Ogoni Day Date in the current year: January 4, 2022

Ogoni Day Ogoni Day is an annual observance celebrated in Nigeria on January 4. It was initiated by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People to highlight the struggle of the indigenous Ogoni people and promote their rights.

The Ogoni people are an indigenous ethnic group that populates the southeast of Rivers State. According to the 1963 census, their population was about 500,000, but current population is estimated at over two million people.

For a long time, the Ogoni lived in a tight-knit community and relied on agriculture, fishing and crafts to survive. The first Europeans to arrive in the Niger Delta and encounter the Ogoni were the British in the early 20th century. The attempt to integrate the Ogoni, whose world was limited to their native village and the neighboring ones, into the modern world with its colonialism and money economy was a real shock to them. No wonder they resisted the British presence in their homeland.

The situation was aggravated by the beginning of oil production in the Niger Delta. In 1956, four years before the independence of Nigeria, Royal Dutch Shell found a commercially viable oil field in the region. Two years later, the company began oil production with the support of the British government. During a decade and a half between 1976 and 1991, there were nearly 3,000 oil spills of more than 2.1 million barrels of oil in Ogoniland, which had a detrimental effect on the ecology of the region.

The Ogoni and other indigenous peoples living in the Niger Delta began to protest against the actions of Royal Dutch Shell back in 1970s, but found no support from the government, and their peaceful protests were dispersed by the authorities. In 1990, the Ogoni elders signed the Ogoni Bill of Rights, which declared that the Ogoni people deserved the right to control their own affairs and economic resources, to be represented in national institutions, and to protect the Ogoni environment.

That same year several organizations campaigning for social and economic justice in the Niger Delta united to form the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). It uses non-violent methods to fight for the Ogoni’s right of self-determination in environmental issues and cultural rights.

The long-brewing conflict between the Movement, the government of Nigeria and the oil companies escalated in December 1992. The Ogoni demanded $10 billion of compensation to be paid within a month, threatening to disrupt the operations of the oil companies if they failed to comply. In response, the government of Nigeria banned public gatherings on January 4, 1993.

The ban, however, didn’t stop MOSOP from initiating a public mobilization, drawing around 300,000 people in massive festivities that became known as the first Ogoni Day. Unfortunately, this didn’t help to reach an agreement. In 1994, several MOSOP leaders were executed by the government.

The relations between the Ogoni people and the government of Nigeria are still strained, and Ogoni Day is observed every year to remind of all the human rights violations that the Ogoni have suffered throughout the years.

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