Ogoniland Is Not For Sale Or Lease, Declares Birabi

In a powerful statement on behalf of the Ogoni people, Senator Bennet Birabi has unequivocally declared that Ogoniland is not for sale or lease. This announcement comes amid growing concerns and speculative activities regarding the sale of oilfields in Ogoniland, especially following the divestment by Shell Petroleum Development Company Ltd from the oil-rich OML11 acreage.

“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,” Birabi stated.

He emphasized the historical context, reminding everyone that Shell’s operations in Ogoniland, in collaboration with the Eastern Nigerian Government since 1958 and later with the federal government, were halted in 1993 due to a significant environmental campaign led by the late Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Senator Birabi addressed the misunderstandings surrounding the Ogoni crisis, highlighting that for 30 years, no effective resolution has been found despite the issue’s apparent simplicity for logical minds. He outlined the historical and ongoing grievances of the Ogoni people, citing the environmental devastation, extreme poverty, and lowest Human Development Index resulting from oil exploration.

Birabi further criticized the inequitable distribution of Nigeria’s natural resources. He pointed out that while oil resources in the Niger Delta, including Ogoniland, are federally controlled, solid minerals in Northern Nigeria are mined privately with government support. This discrepancy, he argued, fuels discontent and questions the patriotism of the Ogoni people, who feel marginalized and exploited.

“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,” Birabi explained. He contrasted this with the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative, which allows Northern states to mine and sell their gold, questioning why similar autonomy is not granted for oil in the Niger Delta.

Senator Birabi reaffirmed the Ogoni people’s readiness to resume oil production but under new terms that ensure local involvement and fair benefits. “The Operatorship of our oil fields must speak Ogoni language,” he declared, advocating for Ogoni professionals to manage their resources to ensure environmental and socio-economic benefits. In his concluding remarks, Birabi warned that ignoring the 30-year-old Ogoni crisis could be detrimental to Nigeria’s stability. He called for equitable laws and treatment for all Nigerians, asserting, “No tribe is less Nigerian than the other.”

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