…Wants Independent Commission For National Healing
Human rights activist and former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Legborsi Pyagbara has told the world’s governing body, United Nations, that the Ogonis are still suffering from political marginalization, economic strangulation and environmental degradation as the Nigerian government have failed to execute the much needed reconciliation and national healing.
Pyagbara, who was speaking at the ongoing 15th session of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) holding from the 4-8 July 2022 at the United Nations Office, Geneva, Switzerland, said this ugly state of affairs had continued despite assurances by the Nigerian government to remedy the situation.
In the joint statement which he presented on behalf of the African Indigenous Foundation for Energy and Sustainable Development (AIFES) and the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Pyagbara cataloged the genesis of events that led to the Ogoni struggle, noting that Ogoni continues to suffer marginalization in all facets of development in the country.
“On June 14, 1999, the government inaugurated the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (HRVIC) headed by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa with the task of unraveling the human rights abuses that took place within the years of military rule and facilitate reconciliation and national healing.
“It is instructive to note that over 80% of the 10,000 petitions received by the commission on a national scale came from Ogoni.
In a country of over 200 million, this goes to demonstrate the level of abuses and marginalization that Ogoni people had suffered in the hands of successive Nigeria leadership.
“The Commission submitted its report to the Federal Government in June 2002.
Unfortunately, this reconciliatory effort did not bear fruition as the government failed to officially release the report of the panel nor implement its recommendations”, he told the gathering of top-notches from around the world.
He said it was the failure of that first initiative that saw the federal government, in 2005, setting up the Shell/Ogoni Reconciliation Process headed by Rev. Mathew Hassan Kukah.
“This effort was also deadlocked because the Ogoni community requested that the Federal Government has to be brought to the table so that matters relating to the issues of political marginalization and economic strangulation of the Ogoni people will be addressed”, he said, but regretted that the facilitator was unable to commit the Federal Government to the dialogue process.
According to Pyagbara, it was clear that the process was only tilted towards resumption of oil production in Ogoniland and not the ultimate reconciliation and healing of the Ogoni people through addressing the larger cases of political marginalization and economic strangulation of the Ogoni people.
This intervention, he said eventually produced a report by UNEP on the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland.
As a way forward, the former MOSOP President called on the Nigerian government to set up a truly independent commission made up of experts drawn from both local and international bodies solely for promoting national healing and reconciliation with the Ogoni people.
“As a necessary first step towards national healing and reconciliation, as Nigeria approaches another election cycle, the opportunity should be seized to address the political marginalization of the Ogoni people by promoting the political representation of the Ogoni people at certain level of political governance such as the Governorship position in Rivers State.
“The cleanup process of Ogoniland was designed to be an independent intervention.
However, there is a glaring attempt to take over the clean process and subject it to the corrupt practices endemic in Nigeria public institutions.
“Pay compensation to all victims of human rights abuses as documented by the Oputa Commission”, he submitted.
Mr. Pyagbara additionally urged the UN body to peruse through a briefing note titled: ‘The Road to 2023: Addressing the political marginalization of the Ogoni people, fifty-five years after’, which has been submitted to the EMRIP.