Nigerias Ogoniland a Region of Contrasts

In the African country of Nigeria, the Ogoni people have struggled for control of their land since the colonial period [32]. In the late 19th century the Ogoni people staged a strong armed resistance against colonial occupation of their territory until 1908 when the region was secured by the colonial power [42]. Ogoni is an area of half a million people in the Niger Delta [43]. The Delta region produces 90% of the country's foreign earnings, making Nigeria the seventh largest producer in OPEC. Ogoniland is the home of Nigeria's major fertilizer plant, two oil refineries, a large petrochemical plant and other oil-servicing businesses. By 1972 there were six oil fields producing a combined daily output of more than 200,000 barrels of oil. In the mid 1990s, in response to the Ogoni people's peaceful protests, the ruling military dictatorship imposed direct military rule. During these years more than 3000 people died.

Ogoniland is a region of contrasts—rich in natural resources, yet the Ogoni people remain living in poverty, in an ecologically devastated region, lacking basic infrastructure and plagued by environmentally induced health problems. According to the Sierra Club [44], Multi National Oil Companies (MNOCs) such as Royal Dutch Shell and others such as Chevron Corporation, have taken more than $30 billion from Ogoniland, leaving behind ecological devastation, poverty, environmentally caused illnesses, and a shorter life expectancy among the people. While major oil corporations have successfully withdrawn billions of gallons of oil from Ogoniland, the region still lacks basic infrastructure such as good roads, electricity, pipe-borne water, hospitals and schools [45]. While the MNCOs and the military are reaping the benefits of the oil drilling and the refinery activities, the landscape of Ogoniland has been completely devastated by oil spills, hazardous waste dumping, and toxic gas emissions. These destructive activities of the MNCOs have left the soil, water, and air of Ogoniland highly contaminated. For a group of people who are subsistence farmers, the negative environmental impacts of the MNCOs have had severe consequences for the Ogoni people. The farm fields are crisscrossed with pipes for the oil, making it difficult to farm the land and dangerous for the elderly farmers who try to climb over the pipes. The government does not require the MNCOs to conduct environmental impact statements for the region to determine the effects of the oil-related activities. Thus, the rights of the Ogoni people to a safe, clean, and healthy environment continue to be violated. Naanen [42] describes the plight of the Ogoni people as a case of genocide by the MNCOs against the local citizens, under the leadership of the military government in Nigeria.

In response to the problems of the Ogoni people, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) was formed in 1990. Under the leadership of MOSOP president Kenule Saro-Wiwa, MOSOP drafted the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR). This bill seeks to: (1) provide the Ogoni people a reasonable share of the oil revenue from Ogoniland; (2) reduce the environmental degradation by oil producing MNCOs; and (3) provide the people of Ogoniland greater political autonomy to participate in the affairs of the republic as a distinct and separate entity [31]. The cause of the Ogoni people has also received the attention of several global organizations. In 1992 the case was presented before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva and in 1993 Ogoni became a registered member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization based in The Hague. Additionally, the New York- based International Federation for the Rights of Ethnic, Linguistic, Religious, and Other Minorities has become interested in the Ogoni case, as have several other non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

While the case of the Ogoni people has received worldwide attention, it has suffered several setbacks as well [31]. In 1995 founding president of MOSOP, Kenule Saro-Wiwa, was jailed along with 15 other members of MOSOP for engaging in protests against the MNCOs and the military government. He was tried by a military tribunal and executed. The execution of Kenule Saro-Wiwa highlights the adversarial relationship between the Ogoni people and the military government. Despite the execution of their founding president, MOSOP continues to gain world wide support and attention. The organization has developed a website (www.mosop.org) where people around the world can learn about the struggle of the Ogoni people.

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Responses

  • flavus
    Why are these countries called a " region of contrasts"?
    7 years ago

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