Jan 10, 2007

Ogoni: A Deprived Community

50 years after the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta, the region is yet to witness substantial development or meaningful consultation on the nature of its extraction

Below is an extract from an article written by Dum-ale Tanee, the regional coordinator of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in Kansas City, and published in the Nigerian Tribune;

It has been a little over 50 years since the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in the Niger Delta; unfortunately, the region is yet to witness any development despite multi-billion dollars that have accrued from the sale of the commodity. All efforts to peacefully and genuinely resolve the issue as initiated by various groups in the region have often been ignored by the Nigerian authority and the oil companies.


As Ogoni people all over the world marked the 14th anniversary of “Ogoni Day” on January 4, the day that over 300,000 Ogonis took to the street to non-violently protest government neglect and Shell’s environmental practices in the region, this year’s event was used to reiterate total commitment to the struggle. It was also a time to reiterate the Ogonis’ position as contained in the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR) as well as their total opposition to the return of Shell to Ogoni.


When the late Kenule Beeson Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni people started the campaign for environmental and minority rights in Nigeria, little did anyone know that Shell would run away in order to avoid responsibility for its actions, but the company did. Shell fell back on the Nigerian authority which gave it all the necessary forces it needed to silence the Ogoni people, but couldn’t. The peak of it came with the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists.


Since the execution of the “Ogoni 9”, there has been an unprecedented increase in agitation in the region. Instead of the Shell sponsored execution of these innocent great men to silence the Ogoni people and intimidate the people of the Niger Delta, it has helped to create more awareness and exposed the evils of Shell and those who support their aggressive and subversive activities in the region.


Before he was hanged by the corrupt powers that be, Saro Wiwa made a prophetic statement at the tribunal, “I predict that the denouncement of the riddle of the Niger Delta will soon come. The agenda is being set at this trial. Whether the peaceful ways I have favoured will prevail depends on what the oppressor decides, what signals it sends to the waiting public. In my innocence of the false charges I face here, in my utter conviction, I call upon the Ogoni people, the peoples of the Niger Delta, and the oppressed ethnic minorities of Nigeria to stand up now and fight fearlessly and peacefully for their rights. History is on their side. God is on their side.


Today, his message to the people of Ogoni and the entire people of the Niger Delta has been received. Now, we cannot abandon the living ideas of the death for the dead ideas of the living. Ogoni people and the entire people of the Niger Delta will continue the fight until victory is achieved, not only because Ken Saro Wiwa said so, but because it is in their interest and is the only way to avoid being systematically exterminated.


The crisis in the Niger Delta cannot be resolved through containment plans as designed by the so-called stakeholders because it does not protect the environment and provide for the unborn. Containment plans such as Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB), Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) as well as Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) have failed, so has President Olusegun Obasanjo’s new nine point agenda,” a military containment plan which cannot stand the test of time. The crisis in the region can only be peacefully resolved in line with the genuine demands of the people, and the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has provided the generally acceptable model in the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR)


Shell, in her desperate move to return to Ogoni for oil activities through the back door has recently sponsored two devastating oil spillages in spite of the fact that it had regarded Ogoni oil as "insignificant quantity." The first took place on Thursday, March 23, 2006 in Gokana from Bomu Oil Well-2 few hours after Shell people were seen in the location, and the second which is the most under-reported incidence of oil spillages the world over that resulted in fire outbreak, happened in Kpean community from Yorla Well Head-13, where the fire from it was deliberately allowed to burn for about two months in order to poison the atmosphere so that Ogoni people will suffer from chronic lung diseases and others and die systematically (killing without firing a shot).


There is no doubt about the fact that Shell has several methods of eliminating their opponents, including individuals or groups who expose or attempt to expose their evil practices. The company’s record in South Africa speaks for itself. In Ogoni, the company continues to arm the government and groups, pollute the environment, use local chiefs, and finance assassination to get to their target. The recent Yorla Well Head-13 fire incident that sent soot into the atmosphere for two months is going to create a devastating health problem in Ogoni within the next two or three years, which is what the company wants.


Also, for one of the richest regions of the world (Niger Delta) to be one of the poorest among the poor should be a concern to all who wish for peace. For nations that profess freedom and democracy around the world to be silent on the activities of their companies in Nigeria and other developing countries, and also provide financial and military incentives to corrupt leaders against peaceful protesters in the name of strategic interest shows double standard at its peak.




No amount of threats would deter the people of Niger Delta from going about their legitimate demands. Since Ogoni people are not under any bond with Shell, they have the right to choose company(s) that will do business on their God-given land with human face. They also have the right to reject all laws and policies that conflict with their interests.


Ogoni people will not allow Shell to do business in Ogoni, not in any name or under any pretext. Enough is enough.


Finally, I would like to use this medium to alert the world that Shell is moving closer to repeating what it did between 1993 and 1995 in Ogoni again. I also like to challenge those who are sceptical of the situation in the Niger Delta to pay a visit so that they can judge for themselves. And I wish to call on nations, organizations, individuals as well as groups to prevail on the Nigerian authority to resolve the problems in the Niger Delta in line with the peoples’ demands.