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Rival Ogoni Youths Clash Over UNEP Report

A fresh crisis is brewing in Ogoniland, Rivers State over the decision of the Federal Government of Nigeria to implement the United Nations Environmental Project (UNEP) in the area. A break away group from the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) which described itself as the Ogoni Springtime has declared MOSOP dead for supporting the recent Federal Government’s position on the report. The group, which has been embarking on a pocket of protests in some communities in Ogoniland has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of “public deception” because of the manner the government is handling of the Ogoniland UNEP Report.

According the self -acclaimed MOSOP President, Dr. Goodluck Diigbo, the government handling of the implementation of the UNEP report will spark tension at Nigeria’s economic nerve center in southern Nigeria. Diigbo said: “A protest today, under the Ogoni Springtime, was part of an unlimited season of resentment – a series of civil disobedience mass protests, end injustice against the Ogoni people in southern Nigeria.

“At the heart of the mass protests, is the self-declared self-government of the Ogoni people, which had abolished the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni people, MOSOP, founded by the executed famous writer and activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa.” Diigbo who was one of the closest associates of Saro-Wiwa, said MOSOP’s life-span started and ended with its demand for self-government He urged “the Nigerian government to facilitate a genuine joint stakeholders’ review of the environmental assessment study on Ogoniland, a mission undertaken by the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP.

When the report was released on August 4, 2012, he disputed, and called for urgent “independent intervention on areas like due process test; neutrality and impartiality test; integrity test, and Reconciliation with World Bank EIA policy, UNEP procedures and Nigerian Government regulations.” Diigbo alleges that “Buhari had said the actions approved by the FG were based on recommendations to him by the Executive Director of UNEP, the UNEP Special Representative for Ogoniland, permanent secretaries of the Federal Ministries of Environment and Petroleum Resources, and others, including the amendment of the official gazette establishing the Hydrocarbon.”, maintaining that “the recommendations were secret, received from non-experts and lied about the identity of those involved.’’

He urged the Buhari administration to show proof by publishing the recommendations and names of the signatories, which never happened, thus, causing a lot of considerable confusion and resentment. “The Ogoni protesters said President Buhari deceived the entire world, not just the Ogoni people. “Amnesty International said President Buhari’s initiative would fail and the Ogoni people would continue to suffer, as long as Shell fails to change its method of oil spill cleanup.

“The stand-off with authorities began with protests on August 9, 2015 at the Nigeria Police Area command in Ogoniland, and other locations.” He accused youths who confronted a protest by some Ogoni indigenes along the Eleme axis of the East West Road on Monday, August 24, of being sponsored by what he called a major political party opposed to the Rivers State government led-PDP ruling party. “A splinter Eleme youth group, led by a known cult leader, said “nobody want to tell us what the UNEP Report is about, and we are not Ogonis.”, he said. “When the cult members started to disrupt the protest, the police began shooting into the air.

Diigbo disclosed ha he ordered the protesters to end it, and promised to encourage proper understanding among the ill-informed and ill-advised youth elements. He declared that the people would hold out the Ogoni Springtime to the end of injustice against them, and warned politicians, including elected representatives, who are fueling violence that they can’t have it both ways. “If Eleme is not Ogoni, then the UNEP report on Ogoniland, is irrelevant to Eleme, irrespective of reference made to Eleme in the report.

Ogonis paid the ultimate price for the report,” Diigbo stated. In a swift reaction, MOSOP condemned the Monday protest and warned that Ogoni will not sit folding its arms while unscrupulous elements scuttle her interest. A statement signed by Bari-ara Kpalap Media/Public Affairs Advisor to the MOSOP President stated “In response to the reportedly ill-informed and unwarranted demonstration held at Akpajo junction on the East/West road, Eleme local government area, today (24/8/15) by a faceless group, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has warned the Ogoni people and the general public to ignore the group, which have been manipulated to attempt drawing Ogoni aback.

“It further warned that the good people of Ogoni would deal decisively with anybody wanting to truncate the efforts of our people especially relating to the smooth implementation of recommendations of the UNEP environmental assessment report on Ogoniland. “Reports available to MOSOP have revealed that the demonstrators mischievously claimed that they were protesting exclusion from the UNEP report implementation process. “We condemn the action and reject the reason adduced, which smacks of desperation.

Insofar as we are concerned, the protesters and their sponsored who have earlier declared an unrecognised “Ogoni self-government” are drowned in ignorance and dubiously seeking relevance and should be discountenanced.” The statement explained “Negotiation, we all know, is always done on representative capacity and not by the entire community, organisation or institution.In this case, all strata of the Ogoni society were fully represented in the multi-stakeholder engagement processes occasioning the President Mohammadu Buhari led federal government’s approval of actions to fast-track implementation of recommendations of the UNEP report on Ogoniland.

In fact, two (2) prominent sons and a daughter of Ogoni, namely, Professor Ben Naanen, HRH Mene Suanu T.Y. Baridam, JP and Professor Roseline Konya chaired three (3) out of the four working groups during the engagements. And the truth remains that the outcome of the engagements has been hailed in Ogoni and beyond. “Facts available to us have also shown that the backers of the demonstration erroneously believed that the five-year take-off grant of five billion dollars ($5,000,000,000) for the implementation of the report is up for grabs. They are as well involved in circulating fake information in Ogoni communities that the money would be shared amongst the people. Similarly, they are engaged in duping unsuspecting Ogonis through sale of fake recruitment and qualification forms at the rate of N3,000 each .

“It is a shame that whilst well-meaning Ogonis sustained efforts for the implementation of the report in view of the fact that the   report passed a death sentence on Ogoni and the community has been harvesting deaths and suffering severe livelihood challenges, this fake group refused to identify with the people. Instead, they busied themselves with steps to dismember Nigeria and actually declared a so-called “Ogoni self-government”, which contradicted the collective position of our people as enunciated in the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR).

“ MOSOP maintained that it has remained in the forefront of the campaigns and its approach and leadership especially relating to the engagements occasioned the step taken by the federal government. “We are therefore committed to supporting the administration and other stakeholders in ensuring a quick commencement and successful implementation of the Ogoni project. We would thus advice against actions capable of creating confusion and doubts as to the readiness of Ogoni for the planned remediation and restoration of our heavily degraded environment ignored by the immediate past national government. After all, the victory would be for Ogoni and not otherwise,” MOAOP insisted.

-Tony Ita Etim in Port Harcourt reports on the clash between rival Ogoni youth over the UNEP reporst with on denouncing the FG and the other supporting it.

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