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Delta Communities Form Network
Monday, 06 August 2007
Guardian Newspapers - Kayode Ogunbunmi

As part of efforts to resolve oil exploration related crisis in the area, several communities in the Niger Delta last week met to inaugurate an organisation that would represent their interest.

The Host Communities Network (HoCon) also seeks to reestablish the definition of host community and enhance the struggle for the respect of community and collective rights.

A cardinal aspect of the mission statement of the new association defines host community as "all the communities where any form of extractive industry activities takes place, whre extractive industry has its facilities and communities that will directly suffer impacts of the extractive industry's activities, whether or not there is an activity going on there or not."

According to Diejomah Onome, Coordinator of the group, the network members will strive to defend and protect their people, environment and livelihoods against corporations and government indifference.

"The network will ensure that internationally accepted standards are employed byall entities operating in their communities and where there is a shortfall in the application of these standards, all legal means employed to ensure strict compliance," she said.

For the executive Director of Environmental Rights Action (ERA), HoCon originates in the belief that if the Niger Delta Issue is solved, the national question is solved. Communities in Abuja and Jos, where extractive works are going on are also in line to join the network, which was formed by about 30 groups and communities across the states of the Niger Delta.

"What we are saying is that any community that is impacted by extractive activities should rightly consider herself a host community and not allow external players to drive wedges between communities so as to intensify exploitation," he said. "When we learn to make demands at the community level, they will eventually have to listen to us."

The Inauguration, which took place in Warri, was witnessed by local and international observers, including Abdulai Darimani of Tir World Network-Africa and Director of Finance and Administration, Greengrants, Mohan Natarajan.

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