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 On behalf of the Ogoni people, its spirits and fallen heroes, I welcome you to Ogoniland.

At the outset, I must convey the deepest appreciation of the Ogoni People to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari for fulfilling his electioneering promise to the Ogoni people that he would address the environmental crisis in the land. This flag-off today of the clean-up and restoration of Ogoniland is indeed a testament to a leader whose words had become his bond and sets him apart from several other politicians home and abroad. The President had indeed become Africa’s latest export to the global community on issues of leadership integrity, honesty and discipline. We congratulate him and all those who had believe in him through this journey of change, particularly his wife, Mrs. Aisha Buhari that had propelled him to attain this great feat. A noble character is the result of the surrender of self for the service of love to God and man, we believe in the President’s nobility of character. We also thank the indefatigable Hon. Minister of Environment, Mrs. Amina Mohammed and her team, for making this day a reality.

 On behalf of the Ogoni people, its spirits and fallen heroes, I welcome you to Ogoniland.

At the outset, I must convey the deepest appreciation of the Ogoni People to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari for fulfilling his electioneering promise to the Ogoni people that he would address the environmental crisis in the land. This flag-off today of the clean-up and restoration of Ogoniland is indeed a testament to a leader whose words had become his bond and sets him apart from several other politicians home and abroad. The President had indeed become Africa’s latest export to the global community on issues of leadership integrity, honesty and discipline. We congratulate him and all those who had believe in him through this journey of change, particularly his wife, Mrs. Aisha Buhari that had propelled him to attain this great feat. A noble character is the result of the surrender of self for the service of love to God and man, we believe in the President’s nobility of character. We also thank the indefatigable Hon. Minister of Environment, Mrs. Amina Mohammed and her team, for making this day a reality.

On this occasion, we would not fail to seize this opportunity to express our sincere thanks to all our friends and supporters of the Ogoni struggle particularly civil society actors home and abroad. Without their support, the Ogoni struggle would not be where it is today.

Environmental restoration of our land remains a central plank of the Ogoni struggle. To the Ogoni people, therefore, this day is a historic moment. It is the beginning of victory. Our journey for justice has been recognised. Our strategy of non-violence has been vindicated with this flag-off of the clean-up initiative by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic.

The issue of UNEP report and its implementation did not just come. It has its origin in the Ogoni struggle. It was presaged by the events of August 26, 1990 when Ogoni leaders launched the Ogoni struggle with the public presentation of the Ogoni Bill of Rights which amongst others called on the government of Nigeria to honour the right to protect the OGONI environment and ecology from further degradation .

In the course of the Ogoni struggle, over two thousand souls were lost, Ogoni’s top leadership was wiped off, communities were destroyed and several people fled into exile. In spite of all these, the Ogoni people had remained resilient and resolute.We kept faith with the methodology of non-violent peaceful engagement despite the violent contestations in other parts of the Niger Delta. We had kept faith with the non-violent approach which had changed the course of our history as a people and as a nation. Today’s event marks the triumph of non-violence.

It is on this note that we call on all those involved in the current violent agitations in our country to sheathe their swords and embrace a non-violent peaceful advocacy. For the benefits of non-violence are immense. We also urge governments to avoid acting in ways that tend to suggest that they listen only when there is violence. Governments should enlarge and protect the rights of citizens without making the citizens to resort to violent demands.

The fact that we are all gathered here today to flag-off the commencement of the implementation of the UNEP Report on Ogoniland is a clear indication that the process of national healing and reconciliation with the Ogoni people which we had believed would herald the second coming of the President had taken off effectively in Ogoniland.

Today’s event is ceremonial. We trust that this flag-off ceremony will be followed by concrete activities, which include the setting up of the governance structure comprising the Governing Council, the Trust Fund and its Board of Trustees. And above all, a speedy and successful clean-up, remediation and social intervention process would need to be put in place. The government should as a matter of urgency put in place a regulatory regime that will ensure that the oil companies adopt best practices that will create a sustainable environment and avoid those practices that created the environmental devastation that we are now trying to address.

For a successful clean-up and restoration programme in Ogoniland, it will need to be backed up by a sustainable socio-economic development framework that addresses the triple issues of poverty, infrastructure decay and representation.

Our dear President, permit us at this point to make certain specific requests:

CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Road infrastructure had been identified as one of the important drivers of development. The Bodo-Bonny Road has been on board for several years, awarded and re-awarded but without completion. This road is very important to the economy of the nation. This road infrastructure is indeed critical to the clean-up process and for the transformation of the economic landscape of Ogoniland and our surrounding neighbours. We appeal that on this auspicious occasion, you will make a commitment to re-awarding and completing this road. We are gratified to note that the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Company had made commitment to providing some counterpart funding for this project and urge the government to take advantage of this offer to ensure the completion of the project.

Additionally, your Excellency, as you drive past Ogoniland, you will notice that there is hardly any Federal Government presence in the area.

Considering the health challenges that we face in Ogoniland largely on account of hydrocarbon pollution which is partially indicated in the the UNEP report, we appeal that a federal specialist medical facility be established in Ogoniland.

POLITICAL REPRESENTATION

Your Excellency, it is an indisputable fact, that there cannot be effective participation in the democratic process without a corresponding adequate representation at levels of management and governance. Ogoni is blessed with abundant and quality human resources who have what it takes to contribute effectively to your agenda of change. It is our sincere appeal to you to appoint Ogoni sons and daughters into positions of responsibility in your government. None of your Honourable Ministers comes from Ogoni nor do we have an Ogoni person as a Permanent Secretary or chairman of any Federal parastatal. The desire of the Ogoni people to be represented at all levels of governance and institutions is the clearest demonstration of their unwavering commitment to remain a part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, contrary to the false notion of Ogoni secession that the public has been fed with over the years. It is time to give Ogoni people opportunities and responsibilities at the national level.

INVESTIGATION OF THE MURDER OF THE OGONI FOUR AND CLEARING THE NAMES OF THE OGONI NINE

The circumstances that led to the gruesome murder of four prominent Ogoni leaders at Giokoo in 1994 remain unexplained as no investigation has been carried out. While we call for a high-powered investigation in order to bring the perpetrators of that dastardly criminal act to justice, we also appeal to the Federal Government to clear the names of the Ogoni Nine who were wrongly convicted and executed without proper investigation. This will consolidate reconciliation in Ogoni, which will be a fitting tribute to the implementation of the UNEP report.

As you would recall, Nigeria as a responsible member of the International community particularly the United Nations, had acceded to the request of the UN General Assembly Resolution 50/199 on the situation of human rights in Nigeria mandating the then Secretary-General, Boutrous Boutrous Ghali to send a fact-finding to Nigeria in April 1996. Their brief was to amongst others review the process of the trial, condemnation and the hanging of the Ogoni Nine. We appeal that in the spirit of promoting national healing, this matter is looked into again.

In conclusion, we have to restate that history is being made today in Ogoniland. This singular action of flagging-off the implementation of UNEP report on Ogoniland will be changing the course of the destiny of the Ogoni people and indeed Nigeria as a whole. We thank the President for being the change agent that it pleases the Almighty God to use at this time in rewriting our story as a people and as a nation in dire need of new direction.
Once again, I welcome you all very warmly to Ogoniland and I wish all of us a very successful flag-off ceremony.
Thank you
God Bless Nigeria. God bless Ogoniland

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