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Environmental Refugees: Oak TV highlights challenges facing Ogoni people in new documentary

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OAK TV, a videography platform focusing on social and public policy issues, has on Thursday premiered a documentary that homes in on environmental pollution in Ogoniland.

Adeshola Komolafe, chief executive officer of Oak TV, while delivering her opening remarks, said what triggered the project was an encounter with young men from the Niger Delta who had come to her office in 2017 to plead for money and employment.

“Right there, we picked interest in Ogoni … and we started reflecting on the history of Ogoniland,” she recalled.

“We decided to take the next step and what did we do? We went to Ogoniland. We went from community to community. What you are going to watch today wasn’t done in 24 hours, it wasn’t done in two days. It took us about four months to get to this place.

“We went into the place and we saw those engaging in bunkering. We sat down with them. We had conversations with them. We heard their stories. We heard different stories and we tried as much as we could to put the pieces together.”

She said the team discovered that there is great insecurity in the communities and also that young people are migrating from Ogoniland in search of greener pastures in spite of available opportunities. “We call it deprivation in the midst of plenty,” she added.

The 45-minute documentary, titled ‘Environmental Refugees’, featured interviews with residents of the various kingdoms in Ogoniland, the paramount rulers, civil society groups, advocates, as well as the project manager of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP). It explained in detail how oil spills take place and the widespread consequences of crude oil exploration in Nigeria.

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“Our job as filmmakers is done,” Komolafe said after the screening. “It is your job as advocates and concerned persons to carry the message forward.”

The event also featured a panel session. The discussants were Celestine Akpobari, human rights and environmental rights campaigner; Baridam Suanu Timothy, king and chairman of the Ogoni Council of Traditional Rulers; Martha Agbani, director of Lokiaka Women Development Centre; and Mene Eric Barizaa Dooh, the paramount ruler of Goi community.

Uche Lilian Ekwunife, senator representing Anambra central district; Ahmed Modibbo Mohammed, former executive secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC); Dara Akala, executive director of the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND); and Tosin Olaloye, an official of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) also attended.

Drawing from resources gathered to produce the documentary, The ICIR has published a two-part report, where it explored the hardships faced by residents of Ogoniland owing to the loss of their means of livelihood and the shortcomings of the cleanup project launched by the federal government in 2016 to restore life to the environment.

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