Nigeria

Foundation: Ken Saro-Wiwa, others deserve exoneration, not pardon

The consideration for a state pardon for Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders, who were executed in 1995 by the Sani Abacha-led military administration, has been rejected by the Ken Saro-Wiwa Foundation.

President Muhammadu Buhari gave the hint of the possibility of granting state pardon for Mr Saro-Wiwa and others while receiving some Ogoni leaders at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday.

Mr Buhari spoke of the need for “clemency and national integration as part of this administration’s bid to lay the foundation for genuine reconciliation and bring closure to the issues of Ogoni land”.

“The unfortunate incidents of the early 1990s leading to the loss of lives of distinguished sons of Ogoni land and the collateral judicial processes are indelible in our memories.

“In spite of the grievous circumstances, the federal government will consider the request for the grant of pardon to finally close the Ogoni saga,” the president said to the Ogoni leaders, led by the President of the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, Godwin Giniwa.

Mr Buhari asked the Ogoni leaders to educate the people in the communities on the need for them to protect oil pipelines and other oil installations.

He said the federal government was committed to the cleanup of Ogoni land and other parts of the Niger Delta, an exercise which appears to be rather too slow since Mr Buhari’s administration flagged it off five years ago, in June 2016.

‘Ken Saro-Wiwa, others were not criminals’

“Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other eight Ogonis were not criminals. They were innocent activists unjustly murdered for fighting for a just cause on behalf of their oppressed community,” Ken Saro-Wiwa Foundation said in a statement issued on Sunday in a reaction to President Buhari’s remark.

The statement, signed by Owens Wiwa, a younger brother to late Mr Saro-Wiwa, on behalf of the board of directors of the foundation, said neither the foundation nor Mr Saro-Wiwa’s family had authorised any individual to ask for pardon or clemency for the late environmentalist and playwright.

The foundation said they were not aware of any group of Ogonis making such a request.

“The path to true peace in the region begins with justice. The cleaning up of the environment for which they campaigned and died for is a first good step.

“The exoneration of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists, judicially murdered on November 10, 1995, is another step towards peace.

“The family of Ken Saro-Wiwa have made a request for the exoneration of Saro-Wiwa to the President in the past and are still waiting for a response. We urge the President to again consider this request as a path to justice and peace,” the statement said.

Accused of being responsible for the murder of four Ogoni chiefs at a pro-government meeting, Mr Saro-Wiwa and the others were sentenced to death by hanging by a special military tribunal.

Several Nigerians believe Mr Saro-wiwa and the others were framed up for the murder because of their very impactful non-violent campaign against oil extraction and the continuous degradation of the Ogoni land by the government-backed multi-national oil companies, especially the Royal Dutch Shell.

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