By Constance Meju
The federal government has been called upon to exonerate late environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni Eight whose lives were horrifically terminated by the Nigerian government over trumped up charges by the Nigerian government in connivance with Shell over the killing of four prominent Ogoni sons.
This was part of resolutions reached at the end of a one-day environmental summit organized by Environmental rights action and friends of the earth Nigeria and some civil society organizations in honour of the 25th anniversary of the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, November 12, 2020, at Visa Karena Hotel Port Harcourt relayed worldwide on zoom.
Part of the summit resolutions read:
“The Nigerian government should immediately exonerate the late Ken Saro-Wiwa and his Ogoni compatriots of the false allegations for which they were unjustly and brutally murdered.
“Shell should be officially recognized as accomplice to the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Just as Shell worked with Nigerian government in 1995, it should equally work with the Nigeria government to exonerate the Ogoni leaders of the allegations. The other option for Shell is to decommission its facilities from Ogoniland and the Niger Delta.”
The activists also called for the release of the Ken Saro-Wiwa Bus impounded by the Nigeria Custom Service and a halt to a correctional center in Ogoniland asking instead, for the establishment of a research center of excellence and other emergency measures recommended by the UNEP Report and support for the just opened Ken Saro-Wiwa Park.
They asked in particular, for the urgent and proper clean-up of Ogoni oil spills and consideration for tackling other polluted sites in the Niger Delta.
The event which, featured participants from across the globe was, according to Chima Williams Esq, acting executive director ERA/FoeN, put together to keep Ken Sarowiwa’s statement that you can kill the messenger but you cannot kill the message and to re-assess what has changed or not changed 25 years after the death of the environmental activist.
With the summit’s theme as, “Ken Saro-Wiwa: The Nigerian Environment and Lessons Not Learned,” Chima said not much has changed in the Niger Delta environment narrative for which Ken lost his live. He said Ken is yet to be understood.
“25 years down the lane can we say that the Nigerian people-governments, communities, corporations, civil society, media, etc., all did take some good lessons from Ken? To us the answer will be in the negative hence the theme of this year’s memorial environmental summit.
“Ken understood the powers of organizing, mobilization and engagement and used it effectively even though he was greatly misunderstood as is still happening now. Have our community people learnt the lesson of organizing, mobilizing and engagement? Perhaps, very little. Government at the time detested Ken and his style of struggle. Has that changed today? Again, perhaps, very little.
‘The greater majority of the civil society then didn’t align with Ken’s message to the world, hence they connived and orchestrated his state murder; has that changed today? Absolutely very little,” he concluded.
According to the ERA boss, the situation x-ray explains why the Niger Delta environment is still very degraded. “…the above provides answers to why 25 years after Ken, our environment still remains I a state of disrepair with all manner of pollution and degrading practices still going on”.
He pointed out that pollution still goes on daily with little attention paid to clean-up and restore the polluted sites, while victims continue to wallow in misery.
He stressed that Ken Saro-Wiwa left behind for CSOs, the legacy of passionate resistance to environmental justice.
“To understand the Nigerian Environment and Lessons not Learned as it relates to the iconic personality of Ken Saro-Wiwa, we must first understand his greatest legacy. For us as environmentalists, the greatest of all the legacies left by Ken Saro-Wiwa was his passion in resistance to environmental injustice meted to his people, his challenge of the destruction of his people’s livelihood sources and the payment of the ultimate price for his beliefs and standing through for his people without compromise”, Chima noted.
To achieve better future results so the dead will not continue to groan in anger, the ERA boss called on governments and government agencies to change its suspicious stand with civil society and collaborate and begin to treat host communities as equal stakeholders while oil and gas corporations should respect communities to enthrone peace needed for peaceful and sustainable business operations.
He said CSOs and communities on their part, must engage government and her agencies, to , “rescue our environment and citizens’ livelihoods and create a friendly atmosphere for citizens demands on their government and, government’s reciprocity of listening and obeying her citizens,” who are the main employers of government officials.
Stressing that the protection of the environment is a collective task, Chima charged all to work together to tackle the Niger Delta environmental problem.
“Finally, we must understand that we can only achieve good and sustainable environment devoid of polluting factors when we all see ourselves as partners in progress in the the business of protecting our environment and tapping her resources with respect for dignity for the environment is our life”.
Chima announced that to keep the legacies of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Oronto Douglas, and all environment and human rights defenders alive till the fulfillment of their vision at peace with the people is realized, a yearly Environmental Justice Awards is being instituted by ERA/FoeN and her partners.
“The Environment al Rights Action /Friends of the Earth Nigeria on collaboration with all our partners is instituting a yearly Environmental Justice Awards in the memory and honour of two of our environmental justice icons-Ken Saro-Wiwa and Oronto Natei Douglas,” Chima announced.
Partners of ERA/FoeN include Health of the Earth, HOMEF, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation, Africa, CAPA, OilWatch Togo, Groundwork South Africa, Center for Environment Human Rights and Development, CEHERD, Green Alliance Nigeria and Stakeholder Democracy Network, SDN. Others are, Host Communities Network, Social Action, Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, Ogoni Solidarity Front, OSF, Student Environmental Assembly of Nigeria and Young Friends of the Earth, Nigeria.
#Environmental Justice Summit
#Ken Saro-Wiwa 25th Anniversary