Natural justice organized a two-day training workshop for environmental human rights defenders and communities in the Niger Delta from Thursday 13th to Friday 14th April 2023 at Visa Karena Hotels in Port Harcourt Rivers State. The workshop brought together 27 defenders, 11females and 16 males from Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Cross River, and Rivers States respectively. The objectives of the workshop were to enhance capacities of rights defenders to utilize local and international legal instruments to defend themselves and their communities from repression by security agencies, rights violation and harassment by companies and other actors in their areas of work. Participants had their capacities enhanced in fund sourcing for programs and emergency support. Security awareness and data protection tips were shared with participants. The training also allowed participants to network, build solidarity and local support systems for themselves.
The workshop featured presentations, 4 breakout sessions and plenary discussions where participants identified their areas of work and geographical locations, challenges, and opportunities and cocreated a pathway forward for defenders in Nigeria.
- Rights defenders encounter a lot of challenges in defending the environment and the rights of local/indigenous communities owing to the lack of laws that provide protection for defenders.
- There has been no systematic process of networking and building solidarity among defenders working across different sectors and in different locations in Nigeria.
- Women and persons living with disability who are defenders require even more protection.
- Defenders must be transparent and accountable to the communities that they work in to get their full support.
- Participants resolved to set up a network to be mediated by NJ to strengthen coordination among rights defenders and to partner together to identify, collate and disseminate information on rights violations via the setting up of a defenders database.
- It was also agreed that defenders draft and campaign for law reforms in each state represented to ensure protection for defenders is codified with special emphasis on the protection of women and persons with disability defenders.
- Advocacy and trust building activities such as legal capacity enhancement should commence in at least 12 communities across the six states in the region.
- Participants agreed to hold mock truth and reconciliations hearings with retired jurists presiding to receive evidence/testimonies of rights violations, harassment, killing and disappearance of rights defenders across Nigeria.
- Participants agreed to mobilize and build a strong campaign for climate justice