Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

Ogoni Deserves The Humane Treatment It Seeks, By Fegalo Nsuke

The struggles of people all over the world to protect their rights and dignity have been the subject of conflicts especially when a few individuals privileged to control the powers and authority of the state turn these privileges into an instrument of repression and will want to suppress agitations that favour greater social freedom.

Quite often, state repression arises from the failure or inability of state actors to articulately defend their actions. The fear of a superior idea and the desperation to cover their emptiness, many times, turn them repressive.

In Nigeria, the Ogoni people have been victims of bitter repression. After 35 years of reckless oil mining by The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the Ogoni people saw that the wealth of the land made no impact in their lives. This prompted an awakening spiraling into an unprecedented civil consciousness in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region and forcing Shell to shut down its Ogoni operations in mid-1993.

With a verifiable oil production capacity of 500,000 barrels a day, Nigeria lost a very conservative estimate of  $375 Billion to Shell’s exit from the Ogoni oilfields in the past 30+ years. With recent drilling technology, the production capacity is put at over 500,000 barrels per day.

Shell’s failure to respond to community concerns had become intolerable due to accumulated environmental and economic disasters and had ignited a huge civil uprising against the company. The company’s response to the protests was to back a brutal state repression which left some 4,000 Ogonis dead including Mr Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others who were hanged on November 10, 1995.

Today, the stench of Shell remains profound in Ogoni but Nigeria’s unfriendly environmental laws have made it extremely difficult to seek redress for the Ogoni people. A very sad narrative is that Nigeria’s laws do not punish crimes like that of Shell in the Ogoni area.

The good news is that despite the persecutions, killings, torture, and the painful situation in which our people live, the Ogoni people still show some strong patriotism and willingness to move on with hopes for a change that will undo the wrongs of the past.

One of these expectations is the right of the Ogoni people to function within Nigeria as a distinct ethnic nationality, secured from political and economic deprivations as is currently the case. The right to be protected from the prejudices of dominant ethnic groups in Nigeria and to optimize its potential for the good of the people.

The Ogoni people should not be left vulnerable to the exploitation of Nigeria’s dominant ethnic groups, nor should the pollution and murders of Shell be further tolerated and allowed to flourish without consequences.

The government cannot only be interested in exploiting the enormous natural endowments of the Ogoni people while they are left to grapple with the negative consequences of natural resource extraction. The pride, dignity, and future of the Ogoni people should also be secured and not be sacrificed for businesses and profits.

That is the basis we have proposed the operationalization of the Ogoni Development Authority (ODA) as an acceptable pathway to resolve the three-decade oil conflicts in Ogoni. The ODA is an expression of our desire for self-respect, fairness, and the humane treatment we seek. A desire that doesn’t threaten any other nationality in Nigeria. Our proposal is in the best interest of our country and will only conduce to greater peace and development for Nigeria.

We all need to unlock the huge natural resource potentials of Ogoni for national development and also for the benefit of the Ogoni people. We need to break the limitations that have kept these resources stranded in the ground, untapped, not benefiting anyone, while the Ogoni people walk those same grounds in difficult conditions.

These expectations require strong decisions and compromises which we must make. Going forward, that will be the right path to take.

Ogoni Must Survive!

Nsuke is President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).

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