In April 2022, Ibeno community witnessed a communal clash between Yourba residents and indigenes resulting in loss of properties worth millions of naira.
The people of Okoroutip community Ibeno local government area of Akwa Ibom State, a rich oil producing community have been tasked to uphold the principle of community integration and responsibilities as they continue to push for justice against pollution from fossil fuel extraction.
Addressing farmers at Okoroutip community during Cycle of Reflection meeting the Project Lead of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Stephen Oduware noted that when there is community integration, the people will be able to be actively participate, own the process and become an integral part of justice campaigns.
One of the resource person, and Coordinator of Peace Point Development Foundation, Comrade Umo Isua-ikoh identified the preconditions of community integration to include strong sense of shared identity or feeling of belonging, high regard for community,and readiness for active participation in solving community problems.
Others mentioned include increasing capacity to make adjustments in accordance to changing conditions coming from outside and within the community, readiness to accept compromises in the adjudication of conflict for the benefit of all and ability to maintain order and harmony.
Isua-ikoh noted that in addition to some of the preconditions for community integration include respect for community institutions (including Council of Elders, Women Council, Council of Chiefs, Youth Council, Schools, Market Associations, Youth Council, Religious Council, among others).
He added that community members must show concern for community problems and develop shared responsibility to support everyone.
The Resource Person said that the importance of community integration is that it makes the community a place that is livable for different categories of people, people of different genders, worship patterns, forms of ability and disability, educational levels, social status, Income, among others.
He pointed out that community integration allows each community member or all groups within a community to have access to the wide variety of opportunities within the community as well as those coming into the community from external actors.
Isua-ikoh said segregation and discrimination are two related conditions that can render ineffective processes toward community integration.
He added ” Segregation in simple terms is separation that shows inequality. It is the separation of groups of people with different characteristics. When there is segregation in a community, it is a sign of the inequalities and inequities that have taken root in the community.
“Where there is segregation, the living conditions of the segregated groups are affected negatively because they are denied opportunities enjoyed by others. Segregation also leads to prejudices or partiality which are the basis of discrimination against the segregated group.”
Also speaking on ” Integrating Gender into Community Integration Processes”, another Resource Person, Elsie Ifon charged the people of Okoroutip to give responsibility and opportunity to people of capacity so that they can lead in the quest for justice against oil and gas pollution in their domain.
Ifono added “Once the right people are assigned a position or responsibility, there will be progress. Do not say this is the sole responsibility of a man. Let us focus on who can do it. If women are assigned serious roles and not mundane roles, it will be better.
“It should not be when they need a crowd women are remembered. How about bringing out these women to empower them and give them a position of responsibility?”
In response, the Secretary of Okoroutip village council,Chief Eyina Wilson thanked HOMEF for the training. He said the community sees the call for integration as timely and what that can help them advance. He assured that they will make necessary changes where needed.