20 years later, remembering the slain Ogoni activist

Saro-Wiwa ran a passionate campaign against the environmental degradation of the land and waters of Ogoniland by the operations of the multinational petroleum companies, especially Shell.

 

On November 10, 1995, Ogoni activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his comrades (the "Ogoni Nine") were executed by hanging after being found guilty of murder by a specially arranged military tribunal.

In actual fact, however, Saro-Wiwa was killed by the Sani Abacha administration for persistently speaking up against the government and challenging the operations of multinational oil company, Shell in Nigeria’s Ogoniland.

Saro-Wiwa ran a passionate campaign against the environmental degradation of the land and waters of Ogoniland by the operations of multinational petroleum companies, especially Shell.

His problems with the government were as a result of the latter’s refusal to enforce environmental regulations on the foreign petroleum companies operating in the area.

According to his brother, Owen, Saro-Wiwa’s last words were “Lord, take my soul…but the struggle continues.” It’s been 20 years since Ken Saro-Wiwa died, but it seems that his struggles are finally paying off.

As the late activist’s son, Ken Wiwa wrote on The UK Guardian’s website today, November 10, 2015, “finally it seems as if Ken Saro-Wiwa…may not have died in vain.”

In January 2015, Shell announced that it would pay a £55 million (about N15.3 billion) settlement to 15,600 Ogoni farmers and fishermen whose lives and livelihood were affected by two large oil spills in 2008 and 2009.

The compensation is “one of the largest pay-outs to an entire community following environmental damage,” the plaintiffs' London lawyers, Leigh Day, said after the settlement was announced.

Also in August, President Muhammadu Buhari approved several actions to fast-track the long delayed implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Report on the environmental restoration of Ogoniland.

According to a press statement from the Presidency, the environmental clean-up of Ogoniland will commence in earnest with Buhari’s inauguration of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) Governing Council and the Board of Trustees for the HYPREP Trust Fund.

Despite the progress made, however, the struggle is far from over.

This was made clear by the seizure of a memorial sculpture made in remembrance of Saro Wiwa, and the eight other activists who died with him, by the Nigerian Customs on September 8 due to its ‘political value’.

Flyers made in commemoration of Saro-Wiwa’s execution on November 10, 1995 were also seized by Nigeria’s State Security Service.

The bus, created by London-based Nigerian artist, Sokari Douglas-Camp, has the words of Saro-Wiwa inscribed: ‘I accuse the oil companies of practising Genocide against the Ogoni’.

Douglas-Camp has however maintained that the bus was made “in good faith as an educational tool and to raise awareness of the plight of the Ogoni people.”

The concerns of the Nigerian government in this instance are understandable seeing as the Niger Delta region, of which Ogoniland is a part, is still one of the most troubled and most volatile regions in the country.

However, if the steps being taken in the right direction are continued and intensified, the memory of Ken Saro-Wiwa should soon bring nothing but pride and comfort to his people and his country.

RIP to the Ogoni 9; Baribor Bera, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gboko, Barinem Kiobel, John Kpuinen, Paul Levure, Felix Nuate and Ken Saro-Wiwa.

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