The Niger Delta Disturbance: Militant Gangsters or a Military Gang-up?

But he made loads of promises such as attracting business to the country. But since he came to power not one really investing business has made inquiries about coming to Nigeria, much more bringing in good money for investment. He did not understand the problems of the country to the extent that he really does not know why no meaningful investor will consider a country like Nigeria held together by military force and where there have been never ending bloody conflicts of ethnic aspirations aggravated by warring religions of Christianity and Islam for 40 years. Only a few service industries and several shady businesses will find a country like Nigeria attractive for business.

As much as we can, we have always warned the good people of Nigeria that no sensible and honest business will invest in Nigeria. The country is a good hunting ground for shady and corrupt money pursuit. Everyone has discovered that it is the fasted regressing country in the world. All Obasanjo has done since coming to power is to set up tribunals such as every military coup leaders did. Nothing more. Some of the tribunals reveal what everyone knows as rumour. But nothing will come out of any of the tribunals, besides materials for gossip. They are all waste of time and money; but they keep some people feel false sense of betterment. With respect to business, only service business will come to Nigeria to work the railways, the electricity, the roads, the water supply and such like. Not even a sensible Nigerian from abroad will think of investing money in Nigeria. No economy based on corruption can ever develop.

And so it is clear that all strategy toward the capture of political power in Nigeria is strategy aimed and directed at the capture of oil wells. It is important that we keep that in the back of our minds as we look at Nigeria.

Directly from the time when Nigeria was created by corporations, the oil multinationals have been involved. We have seen documents that they were actually involved in the fashioning of an independent constitution for us. Most of the rulers in Nigeria are people who have either been directors or members of the boards of multinationals, principally Shell. Shell has fashioned a new vision, what they call Vision 2010, a vision they have sold to the military dictatorship of General Abacha. And they have also reportedly been heavily involved in the importation of weapons and arms. They retain their own police force, and through their immense power they have plundered a lot of places. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, several communities were rendered obsolete.

Then from 1993 to 1995, the Ogoni land was turned into a killing field rather than a drilling field. Even if it is a drilling field, it has been the drilling of death and the complete massacre of a defenseless people…

We believe that if we are going to resolve all these issues have to challenge the multinationals very vigorously. Our anger must be focused on a complete dismantling of the authorities of corporate rule. Because they have not only caused social disintegration of our culture and our tradition, they have led to the introduction of foreign diseases and the destruction of our cultural ethos. They have led to the destabilization of our mainstream economy and livelihoods. We are basically agrarian people, dependent on fishing and farming; we do not have the technology that the West or other parts of the world have. But we have peace, we have laws, and we intend to promote this.

But the restoration of civilian rule in Nigeria has not seen a reduction of human rights violations in the country’s oil-producing regions; Soldiers, naval personnel, and paramilitary Mobile Police deployed across the Niger Delta carry out summary executions, assaults and other abuses on an ongoing basis. Nor have security forces been punished for the deeds of the past. There was a recent incident in which soldiers and naval personnel posted at a flow station operated by Italian oil company Agip opened fire on several boats without warning. The youths in the boats dived into the water in order to escape, but eight were killed at the site, and another died later in hospital.

In December 1999, soldiers killed hundreds of people in retaliation for the deaths of twelve policemen during an army assault on the community of Odi, in Bayelsa State. No one has been prosecuted in connection with these atrocities, committed largely against unarmed civilians. This was a bite on Izon people back. In the rear sense, the Ijo, Ijaw, Izon people are yet to develop a complete sense of their unity. This is not strange considering how widely they are dispersed along the Nigerian coastline and among the creeks and rivers of the Niger Delta.

