CONCLUSION
The project, if allowed, will affect close to 2 million people within Port Harcourt metropolis and its environs. ERA is also worried that the Rivers State Government has proposed to build a civil servant housing unit near the SPDC proposed toxic waste dumpsite. Characteristically, Shell has divided the ranks and files of the people through unothordox means and the project might be started anytime from now. Both FEPA and Rivers State government appear not to be disturbed by the development.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
  • Write letters to editors (of Nigerian Newspapers) expressing solidarity with the Etche people in this assault that threatens their survival. Demand that FEPA sides with the truth.
  • Send a postcard to Shell telling them that toxic waste sites are not welcome in the Niger Delta.