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Student Leader Calls for International Intervention in Plight of Nigeria's Ogoni People

The president of the National Union of Ogoni Students in the United States is calling on the international community to intervene in the crisis in the Niger Delta region. The Ogoni ethnic group of approximately half a million people lives in Ogoniland, in Nigeria's volatile Niger Delta region.

The threat to their well-being began in the 1950s when Shell discovered oil in their region. Their plight burst onto the international scene in 1995 when Ogoni activist and internationally renowned author Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed along with eight others by the Nigerian military regime of General Sani Abacha.

In a message to mark Ogoni Day January fourth, Kornebari Nwike told VOA the international community cannot remain indifferent to the plight of the Ogoni people.

“We cannot allow the crisis to generate into a war before the world steps in. So on this day, I’m calling and appealing to the United Nations and other world bodies to intervene in the crisis in the Niger Delta, and especially I’m calling on the United Nations, Britain, United States, and Canada to compel Nigeria to create an Ogoni state because the crisis in Ogoni is not just an Ogoni crisis. The crisis in Ogoni involves oil and other natural resources which benefit other nations of the world,” he said.

Nwike said an Ogoni state is key to solving all the problems in Nigeria’s volatile Niger Delta region

“The Ogoni people have been suffering for so long, and they have been calling since 1908 to have a voice of their own, to be able to develop their own educational system, to be able to develop their own culture because right now, different cultures are being imposed on the Ogoni people. We want to get an Ogoni state so that we will revive our dying languages,” Nwike said.

He said the Ogoni people were disappointed in their representatives in the federal parliament for their failure to support the call for the establishment of an Ogoni state.

“There was a poll in Nigeria conducted by the federal radio corporation, and 70 percent of the people said yes these people deserve a state. But our politicians because they are serving their masters decided not to heed the call of the Ogoni people,” he said.

Nwike said it would not be fair for the federal government to deny Ogonis the right to have their own state because of oil.

“If Kogi State could exist, Kogi State that doesn’t have what Ogoni has, Ogoni could exist. I think what we are fighting for is the interest of Nigeria because if Ogoni is created out of the Niger Delta area, there could be a negotiation and oil could be tapped from Ogoniland and percentages could be paid to the federal government depending on the agreement,” he said.

Nwike said the Ogoni people reject all forms of violence in the Niger Delta region.

“Ours is a non-violent agitation, and we respect the law and we expect the Nigerian government to respect the law too. We have called on our people to shun violence; they should not embrace violence, and you can see these number years our people had been law-abiding. They have not taken up arms against the Nigerian government, which is very important,” Nwike said.