“There is no going back on the 90 day deadline ultimatum delivered to the Nigerian Government and oil companies to implement the UNEP report on oil pollution in Ogoniland. We are mobilizing for a series of non-violent direct actions that will cripple economic activity.”
A few weeks later and we are glued to social media as the photos and tweets keep popping up on our screens. They actually did it!
— Premium Times (@PremiumTimesng) December 11, 2013
And it is just the start. In 1993, the Ogoni people stood up to Shell and kicked the company off their land. Shell hasn’t been able to extract oil there since but it doesn’t stop their land being continually polluted by pipelines crisscrossing the area carrying oil for export. But that victory came at a high price to the Ogoni people. It has been estimated that around 2,000 died and 80,000 were displaced in the Nigerian security forces’ violent onslaught that followed. Inspirational Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and the rest of the Ogoni 9 were executed by the military dictatorship on trumped up charges.
In August 2011, a UN-authored report confirmed what the Ogoni people had been saying for decades: that the area was a disaster site and the clean-up should commence without delay. But two years after the report’s release, there has been no meaningful action from the Nigerian Government or oil companies to implement the findings. The only step taken has been the placing of warning signs on local people’s land, telling them the area is polluted and that they should keep out. On our recent trip to the Niger Delta we saw some of these signs and the anger they caused when people had nowhere else to go.
The lead-up to 2015 is a critically important time for this struggle. There will be national elections in Nigeria and it will also be the 20th anniversary of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s execution. The Ogoni issue is uniting social movements across the Niger Delta as a key mobilising theme. They are demanding that the UNEP report on oil pollution in Ogoniland is fully implemented, that there should be an Ogoni Governor of Rivers State and a Ken Saro-Wiwa University in Ogoniland and that those responsible for the violent deaths of Ken Saro Wiwa and so many other Ogoni sons and daughters be brought to justice. A movement for change is rising again. The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), the organisation that Ken Saro-Wiwa led when Shell was kicked out of the region, acted as an umbrella for the many groups taking action yesterday. The Ogonis are warning that today’s action will be the first of many. Celestine told a rally whilst we were in Nigeria, “once the Ogonis start, nobody can stop us”.
Sarah Shoraka from Platform and Patrick Kane from War on Want travelled to the Niger Delta in November 2013. Both organisations are committed to standing with the people of the Niger Delta in their struggle for justice. Follow @platformlondon and @waronwant to keep up to date.