Environmental Rights Action, Friends of the Earth Nigeria
Interview with Ubrei-Joe Maimoni Mariere by Carissa Marnce
Ubrei-Joe Maimoni Mariere is an environmental advocate from the Environmental Rights Action, Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA, FoEN) who leads the organisation’s ‘Waste Management, Monitoring & Evaluation’ and ‘Community Outreach‘ projects. Ubrei-Joe also co-coordinates the ‘Economic Justice, Resisting Neoliberalism‘ programme at Friends of the Earth Africa, and coordinates the Africa Climate Justice Group ( ACJG) , which comprises 17 movements’ based and allied organisations and partners in the African region.
Jewel Affairs Movie Industry awarded him the environmental campaigner of the year on December 27, 2020, for his community service over the past decade.
Brief history of the Environmental Rights Action?
Environmental Rights Action (ERA) is a Nigerian advocacy non-governmental organisation founded on January 11, 1993, to deal with environmental human rights issues in Nigeria. ERA is the Nigerian chapter of Friends of the Earth International (FoEI). ERA was also the coordinating NGO in Africa for Oilwatch International, a Global South network of groups concerned about the effects on the environment of people who live in oil-bearing regions. The organisation is dedicated to protecting human ecosystems through human rights and the promotion of environmentally responsible governmental, commercial, community and individual practices in Nigeria by empowering the local people. The organisation’s commitment to environmental human rights struggles has won recognition through awards such as the 1998 Sophie Prize for excellence and courage in environmental justice, and the 2009 Bloomberg Award for Tobacco control activism.
What are the organisation’s top priorities?
ERA advocates on the most urgent environmental, human rights and social issues often created by the current economic model and corporate globalisation, which excludes and tramples on the rights of local communities. We promote solutions that will help create environmentally-sustainable and just societies. Some of our activities include:
- Advocating for waste and plastic policies and regulations.
- Building coalitions and strengthening alliances.
- Movement building of labour groups, civil society organisations, and communities against water privatisation.
- Offering consultation on the National Water Bill.
- Anti-privatisation of water, sanitation and hygiene activities.
- Capacity-building activities on sustainable solutions to forest and biodiversity conservation through community exchanges, workshops, webinars, and ERA’s National Environmental Consultation (NEC).
- Regional and international advocacy to expose the violations connected to industrial plantation companies, who are drivers of biodiversity loss at all levels of work.
- Strengthening the popular movement for food sovereignty.
Biggest accomplishments/ achievements as an organisation?
ERA is a premier winner of the Sophie Prize, the 2009 Bloomberg Awards for Global Tobacco Control and other prizes for excellence and courage in the struggle for environmental justice.
In 2005, ERA secured a federal high court judgment in favour of the Iwherekhan Community in Delta State against Shell, over gas flaring.
In 2021, ERA celebrated another landmark court ruling against Shell by Dutch Court for four fishermen in the Niger Delta after 13 years of legal battles. ERA is committed to rebuilding its community and other civil society organisation structures in Nigeria independently, leading environmental campaigns.
Do you collaborate with partners in other regions? If so, how?
ERA is a member of Friends of the Earth, with around 77 members across the world. The organisation is also part of Oil Watch and the Global Alliance for Incinerators Alternatives (GAIA), which has a large pool of members. ERA collaborates effectively with some of the members of these global coalitions through solidarity support, doing joint actions and projects, and providing climate and environmental litigation services for communities some of our partners work with.
What are the main environmental issues that Nigeria is facing?
Nigeria is faced with several environmental problems such as oil, gas, air, water and land pollution. The country is also facing lead exposure, poor waste management and deforestation from large scale agricultural projects. Additionally, we are faced with desertification, wind erosion, and flooding challenges. Unwholesome foods, genetically modified foods, gene drives, and synthetic biology are being introduced into the country. The proliferation of false solutions is also a concerning issue.
How did COVID-19 impact the Environmental Rights Action? What challenges are you facing?
During COVID-19, working with communities was difficult because of the compulsory lock-down declared. Many meetings were taking place online. This was challenging because the facility to effectively move all physically planned meetings online was unavailable, coupled with poor internet connectivity. It is still difficult for community meetings to be migrated online, and large gatherings of people are not allowed, so reaching out to a vast audience these days is quite challenging.
What are your thoughts on the waste crisis that many countries in the region are facing?
Anyplace where there is a waste crisis, there is a failure of leadership. It is either that the laws of the land are inadequate, or there are no mechanisms for enforcement. The laws of the land influence the production and consumption pattern, and how society views waste. Waste colonialism is a consequence of leadership failure in most developing countries that see the importation of cheap waste products into their countries as an economic opportunity. That puts community people at the frontline of the waste crisis.
Are there any quotes, mottos, or beliefs that the organisation tries to adopt in all its work?
‘Leave the oil in the soil,’ and ‘everyone has the right to a protected environment that is favourable to their development’.