Professor Wole Soyinka
By Ernest Chinwo
Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, and Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Professor Chidi Odinkalu have expressed disappointment over the failure of the federal government to implement the environmental assessment report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Ogoniland.
The duo spoke yesterday in Port Harcourt at the 2012 Annual Town Hall Meeting of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS), with the theme: "The United Nations Environmental Assessment Report on Ogoni Land: Issues and Responsibilities."
Soyinka, who was represented by Dr. Kombo Braide, said the crime against the people of the Niger Delta were being executed by oil and gas companies operating in the region, backed by corrupt regimes "that had held sway at the critical point of intersection between exploitation and the resource environment."
He said the federal government had over the years turned a blind eye to the environmental degradation of the Niger Delta by international oil companies "and has even persecuted those who spoke out against the crime against the people."
He recalled the role played by the late playwright and crusader, Ken Saro-wiwa and how he was murdered by the state.
Said Soyinka: "It is not possible, in this nation, to speak of ecological preservation and cultural intersection without the figure of Ken Saro-wiwa haunting our memory. Ken’s principal claim to our attention today, in addition to his literary achievements, was his role as an ecological fighter who sought to defend the integrity of his environment and protect the culture of his people the Ogoni, both of which he feared were close to extinction, culturally if not physically.
"After all, the crime against the people of the Delta was made possible only through a pattern of collaboration that took place over the heads of the indigenous peoples, collaboration between exploiting petroleum companies, backed by corrupt regimes that held sway at the critical point of intersection between exploitation and resource environment."
He said it was sad that despite global efforts at preservation of the environment, the Niger Delta was still replete with gas flaring and other forms of degradation, which had put the lives of the people at risk.
Soyinka continued: "Is it not a shame that, even till this day, when you fly over parts of the oil producing Delta region of Nigeria, you can look down on hundreds of gas flares which have been operating, unchecked, for over half a century? They have become part of the landscape.