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‘Ogoni clean-up will certainly bring restoration’

By Ann Godwin, Port Harcourt
04 June 2016   |   4:31 am
President of Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Chief Pyagbara Legborsi, speaks on the impact of Ogoni clean-up among others .
Chief Pyagbara Legborsi,

Chief Pyagbara Legborsi,

President of Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Chief Pyagbara Legborsi, speaks on the
impact of Ogoni clean-up among others

Of what impact will the clean-up exercise be to the Ogoni people?

It has a lot of positive impacts. Due to the loss of the economic structure as a result of oil exploitation in the area, every family in Ogoni lost the ability to meet their primary needs. The man who farms and from the farming sends his children to school could no longer do so.  A man that was fishing and save money through it to train the children can no longer do so due to the fact that our lands were destroyed.

In an environment where you can no longer feed your family, train your children in school, it means that you are raising a generation of idle young men who are not qualified either academically or socially. All we are saying in a long term is once this clean-up is done and the environment restored and people go back to their local economic live as they were doing before, it will help to stem some of the things that we see now like youth restiveness. It will bring back harmony in the area.

In essence, are you saying that the implementation of the reports will help to reduce hunger and sufferings in Ogoni?
People are now talking about hunger but food crisis has been experienced by the Ogoni people for long because the local food production system in the area were destroyed. The whole oil exploitation destroyed our farming and fishing so people could no longer farm nor fish even the little one they get from the farm, they cannot eat it because it is already polluted as a result of the oil pollution.

So in terms of health, they were already injurious to health.  We really had double impact as a result of the spills. We had the impact of not being able to go to farm, then in some cases, where you can access the farm, you cannot eat the food from the farm because the food is already poisoned.

So despite the food scarcity or implication of right to food, we also have the implication of right to health.  Even the drinking water is polluted. You know the UNEP report stated that there are certain chemicals in the water in the area which of course were carcinogenic agents.

The Ogonis were self-sufficient in food production, but because of the oil pollution, fishes were driven away. Our people do not have the gadget to go in for high-sea fishing, hence they dwell in hunger, but the clean-up exercise will certainly bring restoration.

The long-awaited clean-up is coming at a time the Niger Delta Avengers is bombing oil installations in the region, are you worried that this may thwart the exercise?
They have their own issues, for us the flag-off of the implementation of the UNEP report is an achievement through non- violent struggle. The Ogoni struggle has been a non-violent one. For us, this whole event is like a realization of non-violent strategy that MOSOP adopted in the struggle. We do not subscribe to violence as a way of doing things or achieving an objective. I advise the avengers to sheath their sword, end the bombings and open up for dialogue. Dialogue remains the best option in issues like this.

With what is happening now, can you say that Ken Saro Wiwa has been vindicated?
Yes, he has long been vindicated. Several things he agitated for, most of them have come to pass. So that has vindicated his position.
Is it not disappointing that a president from the North is coming to carry out this assignment in Niger Delta when a son of the region was there for six years and could not implement it?

Government is a continuum. Former President, Goodluck Jonathan did not prioritise it and another man is prioritising it. We appreciate President Buhari’s effort. We are thanking him for prioritising it.

With the flag-off of the clean-up, will your people allow Shell and other oil companies to return for oil exploration?
No, no, no, we have not gotten to that point. This whole process is the beginning of a process of national healing and reconciliation. For now, that is not in the agenda. I think it is an opportunity to heal the wounds first and reconcile ourselves.

Has the community been carried along in the whole exercise?
Well, we in the MOSOP have been anchoring the engagements for the community. We do inform our people the stages of every process. Though we would have wished to be more involved than this, but we are involved in it however.

Do you have the confidence that the needs of the common man will be addressed with this move?
The clean up of Ogoniland will not address all the needs of an ordinary man in the area. Let us not deceive ourselves with the situation. The truth of the matter is that we are all assured that this clean up will lead to restoration.

Before now, a lot of things have been attributed to the delay in the commencement of the clean-up exercise, do you think this is a tool by the present government to score a cheap popularity?
I don’t think so. At least I am among the people who have been driving the process from the government side. It is a multi- stakeholder process.

The government, the people need to give themselves the confidence. We have the confidence that the process as it takes off will be very effective.