Posted by News Express | 7 January 2018 | 1,585 times
The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has reaffirmed its commitment to an autonomous Ogoniland where economic and environmental justice are guaranteed.
In an emotional speech delivered at the 2018 Ogoni Day on Thursday, Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, MOSOP President, recalled that 28 years ago, Ogoni people launched a titanic struggle to liberate the land "and 25 years ago, we gathered here, on this very ground, to begin the walk from our Egypt of repression to our Canaan of emancipation and to set the agenda for a peaceful, just and inclusive Ogoni society.
“Today, we are gathered once again in what has become an annual ritual to remind ourselves that the agenda which our forbearers set for us and the struggle for the realisation of this agenda and tasks continues undiminished. We are here again in celebration of our freedom and the liberty that we won on January 4, 1993 when we took that leap of faith and marched over 300,000 of our people on a journey for the restoration of our dignity, for our rediscovery and for our national pride.”
Pyagbara also recalled that when the United Nations General Assembly in resolution 45/164 of December 18, 1990 proclaimed 1993 as the International Year of Indigenous Peoples, “little did they know that they were responding to the yearnings of a far-flung indigenous minority people located thousands of kilometres away from the hallowed halls of the United Nations in New York where the United Nations General Assembly took place and was setting the stage for the eventual take off of the journey of the liberation of the Ogoni people.
“It was indeed within the context of that proclamation that our struggle drew inspiration and renewed dedication to our quest for inclusiveness, self-determination, justice, freedom and peace as our forebears gathered to launch Ogoni’s celebration of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on January 4, 1993, one of the very first indigenous nations to do so at the time. On January 4, our unique identity was established. A new Ogoni was born. Each time we meet on January 4 in this gathering, we bear witness to the enduring strength and resilience of our people.
“My brothers and sisters, in this period, the Ogoni Bill of Rights, the cornerstone of Ogoni Biblicism, with its enduring ideals and principles erected on the twin pillars of truth and non-violence, had been our binding thread.”
The MOSOP leader expressed frustration over the unwillingness of the Federal Government to engage the Ogoni people in a meaningful dialogue on the Ogoni question.
He said: “In the preceding 27 years of our struggle for a just and inclusive Nigeria society, the continuing refusal of the Federal Government to enter into broad and genuine discussion with the Ogoni people is a clear temptation to violence and anarchy, especially when others are already being rewarded with engagement following such behaviour. The Ogoni struggle was launched with the adoption of the Ogoni Bill of Rights on August 26, 1990. The bill was submitted to the Federal Government of Nigeria and it raised several questions on the place of the Ogoni people in the Nigeria project. The bill interrogated the current structure of the Nigeria state, its vampire resource allocation and economic systems, the very character of development intervention, the environmental ethic in the country, the cultural implosion, the language crisis, our national character and our national life.”
MOSOP observed that the government had failed to dialogue with the Ogoni people on the issues raised in the Ogoni Bill of Rights, and called on the government to seize the opportunity of “this famed clean-up process to open a renewed dialogue on the Ogoni question with the intent to addressing the key issues raised in the Ogoni Bill of Rights.”
It demanded local autonomy for the Ogoni people within Nigeria through "a new economic structure that ensures the use of a fair proportion of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development, and proper environmental management of Ogoni natural resources."
Pyagbara expressed the view that the time for government to show it could engage with peaceful advocacy is now, particularly with the raging temptation to violent agitations cutting across the country, stressing that such a step would demonstrate it is possible to address injustice and engender a sense of national healing.
In what he considered to be Environmental Terrorism, Ogoniland Resurrection and UNEP Report, Pyagbara said: “We would recall that in my 2014 Ogoni Day Speech, I stressed that our ancestors taught us that water is life. They taught us that our forests with its collection of trees are the cathedrals of life. They taught us that we and our animals have a psychic relationship that we are caught up with in the same web of life. They taught us that the assault on our environment is an assault on our lives. The situation where millions of plant and animal lives continue to fall to the toxicity of oil pollution is environmental terrorism in which no blood is spilled, no bones are broken yet all one sees around is dead.
“It is in this light that we appreciate the efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to address the environmental nightmare in Ogoniland.
“However, the efforts are indeed too slow and are becoming too late to come if there is no urgent deliberateness to guarantee that critical steps are taken to ensure that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) delivers on its core mandate to re-mediate the polluted Ogoni environment and restore livelihoods.
“Whilst appreciating HYPREP for the Ogoni Medical Outreach Programme, which took place in the last week of December 2017 and saw to the offering of free medical services to over two thousand physically challenged Ogoni people, we want to see a clear and focused intervention programme in the area of the emergency measures which will see the take-off of the water intervention project, provide livelihood support training for women and carry out the health impact assessment in the first quarter of the year. This will be the fifth year we are calling for the speedy implementation of so-called emergency measures where their absence is leading to needless deaths and health crises."
While further demanding political empowerment and justice, the MOSOP leader also recalled that: "In 2015, we raised certain issues in our campaigns that bothered on political justice. On our part, our struggle for political representation is not over. In fact, that struggle is still alive and is on. It is on this note that I am reiterating our call on Ogoni sons and daughters who have not done the voter registration to do so now and get their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs). It is our power, it is our future!"
MOSOP further expressed concern over health issues in Ogoniland, pointing out that the UNEP report had raised serious concerns in relation to the health implications of the pollution footprints in the area and called amongst others the emplacement of a health registry and impact assessment.
Pyagbara said: “Two reports released recently had raised the frightening dimension of the health crisis in Ogoniland. The first is the report from Amnesty International that raises concerns about the link between infant mortality in the Niger Delta particularly Ogoni and oil pollution in the region.
“The second is the report I received from the field by the Ogoni Medical Doctors Forum who were engaged in the recent HYPREP Medical Outreach Programme. The Forum had informed us about the high incidence of surgical cases amongst Ogoni patients some of which had lasted for almost a decade because of no funds with the patient to pay for such surgical operations to be carried out.
“This reinforces our call on the Nigeria government to establish a specialist medical facility in Ogoniland. The current situation where there is no specialist facility to address health matters in Ogoniland is unacceptable.”
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