50,000 march in Nigeria to demand the rights of Ogoni People

On January 4, 2014, more than fifty thousand Ogoni people from Niger Delta communities celebrated the 21st anniversary of the Ogoni struggle for justice (Ogoni Day).  The mobilization was organized by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), and coincided with the launching of “Land in the Struggle for Justice: Social Movement Strategies to Secure Human Rights”, an ESCR-Net publication. A founding Member of ESCR-Net, MOSOP has served to guide the Network’s work on Corporate Accountability and the activities of the Social Movement Working Group. MOSOP’s President, Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, is also currently serving a second term on ESCR-Net’s Board. The exuberant celebration of Ogoni Day began with a peace march comprised by men, women, boys and girls who carried green leaves and sang songs emphasizing peace, unity, justice and fair play.

Professor Ben Naanen, the former chairman of the MOSOP Provisional Council of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and a renowned scholar, then inaugurated the event, calling on all Ogonis to unite and work together in order to achieve the aims that led to the formation of MOSOP and their campaign for justice. In a message of solidarity, the Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike (represented by Dr. Fred Kpakol) advised the Ogoni people to be united in the effort to secure the environmental, political, economic and social rights of their people. He also advocated support for MOSO’s demand to implement the recommendations of the report of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) with regards to the contamination of Ogoni lands by oil development. Meanwhile the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (represented by Senator Magnus Abe) commended the persistence, courage and their peaceful approach employed by the Ogoni in pursuing their demands and acknowledged that peaceful nature of the struggle has been acknowledged around the world. Governor Amaechi further expressed his support for the implementation of the recommendations of the UNEP report and committed to improving the Bori General hospital and the provision of potable water in Ogoni areas.

The President of MOSOP, Mr. Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, crowned the event with the delivery of a powerful Ogoni Day speech. Following the speech, MOSOP presented “Land in the Struggle for Justice: Social Movement Strategies to Secure Human Rights,” which was produced by ESCR-Net and Member Terra de Direitos.  The publication features the human rights strategies employed by several social movements struggling for access to, and control over, their lands and territories, including a case on the history of MOSOP’s work to promote environmental justice and land rights in Ogoniland.