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House of Representatives

The House of Representatives on Tuesday rejected move to observe a minute silence in honour of late environmental activist, Ken Saro Wiwa, saying that such move would open up controversy.

The House however condemned in strong terms the continuing pollution in Ogoni land and other parts of the Niger delta.

The House further urged the Federal Government to declare ogoniland an ecological disaster zone and invest resources to tackle the environmental disaster in Ogoniland and indeed other parts of Niger Delta.

To this end, the House mandated its committee on environment as well as Petroleum to monitor level of progress or otherwise of implementation of the clean up and report to the House quarterly for further legislative action.

The House resolution followed a motion of urgent public importance by Honourable Kingsley Chinda to mark  22 years of Saro Wiwa’s death, entitled “remembering Saro Wiwa and Eight Other Ogonis 22 years after their death and Urgent Need to Expedite Action on the Clean Up of Ogoni Land”.

In his motion, he lamented ” the despoliation of the Ogoni environment and indeed that several other Niger Delta Communities occasioned by decades of oil exploration activities in the region.

According to him,  “at the request of the Federal Government of Nigeria, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) conducted an independent assessment of Ogoniland and proffered options for remediation”.

He added that, ” the UNEP study amongst other things showed the nature and extent of oil contamination and covered contaminated land, ground water, surface water, sediment, vegetation, air pollution, public health, industry practices as well as the implications for affected populations and provides clear operational guidance as to how that could be addressed”.

On one-minute silence to be observed for late Saro-Wiwa, Hon. Benjamin Wayo  said it would be out of order to observe a minute silence, saying “while I agree that the environmental situation in Niger Delta is pitiable, we have to be careful in adopting the prayer in the motion, calling for one minute silence for the late environmentalist.

“Section 33 (1) of the Nigerian constitution says every person has right to life. It’s only permissible to be taken through constitutional means, just as it was done in this case.

“Therefore, it will be out of order to observe a minute silence for him (Saro -Wiwa) under this circumstance”.

Also rejecting the call, Hon Ali Madaki (APC, Kano) called for caution in order not to breach procedures regarding government’s pronouncements.

The Deputy Speaker, Honourable Lasun Yussuff reminded the House of a possible negative implication of taking such action against the state.

For Hon. Mojeed Alabi, it would amount to reversing an “act of state”, without following due process.

On her part, Hon. Onyemaechi Mrakpor said one-minute silence in Wiwa’s honour would be inconsequential in the light of the environmental degradation of the region, adding that, “As I speak, those things Ken Saro -Wiwa stood for are still there. Have they been addressed? Today, there is no clean water to drink in Niger Delta. Environmental pollution is still there.

“I make bold to say that it’s not all about one minute silence. We should be concerned with enhancing the environment in the Niger Delta, ” Mrakpor said.

The Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara before his ruling enjoined the House to run away from controversy, saying, “I think we should run away from controversial issues”.

The motion was passed through voice vote.

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