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Reverend Strives for Peace in the Niger-Delta


The conflict in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger-Delta region has led to the abduction of foreign oil workers, but it has also affected the world oil market. The Ogoni people, who live in the region, have long been battling Shell Oil Company over what they call the destruction of their environment. Reverend Father Matthew Kukah is the president facilitator for reconciliation between Shell Oil Company and the Ogoni people. He tells VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty about the role he has been playing, trying to bring peace to the Niger Delta region.

“Our overall objective is to explore possibilities of establishing peace between the Ogonis and the Shell Petroleum Development Company. But I spent…part of the time just trying to establish some harmony among the Ogoni People themselves because the stretches [of time] living under the military and the experiences of the community with Shell contributed to the factionalization of the community….”

Reverend Kukah says he has yet to bring Shell Oil, the Nigerian government, and the Ogoni People together. But he says he knows what the Ogonis want.

“I already have a feel of what the Ogonis are saying, what their grievances are, and I have also tabled some of those areas of concern to Shell. I am also aware of the response that Shell has given me in terms that the claims that the Ogonis have made. But like I said, sooner than later we should be able to move to the next stage, which is to get around the table….”

Reverend Kukah says he is concerned that if the process is not properly handled, the poor people who have been the victims will be left out of the process.

“This is why we are doing everything to make sure that all strands of the Ogoni society are involved in the process, and the things that the Ogoni people are looking for are the things that every body else in the world is looking for.”

Reverend Kukah says the taking of hostages by militants in the region does not complicate his job. Rather, he says, it compounds the urgency of the situation.

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