Rivers: Tension Heightens in Ogoni as Killing Persists
All is not well at the moment in the Ogoni axis of Rivers State, a vastly polluted oil ethnic minority in Southern Nigeria. Extra-judicial killing is fast becoming the norm in the area.
A factional President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) Fegalo Nsuke, in a statement to this reporter at the weekend, claimed that Nen-eekpege Lezor Legbara was shot dead on Friday while another, Kingdom Koomene who allegedly sustained gunshot injuries was in critical conditions.
According to him, ‘’it is regrettable that we appear again to be drifting towards 1995’’.
After more than 30 years of the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas major, Shell, allegedly threatening their way of life, the Ogoni people organised and began to protest. In 1990 MOSOP was formed with Ken Saro-Wiwa as president.
MOSOP developed an Ogoni Bill of Rights, demanding environmental justice and opposing the method of allocation of oil funds. They also organised a number of peaceful protests.
Due to Saro-Wiwa’s fame, those protests received international media attention. In response, Shell, according to MOSOP, used the Nigerian Army to silence their people.
But Shell had repeatedly denied contributing financially to any armed forces. Eventually the oil major consented that in specific cases they had paid for daily rations of patrolling troops.
Whether Shell made a direct contribution to the troops is a trivial point considering the massive amount of money that the oil company was allegedly providing the Nigerian government who controlled the soldiers. Both Shell and the government had much at stake in keeping the protesters quiet.
However, the frustration of the Ogoni people had brought them to a point of no return.
Despite repression and attacks on villages, MOSOP managed to rally over 300,000 Ogoni people to a peaceful protest in January, 1993. Saro-Wiwa was arrested, held and eventually executed.
Shell began drilling for oil in 1958. Ogoni was not the only area affected by the Nigerian oil rush. The entire coastal region of Nigeria has been drilled for oil. As a result, 90% of Nigerian exports and 80% of government revenue comes from oil. In the proceeding 30 years, $30 billion in oil was drawn from Ogoni.
The Federal Government received a portion of the profits, though none of the money ever reached the people of Ogoni. While Ogon was rich in fertile soil at the mouth of the Niger River and rested on one of the largest oil reserves in the world, the Ogoni people lived in abject poverty for the 30 years of Shell’s drilling.
They had no electricity, no sewer system, and no water filtration. Schools and hospitals were non-existent. Without notice, a construction crew would arrive in the morning and tear up a planted field to run pipe across to continually develop infrastructure to support the drilling. Flaring stations shot soot into the air from exploding natural gas next to villages that desperately needed energy for electricity and cooking.
Oil spills caused massive fish kills, ruined the only potable water supply, and seeped into the fields, shriveling cassava and yams. The socio-economy of the Ogoni was destroyed while the wealth of their land was shipped away.
In the mean time, galled by latest report of shooting and killing in Kegbara Dere community in Gokana Local Government Area, allegedly by men of the Nigerian Army, MOSOP totally condemned such operation and is calling on the security agencies to stop reckless killings in Ogoni communities.
MOSOP Acting Publicity Secretary, Sunny Zorvah, said the group on Friday received a report of an alleged military raid in K. Dere community which led to the death of a middle aged man, Nen-elkpege Lezor, and one Lenu Kpegezor, who was shot but still in a hopeless condition.
According to him, the natives stated that men of the Nigerian Army came in company of SPDC pipeline workers and started shooting without any explanation resulting to the sudden death of a young man and other casualties.
‘’Even though MOSOP is in support of genuine efforts by legitimate authorities and government to fight criminality in Ogoni and other parts of the state or country, we do not support and will not tolerate unprovoked military onslaught and reckless killings in any Ogoni community or elsewhere’’, he said.
While MOSOP is urging that security actions should be taken with respect of the rights of innocent citizens and that the military or any arm of the security agencies should act within the ambit of the law, especially, according to the rules of engagements, the group added, ‘’we call on relevant security agencies, particularly the Police to urgently commence investigation into the reported military raid and killing in K. Dere community and ensure that all those behind such destructive and unwarranted operations are brought to book to avert total breakdown of law and order in the area.
