POSITION ON OGONI, NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT, SHELL OIL
Ogoni Flag created by Ken Saro-Wiwa
Article by Ben Wuloo Ikari
It’s interesting to note the gravity of joy that pervade Ogoni, when its inhabitants came to the realization that Shell Petroleum Development Company would no longer prospect for, or mine hydrocarbon (oil) in Ogoni oilfields. Those in Diaspora weren’t left out; they were as well effusive.
Shell Oil, State and the Federal Government of Nigeria can see (not imagine) the joy that has been deprived Ogonis for about 50 years now. They should then imagine how much could be paid in compensation for this deprivation. The government, its agencies and companies such as Shell can’t deliberately and knowingly deprive Ogonis their right to be joyous and expect the people to say thanks. It’s the people’s right to seek remedies for the pains caused them. One way to seek remedy, sustained joy and happiness, which are the main purposes of life, is to permanently keep Shell Oil and any company associated with it, in any slightest or imaginable way out of Ogoni.
Although the above announcement was made by President Musa Yar’Adua, Ogonis haven’t been officially notified regarding said development. The manner in which the announcement was made also calls for suspicion, as a sensitive issue such as Ogoni, Government and Shell isn’t such that should be made in South Africa or France, but in Nigeria. Therefore, Ogonis must be wise.
Importantly, Shell had lost its mining leases in Ogoni since it was declared person non grata in 1993 for degrading the environment; when it deprived the people’s rights to their (our) ways of living-a way that is primarily farming and fishing and other cultural affinities. Shell and the federal government also ignores the people’s demand as contained in the Ogoni Bill of Rights. They are aware of the obvious fact that ten years after any company is refused entry into a business area or land, and no truce is brokered for return based on fresh business agreement such company losses all rights to whatever transaction it had, and its equipment to the land or property owner (s). This is as enshrined in the United Nations Corporate law gazette, in respect to Community Property Act.
It’s on this premise that the Nigerian governments of Obasanjo and Yar’Adua have taken upon themselves to do everything possible to disingenuously reconcile Ogoni with Shell or use another name such as NNPC or NPDC to ensure the come back of the Anglo-Dutch oil monster.
The reality however, is that the government has many times attempted to trivialize the demand of the Ogoni people and the conflict in which it’s a primary defendant to mere Ogoni-Shell problem. This conflict that has been subjected to mere crisis by government mercenaries, and the use of local people against local people is more against government, hence constitutional issue than just the oil companies. Now, has government learn anything from the Ogoni struggle; what about the collective Niger Delta struggle? If not, would it learn anything? That is what remains to be seen as Ogoni/Niger River Delta and the world watches with interest.
It’s the federal government of Nigeria, which through the instrumentalities of obnoxious laws seized the Ogoni land (and those of other Niger Delta communities), because oil is endowed beneath them, not the oil companies. Government has over the years laid dubious foundations that allows foreign oil companies to disrespect our people, land, siphon our resources, despoil the environment and kill our people. Ironically, these constitutional provisions that permits hate against us, and sent our loved ones to their untimely graves doesn’t affect all land in the country that is without oil. Interestingly, most of such lands not affected are occupied by those who claimed to be the majority ethnic groups of the country. What an unfair and unjust nation!
The good news, however, is that Ogoni has proven beyond all reasonable doubt that all such draconian laws of deprivation and institutionalized theft are not older than it and its oil-rich land. The people of Ogoni, who were only invaded and conquered by the colonial British, and not Nigeria have taken their destiny into their hands by putting Shell (HELL) out and claiming the stolen land back.
The Land Used Act or degree of 1978, and the 1979 (and later 1999) federal military constitutions are the respective instruments that are used to force the Ogoni/Niger Delta lands because they are abundantly gushing in fine, sweet (sulfur-free) oil and gas. We demand that these devilish laws that aren’t suit even conquered people be officially abrogated via congressional provisions, if the Ogoni/Niger Delta people will continue to be seen as real members of the Nigerian nation state. It would also determine the continue stay of the Niger Delta people in Nigeria.
The people are tired of government’s gimmicks of quixotic experiment. The people of Nigeria and the world should therefore note that Ogoni will not accept NNPC/NPDC, or any other company until our demand and addendum are carefully and honestly met to our satisfaction. We can see and attest to the fact that, Shell’s exit isn’t the ultimate success of the Ogoni struggle for permanent change that was broached and led by Ken Saro-Wiwa. In fact, Shell isn’t leaving. The government is only trying to see how far it can go with fooling us, insinuating that NNPC/NPDC, which has no record of extraction capabilities, is taken over from Shell.
Shell Oil is only changing face or name to NNPC/NPDC. This gimmick isn’t acceptable to Ogonis. The people rejects such tricks completely, as there is no difference between Shell and NNPC. They both run a “joint Venture” that makes NNPC culpable and liable to the shabby treatment and genocide of the Ogoni people as Shell. Shell also said in a published statement ..that, it still has shares in Ogoni even though it’s lost its oil blocks. Ogoni is aware of, and tired of charades such as the aforementioned. We’re tired and fed up with structural lies, as in using things like “Niger Delta Submit” that holds no hope or practical solution to our peculiar and practical problems as means of holding on until government’s term of office expires. How long shall the insensitive government that exposes its citizens to the harsh and deadly treatment of foreign oil companies hold empty conferences or submit? Don’t we’ve foundational models, models such as the Willink’s Commission of 1958, which expresses minority fears; the Ogoni Bill of Rights, Kaiama Declaration, to mention but few? Why waste more and more money drilled from the veins of the Niger Delta child for non sequito submit, whereas the real answer to the aged-long problem is starring at us; why hate Ogoni/Niger Delta, even when the region is as important as Nigeria and hold the Livewire of the latter?
The crux of the matter here (that Ogonis and Niger Delta must take seriously) is that Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 others (and over 4,000 others) didn’t die for just another oil company to come to Ogoni. They died because of the provisions of the Ogoni Bill of Rights-The roadmap to solving the Niger Delta and general Nigerian problem. The minimum of that provisional bill or demand is self determination-a separate unit or Ogoni State, or by whatever name called-that guarantees the control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people: economic or resource and environmental control, etc. A full scale independent Environmental, Health, and Social Assessment Impact Studies and the satisfaction of the above demand must be carried out before any oil operation. These impact studies will determine how much damage Shell and others have done to the environment; remedies, methods of prevention of future damages and compensations are also embedded in the package. We must also open and conclude discussions on measures to retry and exonerate Saro-Wiwa and others who were unjustly murdered for their stand against the federal government and Shell.
These and others that would be deemed necessary by the people, not the bought undemocratic rulership of Ledum Mitee, are the panacea to the Ogoni/Niger River Delta predicaments, resolution, and possible extraction of crude oil, not the exit of Shell that is meant to bring in another Shell nor the Niger Delta Submit.
About the author
Ben Wuloo Ikari is an Ogoni Human and Environmental Rights Activist; Director of Ogoni Children’s Cultural And Fundamental Rights Council (OCAFAC); Writer, Poet and Author of Ken Saro-Wiwa And MOSOP-The Story And Revelation, and Inspiration-Speak Your Mind (A collection of poetry).