Full Text of Press Statement by the President of MOSOP on March 2, 2018
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,
Thank you for honouring our invitation despite the very short notice and the trouble in moving around the city at this time on a Friday morning in Port Harcourt.
I will like to welcome you all to this press briefing. I want to start by wishing you all a very fulfilling and happy New Year 2018. As usual, it is our intention to use the opportunity of this briefing to share our thoughts with you on some national developments as it affects the Ogoni people and also to make clarifications on some emerging issues.
THE APC REPORT ON RESTRUCTURING
Whilst we appreciate the position of the recommendations of the APC Committee Report on Restructuring, particularly as it relates to State Police, Resource Control, Independent Candidacy, State Prisons, Mineral resources control, referendum , Business name and stamp duty, Minimum wage , citizenship and narcotics, we are dissatisfied that the proposal from the APC Committee raises some unsettling concerns.
RE-INTRODUCTION OF THE ONSHORE/OFFSHORE DICHOTOMY
Reading through the report of the All Progressives Congress (APC) committee on restructuring, you will find that it reintroduces the already settled controversial issue of dichotomy on onshore/offshore oil production revenue. MOSOP believes that the negative externalities of resource extraction have no boundaries and the revenue accruing therefrom offshore cannot and should not be the exclusive preserve of the federal government.
SCRAPPING OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
MOSOP does not agree to the scrapping of the current local government structure. We reiterate that the local government remains the only tier of government that offers grassroot people a semblance of government. MOSOP maintains its position that what we need for the local government now is that it be granted the autonomy and independence deserving of it to operate its own affairs. But the local councils and chairmen have to be elected on a zero-party platform while the councils are committed to strict constitutional safeguards that guarantee accountability and transparency.
FAILURE TO RECOMMEND STRUCTURAL RESTRUCTURING OF THE NIGERIA FEDERATION
Part of the problems of the Nigeria Federation is that its convoluted structure is predicated and sustained by social and structural injustice. The present structure of the Nigeria Federation is defective, unfair, unjust and immoral. No nation can progress when its basic foundation is defective and made it impossible for its component unit to rise to the fullness of their potentials. Our proposal remains that the nations that make up the Nigeria-state must have a structural arrangement put in place that allow them to use their resources , innovations and initiatives in driving their development agenda within the context of a federal Nigeria. What we need is a truly federal system where the component states or federating entities can develop at their own pace and according to their capabilities and endowments. Any at attempt at restructuring that fails to address structural restructuring is bound to fail.
ABDUCTION OF DAPCHI GIRLS
Whilst MOSOP condemns the recent inhuman abduction of 110 Dapchi girls by terrorists, it extends its sympathies to the families of the abducted girls and the government of Yobe State. MOSOP regrets the security lapses that could lead to this type of situation in a state where there existed early warning signals that terrorists could attack at any moment once there is any opportunity. We call on the Federal Government to mobilise all sectors of its security apparati to ensure that these girls are released and returned back to their families.
ON-GOING VOTER REGISTRATION
MOSOP calls on Ogoni sons and daughters who have not performed their civic duty of registering to vote during elections to do so now in the spirit of national redemption and political empowerment. Our PVC remains our power for defining our future and the time to act is now. The time to demonstrate that we believe in effective political representation is now with our Permanent Voters’ Card.
Whilst we laud INEC so far on this process, we also passionately appeal to INEC to make adequate logistic arrangements for those in remote areas to enable them carry out this civic responsibility of voter registration. For instance, in the Ogoni local government area of Khana, which is one of the largest local government areas in the country, it will take enormous resources for a would-be registeree to travel back and forth to Bori, the headquarters of the local government to do his or her voter registration.
CONTROVERSIAL REPLACEMENT OF PIPELINES ACROSS OGONILAND BY SPDC
MOSOP reiterates its earlier position maintained since last June 2017 that Shell’s continuing laying of pipelines in Ogoniland is a negation of the environmental rights of the Ogoni People and a great display of impunity against the extant laws of this country. MOSOP had right from the onset demanded that Shell carries out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) on these areas before the pipelines are laid. When this request was rebuffed, MOSOP called out Ogoni people for a peaceful protest on the 4th August 2017 at Biara Community. Shell suspended operations but later resurfaced again at another flank of the Ogoni community in October 2017. MOSOP organized another protest at Nonwa, Tai on the 26th October 2017 which was met with heavy repression by a combined team of the security agencies called upon by Shell and its contractors to stop the protests. The soldiers beat the protesters, seized cameras from journalists’ and wounded some of the protesters.
