On July 27, Ogoni Peoples launched a blockade in the East-West Road in Eleme, Rivers State, Nigeria to protest the long time neglect of the road and to demand for its swift reconstruction. Hundreds of Ogoni from different communities gather in a peaceful mobilization to declare enough of the systemic disregard of Ogoni peoples right to equitable and just social services and support.
The 15-kilometer Eleme East-West Road connects nine local government areas to Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State. The road is not only important for the Ogoni for safe mobility but also crucial to Nigeria’s critical infrastructures, especially it’s the only bridge connecting the area to Port Harcourt.
The poor state of the bridge has caused hardships to the Ogoni people and Nigerians as a journey of just forty five minutes turns into a six to twenty four hours travel. In addition, the bridge has become a death trap as reports of vehicles falling into the river come almost every day.
For decades, the topic of East-West Road rehabilitation has been used by politicians in their election campaign promises but with zero fulfillment, while sophisticated roads are built in other cities. The dreadful situation of the bridge also adds to the long time failure of the government to decisively address the growing incidence of poverty of minority and indigenous communities in the Niger Delta region which has given rise to the poor enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by these peoples. The unemployment level in the Niger Delta remains one of the highest in the country despite the region’s enormous wealth and resources.
The Ogoni peoples’ protest, with strong presence and support of Ogoni youth, declared a 14-day ultimatum to the government, calling for the reconstruction of the road alongside flyovers at Akpajo, Aleto, Alesa and Onne junctions.
The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) supports the Ogoni Peoples’ action, standing with our members and networks Ogoni Solidarity Forum-Nigeria and Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, for their right to safer roads and development. The continuing disregard and inaction of the state violates the Indigenous Peoples right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions. With no safe and accessible modes of transportation, public roads and infrastructures, Indigenous individuals are denied of their right to access, without any discrimination, to social services. All these are enshrined to the UN Declaration of the Rights of indigenous peoples to which the Nigerian government has adopted and committed to implement.
Lastly, we stress that road and transportation improvement must ultimately benefit the interest of the people and not the interest of profit, of corporations and big businesses by enabling exploitation and faster transport of natural resources out of Indigenous lands and territories. People’s rights over profit! Indigenous Peoples’ protection, not discrimination!