P/Harcourt – The cloud is thickening, and the blanket of fear has continued to envelope all. This portrays the current situation in Ogoniland suggestive of a possible outbreak of another major oil war between two oil companies, a development, which is tearing apart the indigenous people of Ogoni ethnic nationality, except an urgent step is taken to avert the impending doom.
The build-up disaster, according to some analysts, may be reminiscent of the 1994 massacre that claimed the lives of over 3000 Ogonis in just a fell swoop.
Specifically, Belema oil and RoboMichael are presently at each other’s jugular over who will have unhindered access to the Ogoniland for oil exploration and production. The activities of these companies have already caused a division and suspicion among the indigenous people through financial inducements with unwavering material schemes.
Indeed, over the years, several actions and inactions by major stakeholders in the Ogoni oil region have often reignited the memory of the United Nations General Assembly resolution 45/164 of December 18, 1990 which proclaimed 1993 as the International Year of the world’s Indigenous peoples’ Day.
It was indeed within the context of that proclamation that the struggle drew inspiration and renewed dedication to the quest for inclusiveness, self-determination, justice, freedom and peace as the Ogoni forebears gathered to launch Ogoni’s celebration of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples Day on January 4, 1993, one of the very first Indigenous nations to do so at the time. On January 4th, the unique identity of Ogoni was then established.
But presently, the dream of that liberation is at the verge of collapse as two the indigenous companies are currently scrambling for oil exploration and production.
Ogoni oil has remained untapped since 1992 when a deadly war broke out between Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, and the indigenes of Ogoni after an anti-Shell peaceful protest. This later led to the “Executive” murder (by hanging) of the Ogoni-9 and later 13, including an environmental activist and author, Kenule Saro Wiwa in 1994 at the Port Harcourt prisons.
The same scenario may be playing out as the dark cloud again hovers in the sky of Ogoniland, being orchestrated by two indigenous companies that itching to take over the business of Ogoniland from Shell.
Last year, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, an offshoot of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC, was accused of taking a surreptitious move to resume oil exploration in Ogoni riding on the roughshod of Shell.
The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, had accused the company of having the backing of Shell and the Federal Government to re-enter the oil rich Ogoni for a restart of oil exploration there and therefore vowed to peacefully resist such shrewd move by nonviolent protest.
“We disapprove of Shell’s attempt to re-enter Ogoniland. We accuse them of the killings of 1995 and for the death of over 3000 persons. We accuse them of the ruin of over 10 Ogoni communities whose inhabitants remain in exile. We accuse them of genocide in Ogoniland and for the complete destruction of our environment.
“I do not know how best to describe Shell Nigeria and her new ally, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), both of which have exhibited a very high level of irresponsibility in Ogoniland”, said Fegalo Nsuke, spokesman of MOSOP.
On Thursday, August 4, 2017, led by the president of the Movement, Legborsi Pyagbara, the Ogoni people protested against a surreptitious attempt by Shell to re-enter Ogoniland through its alleged proxy, NPDC.
The demonstration clearly represented the disapproval of any form of oil business in Ogoni. The people made their position very clear, that no form of oil exploitation should resume in any part of Ogoniland without proper negotiations.
It was gathered that despite this clear message, Shell continued its sneaky attempts to re-enter Ogoniland. “It prosecutes its divide-and-conquer tactics to deceive the public and lie about its intentions.
“The company has secretly entered into a pact with the NPDC without any input from the Ogoni people. Shell intends to use the NPDC to prosecute its oil business in Ogoniland.
“On Thursday, August 10, Shell’s latest ally, the NPDC sent its consultants to Ejama, Ebubu, Eleme Local Government Area in an attempt to lobby a community leader, one Chief Agbara”, he noted in a statement.
According to eye witness accounts and representatives of MOSOP, the community leader was reported to have rejected a private meeting with the consultants which led to more revelations about the escapades of the NPDC in Ogoniland.
“The scene that played out in Ebubu represents a typical behavior of Shell and her new ally, the NPDC. The NPDC has been reported to be sponsoring armed bandits with a clear intention to cause crises in Ogoniland and to set them against activists opposed to their return to Ogoni oilfields”, the MOSOP spokesman said.
The Ogonis alleged that Shell has a secret deal with the NPDC without input from the Ogoni people and “is seeking to enforce this partnership using bandits and cult groups, bribery and a treacherous consultant. Mr. Brian Anderson also referred to Shell spills in Ogoniland as mere incidences.