The Apoi and Arogbo of Ondo state are merely outposts of unnumbered others working at different trades in the lagoons as far west as Lagos and beyond. The Nkoro and Defaka of Opobo-Nkoro local government area of Rivers state have lived so long in the eastern extremity of the Niger Delta, that their language is now believed to be the oldest living variety of Ijo. The Ibani of Opobo, of-course, moved into this corner of the Niger Delta only in the nineteenth century, strengthening and expanding the activities of the Ijo kingdoms of Bonny and Okrika from much earlier times eastwards through the waterways of the Nigerian coast into Ibibio and Efik country and beyond the Cross River. The Ijo people are, therefore, to be found, living as significant independent communities, or as isolated migrant units, throughout the length of the Nigerian coastal waters. Indeed, they are to be found in diaspora in virtually every coastal West African state along the Atlantic

Traditions which suggest such derivation from neighbouring groups refer to relatively recent or isolated movements. In other cases, such traditions are attempts to claim a relationship with a kingdom or place considered to confer prestige on the claimants. Such is the case of claims to Ijo origin from Ile-Ife. In the case of Benin, some migrations of small numbers of persons into the Niger Delta appears to have taken place in relatively recent times. And, from the period of the slave trade, large numbers of persons were moved into the Niger Delta, and mostly through it, across the Atlantic. Many such Ijo communities retained members of such groups, thus fueling suggestions of origin from outside the Niger Delta.

Some people might challenge the claim that the Ijo have lived for many millennial in the Niger Delta on the grounds that the evidence is speculative, in spite of its apparent scientific base. Fortunately, we have other supporting evidence. Several archaeological excavations have been carried out in the central and eastern Niger Delta at Agagbabou and Isomabou on Wilberforce Island, Koroama in Taylor Creek, Saikiripogu near Okpoama, Onyoma near Nembe, Ke in the Kalabari area, and at Ogoloma and Okochiri in Okrika. Palynological research has also been done near Nembe. The cumulative evidence from all this research is, that the oral traditions of the Ijo communities relate to real historical activities going back between one and three thousand years. Clearly, the linguistic estimates take us farther back into the past, but may not themselves have reached as far back as the prehistory of the speakers of what the linguists call proto-Ijo, the language out of which all the existing Ijo dialects came into being.

The new government has taken some steps to improve the situation in the Niger Delta.But the basic dynamic there has not changed: when local people protest, the security forces use indiscriminate lethal force in response.

In Ogoniland, although the severe repression of the military government of Gen. Sani Abacha is past, the security forces continue, on occasion to harass those who oppose the resumption of oil production, which has been closed since 1993. In March and April 2000, repressive force was once again used in Ogoniland, when paramilitary Mobile Police deployed to the village of K-Dere, Gokana local government area. Several Ogoni civilians were killed and a number of others detained for various periods and charged with offenses.

This government should institute criminal prosecution of those allegedly responsible for the abuses, and for these multinational oil companies in the Niger Delta area to undertake an immediate review of security provision at their facilities.

An assessment of the Niger Delta agitation outside this government sponsored technical committee plan should be carried-out, based on Exploration and Pre-Exploitation Surveys (Geo-seismic Exploration/data), Geological Surveys and Minerals Exploration, 3.Environmental Impact Assessment, Oil Spill, Acid Rain, A Review of Hydro-Carbon, Petroleum and Environmental Laws, Resources Management and Revenue distribution, Communities’ Participation in Resources management, Compensation Regulations, Public Policy, Oil and the Environment, Ethnicity, Conflicts and the Quest for Resource Rights , Theoretical Foundations of Ethnicity and Conflicts, Kidnappings, Military Presence (JTF) and Militant conflicts, Women and Oil Conflicts, The NDDC, Niger Delta Ministry and the areas disregarded by that 40-Man Technical Committee, The Ogomudia report on the Oil-producing Areas, Oil Politics and Host Communities, Community Relations, Oil spills, Emergencies and Ecological Communication, Human Resource Development and Corporate Social Responsibility,. Human Capital Development and the Culture of Youth Restiveness, Harmonizing vision 2020, Seven-Point agenda and MDGs, Accountability, Governance and Transparency, as regard to the Niger Delta demands.

Written by
L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu
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