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Ken Saro-Wiwa And Oil Politics In Nigeria

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The American Negro leader, Frederick Douglas, once asked, “who will stand for the downtrodden, open his mouth for the dumb and remember those in bonds as if bound with them”.
At a period when men worshipped at the altar of Nigeria’s self styled dictator and maximum ruler, when men so shackled by the ferocious cruelty of a wild and ruthless military junta, kept numb over the atrocious deeds that permeated the political waves of the country, when the chimney of injustice and institutional compromise reeked to its most repulsive and insipid taste, a bold, courageous and fearless Ogoni activist, Ken Saro- Wiwa braved the odds, putting his life on the line to question the excesses of the Abacha junta.
It was a critical period in Nigeria’s chequered political history which analysts described as a “decisive moment”.
Angered by the sad realities of the loss of the natural environment of the Niger Delta to a convoluted oil economy, where oil bearing communities existed as mere pawns in the game of power, he dusted up his hitherto docile Ogoni people to confront the deep-seated inequities and outright contraventions of the principles of justice in the Nigerian State.
He duly alerted his people that their foes; the Military Junta and Shell were formidable, but he pinned his conviction on the fact that it was better to fight the glaring environmental injustice that besieged them, than to remain silente and phase out of existence as a result of reckless oil exploratory activities by Shell which was ongoing in the area for decades. The moment was therefore ripe to confront the vilest political contraption in the history of Nigeria led by a pugnacious General, fully at home with the culture of might to subdue every real or imaginary enemy of the junta. The stage was set for the battle, and Ken Saro-Wiwa was not deterred to carry out his identified course of action.
Through the platform of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, (MOSOP), he instituted a global campaign against the activities of the Royal Dutch in Ogoni. Through his oratory, activist posture and unique literary voice, he reaped cans of worms open against Shell, exposing the many social defects and corporate irresponsibilities of the company to a mass global and local audience.
As the controller of the highest stake among the IOCs in the Joint Venture agreement with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC) Shell and the Military junta were badly heated by Saro Wiwa’s campaign. Abacha was challenged to his chagrin, and he let loose his ill temper against the defenceless Ogoni people, framed up their leaders under junket of charges and summarily executed Ken Saro Wiwa and other Ogoni compatriots after a Kangaroo trial.
Shell also took cover under the Military junta to perfect it perfidy in Ogoni; the climax of which was the decimation of the elitist class in Ogoni, the wanton wastages of innocent lives, and the eventual pullout of the company from Ogoni. It is on record that during the Kangaroo trial of Ken Saro Wiwa a military Tribunal, Shell was duly represented even when they were supposedly not a party in the trial. What evidence could then be required for their complicity in the Ogoni crisis?. When Shell’s role in the prosecution of the Ogoni leaders became apparent, the company claimed it was the state’s role to ensure fairness under the law, and not a corporation’s. Such hypocrisy has continued to resonate among some unrepentant apologists of shell and other foes of Ogoni till date. But history has judged Ogoni fairly, as Shell’s record of environmental abuse and human rights abuse has continued to swell. Reports show that a Shell security fraud scandal in 2004, led to the forced resignation of the group chairman, Sir Philip Watts, who was escorted from the Shell centre by security staff.
Thus not its self righteousness or impregnable posture has saved the company from a diminishing corporate reputation globally. The denigrating poverty and unabated pollution in Ogoni and other Niger Delta communities are also glaring evidence against Shell. Reports reveal that between 1976 and 1991, over two million barrels of oil polluted Ogoni in 2,976 separate oil spills, and pipelines operated by Shell still traverse the land, creeks and water ways in Ogoni after oil production has ceased.
Although Ogonis paid dearly for their foremost role in environmental awareness in the Niger Delta, the fact remains that Saro Wiwa’s campaign has changed the face of oil politics in Nigeria. Shell and other nonchalant IOCs and corporate firms that prospect for oil in the Niger Delta have continued to incur the odium of its host communities. There is also pressure on the federal government to ensure strict compliance of international laws and politics in the oil industry.
As a Chief Proponent of true federalism, Ken Saro- Wiwa approached the leadership echelon of the country to rule by democratic ideals, rather than a surplus appropriating centralised command system immersed in an oil economy that survived vampire like on the fortune of the Niger Delta. Predictably, some leaders of Niger Delta cashed in on the Ogoni struggle and made themselves amiable tools in the hands of Shell and the military junta. Saro-Wiwa predicted this. He knew that the consequences of a failed oil-led development were conflicts, and divide and rule by the beneficiaries of the fraudulent system.
He therefore admonished the Niger Delta leaders to key into the vision and pointed out that, “Genocide was not selective”.
The implication being that such compromisers would equally become targets of destruction after aiding the external aggressors to destroy their kith and kin. History was to judge him correctly. Saro Wiwa also kicked against what he referred to as “indigenous colonialism”, a system where the minority ethnic groups in Nigeria are expected to render perpetual obedience to the majority ethnic groups, which history and colonal annexation has made a determinate superior.
He had a strong conviction in Thomas Jefferson’s Postulation during his inaugural address that, “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority in all cases should prevail; that which will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression”.
Saro-Wiwa was therefore deeply concerned about the moral issue that confronted Nigeria as a sovereign nation; the issue of constitutional democracy that would guarantee the rights of every citizen, irrespective of ethnic affiliation. Like the sage, Obagemi Awolowo, his idea of federalism was that all ethnic groups in Nigeria, should be given fair treatment, irrespective of size or numerical strength. Exactly 24 years after the death of Ken Saro Wiwa, the forces of oppression against Ogoni and the Niger Delta is yet to abate. The environment remains contaminated and polluted. There is more oil, more money and yet more poverty in the Niger Delta, there is more security troops and yet more insecurity in the Niger Delta.
National security as it affects the Niger Delta, at best relates to unfettered oil production. The hope of oil resumption in Ogoni is also very elusive, as Ogonis have insisted that the issues of environmental injustices raised by Saro Wiwa must be addressed before any oil resumption deal. Addressing a mammoth crowd of supporters at a memorial lecture organised to mark the 24th anniversary of Ogoni matyres day, MOSOP President, Legborsi Pyagbara, said the organisation would remain committed to the tenets of the Ogoni struggle. He called on Ogonis and the Niger Delta to remain steadfast in the pursuit of environmental justice in the region.
Speaking with The Tide in an interview, the president of a foremost pan Ogoni youth body, the Ogoni youth federation, Comrade Legborsi Yaanabana called on the federal government to expedite action on the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme, (UNEP) report on the cleanup of Ogoni.
The Ogoni youth leader also urged the federal government to exonerate Saro Wiwa from the questionable circumstances that greeted his trial and death, by offering him post humus pardon. He said Ogoni youths will resist any forced resumption of oil exploration in Ogoni without properly negotiated settlements.
Also speaking in an exclusive interview with The Tide, foremost environmentalist, Engr Olu Andah Wai-Ogosu called for a more sustainable environmental policy to address the lingering challenges in the Niger Delta.
The environmental consultant and university don, also solicited local and international concern over the plight of the Ogoni people, to address the issues raised by Saro-Wiwa. In death, Saro Wiwa did not only set the pace for a new environmental consciousness in Nigeria, he also raised a new consciousness in minority rights activism in Nigeria. He won the Rights Livelihood Award for exemplary courage in striving nonviolently for civil economic and environmental rights, and he is one of the few Africans celebrated in the international mainstream of martyrdom.

