Jan 03, 2011

Ogoni: “Frivolous” Spending No Solution To Woes

Ahead of Ogoni Day on 4 January 2011 reflections turn to the ongoing deprivation of the Niger Delta and what could have been – sixteen years since the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa

Below is an article published by the Daily Independent:

Militancy in Niger Delta region did not start in a day. It is not out of place to say that the discovery of oil in 1957 in the area triggered a chain of event that led to the political and economic marginalization of the inhabitants. Indeed, it has been argued that oil has been more of a curse than a blessing to the people who have been at the receiving end. Despite over 40 years of oil production and hundreds of billions of dollars of oil revenue, the local people remains in abject poverty without even the most basic amenities such as water and electricity. The campaign for fair deal or control of the oil wells by the people started in 1966 when Isaac Adaka Boro led a rebellion with his Delta Volunteer Service (DVS) against the government and formed Niger Delta Republic.  The spirit and consciousness bring to the international level, the suffering and deprivation of the people of the Niger Delta was championed by Ken Saro Wiwa in the 90s. He applied peaceful and non-violent means reminiscent of the strategy and tactics of Mahatma Ghandi. He aimed to redress the political and socio economic wrongs imposed on the Niger Delta people. He was doing this on the platform of Movement for the Emancipation of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), which he founded in 1992 with other like minds.

Unfortunately, the government of General Abacha and oil companies was not comfortable with the activities of Saro Wiwa and his movement. Saro Wiwa was accused of inciting members of MOSOP to kill four Ogoni elders. He and eight other fellow compatriots were arranged for trial, in a military tribunal, set up by the government of General Sanni Abacha, for the murder of the Ogoni four, convicted and hanged in November 1995. However his crime at that time was his effort to organize the Ogoni ethnic minority to stop destruction of their homeland caused by operations of oil companies and seek compensation for his people’s lost farmland and fisheries.

Since then various militant groups have sprung up in recent times to undermine the activities of the oil companies using different methods and tactics, thereby daring Nigeria government.

Abolurin declared that the structural injustices led to the marginalization of the Niger Region in the Nigeria Federation adding that poverty/deprivation of the means of livelihood of the inhabitants, lack basic things of life like water and electricity, distortion in the social and economic fabric of the local societies, lack of development and unemployment, bad governance and corruption compounded the problems facing the inhabitants of Niger Delta.

“The environmental damages caused in the course of oil production are very expensive. They include destruction of wildlife and biodiversity, loss of fertile soil, pollution of air and drinking water, degradation of farmland and damage of aquatic ecosystem, all of which have caused serious health problems for the inhabitants of the area surrounding the oil production. Oil spillage is a major problem in the region. The indigenes suffer from oil spillage because of lack of coordinated efforts by the oil companies and the Federal Government to clean up as soon as oil spillage takes place. Gas flaring takes place 24hours and some have been burning for over 30 years thereby resulting in the release of hydrogen sulphide (sour gas). According to expert, Hydrogen surphide produces sulfur oxides and when surful oxides mix with oxygen and water in the atmosphere, they produce acid rain and acid rain causes innumerable negative effects on the world particularly the people and the environment. Oil pipeline explosions occurs during drilling activity, accidental bursting of pipeline and vandalization by angry youths and members of the host community and activities of oil bunkerers.  “There was also violation of human rights of the local populace. The oil companies are unkind to the people of the region while security forces at the behest of the companies constantly violate the human rights of the people.

“The region is also riddled with bad governance/corruption on the parts of government officials, both at the state and local government levels. If the government officials in the region have utilized judiciously their monthly allocations to better the lots of the ordinary people, through creation of jobs and embark on infrastructural development of the region, the situation would have been better than this. Rather, the jumbo monthly allocations are spent on frivolous things that have no corresponding bearing on the life of the people.