Empowering Local Communities To Participate In Governance

CEHRD organised community level trainings on Participatory Governance and Social Inclusion, which was part of 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 community level trainings were conducted for two days each in ten oil impacted communities in Rivers State, and six communities in Bayelsa State; communities are critical to the peace and stability of the Niger Delta region. The trainings were conducted two days each in the following communities in Bayelsa State: Elebele, Oruma, Kalaba, Ikarama, Akumoni and Epie-Zarama. The Rivers State communities are: Afam, Oyigbo town, Marihu, Egberu Ndoki, Umuagbai, Erema, Okwuzi, Idu-Ekpeye, Akala Olu, and Oyiba. The oil companies operating in these communities are Shell, Total and AGIP. The communities are seemingly among the most neglected parts of the States in terms of socio-economic, human rights and infrastructure development. They also lack the capacity to engage the oil companies and several years of oil exploitation on their land has translated into minimal positive impacts, but more of environmental degradation and human rights abuses.

It was therefore a unique opportunity for them to learn about the issues of advocacy, lobbying, communications and media engagements and also to understand ways and strategies of engaging with oil companies and regulatory agencies to negotiate their rights, employ peaceful and non-violent strategies and platforms to demand for redress of wrongs done by the oil companies to them in course of their operations. The Components of the training include contents on Governance, Participation and Inclusion, Transparency and Accountability, Community engagement, Gender and Youth Community Development and Political Participation.

Thirty-five persons (20 men, 15 women) per community drawn from among Traditional Rulers, Council of Chiefs, Community Development Committees (CDC), Youth Groups, Women Leaders and Opinion Leaders, participated in the trainings in each State. The participants were selected thus to reflect a cross-section of the community stakeholders so as to promote social 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.

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