As part of its campaign, MOSOP presented this case before the United Nations Human Rights Council last November 2017 and also initiated an online global campaign against the laying of the pipeline in Ogoniland which had generated over two thousand signatories of support from all over the world. MOSOP had also petitioned the National Assembly and the National Human Rights Commission to intervene in this matter. In the coming days, MOSOP will be returning back to the United Nations to make the world body know that the Nigeria government and Shell is still bulldozing Ogoni farmlands and continuing with the laying of these pipelines.
UNEP REPORT IMPLEMENTATION
We call on the Federal Ministry of Environment to break down the wall of bureaucracy hampering the work of HYPREP to immediately cause the release of necessary funds for the agency to work with. The unmitigated delay between approvals and release of funds is killing the UNEP Report implementation process.
As you are very much aware, there has been an unnecessary, uninformed and highly-funded campaign of calumny against MOSOP and its leadership in recent times being coordinated by certain self-styled oil companies led by Belema Oil. and the RoboMichael Ltd. and anchored by their on-the-spot operatives led by the Ken Saro-Wiwa Associates and a deposed paramount ruler of Kegbara Dere Community, Chief Donald Gberesuu of the Ogoni Oil Bearing Communities Association including other gladiators and opportunists who are out to use the name of Ogoni to feather their nests. The KSWA had in an advertorial published in the Nation Newspaper of 16th February 2018 pages 42-43 made some frivolous, spurious, unsubstantiated and misleading claims about MOSOP and its leadership. The fact that this publication was done in defense of the oil companies in response to MOSOP’s stand that it will be blacklisting Belema Oil Producing Limited and RoboMichael Ltd. for enthroning a climate of fear and insecurity in Ogoniland speaks volumes and de-robes KSWA and its titular head, Gani Topba of any pretense of being on the side of the Ogoni people. Ordinarily, MOSOP would have ignored such frivolities as this was probably one of his macabre attention-seeking sports gone wrong but we felt we have to respond because outright lies, distortions and falsehoods that are unchallenged over time assume the semblance of truth.
Contrary to the falsehood being bandied in the aforesaid publication, we want to state unequivocally that the leadership of MOSOP is intact and working together in harmony. We do not deny that like any other organizations, we have had our own challenges but what stands us out is our ability to resolve our challenges and move past our differences for the sake of our beloved organisation. The division which is referred to in the said publication only exists in the figment of imaginations of its author(s). It is also preposterous to claim that MOSOP has not issued a disclaimer when necessary when it was even the leader of KSWA that voluntarily circulated the disclaimer that MOSOP issued last December 2017.
First, it is well known that in the last five years, MOSOP has been in the vanguard of the campaign against resumption of oil production in Ogoniland predicating its resistance on the need for a broad-based discussion amongst the three critical stakeholders to the Ogoni conflict namely the Federal Government of Nigeria, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Ogoni community. Right from 2013, MOSOP has issued several statements of condemnation against the oil companies. It is just laughable that a little known KSWA of yesterday will suddenly wake up to claim that they have been engaging in this front more than MOSOP.
In its weird claims and unmitigated falsehood, the KSWA claimed that MOSOP under my leadership endorsed Belema Oil Producing Ltd. and galvanized support for its acceptance as the operator of the Ogoni oil block. Nothing can be further from the truth. I challenge KSWA to produce the letter of endorsement from MOSOP duly signed by me as the President of MOSOP. We are giving KSWA one week to produce the said letter. I also challenge them to produce any documentation to show either by proxies or otherwise that I have been compromised by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) through contracts or any other form of gratification.
It would be recalled that in January 2015, members of the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers in a ceremony at the Palace of His Royal Majesty King Gininwa announced to the glare of the media that they have endorsed Belema Oil Producing Ltd. to take over the Ogoni Oil Block. MOSOP responded immediately to distance itself from such endorsement stressing that it was not the view of the Ogoni people.
