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Address Presented To The President And Commander-in-chief Of The Armed Forces Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, On The Occasion Of The Visit Of Ogoni Leaders To State House , Abuja, On September 3, 2012

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the people of Ogoni, we, the representatives here present, convey to Your Excellency our deep appreciation for the opportunity of this August meeting with you and members of your government. We also convey to you the support, goodwill and felicitation of our people. The Ogoni people identify with you in your efforts to provide an effective leadership for our country, Nigeria. We recognize your development initiatives, especially the efforts to improve the living condition of the citizens and move the country into the 21st century. We also identify with you and offer our support in the enormous task of overcoming the numerous challenges of leadership, the protection of lives and property in every part of the nation and in keeping the country united. Nigeria has the potentials of a great nation and we support every effort to realize those potentials.
Even though Ogoni has always supported the call for the devolution of power to local entities to reflect true federalism upon which the Nigerian nationhood is anchored, we wish to assure Mr. President and the Nigerian people that Ogoni remains committed to the unity of the Nigerian state. This is contrary to recent media reports on Ogoni. Hence we are asking for the economic and social integration of the Ogoni people through special development initiatives. It will be recalled that in its report, the United Nations Secretary General’s fact-finding mission to Nigeria made this recommendation in respect of Ogoni in the late 1990s.
Your Excellency, we would at this point like to address the key issues that directly concern the Ogoni people.
1. IMPLEMENTATION OF UNEP REPORT
The Ogoni people sincerely thank the Federal Government for inviting the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to do a ground-breaking scientific study of the Ogoni environment in response to the people’s cries of environmental devastation consequent upon decades of unsustainable oil exploration by Shell. The people want the protection and restoration of their environment as the basis of economic and social life in Ogoniland.
Your Excellency, through the UNEP report which you received on August 4, 2011, you may by now be aware of the extent of environmental devastation of Ogoni. Not only have the terrestrial and aquatic life and soil suffered inestimable damage, but the health of the people has been tragically affected by hydrocarbon pollution. The contamination of surface and ground water by carcinogenous benzene at levels more than 900 times above WHO-prescribed safety limit means that every Ogoni person is a potential cancer patient. This is a potential public health disaster of monumental proportion, which according to UNEP,“ warrants an emergency action ahead of all other remediation efforts”.
Your Excellency, tragic and catastrophic as the situation is, the Ogoni people are concerned by the protracted and near absence of a strategic response by the Federal Government to the findings of the report. What is more, the Ogoni people, as the primary beneficiaries of the proposed clean-up, were not consulted before Government’s decision to set up the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Programme. Permit us, Mr. President, to making the following observations in respect of the UNEP report:
1. The Ogoni people have been concerned that it took as long as one year for the Federal Government to respond to the report, cognizant of the urgency of that report.
2. Contrary to UNEP recommendation to set up an Ogoni Environment Restoration Agency that is specific to Ogoni, the Federal Government has decided to establish a programme with wider scope to cover other areas experiencing hydrocarbon pollution. We hope that this broad jurisdiction will not undermine the implementation of the report.
3. These concerns notwithstanding, the Ogoni people acknowledge HYPREP, realising that other parts of the Niger Delta also suffer oil-related pollution like Ogoni. However, in making this acceptance, Ogoni will appreciate receiving assurance from the Federal Government that:
a) The UNEP recommendations on Ogoni will be fully implemented regardless of HYPREP’s intervention in other areas;
b) The one billion US dollars recommended by UNEP as start-up fund for Ogoni clean-up will be spent on Ogoni alone;
c) The Ogoni people will be given first priority in the business and job opportunities connected with the clean-up in the Ogoni as a means of ameliorating the dire poverty and joblessness in the area;
d) The report will be implemented under the supervision of an internationally recognized agency that will exercise oversight and quality assurance responsibility. We have in mind in this regard United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP);
e) There will be an intensive public health programme in Ogoni, including cancer screening and treatment, to be undertaken by competent international agencies such as World Health Organization (WHO);
f) The Ogoni people will be regularly consulted on the activities of HYPREP, especially the clean-up in the Ogoni area.
Your Excellency, Mr. President, may we invite you to join us to thank our Governor Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and others such as Fr Mathew Hassan Kukah who contributed to the success of the UNEP study. Governor Amaechi undertook conspicuous, massive and constructive mobilization of the instruments of government, materials and ideas to support UNEP.
2. COMPENSATION FOR DAMAGE
Considering the irreversible devastation done to the environment, health and livelihood of the people of Ogoni by the petroleum industry as scientifically demonstrated in the UNEP report, the Ogoni people hereby ask for compensation from the Federal Government and Shell. Justice delayed is justice denied. We would therefore respectfully request that the issue of compensation be addressed without delay now that the evidence of devastation is still conspicuous.
3. OIL EXPLORATION IN OGONI
Mr. President, you may recall that the issue of the transfer of the withdrawn Shell operatorship of the Ogoni oil fields was mentioned during the meeting with you of Ogoni leaders when you were the Vice-President. Till date the Ogoni people are not aware of which company the operatorship has been transferred to. We strongly believe that the Federal Government would in its wisdom, consult our people in any decision to effect the transfer, and in fact, the whole issue of resumption of oil exploration in the Ogoni area so as to avoid the kind of problem we had with Shell.
