In 1993, the Ogoni people stopped the federal government and Shell Petroleum from drilling crude oil in their four local government areas of Rivers State. It has remained so for twenty three years now. Ogoni is probably the only ethnic nationality in Nigeria that has successfully dealt with the FG and Shell. Because of the notoriety of the Ogoni people and the international embarrassment Ogoni has caused the FG in the past. The federal govt has been mindful of using force against them as a way of drilling their crude, like it has done in other Niger Delta communities.
Both Shell and the FG have tried every possible means to resume oil production in Ogoni land. Some years ago the FG, after using its divide and rule tactics (bribing of Ogoni chiefs), sent another company in the name of Belema Oil to resume production. The Ogoni people chased the company away.
Two years ago, after the Ogoni people dragged Shell to an international court for the damages caused by over 2,000 oil spills in Ogoni land by Shell, Shell agreed and paid a £55million settlement fine money to Ogoni people. Despite this N16billion payment to the people of Ogoni by Shell and their willingness to clean up Ogoni land, the Ogoni people have still denied Shell access to resume oil production in their land.
The Ogoni nationality are probably the only group in the Niger Delta that have asserted full control over their crude oil and they have done this for twenty three years. The Ogoni people have confirmed that the crude oil belongs to them and not the Federal Government.
Part of their condition for resumption of oil production is that the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR) be acknowledged and implemented by the FG. The OBR is a document that highlights the aspirations of the Ogoni People. Part of their aspiration in that document is true federalism that will guarantee the autonomy of the Ogonis in matters that concern their resources, economy, politics, etc. The Ogoni Bill of Rights is a document that reflects true federalism for the Ogoni people yet the FG have refused to acknowledge it.
While the FG have continued to ignore the OBR and environmental degradations in Ogoni Land, it is doing everything possible to resume production so as to increase its national revenue. Part of the FG recent effort to resume production is to flag off a $1billion Ogoni clean up project in which it did not make any budget for nor has it awarded any contract for. Many international observers have condemned the FG for its refusal to deal with the Ogoni people with sincerity.
The Ogonis have argued that they would rather use their oil rich land for farming only and allow the crude oil waste beneath than allow Shell/FG drill the crude and pollute their lands and yet deny them dividends from the exploration. They cannot be feeding the whole of Nigeria while they and their land remain degraded and poor. This has been their argument.
One of the irony of the Ogoni situation is that despite the fact that Ogoni has refused to contribute to the national revenue of Nigeria, it has continued to receive from the revenue. This is so because Nigeria is a skewed and criminal federal state. The money that Ogoni land alone once contributed to the national revenue monthly was higher than what some states combined were contributing to the national revenue, yet what Ogoni received was pollution and more pollution. Their conclusion was that they have nothing to lose if they stopped contributing. They were right.
Today, if the whole of Niger Delta stops contributing to Nigeria’s revenue via crude oil sales, they will still be entitled to getting allocations from Nigeria. As long as there is money to share at Abuja, all states must share it irrespective of where the money is coming from.
This is the irony of Nigeria’s federalism. This is one way lazy states have benefitted from Nigeria for so long and I think it is time for the whole of the Niger Delta to act lazy like the Ogonis so Nigeria can see what exactly is wrong with our federalism.
Oh yes. This is why I also want the Niger Delta Avengers to continue their campaign of ‘zero production’.
We need to sit down and design a new Nigeria. Intellectualism could take us two decades to get Nigeria to sit down and discuss but with the Avengers, its a matter of months and a national sovereign conference will be called upon. This is the language Nigeria understands. Lets speak it.