By Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURT—FIVE civil society groups, yesterday, in Rivers State accused Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Apapa, Lagos, of impounding a sculpture made in living memorial of Ken Saro-Wiwa.
According to Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Friends of the Earth, Social Action, Environmental Rights Action and Home of Mother Earth Foundation, the sculpture was seized on September 8, and all efforts to get it released had been fruitless till date.
The group said the sculpture was on display in several places in the United Kingdom before it was shipped into the country.
A statement by Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Friends of the Earth, Social Action, Environmental Rights Action and Home of Mother Earth Foundation said the sculpture was to draw attention to the environmental challenges faced by Ogoni arising from pollution of their area.
According to the groups: “This statement is issued to draw public attention to the seizure by the Nigeria Customs Service of a “living memorial” to Ken Saro-Wiwa donated by Platform – friends and colleagues in the United Kingdom – to the Ogoni people.
The memorial is a sculpture made in remembrance of the struggles of Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni environmental rights activists who were sentenced and killed by a military tribunal in November 1995. It calls attention to the environmental degradation and economic deprivation, in which the Ogoni people live, despite being naturally blessed with enormous deposits of crude oil. The people of Ogoniland continue to fight for remediation of their lands and compensation after the devastation caused by oil multinationals such as Shell.
“After being on display at various places in the United Kingdom for 9 years, at the request of Nigerian partners, the sculpture was shipped from London to Nigeria via Lagos Port. On arrival in Lagos, it was impounded by Customs officials on September 8, 2015, who claimed that it had ‘political value’, due to Saro-Wiwa’s words which are inscribed on the side: ‘I accuse the oil companies of practising genocide against the Ogoni’. The sculpture also displays the name of Ken Saro-Wiwa on a white steel banner, and the names of the other 8 Ogoni men on sculptural barrels, currently stowed inside for transportation purposes. Every attempt to get it released to the Ogoni people has proved abortive. No further reason has been given for the continued seizure of the gift to the Ogoni people.
Similarly, a box of flyers and reports commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa, sent by friends Platform in the United Kingdom through DHL, was also seized for no justifiable reason by the State Security Service. To date the box has not been returned. We have submitted letters of appeal to the Customs boss, Col Hameed Ali (retd), upon receipt of the letter by his Personal Assistant, we were assured that the sculpture would be released. That has not yet happened.”