4. BORI STATE
State creation has been a major tool for enhancing a sense of belonging and promoting development by groups that feel marginalized. It is an important means of strengthening federalism. Economic viability should also be an important criterion. The Ogoni people are of the strong view that these conditions apply to them and that the creation of Bori State is a necessity which the Executive arm and the National Assembly should give effect to. Such a state, which will include other ethnic communities in the South-East Senatorial District of Rivers State, will also complement the national economy as the oil and gas resources of the area will enhance the national budget.
5. ILLEGAL BUNKERING AND ARTISANAL REFINING, YOUTH EMPOWERMENT
As future leaders the youth represent an important segment of any society. Any nation that ignores the development of the potentials of its youth is doomed to have a deficient leadership. Ogoni youths are bedeviled by monumental challenges of joblessness and hopelessness. But unlike youths elsewhere in our country, they have largely refrained from the rampant violence that created huge security problem and nearly paralysed economic activities in the Niger Delta, resulting in the Amnesty Programme. Sadly, Ogoni youths have not benefitted from the opportunities connected to the Amnesty Programme probably because of their non-violent approach. We therefore ask for the rehabilitation of impoverished Ogoni youths through skills development training in Nigeria and abroad and the opening up of job opportunities to them as well as scholarship for both vocational and academic training in foreign institutions. This is surely an answer to the problems created by joblessness and hopelessness. It will also address the issue of illegal bunkering and artisanal refining.
Your Excellency, we would like to observe that the problem of youth-driven illegal and artisanal refining which not only makes the government to lose huge revenues but also complicates the environmental crisis in recent times cannot be effectively combated through a law and order approach without addressing its root causes. Poverty and general lack of opportunities are major causes. Bunkering by youths represents an aspect of Niger Delta conflict and Ogoni youths who are involved in it by force of circumstances should therefore be made to benefit from a special rehabilitation and reintegration programme to be set up by the Federal Government, similar to the current social programme connected to the Amnesty initiative for Niger Delta militants.
Pipeline Surveillance: This represents another opportunity for productive engagement of Ogoni youths. Ogoni people should be made to protect the pipeline and other oil installations located in the Ogoni territory instead of being contracted out to other Nigerians who make huge profits at the expense of the Ogoni people as recently demonstrated in the media. It may be difficult for Ogoni people to support outsiders who are given pipeline surveillance contract in Ogoni.
6. INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Communication between Ogoni and the rest of the country is being threatened by deplorable roads and other critical infrastructure. The strategic East-West and the Bodo-Bonny Roads are cases in point. It will be recalled that while the Federal Executive Council had approved the reconstruction of the collapsed Onne-Eleme Junction (Port Harcourt) section of the road, the supervising Ministry arbitrarily disregarded the FEC approval and instead ordered that the portion be repaired. Without the total reconstruction of that portion of the road it will soon be impossible to have access to the strategic economic area of Eleme and as well cut off communication with the rest of Ogoni and Akwa-Ibom State. Currently, access to Ogoni and other communities along the East-West Road is through Oyigbo, a long, costly and hazardous detour. We therefore pray Mr. President to use his good offices to order the reconstruction of the road in accordance with the decision of the Federal Executive Council.
We are also making a plea for the Bodo-Bonny road, which remains one of the oldest roads on the plan of the Federal Ministry of Ministry of Works. The economic importance of the road to the Federal Government and the people of Bonny, Ogoni and the entire Rivers State cannot be over emphasized. We therefore appeal for the resumption of work on the road to open up the economic potentials of that region.
WATER SUPPLY
The provision of emergency water supply for the most impacted communities was one of the emergency measures recommended by UNEP. Only one community at the moment is irregularly supplied with water by tankers. But the whole of Ogoni, especially the direct oil-producing communities, need safe portable water, which we plead with the Federal Government to undertake as a matter of priority.
NEW TOWN PROJECT
Your Excellency, over two years ago the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs acquired land from the Beeri and Nyokuru communities in Khana LGA for the development of a new town and industrial park. We however note that nothing has been heard of the project since then. We are requesting the implementation of this project.
7. APPOINTMENTS
Your Excellency, we cannot conclude this address without thanking you for the appointment of some of our sons and daughters into positions of trust in your administration. These are Barrister Ledum Mitee as Chairman, National Stakeholders Work Group of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI); Mr. Lenu Kpagih as a Commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Barrister Joy Nunieh as HYTREP. We however, feel that Ogoni deserve more. The recent ambassadorial appointments, for instance, did not include an Ogoni person. We also look forward to Ministerial appointment, an executive position which will strengthen a sense of belonging among the Ogoni people.
Thank you for your consideration.
We remain,
Yours Sincerely,
His Majesty King GNK Gininwa, OFR
Chairman, Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers
Chairman, Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers
Distinguished Senator Magnus Ngei Abe
South-east Senatorial District of Rivers State
Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream)
Professor Ben Naanen
Chairman, Provisional Council
Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)
On behalf of the Ogoni people

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