Opinion: Ogonis are the most exploited people on earth

by Saatah Nubari

Ken SARO-WIWA

The Ogoni ethnic nationality have contributed approximately 30 billion dollars… All they can boast of is the murder of their son Ken Saro Wiwa by the Abacha regime and the devastation of their rivers and farm lands.

Home to the late environmental right activist, Ken Saro Wiwa, with a population of approximately 1,000,000 people, covering an area of 1,050km sq, the Ogoni people of Nigeria are arguably the most exploited people on earth.

The history of oil exploration in Ogoni is a very painful one, and one which they would love to forget. Since Shell discovered oil in Ogoni in 1958, the people of Ogoni have suffered neglect from the government. Away from the politics and the NGF election, this is just a reminder that there are people in this country who don’t make the headlines but whose contributions are immense.

With the rise of MOSOP and the late Ken Saro Wiwa, the Ogonis have fought a justified fight for justice. A fight they have fought without guns even when the militants from other regions decided to take up arms. They have stuck to this fight for resource control with soldiers carrying placards. They have not asked for amnesty and as such are not trained oversees or given lucrative contracts by the government. I am talking about a fight that has been fought with the pen. Today let’s remember the pain, gains, sweat and tears that has accompanied their fight. Let us remember a people so blessed but yet so poor, a people so weak but yet so strong, a people so hopeless but yet still hopeful.

Today, let us remember a people who have had 30 billion dollars’ worth of oil stolen from them by Shell and the Federal Government. That translates to approximately 4.7 trillion naira worth of oil which if shared among our population of 160 million people will amount to approximately 29,000 per person.  This people have had their right to fresh air taken away from them, their right to clean portable water taken from them. Did you know that within a period of 15 years, there were 2,976 oil spills of about 2.1 million barrels of oil in Ogoniland?  That the Ogoni people account for 40 percent of the total oil spill by Shell worldwide? This people have had their land polluted, their means of livelihood destroyed. A people who have had their women widowed, children orphaned and families destroyed.

In 1993 after the people protested the laying of oil pipelines by shell, the Mobile Police force raided about 27 Ogoni villages leaving behind at least 1,000 people dead and more than 50,000 people homeless.  The recent United Nations Environments Program (UNEP) report on Ogoniland shows that the groundwater has a high level of benzene at 900 levels above the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines which makes it deadly for human consumption. It is astonishing to know that a people so marginalized in their own country have not caused a civil war. This people have had genocide committed against them but they have not shot a single gun. Though oppressed have not asked for the presidency.

The Ogoni ethnic nationality have contributed approximately 30 billion dollars, 4.7 trillion naira to the Nigerian economy but have no portable drinking water, no good medical facilities or good school to show for it. All they can boast of is the murder of their son Ken Saro Wiwa by the Abacha regime and the devastation of their rivers and farm lands.

A people whose land the United Nation said it will take 30 years to clean up, this was two years ago and still nothing has been done. These are people who don’t make the headlines but contribute to the nation even when the nation gives them nothing in return. Below are excerpt from the UNEP report.

Following its initial investigations, UNEP identified 69 sites for detailed soil and groundwater investigations. In addition, samples of community drinking water, sediments from creeks, surface water, rainwater, fish and air were collected throughout Ogoniland and in several neighbouring areas. Altogether more than 4,000 samples were analyzed, including water drawn from 142 groundwater monitoring wells drilled specifically for the study, and soil extracted from 780 boreholes. The UNEP project team also examined more than 5,000 medical records and staged 264 formal community meetings in Ogoniland attended by over 23,000 people.

 

Summary of recommendations

The study concludes that the environmental restoration of Ogoniland is possible but may take 25 to 30 years. The report contains numerous recommendations that, once implemented, will have an immediate and positive impact on Ogoniland. Further recommendations have longer timelines that will bring lasting improvements for Ogoniland and Nigeria as a whole. The hydraulic connection between contaminated land and creeks has important implications for the sequence of remediation to be carried out. Until the land-based contamination has been dealt with, it will be futile to begin a clean-up of the creeks. Due to the wide extent of contamination in Ogoniland and nearby areas, and the varying degrees of degradation, there will not be one single clean-up technique appropriate for the entire area. A combination of approaches will therefore need to be considered, ranging from active intervention for cleaning the top soil and replanting mangrove to passive monitoring of natural regeneration. Practical action at the regulatory, operational and monitoring levels is also proposed.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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