For Senator Barry Mpigi who represents Rivers South-East Senatorial District in the National Assembly (his Senatorial district comprises Eleme, Tai, Khana, Gokana, Andoni, Opobo/Nkoro and Oyigbo), it is a good idea to resume oil production in Ogoniland.
Senator Mpigi who spoke at a meeting of Ogoni stakeholders in June which held in Saakpenwa, headquarters of Tai Local Government Area of Rivers State, said that he was not opposed to the resumption of oil production in Ogoniland by oil companies.
At the meeting attended by stakeholders from different backgrounds, the Senator representing Rivers South-East said: “Personally, I support the idea of resuming oil exploration in Ogoniland. And my main reason for supporting it is the fact that the major cause of the problems we are facing today in ogoni, is hunger and poverty. Yes hunger! Truth be told: what happens when the main sources of people's livelihood have been devastated, their farmlands and rivers polluted and their ecosystem destroyed? They are now left to wallow in hunger, frustration and depression”.
He said while he was not trying to justify the criminal tendencies of youths in Ogoniland, he strongly felt that “one way of drastically reducing poverty and hunger in Ogoni is to carefully ensure that when oil exploration resumes, it comes with a sustainable people-oriented template”.
He said the oil resource in ogoni should be of benefit to the people so that the people will not suffer hunger and deprivation.
According to him: “We can't have wealth beneath us and our people continue to suffer hunger, poverty and frustrations. We must negotiate how to use our resources to put food on the table and create opportunities for sustainable growth and development of our people. I believe this would've been the position of Ken Saro-Wiwa and our forebears should they still be alive. And we must not afford to make a second mistake”.
Mpigi appealed to those at the meeting to bring their wealth of experience to see that the people of Ogoni get it right as it concerns the resumption of oil production in Ogoniland.
The Senator who thanked His Royal Majesty, King GNK Gininwa, President, Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers for providing the platform for the meeting, said: “Though, I'm aware that several committees have been set up in that direction, let me say that there's still the need to continue to consult widely to create room for a more open and transparent process that would bring about mutual understanding and engender peace and confidence building among the generality of Ogoni people, such that will earn the collective trust and mandate of the Ogoni people. I therefore wish to call on our sons, daughters and professionals who still have useful ideas of how we can get it right this time around to offer their wealth of experience and wisdom to us in this direction.
“No effort should be spared to continue to review the templates provided by organizations in Ogoniland such as Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, KAGOTE, MOSOP, GBO KABARI, Ogoni Church Leaders Council, Ogoni Youth Council, Forum of Elected Representatives of Ogoni, NGOs and any other community-based association in Ogoni, as we continue to build consensus from a wider spectrum of Ogoni society towards achieving our common goal of getting our oil to work for us”.
He said it seemed to him that the people of Ogoni ethnic nationality “are not presently against resumption of oil exploration (but)… are concerned about how they are going to do that, after several years of stoppage”.
However, factional President of the apex Ogoni organization, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Fegalo Nsuke, thought otherwise.
The MOSOP President said nobody should contemplate about the resumption of oil production in ogoniland at the moment.
A press release signed by General Secretary of MOSOP, Dcn Monday Zuiinu, and made available to nesmen said the MOSOP President made the position known when he addressed newsmen in Abuja on Friday.
The statement said: “The Ogoni people and the environment can logically not support any form of oil production at the moment as the people have not been receptive to the idea. The implication is that every attempt to force oil production in Ogoni will be resisted by the people and government will as usual respond by sending in the soldiers to kill us which we do not want. It is therefore imperative that to save lives, we must not contemplate oil resumption in Ogoni at this time”.
Nsuke raised the alarm that the “plot” to resume oil production in Ogoni was being carried out by “allies of Shell who have disguised as Ogoni leaders and championing the campaign for resumption”.
He said any intent by the federal government to use soldiers to forcefully resume the production of oil in Ogoni would endanger the people saying “oil resumption will kill our people and we do not want it”.
He described the campaigns for oil resumption in Ogoni as an “invitation to state repression against the Ogoni people”, saying that any killing of the people of Ogoni over oil could attract sympathy from the rest of the Niger Delta and possibly throw the region into crisis.
He warned against any crackdown on the people of Ogoni by federal government in the bid to resume oil production in the area.
He said attempts to force the resumption of oil production in Ogoni without the people's consent had always been resisted saying that MOSOP does not want the people of Ogoni to be killed by soldiers to be sent in by federal government.
He said the crimes by Shell Petroleum Development Company against the people of Ogoni “were still very fresh and affecting lives severely, therefore, plans to resume oil production without the peoples consent could cause civil protests and lead to conflicts with attendant loss of lives”.
This is an indication that there's yet to be a united front on the issue of resumption of oil production in Ogoni and it means that the people of Ogoni need to come together to have a united front so that they can speak as people of one ethnic nationality on the issue of resumption of oil production.
Failing this, there will continue to be rumbles on the issue of resumption of oil production as different groups or persons will say what may at best not represent the entirety of opinion by Ogoni people on the issue.