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Niger Delta Environmental Crisis: The Challenges Of Journalist On Key Climate Issues- Rivers NUJ

As Nigerians joins rest of the world to mark world press freedom day, The Nigeria Union of Journalists Rivers State Council led by Comrade Stanley Job Stanley has called for better welfare and working conditions for the media workers and more enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act

Rivers state NUJ Chairman Stanley stated this at the opening ceremony of the event organized by the Nigeria Union of journalist in partnership  Rivers state university Mass Communication Department of Journalism and Media communication.

He said with various hazards Journalists go through sometimes in the discharge of their duties to cover stories as the watchdogs of the society.

He explained that as the fourth Estate of the Realm, the media should also continue to hold the government accountable to the people and be cautious while discharging their duties with the current global environmental crisis

Also speaking at the event the BusinessDay Regional Editor Mr. IGNATIUS CHUKWU who doubled as the key note speakers in his paper presentation the Journalism Practice and the Niger Delta environment as a whole,  “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis”

After some definitions he explained the need to give the right report on the environment in view of field practice of journalism, ‘it is easy to understand the theme to mean the deployment of Press Freedom to explain and defend the Planet. It also includes what Journalism or the Journalist ought to do in the face of instability in the environment.

Excerpts Of The paper presentation

“Ideal Journalism Practice in Nigeria:
The theme of the Day levies the Journalism practitioner the task and responsibility of explaining and defending the Planet and to defend the Environment in our region. The belief thus is that caring about self and treasures without first caring (reporting, explaining, and defending) for the Planet or Environment would amount to poisoning one’s surrounding. It is like ignoring poison in the fish pond and expecting the fish stock to do well and live long.
So, the ideal Journalism practice is the one that pays the highest attention to the coverage of the Environment. Admitted, covering the Environment looks like the most boring and most avoided beat in the newsroom, but common sense shows it should be the other way round.
The Environment Crisis and the Niger Delta:
The Niger Delta region was known for oil or the hydrocarbon phenomenon but now, environment crisis seems to take over. Oil began as a boom but is now seen as doom. In the doom, the environment seems to suffer most, and this the ‘place we live’ seems to be the casualty.
The challenges of the meeting point:
Meeting point is where the need for media attention meets the boring nature of covering the environment, plus the hindrances along the line. The challenge of the ‘meeting point’ thus seems to be the role Journalism should play in all of the above. Oil washes the shores of the Niger Delta. Environment suffers crisis. Journalism is to mediate in all of this. Is Journalism equipped, ready, and able?
The challenge seems to start with the problem of identifying the Journalist or Journalism. This will be by understanding the two groups of Journalists that cover the oil region and the Environment.
The national media group: Most national newspapers in the region have one Correspondent each. In a region full of explosive stories developing per day, the one Journalist is overstretched and overdrawn. In a swamp full of blood and dollars, the lone Journalist is totally distracted. Besides, the funding of the activities of the Journalist is in crisis itself. So, how does he or she get to the creeks and swamps everyday? This is a segment that needs deeper attention.
Training: The Journalist covering the region is a general beat Correspondent but finds himself covering specialized beats: Oil and Environment without any form of specialized training.
The state media (or home media): Most of these practitioners are under government employment and thus may lack independence in a region where every matter is seen as politics or is guided by interest.
The UN seeks freedom to media practice which should translate to freedom of expression to all citizens. We can look at two types of limitations to freedom: External (caused by govts and outside actors) and internal or self-censorship (when we decide or are unable to pursue stories) in particular sectors, such as the environment. Of the two, most veterans have found that self-censorship is worse.
The oil region has many issues that occupy the attention of the Journalist but Environment seems to be the biggest both in size and impact.
Key environment dangers:
Methane Emission (hydro and anthropogenic sources) plus the Ogoni Clean Up seem to be two key flashpoints for Journalists. You have associated problems such as soot, community restiveness, litigations, divestments, politics, crime, etc, that confront or confuse the Journalist.
Size of the problem:
Climate Change seems to be a big issue. Nigerian Journalists seem to see this as the least of their coverage focus. On the desk, Environment may be assigned to the least Journalist in terms of academic qualification and rank.
Yet, the size of the problem can be seen in the BusinessDay report of April 30, 2024 titled: African economies lose $13.7Bn to adverse climate. The truth is that Africans hardly see Environment issues as serious, even when the net is fast closing on the continent. There is scant effort in adopting disaster risk reduction policy framework. The Report by UN Economic Commission for Africa with partners shows that Climate neglect affects 12.5m people in Africa in one aspect, and that only 29 countries have disaster reduction policies.
Statement of the problem and the challenge of the Journalist:
There seems to be lack of awareness in the media space on key Climate issues. Many Journalists may not be aware that Nigeria signed the Global Methane Pledge to cut greenhouse pollution and reduce methane emissions by 45% by 2025 and 60-75% by 2030.
However, in the short to medium term, Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) is poised to develop gas as a transitional fuel for economic growth and a vehicle for alternative energy resources.
You may also be aware that Nigeria already has a high incidence of flaring Associated Gas (AG) from its oil and gas investments, at almost 98% of the gas component.
Besides this, oil spills arising from oil facility vandalism, human error, and equipment failure also aggravate methane emissions, sometimes near human habitations.
So, one can only wonder what will happen with a full-blown gas economy, where gas will be actively exploited for Nigeria’s economic growth potential.
Some of the known authorities and organisations working on Anthropogenous methane sources include Dr. Ogbeifun Louis Brown, Executive Director, Africa Initiative for Transparency and Responsibility Leadership (AfriTAL). There is the Environmental Centre for Oil Spills and Gas Flaring (ECOSGF), there is the Stakeholders Democratic Network (SDN), etc. Some activists and academics working on this subject for now in the Niger Delta include Prof. Anthony Onoja of the University of Port Harcourt, Dr. Chinwoke Clara Ifeanyi-Obi (of the Post Graduate School also of the Uniport), Dr. Godswill Ukoipoko from the Rivers State Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Monday Williams from the Akwa Ibom Ministry of Agriculture, and Dr. Nosa Aigbedion from NESREA
These experts have done different studies and works that conclude that reducing methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 would offer immediate and long-lasting multiple benefits not only for the climate, but also agriculture, human health, and the ecosystem health. Every year, these benefits would be equal to a global saving of approximately US$470 billion, according to a Report issued by AfriTAL ON April 19, 2024, after a Methane Abatement Roundtable in Port Harcourt.

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