The Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, YEAC-Nigeria, has sensitized students of Government Secondary School, Oyigbo, against all forms of organized crimes, particularly illegal oil refining activities, commonly known as kpofire, in Rivers State.

Organized crimes, according to YEAC-Nigeria, are a category of transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals to engage in illegal activities, most commonly for profit, ranging from cultism, exam malpractice, drug abuse, human trafficking, examination malpractice, pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft, and artisanal refining.

Others are illegal oil bunkering, kidnapping, banditry, insurgency, racketeering, cybercrimes, internet fraud (aka Yahoo-Yahoo), drugs/human trafficking, arms smuggling, sea piracy, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, other fraudulent activities, and environmental crimes, including illegal logging.

The Executive Director of YEAC-Nigeria, Mr Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, during a sensitization workshop for the secondary school in Oyigbo, warned against involvement of organized crime, especially artisanal refineries, which are common sights in communities across Rivers State and the Niger Delta region.

With the aid of photographic examples and illustrations, the students were shown how artisanal refinery activities cause environmental pollution, deaths as well as jeopardise young people’s future.

According to him, organized crimes are continuously maintained through the corruption of public officials and the use of intimidation, threats, or forces to protect their operations.

With over 500 students sensitized at GSS Oyigbo, he added that YEAC-Nigeria has already sensistized over 10,000 students in Rivers State between 2019 and 2023, while targeting to reach 10 million students across the Niger Delta region over time.

Fyneface also showed the students pictorial evidence of those arrested by the NDLEA for getting involved in drugs and advised the students involved in drugs and cultists to desist forthwith or risk being arrested and prosecuted by the NDLEA and the police.

“By this sensitization program, YEAC-Nigeria is warning you all against the involvement of organized crime, especially artisanal refineries, which are common sights in communities across Rivers State and the Niger Delta region.

“Illegal refining activities cause environmental pollution and cause explosions that lead to the killing of those involved, with a few survivors sustaining lifetime injuries that lead to permanent deformation while some others are arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned by the NSCDC, turning them into convicts and ex-convicts, and you will be stigmatized against for the rest of your lives, making you less useful to society, a situation that is avoidable.”

Fyneface blamed the rising cases of exam malpractice in secondary schools on parenting failure, a corrupt educational system, poor student attitudes, societal failure, undue emphasis on academic results and certificate acquisition over knowledge acquisition, and inadequate preparation by students.

YEAC-Nigeria described examination malpractice as deliberate wrongdoing contrary to official examination rules designed to place a candidate at an unfair advantage or disadvantage and warned the students that the penalties for exam malpractice under the 1999 Examination Malpractice Act include a five-year jail term or a fine of N100,000.

“Examination malpractices include dubbing, sorting, girraffing, copying, writing on the body, use of sign language, impersonation, leakage of exam questions, tampering with results, bribery, sex-for-marks, use of mercenaries, computer fraud during computer-based exams, and fraudulent practices by invigilators, among others.

“Effects of examination malpractice include dismissal, termination, loss of position, lack of self-confidence, loss of trust in the educational system, reduced enrolment of students in school, cancellation of results, discourages good students or candidates from studying hard, deprives innocent students’ opportunity for admission, decreases job efficiency, prostitution, stealing, and armed robbery.”

On drug and substance abuse, YEAC-Nigeria cautioned the students against involvement in drug abuse by not succumbing to peer pressure or using drugs illicitly, noting that the United Nations has set aside June 16 every year as a special day to raise more awareness on drug abuse.

“The effects of drug abuse on youths can be physical, psychological, and social. Drug abuse contributes to academic difficulties, severe health-related problems, including increased risk of mental health disorders, damage to vital organs, poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system; it drives poverty to you and even to your family; it makes you unemployable, etc.”

Fyneface said violent extremism is the use of violence to achieve ideological, religious, political, or any kind of goal, including terrorism and other forms of politically motivated and communal violence, warning that violent extremism undermines peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development.

According to him, there are violent and non-violent extremisms; the former involves illegal acts of violence, while the latter is oftentimes protected by the right to freedom of speech and civil rights concerns. “Thus, when you insist on the right thing to be done according to constitutional provisions, it means that you hold extreme views about what is right in a non-violent manner.”

“Factors that push individuals toward violent extremism include marginalization, inequality, discrimination, persecution, and limited access to quality education; the denial of rights and civil liberties; and other environmental, historical, and socio-economic grievances; the confluence of weak and illegitimate governance; economic decline; and the worsening effects of climate change. Other root causes include arms proliferation, high unemployment, poverty rate, the politicisation of security agencies, the misappropriation of resources, etc.

To prevent violent extremism, he said, “Education and sensitization are powerful tools that build learners’ resilience to violent extremism and mitigate the drivers of the phenomenon. Education and sensitization help strengthen the commitment of youths to non-violence and peace, in particular, by addressing hateful and violent narratives. It is not enough to counter it. We must prevent it through advocacy like this workshop brought to you by YEAC-Nigeria.”

Executive Director, YEAC-Nigeria