The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) on Wednesday marked the 25th anniversary of the killing by the Nigerian State of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni- Eight environmental activists with the Executive Director of the organisation, Dr. Godwin Uyi-Ojo, lamenting that since the death of the Ogoni Nine, the Niger Delta environment still groans under the severe weight of environmental despoliation, while poverty remains widespread with little or no change in the welfare and livelihood of the people.
Recall that the Ogoni-9 died fighting for environmental justice, clean-up, compensation, and remediation of Ogoniland as a result of the operations of multinational oil giant, Shell Oil Company, in the area. Uyi-Ojo He noted how in 2011, the United Nations Environment programme (UNEP) documented the devastating long-term impact of the oil industry in Nigeria’s Ogoniland, prompting the urgent recommendations for a clean-up, and emergency relief measures which were sidelined.
ERA/FoEN lamented that “The systematic failure of oil companies and the Nigerian government to clean up has left hundreds of thousands of Ogoni people facing serious health risks, struggling to access safe drinking water, and unable to earn a decent living”.
According to Uyi-Ojo, “The commemoration provides the opportunity to highlight the ecological disaster and human rights violations that the entire Niger Delta is still facing even after 25 years have passed since Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed along with eight other Ogoni leaders for standing up to Shell’s operations in Nigeria.
“The legacy of Ken Saro-Wiwa confronts directly the multinational oil company’s enormous political and economic powers over the Nigerian State and in countries in the global south where they conduct business often without respect for national laws and regulations”.
He said the anniversary also provided the opportunity to underline the fact that the death of the Ogoni martyrs shall never be in vain, adding that Saro-Wiwa’s legacy lives on in environmental justice struggles in Ogoni land and across the entire Niger Delta, and at national and international levels.
According to the organisation, for over 60 years, the Nigerian government exploited oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta region during which period extensive pollution of the air, water, sediment and soil in local communities in the region exposed humans and other life forms to severe risks, resulting in frequent deaths. It called for a United Nations legally-binding treaty to hold multinational companies accountable for their human rights violations.
“This treaty will also ensure access to justice and remedy that is currently a major challenge in developing countries in their attempt to bring multinational companies to justice. Shell must account for its human rights violations in Ogoniland and the entire Niger Delta and ensure proper clean-up of the pollution in their areas of operations”, Uyi-Ojo stated. Frowning at the “slow pace of clean-up” by the Hydrocarbon Remediation Project, (HYPREP) which he described as “unacceptable,” Uyi-Ojo submitted that it required improved capacity and restructuring to properly clean up Ogoniland.
He advised that “Nigeria should key into the unprecedented momentum for leaving the fossil fuel age behind us hence the need to embrace decentralised energy democracy model that allows people-driven off-grid, and mini-grid solar systems for energy access for all. A post-petroleum economy devoid of environmental degradation and destruction of lives and property is expedient.
“For the Ogonis, it is time for sober reflections. It is time for forgiveness, healing and unity among the Ogonis, especially all the martyrs of the environmental justice struggle. Surely, the collective will of the people shall never be broken”.