For MOSOP’s factional president, Legborsi Pyagbara, ‘’most painful about this incident is the issue of the military men coming to the community, providing security to Shell workers but killing our people. This is unacceptable.’’
In another development, Police Commissioner in Rivers, Usman Belel, in a statement however, said his men rather foiled an attempt by some errant youths to burn down a Divisional Police Station in Elimgbu, Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of the state.
He said that but for the quick intervention of the command, the station would have been razed by the youths.
Youths of Atali community in Obio-Akpor had gone on rampage following the alleged killing of Precious Nyebuchi by a Police officer from Elimgbu Police Station who stabbed the man that later died in the hospital.
A stray bullet from the police also allegedly hit two other people during a protest by the youths of Atali community, leading to a mass protest and unrest.
But Belel denied the reports and exonerated the police officer, saying the deceased man was not stabbed deliberately. According to him, ‘’the attention of the Rivers Police Command has been drawn by report making the rounds on social and other conventional media on the alleged stabbing to death of a civilian from Atali Community in Obio/Akpor.
‘’The said report is and does not represent the true situation of what happened on 18th April, 2019, hence it has become necessary to put the records straight and state as follows: On April 18, 2019 at about 2000hrs, youths numbering about one hundred (100) from Atali Community in Obio/Akpor, broke and fell the parameter fence at the back of the Elimgbu Police Station, where they set ablaze an apartment belonging to Sergeant Isreal Sunday and destroyed all his household property value yet to be ascertained.
‘’The youths who did not stop at that, further went to launch attack on the Elimgbu Police Station with a view to burning down the Police Station but were stopped by the Police re-enforcements deployed to the scene.
‘’The matter that gave rise to this incident is that, men of the IGP Monitoring Unit investigating a case of kidnapping, with the aid of technical intelligence, tracked the identified suspects to Atali Community. The team booked at Elimgbu Police Station and went with two (2) personnel from the Elimgbu Police for assistance.
‘’On arrival, the team identified their targets and immediately arrested them. While they were taking them to Elimgbu Police Station, the suspects raised alarm and started chanting cult slogans which attracted members of their gang and youths of the community who immediately swooped on the Police, attacked, overpowered and rescued the two suspects who were in handcuffs. In the scuffle that ensued, a Police Sergeant was seriously assaulted and knife cut injuries inflicted on him which led to the rescue of the arrested suspects.
‘’Seeing that they have been overpowered, the Police beat a fast retreat and went for re-enforcement. Consequently, when the rampaging cultists/youths sighted the Police re-enforcement, they mobilised again in their numbers and one of them who was with a knife attacked ASP Chukwuma Onuora with the knife, and as he was to stab him, he defended himself and while they were struggling with the knife, the boy had a cut on his stomach. The same youths took him to the hospital where he later died.
‘’Surprisingly, without going to report this development to the Police, the same youths mobilized and launched the aforementioned attack on the Police barracks and would have set the Division ablaze but for our timely intervention.
‘’Let me at this stage appeal for calm as the situation has been brought under control. I have ordered a thorough investigation into the matter with a view to bringing any person or group found complicit to book.
‘’I want to reiterate my irrevocable commitment to fighting crime and criminality in the state and dealing with all criminal elements, while doing this I want to strongly maintain that the Command under my watch will not condone or shield any of our personnel who engages in unprofessional conduct capable of undermining the integrity of the Force. I will not also fold my arms and see the lives of my personnel and property of the Force suffer threat of any kind, as any such attempt will be resisted in accordance with the law.
‘’Once again, let me on behalf of the Command sympathize with the family of the deceased and the policemen who have suffered different loses. I want to appeal for calm as I have made deployments to the place to guard against further breach of the peace.’’