A U.N report says it will take 30 years to restore the Ogoni environment damaged by Shell. Shell’s “mere incidences” has been reported as the worst case of environmental devastation in human history.
However, investigation has shown that of the two indigenous oil companies, only RoboMichael is said to have obtained the authentic license to explore the oil. Indeed, the company did not bother so much about where to situate its operational base until the chiefs and elders of Ogoni reached out invitation to them for a meeting.
As part of the process to create awareness on this renewed interest so that all the Ogonis would be on the same page of enlightenment, the Ogoni Central Indigenous Authority, OCIA, recently launched a campaign to educate the people to fight ignorance.
President of Ogoni Central Indigenous Authority, Dr. Goodluck Diigbo said the campaign became necessary, because ignorance slows down progress in the homeland.
“It has been 24 years since the first Ogoni Day of January 4, 1993. If you are 24 years of age, you are no longer a baby. Sometimes you can be an adult and still act like a baby, partly because of ignorance. We must educate our people in order to fight ignorance, and get rid of this worst disease of our times. Is everywhere. You can still hear the cries of babies among us. They often scream and threaten fire and brimstone about entitlements. We must do our part to move our self-government forward, and not look for others to blame or threaten. This is our moment”, Diigbo said.
Diigbo praised Ogoni women who now lead the battle against ignorance at all levels.
Some of the women spoke about what they are doing to fight ignorance, and vowed to fight to carry the battle to all villages. Thousands of people observed the anniversary at the Ken Saro-Wiwa Peace and Freedom Center Bori.
Many observed that such move was necessary so that nobody would be ignorant of the activities of some of these oil companies in their move to re-enter ogoniland for any oil related business.
On his part, the Ken Saro Wiwa associate, KSWA, recently wrote a letter to NNPC warning against any attempt to renew the license of Shell or any other company for that matter without taking the interest of the Ogoni into consideration first.
“We are by this letter, requesting that the NNPC (and its subsidiaries) and SPDC of Nigeria (and the other JV partners) immediately stop and revoke all approvals granted and/or contracts entered into or negotiated with one ROBOMICHAEL LTD relating to the operatorship, provision of technical services and/or development of OML 11 (the Ogoni Fields).
“Stemming from the unfortunate events of the past where thirteen (13) Ogoni leaders including Ken Saro-Wiwa and scores of Ogoni people lost their lives while questioning the FGN/SPDC’s unwholesome oil exploration practices in Ogoni (and other parts of the Niger Delta) and the attendant devastation of their environment, with genuine engagement with the people to build trust and obtain the metaphorical Social License to Operate (SLO), a demonstrable commitment to fund and complete the ongoing UNEP-recommended remediation/restoration of Ogoniland and consideration of operating/development partners with the requisite technical expertise and performance record(s) to undertake the development of the Ogoni Fields.
“Our investigations reveal that ROBOMICHAEL LTD does not have the requisite expertise and performance records to provide any kind of technical services in the operatorship/development of OML 11”, the letter said.
Chief Gani Topba, National Coordinator, Ken Saro Wiwa Associate who signed the letter said that the “revocation should be effected in the period between the date of this letter and the next celebration of OGONI DAY (on January 4th 2018), failing which KSWA would lead the Ogoni people to bring details of ”our concerns (with evidence) to your doorstep (albeit peacefully), and to the notice of the general public and international community”.
As it stands, the contending oil companies have used filthy lucre to subvert the conscience of some influential Ogonis to support their unhindered access to Ogoni to commence the exploration of oil in the area.
The MOSOP president, Legborsi Pyagbara came under such attack recently when he was accused of collecting kickback from the Belema oil for his support to induce the minds of Ogoni elders. For their approval of the company.
This allegation was linked to the exclusion of four key members of the MOSOP executive council from office. They were said to have wrongly peddled the rumor of the bribery.
MOSOP came out to say that reports available to it have shown that these unscrupulous elements plan to forge the signature of the President of MOSOP and superimpose it on a fake document aiming to link him with supporting a particular company and pecuniary inducements from oil concerns and related sources and set him up for the people’s wrath.
It said already, the falsehood accusing Pyagbara of standing against employment and development opportunities for Ogoni youths have been circulated.
A statement by Bari-ara Kpalap, Media/Public Affairs Advisors to the MOSOP President, added: Although we are not surprised at the plot, we note with dismay the desperation that has regrettably characterized their campaign for the endorsement of Belema Oil and commencement of oil production in the area.
