From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
A Non Governmental Organization, Oilwatch Nigeria has urged the federal government to fast track the cleanup of Ogoniland to commence cleanup in other polluted areas of the Niger Delta.
The group with 52 participants made the call at its first annual general assembly on in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Oilwatch Nigeria members also stressed on the need and urgency for the exoneration of Ken Saro–Wiwa and the Ogoni eight that were gruesomely murdered by the Abacha led military government.
According to the group ‘we call on the federal government to fast track the Ogoni cleanup process, so that other polluted parts of the Niger Delta can be cleaned on time as well.
‘Oilwatch Nigeria members stressed on the need and urgency for the exoneration of Ken Saro–Wiwa and the Ogoni eight that were gruesomely murdered by the Abacha led dictatorship government. These men were not criminals, rather they were ordinary Nigerians who were concerned about their environment and the wellbeing of the people’.
A member of the forum, Comrade Akpobari Celestine, lamented that the Ogonis have suffered for too long in the hands of extractive corporations and the Nigerian government, adding that the Niger Delta has been rated severally to be most polluted place on earth yet nothing has been done to alleviate the sufferings of the people.
He added that it takes taking away a man’s livelihood to kill him but it takes destroying the environment to kill a people, which hr said is what the Nigerian State has done to the Ogoni People and the Niger Delta in general.
He however joins Oilwatch Nigeria in calling on the government to release the Ken Saro-Wiwa memorial artistically designed bus that was confiscated by the Nigeria customs in 2015 and advised that they make it available to the people as a way of honoring the sacrifice and bravery of the Ogoni nine.
Dr Nnimmo Bassey, the Chair of Oilwatch International, stated that what the Ogonis are currently going through can be termed ecocide, describing it as a total destructions and dislocation of an environment and the livelihood of the people.
Bassey who is also the Executive Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), prayed that the cleanup process should be hastened up and made faster to yield rapid changes that is envisaged by the people of the region.
‘The Ogoni people have been very resilient in the struggles for environmental justice and we must ensure that we keep up with the struggles to halting all aspects of extractions in the region. There is need for us to remember that pollution is not only accidental but it is majorly political in this part of the world and we must always take note of this in our struggles to defend our environment. Ken Saro Wiwa started the struggles and the young people must continue in that path if we must birth the environmental justice he fought and died for’, he stressed.
Emem Okon, the Executive Director of Kebetkache Women, Development and Resource Centre and host of Oilwatch Nigera secretariat stressed on the need for regular monitoring and documentation of changes in the environment to aid in effective decision making in all sectors.
She made this call while advising women to take action to increase their voices in demanding for accountability from government and oil firms.
Bart Chima Williams, the Acting Executive Director of ERA/FoEN stated that the campaign is very clear from the perspective of Oilwatch and that if fossil fuel cannot be extracted without degrading the environment, then it should be left in the soil.
‘Ironically, since Nigeria embraced the oil revenue model, her economy has crashed from being one of the leading economies in the world to one of the worst coupled with severe environmental devastations’.
However, the group noted that to address the environmental challenges in the country, there is the need to unite, strategize and mobilise stakeholders to develop a counter people-focused policy and mass advocacy to halt all extractive activities in our communities.