UNEP Ogoni clean-up and 9 martyrs: Fury of MOSOP rises higher

Some 22 years down the line, November 10 (1995) still evokes anger and temper in Ogoni area of Rivers State. To the people, it remains a black day.

According to public records, this was the day the then Federal Military Government led by the late head of state, Sani Abacha, resolved to deal a deadly blow on the Ogoni’s struggle for environmental injustice caused by decades of oil exploitations in Ogoni led by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).

Nine environmental activists including a world renowned playwright, Ken-Saro-Wiwa, were killed in a gruesome manner. Some media experts and human rights analysts described the killing as a group “murder by rascality camouflaged in executive explainable judicial abracadabra”.

That singular act against humanity earned Nigeria yellow cards and wide condemnation from the United States of America, the European Union (EU) and other international organizations. The struggle for the environmental injustice was vindicated less than 20 years later following a United Nations Environmental programme (UNEP) report which attested that the Ogoni’s land space and natural ecosystem had suffered unmitigated pollution, raped and abandoned to the hopelessness of the people.

The struggle against the injustice has since become the project of the Movement of the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) ably supported by its arm known as the National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP) whose leadership has vehemently stood its ground thus: “You can kill the prophet, but you cannot kill the message”.

MOSOP under its leadership and its president, Legborsi Saro Pyagbara rolled out their usual non-violent approach on the 22nd anniversary commemoration of Ogoni Martyrs Day on November 10, 2017, in the Rivers State capital with far-reaching messages, requests to both the federal Government and SPDC and the Hydrocarbon pollution Remediation project (HYPREP) body given the Ogoni clean-up job to execute.

The MOSOP leader Pyagbara in his address, articulated among others that: the process of national healing and reconciliation would not be complete until the Nigeria government clears the name of the Ogoni nine that triggered a massive international outcry followed by suspension of Nigeria by the common wealth of Nations from its membership.

He also said, it was time for the government to consummate the process of national healing and reconciliation with the Ogoni people by formally clearing the names of the Ogoni nine of any wrong doing and establish a national monument in their honour and memory, with a strong appeal to the Muhammadu Buhari-led Administration to set in motion the process for clearing the names of the Ogoni Martyrs.

On Ogoni oil assets, the MOSOP leader emphasized thus, “whilst shell remains persona-non-grata in Ogoni Land, Ogoni oil assets cannot be partitioned and allocated like the partitioning of Africa to any investor without the free, prior and informed consent of the Ogoni people as guaranteed under the international human rights law”.

Pyagbara reiterated that “MOSOP is not against the resumption of oil production in Ogoni land, but any resumption that does not involve a broad-based discussion with the Ogoni community leaders taking account that the oil industry and Ogoni had been in dispute and the issues surrounding those disputes have not been settled must be properly settled.

MOSOP warned members of Ogoni communities not to allow themselves to be deceived by any investor, saying, “it is our duty to learn from our past and find a united platform which will protect our interests collectively. Our past sadly reminds us that when it is sought to divide us”.

He reiterates, “It is almost always easy to exploit our strong resentment against shell and its practices to pitch us along the lines of those perceived to oppose or support shell, support or oppose government or even so-called development. What should be clear is that any investment or development or responsible oil exploitation that is people-centred and people-driven will attract the overwhelming support of the Ogoni People”, he assured.

On the on-going national contentious issues of restructuring of Nigeria, the MOSOP leader said, Nine died for a restructured Nigeria which will guarantee equity, justice and fairness by creating political space for the sub-national entities to develop their own space while ensuring protection for national minorities and indigenous communities.

He pointed out that the Ogoni Bill of Rights, which is the basis of the Ogoni struggle, emphasizes local autonomy for the Ogoni people and other Nigerian communities that are threatened by internal colonialism saying, “It is only restructuring that can guarantee this, it is therefore facile for some people to claim that the basis of Nigeria existence is not negotiable. The whole process of nation-state building is a process of negotiating until we have arrived at the ultimate point of an authentic Nigeria-nation State. It is time that the government commenced the process of restructuring the nation”.

Also, NYCOP through its Acting president, Morgan Norteh, specifically demanded the justification for shell’s resumption of laying oil pipes in some of the communities without proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIPA) made public to the Leaders of Ogoni people instead of operating through what he called “back door approach”.

Nycop also challenged HYPREP for claiming that it had trained 6000 youths which it regards as faceless Ogoni youths saying it has 3 C’s – Consolidation, conciliation and Confrontation approaches to resolve issues with the HYREP and if all failed, shell would be given two weeks suspension action notice followed by another two weeks protest against the NNPC Abuja Head Quarters, the Federal capital, after a firm decision taken by MOSOP but the cleanup must commence before the end of December, 2017.

Wilbroad Ngambi in his remarks, on behalf of the United Nations Resident coordinator, Dr. Edward Kallon, at a memorial lecture marking the Ogoni martyrs day said the UN recognizes the efforts of the Ogoni people with regards to environmental protection which is in line with the global agenda on sustainable development linked with almost all the seventeen sustainable Development Goals (SDGS).

Kallon said the UN had noted reported environmental effects on water quality degradation, destruction of vegetation and agricultural land and depletion of fish population by oil spills in Ogoni land and other communities across the Niger Delta oil impacted region, stressing that, “the UN remains committed to the clean-up”.


Ignatius Chukwu/Godwin Egba, Port Harcourt


Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.