By CLETUS UKPONG
Late Ken Saro-Wiwa’s kinsmen have called on the Nigerian government to “exonerate” the environmental activist and eight other Ogoni leaders of all wrongdoing, 25 years after they were executed under controversial circumstances by the Sani Abacha-led military regime.
Mr Saro-Wiwa fiercely fought against Royal Dutch Shell Company and the Nigerian government over the economic injustices and the pollution of Ogoniland that arose from oil exploitation.
He was accused, alongside the eight other Ogoni leaders, of being responsible for the murder of five Ogoni chiefs at a pro-government meeting.
Mr Saro-Wiwa and the others were hanged on November 10, 1995, despite the intervention by the international community, leading to Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth.
“Since after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni leaders, there hasn’t been anything that has changed for the Ogoni people.
“The Ogoni people have continued to suffer, they have not received any kind of justice from the Nigerian government. All we have received in Ogoni is the building of a prison yard, as well as a cemetery,” said Gbenemene Kpae who heads a committee that is planning the 25th memorial in honour of Mr Saro-Wiwa and the other eight Ogoni leaders.
Mr Kpae spoke on Monday at a local radio station, Rhythm FM, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
“The place that was commissioned by the former Minister for Environment, Amina Mohammed, it was supposed to be a research centre on environment; it was formerly a land established for school-to-land, which is supposed to be a place whereby food was supposed to be planted for people to eat in Ogoni as well as Rivers State. That place has been the place where the federal government now is building a prison yard as well as a cemetery.
“So, all that the Ogoni people have received for the 25 years since the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni eight is nothing but a prison yard, as well as a cemetery,” Mr Kpae said.
Mr Kpae was in the Rhythm FM studio with Gani Topba, the convener of the Conscience of the Ogoni People.
Mr Topba said at the radio interview, “Nigerian state must make an effort for the sake of national peace to exonerate Saro-Wiwa and others.
“As of today, we have written several letters to the attorney general, we have gotten several assurances. As of today, the Appeal Court also agreed that he was killed wrongly. We are in the Supreme Court, as of today.
“I think today, what we should focus on is how to mobilise Ogoni people and the world to be on the federal government of Nigeria to do the right thing for Ken Saro-Wiwa,” Mr Topba.
A renowned environmental activist, Nnimmo Bassey, had in 2018 canvassed for a similar action – putting an end to the controversy around the killing of Saro-Wiwa and the others, by exonerating them.
“His death remains a matter that is yet to be resolved because the state necessarily has to exonerate him of the false charges and the kind of kangaroo judgment that was given by that tribunal,” Mr Bassey told PREMIUM TIMES, November 10, 2018.
“Besides, the state has to apologise to the victims and to the Ogoni people for executing them when the appeal period had not even elapsed,” he said.