By Abdallah el-Kurebe
#TrackNigeria: The Nigerian Movement for the Liberation of Western Sahara (NMLWS) with membership drawn from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and seventeen other Civil Society Organisations have vowed to stop Nigerian companies from buying stolen phosphate from Morocco.
The group took the position at a press conference attended by some of its members, including the European Lawyer of the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Maitre Gilles Devers; Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, lawyer of the SADR in Africa and a member of this organization; and former SADR Ambassador to Nigeria, who is also its current Representative in France, Amb. Oubi Bachir.
According to NMLWS, said it would use legal means as one of other means to bring all Nigerian companies to book, which were currently receiving phosphate stolen by the Kingdom of Morocco from Western Sahara to produce fertilizer.
“This Movement supports the development of Nigeria, but not with stolen resources. We insist that although our country needs fertilizer, but not that produced with the blood of our brothers and sisters in Western Sahara. About this, we are definite. This principle is planted in the Nigerian culture not to exploit other people but defend them like we did in the struggle for the liberation of countries like Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.
“Nigerians are freedom-loving peoples, not accomplices of leaders of a country like Morocco who against all known tenets of African brotherhood, religious obligations and social justice, would invade and occupy a member country of the African Union, dehumanize its people and plunder its resources which it sells to European Union (EU) countries and companies in Nigeria.
“Nigeria in December 1984 then led by General Muhammadu Buhari, based on the anti-colonial principles of our fore fathers, our love for freedom, fairness, equity and justice, recognize the SADR as an independent African country. This was after the Saharawi had thrown off the colonial yoke of Spain. It is therefore inconceivable that thirty five years later, under an elected President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria would tolerate the occupation of the same country by a sister African country and be receiving the natural resources of Western Sahara plundered by Morocco,” the Movement stated at the press conference.
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Picketing and legal battles.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our history as a people, sense of morality and fairness does not permit us to be silent in the face of tyranny, subjugation and exploitation of a people. Our three main religions; the African Traditional Religion, Islam and Christianity do not permit that the head of the weak be crushed, or, stealing be accepted under any guise. So, we put all those dealing in stolen Western Sahara natural resources including their fishes on notice that they cannot continue to do business as usual.
After giving this notice to the Nigerian companies dealing in stolen Western Sahara resources, we will picket them across the country and bring them before our courts. This also includes super markets selling sardines and fishes from Morocco because 92 percent of these fishes are stolen from the Western Sahara coast.
It is in furtherance of this, we have invited these lawyers to meet, exchanges ideas and plot our legal strategies and commence legal actions.
The example of South Africa.
We want to re-enact the actions of the trade unions, civil society organisations and Solidarity Movements in South Africa in dealing decisively with this issue. Based on legal action, on May 1, 2017 a South African court ordered the seizure of a 55,000-tonne cargo of phosphate illegally extracted and stolen by Morocco from Western Sahara.
The ship, Cherry Blossom, a Marshall Island-flagged vessel was enroute to New Zealand, one of the countries engaged in the theft. The South African court forced the Moroccan state phosphates company OCP to pay a sum for the theft, auctioned the phosphate and released the ship one year later. With that, no shipping company dares to carry stolen Western Sahara natural resources through South African waters.
Unacceptable brutalization and detention of Saharawis.
Algeria, a staunch supporter of Western Sahara won the 2019 African Nations Cup in Egypt. The Saharawi took to the streets in jubilation. This was too much for the occupying Moroccan forces who descended on the jubilant processions, crushed a Saharawi lady to death with a police car and arrested many. As we speak, fifteen Saharawi youths are still in prison just for celebrating a football victory.
We do not accept that the African Union which has SADR as member, the United Nations (UN) which has a peace keeping body, the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) on ground in Western Sahara, the European Union (EU) which has a trade agreement with Morocco to deal in stolen Western Sahara phosphate and fishes and the international community which makes declarations on the sanctity of human rights should remain silent in the face of atrocities perpetuated by Morocco in Western Sahara.
We therefore demand that:
· The Moroccan monarchy and leadership be called to order and brought to book for gross human rights violations in Western Sahara.
· The consent and permission of the Saharawi people through the SADR government be secured before the natural resources of the country is utilized or traded in any form.
· The AU defends its member SADR by giving Morocco a timeline to vacate Western Sahara and if it fails, to expel and impose stiff sanctions against it as we did to Apartheid in South Africa.
· The UN expands the mandate of MINURSO to include human rights violations so its Mission can protect the Saharawi people.
· Morocco vacates the parts of Western Sahara it is occupying and allows the Saharawi like other Africans and peoples of the world to freely govern themselves and develop their country without any interference.
· All should be done to ensure that the Moroccan-Saharawi armed conflict is not re-ignited as renewed war can lead to an avoidable international conflagration.