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Coventry aids peace process in oil-fields

THE International Centre for Reconciliation at Coventry has launched a programme in Nigeria to end a long-running dispute between the oil industry and indigenous communities.

The Ogoni Reconciliation Process was officially launched last week, when the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, announced the appointment of the Revd Matthew Hassan Kukah as facilitator of the reconciliation process.

The different groups involved followed this announcement with separate statements about their commitment to a structured process of reconciliation. The groups included representatives from the River State government, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), and the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).

Ogoniland is within the oil producing Niger Delta area, and has about 500,000 inhabitants. In the early 1990s, MOSOP was formed and became known internationally for its Bill of Rights. This Bill demanded political control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people, and use of Ogoni economic resources for the area' s own development.

It also demanded $10 billion in compensation from oil companies who, it said, had degraded the environment and not paid royalties.

The main leader of MOSOP was executed in the mid-1990s for his alleged part in the murder of four moderate Ogoni leaders.

Canon Justin Welby, a director of ICR, said this week: "The statements confirm the beginning of a process that will simultaneously manage present sources of conflict, seek a just resolution to the past, and plan a more prosperous and successful future for all the Ogon people."

Mr Kukah, the facilitator of the process, is parish priest of St Andrew's RC Church in Kakuri, Kaduna State, and Vicar-General of the RC Archdiocese of Kaduna.

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