According to Sen. Abe the unity of the country cannot be jeopardized as it has “ has the potential of a great nation and we support every effort to realise those potentials.”
“Even though, Ogoni has always support the call for devolution of power to local entities to reflect true federalism upon which the Nigerian nationhood is anchored, we wish to assure you Mr. President and indeed, assure the Nigerian people that Ogoni remains committed to the unity of the Nigerian state and that we are with Nigeria, which is contrary to recent media report on Ogoni.
“We are also asking for the economic and social integration of the Ogoni people through special development initiatives.
Interacting with the Ogoni leaders President Jonathan reiterated his administration’s commitment to the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Protection (UNEP) report, stating that every aspect of the report will be looked at thoroughly.
Explaining that the federal government has not given mandate to any oil company to take over Shell’s oil wells, the president said the government is working harder to address the issues raised in the UNEP report.
The Ogoni leaders demanded that the federal government should improve security in the country,
expressing unhappiness that the apex government jettisoned the recommendation of the UNEP report to set up the Ogoni Environment Restoration Agency and instead decided to establish a programme that is wider in scope to cover other areas experiencing hydro-carbon pollution.
They expressed hope that the widening of the scope of action will not undermine the implementation of the UNEP report, insisting that the $1 billion recommended by UNEP as start up point for the Ogoni clean-up be spent on Ogoni alone.
They expressed unhappiness with the one year delay in the implementation of UNEP report despite its urgency including the findings that families were drinking water from wells that is contaminated with benzene- a known carcinogen-at levels over 900 times above World Health Organization guidelines, which makes every Ogoni indigene a potential cancer career.
They also demanded compensation for damages done to their environment from both the federal government and Shell, stressing that it should be addressed without delay because “justice delayed is justice denied”.
The Ogoni people also demanded to be part of the clean up exercise as recommended by the UNEP report, appointment of the new company taking over from Shell in oil exploration, pipeline surveillance, inclusion of their youths in the amnesty programme and creation of Ogoni State.
The document they read to the president stated that: “It will be recalled that the UN Secretary General fact-finding mission to Nigeria made this recommendation in respect of Ogoni in the late 1990s. The Ogoni people sincerely thank the Federal Government under your able leadership for inviting UNEP to do a groundbreaking scientific study of the ogoni environment.
“Through the UNEP report which you received on August 12, 2012, you may by now be aware of the extent of environmental devastation of Ogoni, not only has the terrestrial and aquatic live and soil suffered inestimable damage but, the health of the people has been tragically affected by hydro-carbon pollution. Every Ogoni person is a potential cancer patient.
“Tragic and catastrophic as the situation is, the Ogoni people are concerned by a protracted and near absence of a strategic response by the federal government to the findings of the report.
“The Ogoni people are concerned that it took as long as one year for the federal government to respond to the report cognisance of the urgency of that report.
“Contrary to UNEP recommendation to setting up of the Ogoni Environment Restoration Agency that is specific to Ogoni, the federal government has decided to establish a programme that is wider in scope to cover other areas experiencing hydro-carbon pollution. We hope that this broad jurisdiction will not undermine the implementation of the UNEP report.
“Ogoni will appreciate receiving assurance from the federal government that the UNEP recommendation on Ogoni will be fully implemented regardless of intervention in other areas.
“The $1 billion recommended by UNEP as start up point for the Ogoni clean-up will be spent on Ogoni alone. The Ogoni people will be given priority in business and job opportunities connected to the clean-up in Ogoniland as a means of amelioration poverty and joblessness in the area.
“The report will be implemented under the supervision of an internationally recognised agency that will exercise oversight and quality assurance responsibility. We have in mind in this regard the UNEP that prepared the report.
“That there will be intensive health programme in Ogoni including cancer screening and treatment to be undertaking by competent international agencies such as WHO.
“Considering the irreversible devastation done to the environment, health and livelihood of the Ogoni by the petroleum industry as scientifically demonstrated in the UNEP report, the Ogoni people hereby ask for compensation from the federal government and from Shell. Justice delayed is justice denied. We therefore, respectfully request that the issue of compensation be addressed without delay.
“Our people are of the strong view that the creation of Bori state is a necessity which the Executive arm and the National Assembly should give its test to. Such a state will include other ethnic groups in the south east senatorial district in Rivers state and will also complement the national economy as the oil and gas resources of the area will enhance the national budget”.
Those in attendance from government side were Vice President, Senator Magnus Abbe, Ministers of Environment and Niger Delta Affairs, Minister of State for Education, Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Paramount Ruler of Ogoni people, current chairman of Rivers State Traditional Ruler.