For The Records


Gentlemen of the Press,

In the past few years, our attention has been drawn to all sorts of melodramatic utterances and actions purporting to be buying or selling the oilfields located in Ogoni. All these excitements arising from an announcement that Shell Petroleum Development Company Ltd was divesting their assets in the acreage labelled OML11 the bulk of which unfortunately lie in Ogoni land. Shell had operated these oilfields in connivance with the Eastern Nigerian Government since 1958 and with the federal government of Nigeria after the civil war until 1993 when an international environmental campaign led by the Late Ken Saro-Wiwa led to their forceful withdrawal from the fields in Ogoni land.

A lot of people have some preconceived ideas or a total misunderstandings of the Ogoni crisis which explains why for 30 years nobody in or out of government has been able to resolve what we consider a very simple problem for any logical mind.

To put the matter in perspectives, let us review the historical background to the oil operations in Ogoni in order to be able to understand the current position on the subject.

  1. The Ogoni tribe, one of the over 280 indigenous tribes that make up Nigeria was never conquered by any other tribe in any war prior to Nigeria’s independence. Indeed, amongst the delegation of eminent Nigerians that attended the 1952 London constitutional conference representing the jaw province was an Ogoni man -Hon Timothy Naakuu Paul Birabi. Obviously, he could not have negotiated his own tribe to be less Nigerian than any other tribe.
  2. When the Eastern Nigerian Government /Shell came into Ogoni in 1958 to start oil exploration, all Ogonis assumed that the proceeds will be used for the equitable development of the country including Ogoni land. But as it has turned out, that hope was a pipe dream. If anything, the Ogonis hase been left ‘holding the Sharp edge of the sword’. Exploration left Ogoni with a totally devastated environment and the highest level of poverty and the lowest Human Development Index in the country. It took the civil war and creation of Rivers State to give the Ogonis an identity and a reckoning as Nigerians.


  1. The Ogoni people are free born Nigeria and are proud to be Nigerians, however, it is becoming difficult to maintain that patriotism in the face of different laws for different tribes of the same country and a presumptuous feeling that the Ogonis are mere pawns on the chess board where you use one to kill the other while the Queens and Kings and officers are protected by all means.

The Petroleum Act of 1969 now overtaken by the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, vests the ownership of all petroleum resources and the derivable revenues, in the Federal Government of Nigeria. So also the Solid mineral and Mining Act states that”

…The entire property in and control of all minerals, in, under or upon any land in Nigeria, its contiguous continental shelf and of all rivers, streams and watercourses throughout Nigeria, any area covered by territorial waters or constituency, the Exclusive Economic Zone is and shall be vested in the Government of the Federation for and on behalf of the People of Nigeria.

Gold, lithium, uranium mining has been going on for up to a decade now in Zamfara, Sokoto, Nasarawa and Born with the tacit support of the Federal Government. To the best of my knowledge, there is no address of a gold or uranium mining corporation office anywhere in Nigeria. So the question is, if all the solid mineral resources in the Northern States are mined and owned by the state or her private citizens, why should the oil mineral resources in the Rivers State and Niger Delta be owned by the Federal Government for the whole country?

And as if the exploitation was not bad enough, the so called Federal Government owned NNPC has now been privatized as “limited liability” company run as a private enterprise and Akwa lbom, Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States the constitutional custodian of the land of the people in which the oil is found will wait to be given a pittance of whatever is declared as earning after production cost.

Meanwhile the operations are so shrouded in secrecy that no one even knows how much is produced talk more of how much it is sold for. How does this differ from the operations of the British colonial structure where our people were producing palm oil and the buyers would decide how much they would pay for it -TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT.

How much shares does the Rivers State government or the Ogoni people own in this company in which STAKES are limited by shares? And by the way, the appointment of illustrious Ogoni son as a non-executive director of NNPC Ltd, is but a window dressing as it does not confer any entitlements on the Ogoni people as he can only receive sitting allowances whenever there is a board meeting which cannot address the socio-economic and environmental impact of oil exploration in Ogoni land.

That said, skewed as the execution of these Mineral Acts have been, the entire Ogoni people look forward to the resumption of oil activities in Ogoni. The only difference is between those who want some money in their pocket for the operation to be business as usual and those who want a total review of the modus operandi of the operatorship based on the realities of today.

The land use decree vests all lands within the boundaries of Rivers state in the State government and even the Federal Government requires approval of the state government to occupy any land. By that same decree, the land can only be acquired in the public interest, which interest must include the owners of the land- the Ogoni people.

However, it must be noted that the price of land varies according to the usage and location. A plot of land in Maitama is not the same price as same size of land in Garki or Wuse. A piece of land siting on one billion barrels of crude oil cannot be valued at same price as an open farm land anywhere. Any piece of land bearing an oil well must be rented according to the value of the activities on the land and commensurate annual rents and taxes paid to the land owners and State Government respectively before declaration of accruable revenue to the Federal Government.

From the so called Petroleum and solid mineral Acts now replaced by another more dubious Petroleum Industry Act 2021, all the oil in Ogoni and the entire Niger Delta is now owned by a private limited liability company called Nigerian National Petroleum company Limited with shares held purportedly on behalf of the Federal Government by selected handful of people.

However, while this NNPC Ltd bill was being passed to privatize the resources of Ogoni people and the Niger Delta, President Buhari was enacting a “Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative” (PAGMDI) giving Federal Government approval for indigenes of all northern States to mine their own gold deposits and export privately and even sell to the Central Bank of Nigeria at international gold prices. So also Uranium is being mined in Borno State privately.

So, oil from the Niger Delta is for the whole of Nigeria but Gold and Uranium and Lithium from the north is for the land owners. And in the Niger Delta, the Artisanal petroleum refiners are being slaughtered as criminals, DIFFERENT LAWS FOR DIFFERENT NIGERIANS. NIGERIA WE HAIL THEE.

Mr. President, from the days of the NADECO struggle to the fight against third term, I have known you as a freedom fighter. No tribe is less Nigerian than the other.

Indeed, the President Buhari Executive Order on the ARTISANAL GOLD MINING DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE, though unconstitutional is very laudable but it should be applied across the country.

From the Ogoni position, we are ready for the resumption of oil production, but haven paid such a huge price over the last 30 years, the operations cannot be on the same terms that we fought against and died for. The Operatorship of our oil fields MUST speak Ogoni language. This will ensure the altruistic management of our environment and the Socio-Economic benefits from the operations while the NNPC Ltd can keep all the proceeds as has been the practice by the colonial federal set up. I can bet that there is no Ogoni man/woman in any of the gold / uranium mines anywhere in the Northern Nigeria.

Ogoni has an abundance of capable and well qualified Petroleum, Electrical, Reservoir, Chemical and Mechanical Engineers and Financial experts ready to operate the Ogoni oilfields for the Government, most of them have headed production in the oil majors. So, any situation where an outsider$ comesto take over Ogoni operations while our own professionals are hired as paid laborers and pipeline security as if the Ogoni land was a conquered territory is a recipe for disaster and should not even be contemplated. Except if the original design of this so called re-entry program is a camouflage for the annihilation of the Ogoni people.

Finally, ‘the wound that will kill a man does not have to be on the head or the main body, it could be on the smallest toe on the leg, but left unattended’. If this 30 years old Ogoni crisis is not attended to, Ogoni might well be the “Achilles heel” of this British contraption called Nigeria. And let me pre-empt one question that might be bothering our listeners, by quoting a 14th century Greek philosopher “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”

Thank you all for your attention.

Senator Bennett Birabi For the Ogoni People.

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