 

Taneh Beemene

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Oil & Energy

Nigeria In Trouble As Oil Price Crashes Below $20

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Oil price fell below $20 a barrel yesterday, after the International Energy Agency (IEA) said demand would slump by a record this year despite a historic production cut deal.
Futures fell as much as 4.5% in New York to the lowest since 2002.
Oil demand will drop by over 9 million barrels a day this year, wiping out a decade of consumption growth, the IEA said, exhausting storage by mid-year.
While Saudi Arabia and other Gulf producers have pledged to cut supply starting next month, they have continued to flood the market in April.
Stockpiles are rising everywhere and weakening key physical market gauges. New York oil futures moved deeper into contango, signaling an expanding glut, while swap prices indicate North Sea cargoes are trading at bumper discounts.
Oil has lost about two-thirds of its value this year as countries extend their coronavirus lockdowns, death tolls mount around the world and unemployment explodes in America.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated the global economy will shrink 3% this year, a signal that energy demand may remain weak, while the IEA is warning that the worst may be yet to come.
“We may see further downward pressure on prices in coming days and weeks,” IEA Executive Director, Fatih Birol, said.
The IEA said consumption in April will fall by almost a third to the lowest level since 1995, and make this year the worst in the history of the oil market.
Despite OPEC+’s efforts to balance supply, global inventories will accumulate by 12 million barrels a day in the first half of the year and “overwhelm the logistics of the oil industry” in the coming weeks, it warned.
The massive OPEC+ deal to cut production starts next month. Until then the battle for market share persists with Abu Dhabi cutting its crude pricing for Asia. It follows a similar move by Saudi Arabia earlier in the week.

