By Ikhili Ebalu, Benin City
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) marks the 25th anniversary of the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni eight activists fighting for environmental justice, the clean up, compensation and remediation of Ogoniland from Shell Oil Company’s operations in the area.
The anniversary also provides the opportunity to underline the fact that the death of the Ogoni martyrs shall never be in vain.
The legacy of Ken Saro-Wiwa lives on in environmental justicestruggles in Ogoni land and across the entire Niger Delta and at national and international levels.
For over 60 years, the Nigerian Government exploited oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta region. During this 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 infrequent deaths.
In a statement released in Benin City, Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director, ERA/FoEN stated that in marking a quarter-century since the death of the Ogoni Nine, the Niger Delta environment still groans under the severe weight of environmental despoliation and poverty remains widespread with little or no change on the welfare and livelihoods of the people.
Recall that in 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme documented the devastatinglong term impact of the oil industry in Nigeria’s Ogoniland, setting the urgent recommendationsfor a clean-up, and emergency relief measures that was sidelined. However, 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 unableto earn a decent living.
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-Wiewa was executed, along with 8 other Ogoni leaders for standing up to Shell’s operations in Nigeria. The legacy of Ken Saro-Wiwa confronts directly the Multinational Oil Companies 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.
In this regard, we
call 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 iscurrently 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.
For the Nigerian state, the Hydrocarbon Remediation Project (HYPREP) slow pace of clean up isunacceptable and require improved capcity and restructuring to properly clean up Ogoniland.
Nigeria should key into the unprecedented momentum for leaving the fossil fuel age behind and the need to embrace decentralized energy democracy model that allows people driven off-grid and mini-grid solar systems for energy access for all. A post-petroleum economy devoid ofenvironmental degradation and destruction of lives and property is expedient.
For the Ogonis, it is time for sober reflection. 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.