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Daily Independent (Nigeria): Kukah tasks Ogoni on feud with Shell

Tuesday 3 January 2006
By Odudu Okpongete
Senior Correspondent,
Port Harcourt
Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Ogoni-Shell Reconciliation, Rev. Fr. Mathew Kukah, has urged the Ogoni people to take advantage of all opportunities offered by the reconciliation process to collectively articulate a position that would ensure lasting peace in the area.
Fr. Kukah stated this at the weekend while responding to contributions made by interest groups and stakeholders at an Ogoni stakeholders meeting at the new Brick House, Port Harcourt, on the lingering crisis between the multinational ol firm and its estranged host community.
Kukah, who was secretary at the Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission (HRVIC), popularly referred to as Oputa Panel, in 2000, and at last year’s National Political Reforms Conference, told the Ogoni, whom he described as “a very privileged people,” that such opportunity would probably not remain with them for a long time.
He expressed happiness at their commitment to true and genuine reconciliation, maintaining that their example was a challenge to other Nigerians.
“I believe you have the opportunity and the challenge to more or less produce a template that can be replicated across Nigeria,” he said, and thanked the youths particularly for their decision not to continue with the ways of the past.
The cleric agreed with the position of the people that their past conduct was based on circumstances they found themselves, pointing out that one thing the people have going for them is that they are about the only people to have never lifted a trigger against anybody save the circumstance that may confront them.
According to Kukah, “the action of the people is in keeping with the teaching of Jesus Christ and lovers of democracy and justice,” and encouraged them to keep up the good work.
He promised to deliver a letter from the Ogoni people to President Olusegun Obasanjo inviting him to grace the Ogoni Day celebration on January 4, 2006, saying that the gesture would allay fears of insincerity on resolution of the issues as expressed by President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ledum Mitee.
Kukah, who also expressed happiness at the success of the meeting and the understanding shown by the Ogoni, thanked them for the gesture.
Earlier, the state governor, Dr Peter Odili, said the administration has embarked on some projects in Ogoniland, some of which were completed and others ongoing, and challenged the people to articulate their requests to the government before the next Ogoni Day celebration.
Odili assured that their interest would be protected and expressed confidence in Fr. Kukah’s handling of the reconciliation process between them and Shell.
He restated an earlier promise that indigenes would benefit maximally from federal industries or business interests located in the state, privatised or not, adding that the state had communicated this in writing to Mr President.
Thanking the Ogoni for honoring the invitation to the meeting on short notice and those that made contributions that would aid the process of reconciling the parties, he also lauded Kukah for his brilliance in putting across issues.

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