The Federal Government is not aware of the Ogoni declaration of political autonomy and may not respond to it, the office of the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku has said.
24 hours after the President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Goodluck Diigbo, made a live broadcast declaring
political autonomy for the Ogoni in Rivers State, Joseph Mutah, spokesperson to Mr. Maku, says his boss is not aware of the declaration.
“For the Minister to appropriately respond, he must have seen the story,” Mr. Mutah said. “In this case, we haven’t seen the story (of the declaration).”
The Minister’s spokesman said he would inform the Minister of the declaration and get him to respond appropriately, promising to getb ack to us. As at the time of going to press, Mr. Mutah said the minister was still in a meeting.
Mr. Diigbo, the MOSOP leader, made the declaration in a statement broadcast live on a new radio station, Voice of Ogoni, on Thursday.
In making the declaration, Mr. Diigbo said he was “obeying the command by the Ogoni people and their elected representatives from 33 district councils, comprising over 272 village councils, living in the six kingdoms of Ogoni, namely: Babbe, Eleme, Gokana, Kenkhana, Nyokhana and Tai and two administrative units: Ban Goi and the Bori National Territory.”
The declaration says that after two referenda, conducted in 2010 and 2011, the General Assembly of the Ogoni, was making a “declaration of Political Autonomy for the Self-determination or Self-government of the Ogoni people within Nigeria.”
Politicians, we’re sorry
The Ogoni, in the declaration also apologized to the politicians currently holding political offices in Ogoni land. These include local government councilors, chairmen and state and federal lawmakers representing the four local governments that the Ogoni’s inhabit in Rivers State.
“In taking these measures (for the declaration), we are quite aware of the discomfort to about 56 local politicians that control local government politics in Ogoni,” the declaration stated. “However, we care more about the 1.2 million people that have for too long been excluded.”
The declaration said the Ogoni would not go back on their declaration of political autonomy from Nigeria.
“We are acting with legitimacy to reclaim all of our rights, without exception, and for the sake of peace and security; let no one test the collective will of the Ogoni people, because we will not surrender our indigenous rights anymore.”
Rivers yet to react
The Rivers State Government, where the Ogoni communties are, is yet to react to the declaration of political autonomy.
Ibim Semenitari, the Rivers State Commissioner of Information did not answer our calls. The commissioner however responded (at 3:19pm) to our short message saying she was in a meeting and would get back to us. She hasn’t; and subsequent calls to her number were not answered.
One of the major grouse of the Ogonis is the deplorable situation of the soil and environment in their communities, brought about by the exploration of crude oil.
In 2011, the United Nations Environmental Progamme (UNEP) published a report in which it showed how exploration of oil in Ogoni communities, by Shell and other oil companies, devastated the environment.
In one of the communities, the amount of benzene in the water was found to be 900 per cent above WHO approved limits.
One year since the report, most of the recommendations of the UNEP have not been implemented by the Federal Government and the oil companies.
Below is the concluding paragraph of the Ogoni declaration
“Now, therefore, acting on the General Assembly mandate on the questions relating to the Political Autonomy of Ogoni in southern Nigeria, and in the spirit of the General Assembly motion DPA/001/2012, and its resolutions DPA/002/2012 and DPA/003/2012 adopted and approved on July 31, 2012; in accordance with the wishes of the Ogoni people contained in the Ogoni Bill of Rights of 26 August, 1990 as revised on the 26th of August 1991; expressing the collective will of the good people of Ogoni in the referendum of 2010 and the second referendum of 2011, obeying the command by the Ogoni people and their elected representatives from 33 district councils, comprising over 272 village councils, living in the six kingdoms of Ogoni, namely: Babbe, Eleme, Gokana, Kenkhana, Nyokhana and Tai and two administrative units: Ban Goi and the Bori National Territory; conducting this solemn affair in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 13, 2007, guided by the purposes and principles of international law in accordance with the United Nations Charter, I, Dr. Goodluck Diigbo, hereby make this historic statement, to announce the proclamation of this General Assembly Declaration of Political Autonomy for the Self-determination or Self-government of the Ogoni people within Nigeria, today, the 2ndDay of August, 2012. So declared, and so be it; for the advancement of liberty in freedom and the preservation of the ancestral heritage of the Ogoni people.”