The federal government seems to be spoiling for war. The admission by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, that the National Security Adviser, NSA, Babagana Monguno, wrote him to inform him of the planned re-entry into the Ogoni oil fields aka OML 11 is nothing but worrisome. The government, through its actions, might become a catalyst for another ar struggle.
President Muhammadu Buhari had through his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, asked the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to take over the operatorship of the Ogoni Oil Fields from Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC. But is the order by the president without the input from the Ogonis the best thing?
President Buhari by his order which is ill-advised is clearing the ground for another round of crises in the Niger Delta. This path that the president is threading, if not reversed, might lead to full blowing terrorism that would take years to stop. The traces are already there, occasioned by massive killings, destruction of the local economy (farming and fishing) through devastating oil spills.
The cult-related killings in the area which has led to multiples of deaths have been attributed to planned forced re-entry into the oil fields.
Governor Wike had during a meeting with Ogoni leaders noted that part of the problem in Ogoniland is the planned resumption of oil production. He said that he has received a letter from the National Security Adviser on the commencement of production at OML 11. He noted that he was not duly informed on the process.
He added that going forward, the State Government and Ogoni people should be carried along on the OML 11 issue, saying that dialogue will yield better results.
He said: “I got a letter from the National Security Adviser. Part of the problem is OML 11. I have written back to them and said you did not inform me when you were going there. If you want to go into a community, tell me as a Governor. But even if there will be, we need to sit down and resolve issues.
“I have told the Federal Government that they cannot use Force in doing everything. We need to sit down and resolve issues. As a Government, we are losing Revenue no doubt, but the people must be involved so that everyone is part of what is happening. I will not support anything that will make Ogoni people not to benefit from their resources. I will not do anything to betray the people who have given me their mandate. I will never do that”.
Shell was forced to leave Ogoni Land in 1993 after the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) which was established in 1990 began campaigning for greater control over oil and gas resources on their land, for economic development, and autonomy over their affairs, (including cultural, religious and environmental matters).
MOSOP’s demands were summarised in their 1990 ‘Ogoni Bill of Rights’, which were mostly of a political nature and addressed to the Nigerian Government. By November 1992, MOSOP was also demanding US$6 billion in royalties from past oil production and US$4 billion for environmental damage, and SPDC was given 30 days to accept or leave Ogoni land.
SPDC stopped production in Ogoni land and withdrew from the area in 1993 after violence against its staff and action targeting its facilities. Violence in Ogoni land continued, and in May 1994 four prominent Ogoni leaders were murdered by a mob. Ken Saro-Wiwa (President of MOSOP) and eight others were accused of complicity in the murders, tried by a military tribunal in 1995 and executed. In 2009, Shell agreed to pay $15 million to settle several lawsuits associated with the execution of Wiwa and others.
SPDC has produced no oil or gas from Ogoni fields since 1993, although Ogoni land continues to serve as a transit route for pipelines transporting both SPDC and third-party oil production from other areas.
The federal government’s reliance on the support of a few Ogoni leaders to forcefully re-enter into the oil fields is a recipe for disaster. The major issues of contention surrounding the environmental damage of Ogoniland remain unresolved.
The exposé by the MOSOP that at least 50 persons die weekly from Gokana coastal communities due to the drinking of contaminated water has not been tackled. The government is dancing to the tune of war while the people are dying, and in their numbers too. The Hydro-Carbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP, a federal government’s agency conducting remediation of contaminated sites in Ogoni land has been accused of handing over the clean-up contracts to cronies with little knowledge of the clean-up process.
HYPREP had also explained that it will not work with the UNEP guidelines for the clean-up leading to stakeholders including the state government to refer to the clean-up as a fraud.
An FOI request for HYPREP to account for the initial deposit of $10 million it got from Shell and NNPC was not responded to. The issue has been a subject of a legal tussle as HYPREP has refused to appear in court since it was summoned. One is forced to ask what they are hiding from the public.
The people are distraught about the grand politics by the Federal Government and its joint venture partners to commence crude oil and gas production in Ogoni area of OML 11 in Bomu which has 52 oil wells, Ebubu (17 wells), Tai (13 wells), Yorla (14 wells), Bodo West (12 wells) and Korokoro (10 wells) by October without first taking into consideration, the issues that forced Shell out of the place.
This necessitated Gbo Kaabari Ogoni to write president Buhari warning him that a forced re-entry into Ogoniland is a recipe for disaster. They also warned that “The activities deliberately fail to recognise that oil production in Ogoni and OML 11 has a unique history that cannot be wished away by an executive fiat for a restart of exploration and exploitation without duly engaging the people in a proper and painstaking conversation.”
MOSOP also warned that ” We have consistently stressed that whilst we are not opposed to discussions relating to resumption of oil production in Ogoniland, the federal government and its agents must engage in a broad-based discussion with the Ogoni people that address the issues of benefits- sharing, community participation and the proper environmental management of the Ogoni ecosystem, including legacy issues arising from the over four decades of reckless oil operations in the land.
” We, therefore, reiterate our avowed position to resist any attempt by the government and any company or their agents to re-enter any Ogoni community for the purpose of carrying out oil exploration activities by FORCE without due consultation and broad-based discussion and agreement with genuine and competent representatives of the people and key stakeholders in Ogoniland.
“We are prepared to resist them with the last drop of our blood”
Before the government creates another monster in the region, they must engage the people and reach an agreement on the issues of contention before exploration activities can resume in the area or the government will comfortably dig holes for itself and in its usual manner, send soldiers to kill and maim the locals over the resources in their land.