The Ogoni in Rivers State have urged the Federal Government to stop the construction of prison and cemetery in their land, insisting that the people were in need of justice, fairness and equity.
Coordinating Committee of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) stated this at an event to mark the 25th Memorial of the Ogoni Martyrs, describing the projects as ridiculous and heartless.
A member of the committee and environmental activist, Celestine Akpobari, disclosed that the Ogoni donated the 35 hectares of land in Bori, Khana Council Area to the Federal Government for the building of a Research Centre with the expectation that it would attract development to the impoverished oil rich communities.
Akpobari said it was, however, saddening that the government suddenly diverted the project objective to a criminal justice centre.
“Does it mean that a Research Centre is not good for the Ogoni? Other countries of the world are shutting down prisons and improving the social welfare of their people, but our government is converting land for Centre of Excellence to prison and cemetery. This shows how backward we are in this country.
“Is it that there is no good thing the Federal Government can bring to Ogoniland after several years of neglect? We feel that there is something going on that they have not told us,” he said.
Akpobari lamented that the issue of Ogoniland came up in 1999 with the June 12 struggle, saying the June 12 issue has been addressed, while the Ogoni matter was yet to be resolved, wondering what the Ogoni people did to deserve such neglect.
Also speaking, Dr. Gbeneme Kpae, accused the Federal Government of failing to consult with the Ogoni people before siting the projects, stressing that the natives preferred justice and industries to a prison.
“We urge the Federal Government to stop the construction of a Federal Government Prison and Cemetery in Ogoni, as we have been informed that the prison would be used to incarcerate Ogoni who demand justice and cemetery for mass graves for Ogoni who oppose resumption of oil drilling in their locality.
“The Ogoni wish to remind all Nigerians and the international community that we will continue to oppose oil exploration and exploitation in Ogoni until Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists are exonerated and the cleanup of Ogoniland is completed as recommended by the United Nations Environmental Report (UNEP),” he said.
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