Big Businesses, Big Human Rights Violators: Voluntary Principle Training in Rivers State

Big businesses, such as the Multinational oil companies have been recognised as big violators of human rights. To help checkmate flagrant abuses in the cause of business operations, the Voluntary Principles on security and human rights have been adopted by multinationals.

CEHRD organised community level trainings on voluntary principles on security and human rights which is part of the capacity building, empowerment and sensitization programmes on the human rights stream of the Dutch Embassy funded project entitled Promoting Best Practice Mechanisms in Corporate Social Responsibility in Nigeria: An Intervention framework for Rivers and Bayelsa States. The trainings were held for two days each in ten oil impacted communities in Rivers State, and Six communities in Bayelsa State. The communities in Rivers state include- Erema, Okwuzi, Ebocha, Egberu Ndoki, Umuagbai, Oyigbo Urban and Okoloma Afam. The trainings lasted for twelve days between 22 July and 18 August 2015.  These communities are all operational locations of shell (except Okwuzi and Erema which host Agip and Total respectively) and they are some of the most neglected parts of the State in terms of socio-economic, human and infrastructure development.

Also, 30 participants from 6 communities in Bayelsa State: ORUMA, ELEBELE, IKARAMA, OGBUNAGA, KALABA AND EPIE ZARAMA were trained.

The purpose of the trainings / workshop was to create a platform for local community members in Rivers and Bayelsa states to learn about as well as discuss topical issues on voluntary principles on security and human rights, UN Framework on security and human rights, OECD guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, etc. These trainings are designed as awareness raising and eye openers to enable communities to communicate their challenges publicly to relevant authorities to non-violently engage and negotiate their rights with oil companies on the socio-economic and environmental issues affecting them in relationship with oil exploitation.

The 60 participants were drawn from among traditional rulers, council of chiefs, community development committees (CDC), youth groups, women leaders and opinion leaders among others. The participants were selected thus to reflect the cross section of community stakeholders so as to promote inclusion and participation of all interest groups. Communities were however, allowed to handle the nomination of participants, but based on the specifications of the project.

Outcome of the training

  1. A Total of Four hundred and fifty participants were trained during the first phase of the training in the four communities
  2. Communities were trained on the voluntary principles on security and human rights, corporate accountability and other international human rights instruments relevant to the operations of the oil industry and they can apply it in their engagements with the oil companies
  3. Communities are committed to using non-violent methods in their engagements with the oil companies to demand their rights
  4. There is also a renewed awareness across the communities that justice is possible if they are able to coordinate their demands and speak with one voice
  5. Communities are willing to partner with CEHRD to engage with oil companies and regulatory agencies on issues of environmental justice and human rights in the Niger Delta.

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