I was travelling then in Geneva, Switzerland where I was attending the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund. The leader of KSWA who was then my SA on Logistic Matters phoned me to brief me of the developments at home. I immediately cut short my trip in Europe and returned to the country.
As soon as I returned, I called for a Congress of the Ogoni people which was held on the 7th February 2015 at the Peace and Freedom Centre, Bori. Part of the resolutions of that Congress was the resolve that all discussions and activities relating to the resumption of oil production in Ogoniland be suspended. This was the decision that buried Belema Oil activities in Ogoni in that year including the fact that his political benefactors at the federal level lost power at the time. Promoters of Belema Oil. including Chief Donald Gberesuu were all in attendance at that meeting. Gani Topba was also at that meeting. The video and communique of this meeting are available for you to confirm.
Additionally, MOSOP was mandated to establish a committee that would develop a clear and inclusive engagement framework on oil investment in Ogoniland. The Committee was headed by Professor Johson Nnah of the University of Port Harcourt and co-chaired by Professor Fakae, then Vice-Chancellor of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology.
The claim by KSWA that Belema Oil Producing Ltd. was not contending for the Ogoni oil fields can only be said to the marines and it goes to show the extent KSWA will go to unabashedly to defend Belema Oil Producing Ltd. which is their main sponsor and benefactor. On the promptings of Belema Oil Producing Ltd., the Host Communities of Yorla Oil Field convened at Luubara town in January 2017 in yet another sham of endorsement led by Chief Gilbert Warinee. Just last weekend precisely on Saturday, 24th February, 2018, the Ogoni Oil Bearing Communities Association led by Chief Donald Gberesuu, Chief Gilbert Warinee and Chief Sylvester Kogbara, an assemblage of the deposed, were on ViewPoint canvassing support for Belema Oil Producing Limited yet someone will say to the world naively that the company is not contending for the Ogoni oilfields. I want to state emphatically that contrary to the claims of Chief Donald Gberesuu, I have never spoken with him since 2013 and there had not been any time I had any negotiation with him nor with his Master.
In his quest to dance on the truth, KSWA claimed that I was whisked away from the arena by operatives of the Department of State Security. Ogoni Day 2018 was well attended. It was one of the largest in terms of attendance in recent times. Can that sort of attendance be the outcome of the mobilization of a man that has lost touch with his people? On the issue of security, Gani Topba had been a member of the Security Committee of past editions of Ogoni Day where members of the committee had been responsible for ensuring adequate security is provided for Ogoni Day. I was in Ogoni Day till the end. I presented the Ogoni Day Speech after which I along with the Chair of the occasion and others cut the Unity Cake for Ogoni. I saw to the departure of my Special Guest, The British High Commissioner to Nigeria before I proceeded to my waiting vehicle and was joined by the DSS who followed me home as has been the practice on every Ogoni Day. The claim of being booed on the ViewPoint Programme of 27th January 2017 is nothing but fallacy and does not merit any discussion here.
In whatever way you want to describe preliminary approval or not, I reiterate my position that RoboMichael Limited have not been granted license over OML 11. Yes, RoboMichael Ltd. have interest in OML 11. Yes, there had been communication between RoboMichael Ltd. and Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), yes, there had been communication between RoboMichael Ltd. and NAPIMMS. Has this resulted in license being granted? I am yet to see. Let us even take it from the point that preliminary approval was however made subject to the concurrence of the various partners to the NNPC/SPDC JV. Has the various partners concurred now? This is also NO.
On the issue of procurement of consultancies to HYPREP, I must state here categorically that nothing relating to these three consultancies were discussed or had been approved by the Governing Council of HYPREP. The Federal Ministry of Environment had taken full responsibility for that. The advertisement for these positions were done in late 2016 by the Federal Ministry of Environment. Every step relating to this had been handled by the Ministry until, we, understand, it was taken to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval. Since we became aware, those of us from the community on the Governing Council had taken some steps and the costs will certainly be reviewed.
