From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Twenty-six years after the Ogoni Nine, activists who opposed the operating practices of the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Corporation, were executed by hanging by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha, President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday gave a hint of a possible state pardon.
The Ogoni Nine which included author and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine, were executed on November 10 1995.
Buhari gave the hint when he had an audience with some leaders and people of Ogoni land at the State House, according to a statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.
According to the President Buhari, despite the gravity of the circumstances, the Federal Government will consider the request to grant them pardon and bring closure to the case.
He said: “Furthermore, we are committed to ensuring clemency and national integration as part of this administration’s bid to lay the foundation for genuine reconciliation and bring closure to the issues of Ogoni Land.
“The unfortunate incidents of the early 1990s leading to the loss of lives of distinguished sons of Ogoni land and the collateral judicial processes are indelible in our memories.
“Despite the grievous circumstances, the Federal Government will consider the request for the grant of pardon to finally close the Ogoni saga,’’
President Buhari urged the Ogoni leaders to sensitize indigenes on value of protecting national assets like pipelines and other oil installations, saying willful damages usually create more havoc on their environment and hamper development in the area.
He also noted that the Federal Government is committed to the cleaning up of Ogoni land so that indigenes can regain their lives, return to farms and reactivate economic activities.
“You will need to educate the people of Ogoni land and the region more, that when pipelines are broken, the damage is more to the immediate environment and the people. The majority farmers and fishermen struggle because the fishes now move to the deep sea,’’ he said.
The President observed that bad industry practices coupled with security challenges had resulted in massive spills with attendant environmental degradation of Ogoni, leading to agitations and strife.
He said the government would bring to a close all pending issues on sons of Ogoni land.
He said: “Your Royal Highnesses, distinguished representatives of the people of Ogoni Land, I note the need to ensure completion of segment of the East-West road traversing Ogoni Land, and steps will be taken to ensure delivery under the Infrastructure Development Fund as earlier conceived. We intend to complete this vital artery of Nigeria.”
According to him, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Ltd (NPDC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), had been granted license to operate OML11, which will stimulate economic activities and integration in the zone.
“To ensure the stimulation of economic activities in Ogoni land as underpinned by the vast petroleum resources underlying Ogoni land and neighbouring communities, NPDC, a subsidiary of the NNPC has been granted licence to operate OML11.
“Accordingly, NNPC is hereby directed to engage all host communities, particularly Ogoni people to ensure inclusive processes of oil and gas exploration and production is anchored on optimum involvement of host communities. NPDC will lay a broad-based programme for the emergence of a new Ogoni land for the benefit of the Ogoni people and Nigeria as a whole,’’ he added.
President Buhari said he was aware of the passage of the Bill on the Federal University of Environmental Technology by the National Assembly and awaits transmission for further necessary action.
“This administration has placed the rehabilitation of the Niger-Delta as a top priority and has committed a lot of resources to tackle existing problems, including launching a $1 billion oil clean-up exercise to reverse the terrible damage and restore the ecosystem.
In his remarks, the President of the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, King Godwin N.K. Giniwa, thanked President Buhari for various interventions in the area, particularly on clean-up of the environment.
The paramount ruler noted that the people believe in the unity of Nigeria and the future of every group could only be guaranteed in one nation.
He congratulated the President for his achievements in critical infrastructure in the country, especially in railways and road constructions, urging more efforts in provision of potable water.