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.
Oil Marketers Urge Buhari To Crash Diesel Price
Petroleum marketers under the platform of Natural Oil and Gas Suppliers Association of Nigeria (NOGASA) rose from their 2nd National Executive Council (NEC) meeting last week, within a plea to President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make dollars available at official rate to oil marketers.
This, they said, will enable them import diesel, end petrol scarcity, and ultimately save the Nigerian economy from sinking, saying that dollar support should be available till Dangote Refinery comes on stream later in the year.
The association, among others, urged the National Assembly to immediately enact a Bill for the establishment of Energy Bank for easy transaction in petroleum products in the sector.
National President of the Association, Mr Benneth Korie, who briefed the media after the NEC meeting in Abuja, noted that the bulk of the operational challenge peppering marketers and depot owners spring from expensive diesel which hovers around N850/litre.
While thanking President Muhammadu Buhari for approving a higher bridging cost payment to transporters, Korie said the operators’ challenges were far from over as oil marketers and depot owners spend about N20 million weekly on diesel to power their operations, thus eroding their profits.
The association urges the National Assembly to review the policy of taxation as it affects petroleum products supply and distribution chain.
Senate To Honour Brave Petrol Tanker Driver
The Senate has resolved to honour Ejiro Otarigho, the brave tanker driver who drove a burning tanker from danger zone to avert a tragic fire incident in Agbarho, Delta State.
The Senate has also recommended Ejiro to President Muhammadu Buhari for National Honours.
This followed a motion moved by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, and co-sponsored by Senator James Manager and Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, at plenary.
It would be recalled that in a rare act of bravery, Ejiro had last week driven a burning tanker from danger zone to avert what could have been a tragic fire incident in Agbarho, Delta State.
The incident happened last Friday when Ejiro drove the burning truck for 25 minutes from a densely populated area to Agbarho River where the tanker was completely razed in the inferno. The act was captured by onlookers and had gone viral.
Rising under Order 45 and 52 of the Senate Standing Order 2021 (as amended), Senator Omo-Agege stressed that but for Ejiro’s courage, a major fire disaster which would have claimed several lives and property could have happened in his senatorial district.
The Delta Central lawmaker noted that Ejiro’s “extraordinary display of courage, reflex application of special driving skills, and huge risk to his own life, prevented a huge national tragedy and catastrophe by driving a burning tanker loaded with inflammable petroleum products from residential areas to safety so that thousands of our people may not die in an inferno that would also have consumed so much property in Agbarho, Delta State on Friday, June 10, 2022”.
The driver’s audacious act of heroism, he stressed, has saved the nation from national tragedy and mourning.
Accordingly, the Senate resolved to “invite Mr. Ejiro Otarigho to the Chamber of the Senate for public commendation by the President of the Senate, Senator Ibrahim Lawan.
“Recommend Mr. Ejiro Otarigho to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, for a befitting National Honour as Mr. President may deem fit for his extraordinary act of bravery, courage and skill that prevented the loss of human lives and property on a massive scale”.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who presided over plenary, hailed the driver for risking his life to drive the burning truck out of residential area to save lives.
Court Adjourns Worker Vs NLNG Matter To Oct
The National Industrial Court sitting in Port Harcourt, on Thursday, adjourned the matter on the defamation of character and unlawful termination of employment between a contract worker, Tambari Michael, and the Nigeria LNG Limited to October 25, 2022.
The judge, Justice Nelson Ogbuanya, said the adjournment was to enable the new counsel to the claimant, Mecha Mecha Kalu, to study the case before continuing.
Recall that the clamnant, Tambari Michael, a former contract staff of NLNG, had approached the court in 2019 to challenge the termination of his appointment by the Supervisor of NLNG’s Logistics, praying the court to declare the termination of his job as illegal and unlawful third party interference.
Michael in the suit number NICN/ PH/43/2019 claimed that displaying his name and image amongst persons accused to have committed criminal offensCes was defamatory, which, according to him, runs contrary to Section 4 of the NLNG Code of Conduct bordering on harassment.
Defendants in the suit are Nigeria LNG Limited, AUGJ Services Nigeria Ltd (the contracting firm) and Abimbola Ibukunle, the company’s Logistics Supervisor when the services of the claimant were terminated.
Other demands stated by the Claimant in the suit are “Damages be awarded to claimant against 1st defendant (Nigeria LNG Limited) and 3rd defendant (Mrs. Abimbola Ibikunle) for defamatory publication made.
“Damages also to be awarded against 1st and 3rd defendants for unlawful interference upon Mr Tambari Michael’s employment with AUGJ Services (2nd defendant).”
When the matter was called in the court on Thursday, counsel to the claimant, Mecha Mecha Kalu, who appeared in court for the first time, informed the court that he had just taken over the matter as counsel and solicitor to the claimant.
Speaking to newsmen after the court session, counsel to the claimant, Mecha Mecha Kalu expressed confidence that his client will get justice in the court but, counsel to the defendant declined comment.
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