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Delegates call on govt to pay polluted Ogoniland ecological debt

The Nigeria government has been asked to pay the Ogoni nation in the Niger Delta region an ecological debt for decades of pollution, neglect of their polluted environment, displacement of her people and for denying them justice.

Delegates to the 25th Memorial Environmental Summit in honour of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa in Port Harcourt, Rivers State

The call was made by delegates to the 25th Memorial Environmental Summit held in honour of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Thursday, November 12, 2020.

Though details of the suggested remuneration are sketchy, participants likewise demanded a comprehensive environmental audit of the Niger Delta to be carried out by the Nigerian government.

In a communique released at the close of the Summit, government was asked to exonerate the late Ken Saro-Wiwa and his Ogoni compatriots of the supposedly false allegations for which they were murdered.

They also want Shell to be officially recognised as an accomplice in the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa.

“Just as Shell worked with the Nigerian government to murder the Ogoni leaders, it should equally work with the Nigerian government to exonerate the Ogoni leaders of the allegations. The other option is for Shell to decommission its facilities from Ogoniland and the Niger Delta,” the campaigners resolved.

While underlining the need for a judicial panel of inquiry to revisit the murders of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the disturbances that forced many Ogoni indigenes to flee and go into exile, they also want the authorities to remove existing hurdles and accelerate the clean-up of the devastated Ogoni environment and indeed the entire Niger Delta.

Participants also resolved thus: “The Nigerian government should halt the construction of a prison yard in Ogoniland and, instead, support the plans by Ogoni people for a Ken Saro Wiwa Memorial Park and the construction of a Research Centre of Excellence and other emergency measures recommended by the UNEP in its Assessment report.

“The Ken Saro-Wiwa Memorial Bus seized for no reason by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) in 2015 should be immediately released.

Read also: UN Biodiversity’s COP meets to address 2021 issues

“The Rivers State Government should remove the names of the late General Sani Abacha and other nefarious actors responsible for the Ogoni killings of 1995 from all edifices in the state.

“The Nigerian government immediately halt the drift to full blown tyranny occasioned by the growing cases of suppression of the rights of the people of the Niger Delta, activists across the entire Nigeria, as well as the harassment and use of state apparatus to stifle peaceful protests like has been observed with the #ENDSARS protests.”

Organised by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), the Summit had “25 years after Ken Saro-Wiwa: The Nigerian Environment and Lessons Not Learnt!” as its theme.

According to the organisers, the event was informed by the need for civil society and community activists to carry on with the struggle for environmental justice for the Ogoni until the demands of Ken Saro-Wiwa – which included giving his people a fair share in their oil wealth and respecting environmental laws – are entirely met.

Participants included civil society, community leaders from within and outside Ogoniland, women leaders, youth groups, the academia, and the media.

Kwami Kpondzo, Coordinator of Oilwatch Togo; Patrick Bond from South Africa; Steve Kriezmann from the United States; and Bobby Peek of groundWork South Africa delivered solidarity words via zoom.

The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Green Alliance Nigeria (GAN), Social Action and the Host Communities Network (HOCON) also delivered solidarity messages.

In a keynote titled “The Ogoni Struggle and Unending Quest for Environmental Justice in Nigeria”, Director of HOMEF, Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, explained that 25 years after the tragic activities that culminated in the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight Ogoni kinsmen, Shell and other fossil fuels industry actors are still in the business of denial as, according to hm, they “continue the wanton destruction of the Niger Delta and Nigerian environment”.  

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