The people of Ogoniland in Rivers State are expected to hold prayers and ceremonies to mark 24 years of the execution of renowned author and environmental rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, by the brutal regime of Gen. Sani Abacha.
The activist and eight others – Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbokoo, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel and John Kpuine – were hanged at the Port Harcourt prisons on November 10, 1995 and soldiers poured acid on their remains before their graves were sealed up.
They were arrested and executed allegedly for the murder of four kinsmen and came to be known as the Ogoni 9.
They had been fighting against the environmental degradation caused by Shell Petroleum and organised a series of protests.
Shell was eventually forced to vacate Ogoniland in 1993 and this infuriated Abacha.
Saro-Wiwa continued to agitate for better conditions for his people and Abacha began looking for how to eliminate him.
In 1994, they were arrested for alleged murder but the charges were never proven.
They were executed while the Commonwealth heads of state were meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, leading to expulsion from the group and the isolation of Nigeria by the international community.
Although successive administrations had promised to clean up Ogoniland, the project did not take off until some months ago.
The cleanup is still mired in controversy as the Ogoni are said to have demanded that the money earmarked for the project be shared among them instead.
The people are still demanding far-reaching compensation from government and Shell for the destruction of their farms and other sources of livelihood as well as the development of their communities.