Ogoni traditional rulers vow to protect autonomy

The traditional leaders said communities in the locality are to be restored to the autonomous status they held before the British colonization in 1901.

Ini Ekott

Local chiefs from the Ogoni area of the Niger Delta have vowed to defend the region’s controversial independence declared a fortnight ago back by some leaders of the area.

A political autonomy for Ogoni, declared on August 2, has stirred concerns of a separatist movement that may trigger a fresh round of unrest in the oil rich region.

But the Rivers state and federal governments have denied knowledge of the announcement, which came alongside a similar call by indigenes of the Bakassi peninsula ceded to Cameroon in 2002.

State government officials said the move by the Ogoni, a severely polluted oil producing community, was aimed at seeking  government attention and have withheld any official government response on the matter.

The president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Goodluck Diigbo, who made the declaration, said a political autonomy for the Ogoni, should translate to actualization of fundamental human rights, dignity and worth for indigenes of the area.

Consultations were ongoing to ensure a peaceful transition from the “old system of government” to Ogoni Central Indigenous  authority, he said.

At a meeting to welcome newly recognized chiefs to the Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers Association (COTRA) on Wednesday, the traditional leaders said communities in the locality are to be restored to the autonomous status they held before the British colonization in 1901.

As part of the new order, 272 native rulers have been granted recognition and enlisted into COTRA, the president of the council, David  Deekia said at a meeting to welcome the new chiefs on Wednesday.

“Our communities have suffered from a destructive political system that had weakened any genuine traditional ruler who struggled to stay clean.

“We are happy with the fresh air that came with 2nd of August 2012 formal declaration of political autonomy for our indigenous nation of Ogoni. We commit to protect this autonomy, our indigenous rights and freedoms,” said Deekia.

Mr. Deekia said the “politics of corruption and looting” that came with the creation of Nigeria in 1914, relegated Ogoni communities  and denied their autonomous status.

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