On the issue of the military takeover of the MOSOP Secretariat for RoboMichael Ltd. activity on the 27th December 2017, the claims of Gani Topba is not only a symptom of a mentally and emotionally unstable character but the manifestation of a morally bankrupt individual. The Sun Newspaper of 29th December 2017, had reported under the heading; MOSOP, SARO-WIWA GROUP CONDEMN OCCUPATION OF OGONILAND that Gani Topba had condemned the occupation of the Secretariat of MOSOP by soldiers. Between December 2017 and February 2018, what has changed to merit his changing of tune like the canary bird?
The naivety of Gani Topba shines through his claim that the President’s Aides on Security and Media gave access to RoboMichael Ltd. All the period Gani Topba had been with MOSOP, he knew that the Peace and Freedom Centre, Bori is under a management headed by the President of MOSOP. He knew that the President’s Aides do not give approval for the use of the Centre. Topba knows that anyone who wants to use the Centre for any activity including affiliates of MOSOP applies to the President of MOSOP, gets approval before being given access to the Centre. Let RoboMichael Ltd. and her cohorts show evidence of applying for the usage of the Peace and Freedom Centre on the said date and the approval they received to hold meeting in the place.
The Operations Manager of RoboMichael Ltd., Mr. Festus Uchenna did not deny that they never had the military with them on the said date. He said “I must place on record that the military has been professional in their duties. They only escorted us in and out of the place. The MOSOP president is the person that has been against us since we started’’ Need we say anymore!!! (See The Sun News 29th December 2017 mentioned above). The usage of the hall without due approval from the approving authority or his delegate with the support of the military is called what if not an invasion.
There had been claims made by some people from oil bearing communities. I want to state here that Ogoni people launched a struggle as a people with common destiny and common heritage. Before the launch of the Ogoni struggle, no single oil bearing community in Ogoniland was able to challenge the activities of Shell without being crushed. It was only when we rose up in unison as a people clothed with the same garment of humanity and the same destiny that we were able to turn the table against Shell and shook Shell to its roots. This was not without its costs. This struggle consumed the lives of over two thousands Ogoni souls including the Ogoni Nine. The gunshots from the military in the heydays of the struggle did not know about oil bearing or non-bearing communities. All they knew was Ogoni.
MOSOP is of the position that we will approach all these issues from a pan Ogoni point of view because we are our brothers’ keepers whilst taking special cognizance of the enormous contributions of oil bearing communities and the differential impacts that they endure. There is no way under our consideration that oil bearing communities will be treated in the same manner with the non-oil bearing communities in terms of benefits.
I call on the Federal Government, NNPC and the international community to call RoboMichael Ltd. and Belema Oil Producing to order before their desperate, despicable and corrupt bid to take over Ogoni oil fields plunge Ogoni into another avoidable cycle of crisis. I want to reiterate that MOSOP is not opposed to the resumption of oil production in Ogoni, which will take place only after due consultation with the Ogoni people, not with a committee of deposed and discredited chiefs. Oil companies wanting to do business in Ogoni must await the adoption of the report of the pan-Ogoni, Professor Ben Naanen Committee set up to draw a template for oil production in Ogoni, which will give such companies a level playing ground for their engagement with the Ogoni community.
In conclusion, my dear friends, in the words of the old Chinese curse, may we all live in interesting times. These, indeed, are very interesting times in our dear Ogoniland. I must tell you here that the oil industry has invaded Ogoniland to corrupt the soul of Ogoni with Petrodollars. All the mushroom groups seeking for space in Ogoniland are all funded by the oil industry particularly Belema Oil Producing Limited and RoboMichael Ltd. to destabilize Ogoni and foist some groups on Ogoni People. One of such heavily funded group by the oil Industry is Ken Saro-Wiwa Associates. It is so unfortunate that the late Ken Saro-Wiwa spent his whole life fighting against the oil Industry but today his name is being used by those with shady characters to align with the same oil industry to destroy his legacies. Ken Saro-Wiwa Associates is on a mission to destroy MOSOP and by extension Ogoni and must be told that in clear terms. By Ogoni traditions, leadership is earned and not foisted. You cannot force yourself to claim a non-existent mandate. Well, MOSOP has seen all these before. It will come and eventually go. We are calling on Ogoni people to remain vigilant and ever resolute whilst continuing on the path of peaceful advocacy and non-violence that our founding fathers passed on to us.
Legborsi Saro Pyagbara
2ND March 2018
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