The President of Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Chief Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, has cried out over imminent crisis in Ogoniland, following attempts to resume oil production.
He said in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at the weekend that no firm would be allowed to take Ogoni oil through the backdoor, without discussion with stakeholders in the four local governments of Ogoniland, namely Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme, especially at a time when clean-up of the polluted Ogoni environment had not been carried out.
Pyagbara said: “If there is interest in resuming oil production in Ogoniland, the Federal Government and prospective oil companies should initiate a broad-based discussion with representatives from sectors of the Ogoni community. This process of engagement must ensure that the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Ogoni people is embedded within the framework of any discussion with the oil sector and the government relating to resumption of oil production in Ogoniland, taking into cognisance benefit sharing arrangements and the understanding of a credible environmental impact assessment of proposed oil operations in Ogoniland, to include social and health dimensions, as well as start public consultation process, as is the present industry standard, as recommended by the UNEP report.
“MOSOP wants to state that it has not endorsed any oil company to take over oil operations in Ogoniland, as this is a process that requires consultation with stakeholders in Ogoni. It is in this regard that MOSOP recently set up a five-man committee to develop a new template and harmonise existing processes for engagement with the government and oil industry, that will be approved by the Ogoni people and presented to any interested party.
“We are taking this opportunity to inform the people about the imminent crisis and violence the government of Nigeria and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC)/Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), the oil production arm of the NNPC, plan to inflict on Ogoni people. We want to stress that no oil production can take place in Ogoni without a process of clean-up achieved and broad public discussion about the future of oil operations in Ogoniland.”
He said he was aware of the efforts of officials of oil companies to resume oil production in Ogoni, with some of them not following due process.
Pyagbara said: “In recent months, there have been intense and deliberate attempts by the oil industry to return to the Ogoni oilfields through the backdoor, without any broad-based discussion with the Ogoni, with the potential of igniting a blaze of conflict and violence that will skirt this forceful attempt to return to the area. It is especially disappointing, because we have seen divisive efforts to re-enter Ogoni for oil production over the last decade, all of which have ended in failure. In each case, the lack of transparency and attempts to deal with local actors in isolation was the fundamental failure.
“MOSOP wants to state that the Ogoni issue had been a conflict involving three main parties: the Federal Government, oil industry led by Shell and Ogoni people. Any attempt to deal with any of the matters that had been raised, as a result of the conflict, must involve the three critical actors as stakeholders in a joint project of finding a solution to the Ogoni crisis.
“In the present attempt, the Federal Government and SPDC have acted in disdain to the Ogoni and forcefully want to give out the Oil Mining Licence (OML) over the Ogoni oil block to a company, without initiating any consultation with the Ogoni community. The Ogoni will resist this attempt.”
He said while the Ogoni appreciated the Federal Government’s efforts to implement recommendations contained in the report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on the environmental assessment of Ogoniland, the people were concerned about the slow pace of the implementation of the report, occasioned by unnecessary bureaucracy, lack of independence and funding, declaring that it was time to break down the bureaucratic bottlenecks that had been hampering the effective implementation of the UNEP report.
Pyagbara said: “While MOSOP is open to discussions relating to the resumption of oil production in Ogoniland, it rejects the present approach of the Federal Government, through its oil production wing, NNPC, resorting to the old divide-and-rule tactics, which it had used and failed before, in an attempt to cause a renewed polarisation of the Ogoni community and put them against one another. This approach is condemnable, detestable and will be resisted by the Ogoni.
“It is instructive to note that while the government of Nigeria commissioned the UNEP to carry out an assessment of Ogoniland, whose report had called for a total clean-up and restoration of Ogoniland, it is disappointing that the same government is going about trying to force its way through the backdoor to begin operations in Ogoniland, without addressing the key concerns that had been raised by the Ogoni over the years.”
The MOSOP president said the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) must put in place a process that would address the implementation of emergency measures needed to deal with the critical issues of water, health and infrastructure, as a matter of priority, insisting that Ogoni people could no longer continue to drink the poisoned water that was threatening their lives and those of the future generations.
He noted that the umbrella organisation of Ogoni people was concerned about reports about the approval for release of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight insurgency in Northeast, saying MOSOP condemned the flagrant display of unabashed discrimination, demonstration of crass insensitivity and neglect of sections of the country.
Pyagbara said the environmental terrorism going on in Niger Delta was more serious than the Boko Haram insurgency in Northeast, adding that in environmental terrorism, no blood would be spilled and no bone would be broken, yet thousands of human beings, animals, trees and herbs would be dying daily as a result of pollution of the environment.
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