Anxiety as Ogoni Protest Shell’s Resumption of Oil Production in Ogoniland
Thousands of Ogoni people, from the four Local Government Areas of Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme, yesterday defied the heavy rain to massively protest the return of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) to resume crude oil production and laying of pipelines, after the Anglo/Dutch oil giant was sent packing from Ogoniland over 24 years ago.
The protesters, comprising elderly men, women and youths, who were armed with placards, bearing various inscriptions, drumming and singing anti-Shell songs, were led by the President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Chief Legborsi Saro Pyagbara.
The displeased protesters took off from Kpobie Junction in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, on the ever-busy Bori-Saakpenwa Road and trekked for about five kilometres to Biara, in the same Gokana LGA, the site of laying of fresh pipes by SPDC and moved into the forest, covering about 20 kilometres, to the last point with exposed pipelines about being laid, before connecting Bera-Ogoni in Gokana LGA, through a narrow forest path.
Sighting the advancing protesters, the Nigerian and expatriate workers of Anasami Construction Nigeria Limited, the Shell’s contractor handling the laying of pipelines, took to their heels, abandoning four bulldozers and other equipment.
As the protesters were moving round Ogoni communities, fully-armed soldiers and policemen in many Toyota Hilux patrol vans were driving/moving behind them, to prevent the breakdown of law and order, with Nigerian Army’s Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), marked NA 381 AO1, stationed at Kpobie Junction.
Pyagbara was accompanied by an alternate representative of Ogoni stakeholders in the Governing Council of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), Mr. Kammy Ngelale, and the National Coordinator of a socio-political pressure group, the Ken Saro-Wiwa Associates, Chief Gani Topba, among other prominent Ogoni leaders, who kicked against the return of SPDC to Ogoniland.
Some of the placards read: “No broad-based discussion, no oil production in Ogoni”, “We say yes to clean-up and we say no to laying of oil pipelines in Ogoni now”,
The MOSOP president, while addressing the protesters at Kpobie Junction, said: “We are at a time of national emergency, because of certain developments that are happening in Ogoniland, that we are not happy with. On August 26, 1990, our fathers and mothers came together and put in place the famous Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR). Critical in the OBR is the issue of the stoppage of Ogoni environment from degradation. We initiated a lot of non-violent actions that forced Shell out of Ogoni in April/May 1993. Since then, Shell was declared persona non grata in Ogoni.
“We have not asked Shell to come back. We are seeing tendencies in the last few months about Shell trying to force its way back to Ogoni and we are saying no. The fire of the Ogoni struggle must continue to burn. We are demonstrating to the whole world, through non-violent strategy that our fathers taught us.
“This is just the beginning of non-violent actions that we are planning in the coming days. There will be bigger protests in few weeks, if the Federal Government refuses to respond to the issues that we have raised. If you want to talk about resumption of oil production in Ogoni, you must come to the table. We must all discuss and bring to the fore, the issues that were raised by the founding fathers of the struggle, relating to oil production in Ogoniland (THENATION)
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