As the Ogoni people celebrated Ogoni Environment Day o the 4th of August and as the indigenous peoples of the world were preparing to commemorate International Indigenous Peoples Day on the 9th of August, African Indigenous Foundation for Energy and Sustainable Development (AIFES), has demanded the immediate commencement of the Ogoni Health Study which is a vital part of the recommendations of the UNEP Report.
Executive Director of AIFES, Legborsi Saro Pyagbara made the demand in a one day Dialogue put together to assess the implementation of the UNEP Report 12 years after it was submitted to the Federal Government.
The dialogue which coincided with the Ogoni Environment Day had as its theme: “Ogoni UNEP Report: Youths Mobilizing for Justice and Social Change” attracted Ogoni Stakeholders, particularly Ogoni Youth Leaders.
Reacting to a comment by one of the Youth leaders who complained that the growing industry in Ogoniland at the moment was burial ceremonies, Pyagbara said if the health study was completed, its result could be used to reduce pervasive illnesses and deaths currently ravaging Ogoniland as a result environmental degradation.
Underscoring how important the Ogoni Health Study is to him, the AIFES Executive Director said he had during negotiation in Geneva asked the UNEP Team present how long it would take to begin the health study scheme.
Pyagbara who traced the early stages of the Ogoni struggle from 1992 when according to him, the late Ken Saro Wiwa first took the Ogoni matter to international arena, described the invitation of UNEP to Ogoniland in 2006 and the subsequent submission of its report in 2011 to the Federal Government as a symbol of the victory of the Ogoni people’s collective struggle, a demonstration of their resilience and a testimony that if people come together and speak in one voice, there is nothing they cannot achieve.
His words: “UNEP Report is a symbol of the victory of our collective struggle, it is a demonstration of the resilience of the Ogoni People, it is a clear testimony that when a people come together and speak in one voice, they can achieve certain things.”
As a result of this milestone, the great activist said MOSOP in its wisdom decided to declare 4th of August as Ogoni Environment Day.
Raising concerns about the pervasive poverty and hunger in Ogoniland, Pyagbara also called on the Federal Government and HYPREP to implement the Livelihood Scheme, which is also part of UNEP recommendations, wondering if all the people will die first before reliefs could be provided for them.
He contended that Livelihood scheme should go hand in hand with the remedial project.
He also deplored the constant change in the leadership of the Ministry of Environment and HYPREP, saying it was affecting the smooth implementation of the report. Pyagbara commended what had been achieved so far by the implementing authorities.
One of the youth leaders, Nwibani Raymond, National Coordinator, Kiakiisi Ogoni who is also the President of All Youth Congress, said there is too much politics in the implementation of the UNEP Report and asked that the clean- up should be taken to the rural communities.
Kilsim Kokpan, Secretary General, Nigeria Youth Organization Rivers State, as well as Director Publicity/Communication, All Ogoni Youth Congress said community people had not felt the impact of the clean-up exercise and called on HYPREP to use part of the funds earmarked to establish industries that can employ Ogoni youths.
On his part, Dimkpa Kingsley, President Korokoro Youth Council and Financial Secretary, Ogoni Youth Federation, called for implementation of the Livelihood scheme.
He condemned what he called insincerity of HYPREP in the implementation of the clean-up exercise. He advised the implementing authorities to find out areas where youths can participate and engage them.