By Shakirudeen Bankole
Environmental rights’ activists have gathered in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to pay tributes to one of their own, the Niger Delta pen advocate, Ken Saro-Wiwa, twenty five years after his gruesome death alongside eight other Ogoni leaders.
The 25th Memorial Environmental Summit, held at the Visa Karena Hotel, Thursday, once again revisited the environmental damages and social injustice melted out on the region by the Royal Dutch Shell Company (Shell) and other oil companies, as well as the complicit role played by Nigerian government.
The event was jointly organised by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), and Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA).
Themed: ’25 years after Ken Saro-Wiwa: The Nigerian Environment and Lessons Not Learnt,’ the environmental rights activists, said though Saro-Wiwa had died 25 years ago, while seeking justice for the good people of Nigeria Delta, they would continue to water his legacy.
They said the parley was one of the testaments to such commitment, as it was informed by the need for civil society and community activists to carry on with the struggle for environmental justice for the Ogoni until the demands of Ken Saro Wiwa which included giving his people a fair share of their oil wealth and holding the Nigerian government, Shell and other oil multinationals accountable for their actions and inactions in the Niger Delta.
Participants at the event included civil society, community leaders from within and outside Ogoniland, women leaders, youth groups, the academia, and the media. Kwami Kpondzo, Coordinator of Oilwatch Togo, Patrick Bond from South Africa, Steve Kriezmann from the United States, and Bobby Peek of groundWork South Africa delivered solidarity words via zoom. Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Green Alliance Nigeria (GAN), Social Action and the Host Communities Network (HOCON) also delivered solidarity messages.
In his keynote address, titled: ‘The Ogoni Struggle and Unending Quest for Environmental Justice in Nigeria’, Director of HOMEF, Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, alerted the public that twenty five years after the tragic activities that culminated into the killing of Saro-Wiwa and his eight Ogoni kinsmen, Shell and other fossil fuels industry actors are still in the business of denial as they continue the wanton destruction of the Niger Delta and the Nigerian environment.
The environmentalist regretted that “in spite of overwhelming evidence absolving the late Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni leaders of the allegations that the infamous Justice Ibrahim Auta relied on to send them to the gallows, the Nigerian government has failed to exonerate the murdered men.”
At the end of the parley, a communique was issued and jointly signed by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation; Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria; Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa; Green Alliance Nigeria; ans Host Communities Network.
Other signatories were Ogoni Solidarity Forum; Social Action; Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development; Student Environmental Assembly of Nigeria; Young Friends of the Earth Nigeria; Stakeholder Democracy Network; and the Civil Liberties Organisation.
In the communique, issued at the end of the parley, the environmental rights Activists, insisted that there were overwhelming evidences that Saro-Wiwa and eight of his kinsmen, were extrajudicially killed 25 years ago, noting that the continued reluctance of the government to exonerate them and address the injustice speaks volume.
One of the evidences presented by the group was the argument that Nigerian government was yet to adequately address the degraded state of the Ogoni environment and the injustices that Saro-Wiwa fought and died for.
The communique read: “The processes leading to unhindered implementation of the cleanup of Ogoniland as recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is strewn with hurdles deliberately thrown its way by the Nigerian government.
“Shell, the culprit behind the arrest, detention, and extrajudicial murder of Ken Saro Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders, is yet to be held accountable for the environmental racism and, encouraged by the Nigerian government, is still advocating behind the scenes to restart oil extraction in Ogoniland
“Twenty-five years after the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and twenty-one years after the Nigerian military was forced to relinquish power, the civic space has continued to shrink as the same kind of antagonism and repression of peaceful agitations that bedeviled that era is again on the horizon in a supposed democracy
It was therefore unanimously recommended that: “The Nigerian Government immediately exonerate the late Ken Saro-Wiwa and his Ogoni compatriots of the false allegations for which they were unjustly and brutally murdered.
“Shell be officially recognized as accomplice in the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Just as Shell worked with the Nigerian government to murder the Ogoni leaders, it should equally work with the Nigerian government to exonerate the Ogoni leaders of the allegations. The other option is for Shell to decommission its facilities from Ogoniland and the Niger Delta.
“A comprehensive environmental audit of the Niger Delta to be carried out by the Nigerian government.
“Nigeria pays the Ogoni nation an ecological debt for decades of pollution, neglect of their polluted environment, displacement of her people and denying them justice.
“Need for a judicial panel of inquiry to revisit the murders of Ken Saro Wiwa and the arbitrary arrests, maiming and killings that forced many Ogoni indigenes to flee and go into exile.
“The Nigerian Government remove existing hurdles and accelerate the clean-up of the devastated Ogoni environment and indeed the entire Niger Delta.
“The Nigerian government halt the construction of a prison yard in Ogoniland and instead, support the plans by Ogoni people for a Ken Saro Wiwa Memorial Park and the construction of a Research Center of Excellence and other emergency measures recommended by the UNEP in its Assessment report.”
“Immediate release of the Ken Saro-Wiwa Memorial Bus seized for no reason by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) in 2015.
“Rivers State Government remove the names of the late General Sani Abacha and other nefarious actors responsible for the Ogoni killings of 1995 from all edifices in the state.
“The Nigerian government immediately halt the drift to full blown tyranny occasioned by the growing cases of suppression of the rights of the people of the Niger Delta, activists across the entire Nigeria, as well as the harassment and use of state apparatus to stifle peaceful protests like has been observed with the #ENDSARS protests.”