“We would not be surprised if the situation degenerates past the present tendency in view of the claim by some of the actors that the MOSOP president was blocking their opportunity to become multi-billionaires. It is saddening that these characters seem unbothered about the peculiar circumstance of the Ogoni people but their parochial interests only.
“However, since the stance of MOSOP and her president promote and protect the interest of the community, no degree of evil machinations would sway our genuine efforts for a better Ogoni.
“Nevertheless, we would like to warn the executioners and the masterminds to desist from carrying out the uncovered plot as they would be held responsible for whatever happens since they are known. To us, the time requires all Ogonis coming together and working concertedly if we must achieve our communal goals for which our compatriots paid the supreme price.”
In the statement, MOSOP also condemned in strong terms the increasing wave of politically motivated violence in Ogoniland, including the recent kidnapping of Freddie Ndigbara.
It said: “We consider this sustained tendency as most unnecessary and unfortunate as it will in no way help to resolve our peculiar disadvantaged circumstance but painted Ogoni in bad light.
“On several occasions, MOSOP has advised our people against allowing Ogoni to be a theatre of violence, whether political or otherwise as the implications and effects are borne by Ogoni and Ogoni alone.
“We thus passionately call on the abductors to unconditionally release Mr. Ndigbara. We as well urged the police to investigate the incident with a view to bringing the culprits and their sponsors to justice.”
Indeed, the anger of the Ogonis has different strands. First, the prangs surrounding the cleanup of the Ogoni over-polluted environment is such a bitter pill that will continue to spark outrage for a very long time.
On January 4, 2018 on Ogoni anniversary, Legborsi, President of MOSOP stated unequivocally that the Ogoni issue involved three main parties namely, the Federal Government of Nigeria, the oil industry led by Shell, and the Ogoni people.
He said that MOSOP will resist the present attempt by the Federal Government and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria to arbitrarily award the Ogoni fields in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 without consultation with the Ogoni community.
“It is on this note that MOSOP wants to state unambiguously that it has not certified any oil company to take over oil operations in Ogoniland as this is a process that requires the necessary consultation with all stakeholders in Ogoni”.
Resumption of oil production must follow the doctrine of free, prior and informed consent through good faith consultation with the people. It has to be an open and transparent process that will allow a level playing field for any company that is interested in Ogoni oil.
In this regard, the Ogoni people at the behest of MOSOP has set up a strategic committee representing the various interests in Ogoni and headed by Professor Ben Naanen, a notable economic historian and resource governance expert, to develop a template that will harmonize existing positions and guide the Ogoni people in any engagement with the Federal Government and the oil industry regarding oil production in Ogoniland.
Only recently, President Mohammadu Buhari gave an executive directive that the cleanup proper must commence in earnest in the next six months. An order some Nigerians view as being more political. They argue that because politics is just about to start, the All Progressives Congress, APC, viewed as having failed Nigerians in its promises, is on a face-saving mission,
But Barrister Henry Iyalla, the spokesman of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, doubted if anything tangible could be done as regards the cleanup in just six months. “The flag off of the cleanup was done in July 2, 2016. Since then, what is the significant thing that government has put in place to show that they are serious with the cleanup?
“The cleanup exercise, according to the UNEP is expected to take thirty years. We have spent six years already doing nothing. What then is the guarantee that we are going to get it right in just six months? I don’t believe in the President’s directive of six months. It is not realizable.
“I see that directive as a mere decoy meant to divert the attention of the Niger Delta people and indeed Nigerians from the US$1billion approved by the Federal Executive Council to fight Boko Haram insurgency. Remediation takes three years while the actual cleanup is thirty years, where did the President get the idea that the cleanup could start in six months when there is nothing on ground to start the exercise?
Iyalla argued that 2018 is a political year that will lead to the next election in 2019, which implies that “this may be a political statement just to ameliorate the Ogoni people to support the party in power. This is diversionary because there is no proper commitment on the part of government for the exercise.”
There are certain facts that may likely make the President’s directive doubtful. For instance, the UNEP report says that initial US$1billion would be required to kick-start the process. For the past six years since the report was released in 2011 to be specific, that money has not been released.
Shell, which is a major stakeholder in the cleanup, has consistently said that its own part of the money was ready but waiting for a proper channel to remit it. In a whole, only about US$10million has so far been released to the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project, HYPREP. This is grossly inadequate for a massive project like land remediation and possible reclamation.
The Nigerian government must do all within its powers to ensure that these oil companies do not allow their interest in the oil business to endanger the lives of Ogoni people in any guise or form.
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Author: Daniel Abia