Nigerians home and abroad Wednesday commemorated the 15th anniversary of the execution of environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.
Saro-Wiwa and his Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) waged a campaign against Shell Oil Company for causing environmental damage to Ogoni land.
He and eight others were hanged in 1995 after being convicted of the murders of local chiefs.
In commemoration of the 15th anniversary, the National Union of Ogoni Students (NUOS International) USA branch has sent a letter to Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan demanding, among other things, the exoneration of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight others from all murder charges.
Pius Nwinee, president of NUOS international USA branch, told VOA the charges were bogus.
“Actually what we are doing is that we are just trying to call the attention of the president to exactly what happened that they [Saro-Wiwa and others] were all murdered, and therefore we hope that the state will be able to exonerate them because they never committed any crime,” he said.
The Ogoni People of Nigeria, who number about half a million, live in Ogoniland, a part of Rivers State in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region.
President Jonathan is also from Rivers State.
Nwinee said NUOS has also asked in its letter to President Jonathan for the creation of “Bori State” out of Rivers State for the Ogoni people.
“The creation of Bori State is one of the easiest ways by which we can get ourselves out of the problems in the Niger Delta and other states because the Ogoni people have suffered for so long. And we believe that the creation of Bori State will enhance development in Niger Delta,” Nwinee said.
NUOS international USA branch also urged President Jonathan to appoint more Ogonis to deserving positions in Nigerian federal government.
Nwinee said even though many Ogoni people were happy about President Jonathan, they believe President Jonathan should do more to make sure that the people of the Niger Delta received their fair share of the region’s resources.
The late Ken Saro-Wiwa’s activism was against Shell Oil Company and its pollution of the Niger Delta region, especially the area of the Ogoni people.
Nwinee said the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) still maintains that Shell Oil should not be allowed to return to Ogoni land.
“The position of the National Union of Ogoni Students and the Ogoni people remains the same. Shell remains persona non-grata in Ogoniland. They cannot operate in Ogoni until we come to a roundtable talk and look at what has been our problem,” he said.
He said all those who are negotiating with Shell on behalf of the Ogoni people behind closed doors are doing so at their own peril.
Nwinee said even though Ogoni activism has been difficult since the death of Saro-Wiwa 15 years ago, the Ogoni people have been doing their best to keep Saro-Wiwa’s dream alive.
“One of the things that we have done is that you know that was [death of Sara Wiwa] was a very sad episode, and all activists were scattered all over. We have just started to come together trying to put on the same momentum so that we shall continue to actualize the dream for which our people were killed,” Nwinee said.