On this day 26 years ago, renowned environmentalist and writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, was executed for fighting for the rights of the Ogoni people.
Kenule Beeson "Ken" Saro-Wiwa, who died by hanging under the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha was an Ogoni man, an ethnic minority in the Niger Delta part of Nigeria.
The Niger Delta has been targeted for crude oil extraction since the 1950s. The indiscriminate dumping of petroleum waste has led to extreme environmental damage.
The writer co-founded the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People in the 1990s to voice the devastating environmental impact of oil exploration in the region.
According to Saro-Wiwa, Shell petroleum had turned what was once an area of unspoilt natural beauty into a shadow of itself. Oil from dilapidated pipelines and pumping stations has seeped into the soil, destroying it and leaving the community's residents to deal with poverty and various diseases.
The activist led the Ogoni people in a peaceful fight against Shell and the then military regime of Nigeria and in 1993, Shell abandoned Ogoniland.
Abacha felt threatened by Ken Saro-Wiwa and his group and got the writer arrested in 1994 for being responsible for the death of four Ogoni tribal leaders.
Sadly, Saro-Wiwa was hanged on November 10,1995 alongside eight others (the Ogoni 9). His death sparked international outrage, consequent of which Nigeria got suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations for over three years.
On October 22, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari had in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, stated that the federal government will consider the request made by some group to grant a posthumous pardon to the 'Ogoni 9' in other to bring closure to the case.
“Despite the grievous circumstances, the Federal Government will consider the request for the grant of pardon to finally close the Ogoni saga,’’ the statement read in part.
Even though Ken Saro-Wiwa became a symbol for environmental protection and human rights in Nigeria, people in that region are still not benefitting enough from oil revenues till date.
The United Nation Environmental Programme recently marked 1,000 days since the commencement of the cleanup process in Ogoni land.
Ogoni Liberation Initiative (OLI), have however revealed that the people of Ogoni are yet to feel the impact of the remediation of their land.