…Front Fraco-Newman as substitute
By Barth Ndubuwah, Port Harcourt
Arising from a General Assembly meeting in Bori, the Head-quarters of Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State, the people of Ogoni said they have given a 14-day ultimatum to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to either open discussions with the ogoni on possible return of oil production in Ogoni land or risk being replaced by a new company known as Franco-Newman.
The General Assembly meeting organized by the Conscience of Ogoni People (COOP) led by its National Coordinator, Chief Gani Topba said it has become necessary for oil exploration to resume in Ogoni land after over 25 years of activism and struggle.
Addressing the august gathering at Bori, Topba said having convinced the Court of Appeal that Ken Sarowiwa was unjustly convicted and killed by the military junta, Gen Sani Abacha’s government in 1995,it is time to dialogue with the Federal Government on the need for the resumption of oil exploration in Ogoni land.
Topba who described himself as a businessman and activist like Sarowiwa, said if Shell fails to cash on the dialogue option, he has prepared and positioned a new indigenous company called Fraco-Newman to replace it. According to him, the new company, with international partnership has the capacity to explore oil in Ogoni land and develop the area.
The National Coordinator of COOP said he regretted that a meeting that was arranged for the Federal Government to come to Ogoni land and discuss with the people was diverted to a traditional ruler’s palace instead of engaging the people publicly at an acceptable venue. He expressed happiness that the attendance to the general assembly meeting was impressive and Ogoni people have resolved to embrace dialogue to end the age-long impasse of oil exploration in Ogoni land.
On his decision to quit Ken Saro Wiwa Associate(KSWA), Topba said, “I had to take the decision for good. Ogoni struggle should end one day for the people to enjoy a new lease of life . There is time for everything under the sun, so Ogoni people must be wise. That necessitated me to form COOP, because it is time to dialogue and bring good things to Ogoni people,” Chief Topba explained.
In his remarks at the event, a Community Leader in the area, Chief Agara Kabari said Ogoni people have come to a cross roads because of the activities that have transpired over time in Ogoni land. He noted that it is time for the people to dialogue on their issues and chart a way forward.
Also toeing the line of Kabari, Hon Comfort Theophilus Dike,a Women Leader in the area posited that no effort should be spared in bringing goodness and mercy to the people of Ogoni, especially the youths.
On his part, an activist in Rivers State, Mr Christian Lekia said the Ogoni struggle has an economic dimension, so there is nothing wrong with an Ogoni son managing the oil blocs in Ogoni land. He therefore called on all Ogoni to come together and ensure that Ogoni land is developed.
The Ogoni General Assembly also gave a 4-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to reinstate the sacked Director of Finance of the Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC), Mr Derek Mene, as well as ordering Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Programme (HYPREP) to relocate its Headquarters to Ogoni land