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NUPENG Lauds Members Over Petrol Supply Amid Lockdown

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The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), has commended its members on essential services for ensuring uninterrupted supply of petroleum products to every nooks and crannies of the country during the lockdown occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The union, however, decried the harassment and intimidation of oil company workers by security agents, calling on oil companies and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to provide adequate security passes for the workers.
NUPENG in a statement by its President and General Secretary, Prince Williams Akporeha and Olawale Afolabi, respectively, said petroleum tanker drivers, petrol station workers, petroleum products depot workers, oil and gas suppliers, and  liquefied petroleum gas retailers, had  made NUPENG and the  entire labour movement proud  as they moved through difficult and dangerous situations to ensure fuel supply to Nigerians.
The statement read in part: “The leadership of NUPENG has reviewed the roles of our members in the frontline in this critical period as Nigerians fight to contain the spread of the deadly and contagious coronavirus pandemic and we are proud to say our members on essential services have made us proud.
“In fact, not only have they made NUPENG and the United Labour Congress of Nigeria proud, our petroleum tanker drivers and others have made the entire labour movement proud by continuing to ensure uninterrupted supply of petroleum products to every nooks and crannies of the country despite the difficult and sometimes, dangerous situations as most states across the country are on lockdown.
“Once again, we appeal to state governments, security agents and Nigerians in general to cooperate with members of our unions who are risking their lives to provide essential services in the nation.”
NUPENG also appealed to corporate organisations to provide sanitisers and other safety kits to members of the union on essential services, to protect them and members of their families.
It stated: “We want to use the opportunity to call on oil companies and the DPR to provide adequate pass to our members on essential services to end the harassment and intimidation they are being subjected to by security agents across the country.”

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Oil & Energy

FG Releases N200bn To Improve Power Sector 

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Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari, says the Federal Government has made payment of over N200 billion to the power sector towards improving electricity supply in the country.
Kyari disclosed this while speaking with newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, shortly after a closed door meeting between the NNPC team, Minister of Power, Mr Sale Mamman and Managing Director of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Mr Usman Mohammed.
“Actually the Federal Government has made payment of over N200 billion for power in the last 23 days and this will go a long way to ensure that issues around power supply are addressed.
“We will work as a team to ensure that all issues are settled”, he said.
Kyari said that the team was in the Ministry of Power to inform the minister that in the last one or two months and particularly during the COVID-19 period, NNPC has increased gas supply to the power sector.
According to him, there will be significant improvement in power generation in all Federal Government and associated power facilities.
“This also means that Nigerians will get better access to power during this lockdown period and going forward.
“There are issues around power supply process and we have discussed most of them and we are moving as a team to make sure that we resolve issues around payment and evacuation.
“We are very confident that this will get the desired result. We will visit some power plants tomorrow to make sure that we sort out any issue to ensure that Nigerians have access to better power,” he said.
He said that the minister was very clear on what was to be done to improve power supply.
“We will make sure this becomes transparent and obvious to all Nigerians,” he said.
On his part, TCN Managing Director, Mr Usman Mohammed said that the meeting was to ensure that there was constant supply of power as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mohammed said that the President has directed that there should be constant power supply to the people during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“This is why this meeting was conveyed by the Minister of Power to discuss supply of gas to the power plants.
“This is very important, before now, we have been discussing with NNPC, of course there is gas availability in the market but there are several power plants that don’t have gas and that is a big problem for us.
“With this meeting where the minister prevailed that NNPC should assist in suppling gas to the power plants, we believe that will have steady and sustainable power supply going forward especially during the COVID-19 lockdown, “ he said.

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