Jonathan pledges Ogoni cleanup amid secession threat

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to implement a UN report recommending large scale remediation of the Ogoni environment.

Ini Ekott

President Goodluck Jonathan pledged on Monday to implement a UN report recommending large scale remediation of the Ogoni environment, in what seems an attempt to defuse weeks of clamour by Ogoni leaders for self-determination.

Mr. Jonathan’s spokesperson, Reuben Abati, said the president is committed to implementing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report after meeting behind closed doors with Ogoni leaders.

The report, which investigated decades of environmental abuses on the oil rich area, indicted Anglo-Dutch multinational, Shell and called for a $1 billion cleanup process.

However, the recommendations have not been implemented since its submission in August 2011, despite assurances from government officials, including Mr. Jonathan, that the clean up exercise will be carried out.

Concerns over the delay have formed a plank for a recent agitation for self governance by Ogoni leaders.

Mr. Jonathan’s administration, and the Rivers state government, where the Ogonis live, have denied knowledge of the declaration saying that the agitation is an attention seeking move.

But the Ogoni self government said on Saturday that it formally informed the president of the decision to become independent, and Nigeria’s obligations to it as a free state.

The group said a “notification and consultative advisory” was sent to Mr. Jonathan August 7, nearly a month ago.

“The mandatory obligations sent to the presidency constituted notification, consultative advisory and Early Warning requiring urgent actions for peaceful resolution on specific procedures expected of President Jonathan’s administration,” the group’s leader, Goodluck Diigbo said at the group’s meeting on Saturday.

The notification to Mr. Jonathan outlines funding sources and other options to enforce the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Those who expected bloodshed, burning down of buildings and destabilization of strategic economic installations in Ogoni, or bombing must be very disappointed. We can’t begin to throw stone for an internal self government, when we have choice for even higher political status, if otherwise necessary,” Mr. Diigbo said.

However, a separate representation from Ogoni, comprising politicians and recognized traditional rulers, denounced the call for secession at a meeting with Mr. Jonathan on Monday.

The group, led by a senator, Magnus Abbey, and the paramount ruler of Ogoni land, Godwin Gininwa, said the reports were “misrepresentations”.

Mr. Abbey, who spoke on behalf of the group, said the Ogoni remained committed to the unity of Nigeria.

He said although they support the call for the decentralization of power to local entities to reflect true federalism, the country’s unity must be sacrosanct.

“I don’t think that it is correct to say that anybody has called for a sovereign state of Ogoni people, I think there was kind of misrepresentation in the media,” Mr. Abbey is quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria as saying.

“We stated clearly and we want to repeat clearly for the record that the Ogoni people are part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that we are committed to a united Nigeria and we will do our best to see that Nigeria remains a united country.”

“But, it’s important that Nigeria remains a united country that is committed to justice for all persons; and that is what the Ogoni people have always been fighting for; and that is what we are still fighting for; and that is part of what we came to discuss here with Mr. President,” the Senator said.

The Ogoni self government had earlier called for the creation of Bori State to include Ogoni and other ethnic nationalities in the South- East senatorial district of Rivers.

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