June 19, 2014
by Com. Japhet .A. C. Ogbueri
Permit me to use this medium and opportunity to showcase Shell induced puritanical ethnicisation of oppressive development agenda that is threatening and militating on the prosperity and posterity of the largest minority Oil & Gas producing ethnic nationality in Niger Delta Region. The agrarian landscape of Etche tribe is inhabited by over two million indigenous population spread across hundreds of autonomous communities in Rivers, Imo and Abia States, while the echie garri is the most popular and most nutritious around South- South and South East garri market. Etche ethnic block is geo-politically divided into Etche and Omuma LGAs, with one National Assembly slot at the Green Chamber, 29 political wards, and three state constituencies under Rivers East Senatorial District. The ethnic block is estimation to house about 25% of the 600tribllion cubic feet of the natural gas reserves in Nigeria, and has directly contributed over $500billion dollars of foreign revenue to Federal Government, and indirectly leveraged over $1 trillion dollars to SPDC through 58 years of protracted, prolonged and uninterrupted crude oil and natural gas production. The prebendalist machinery for “extraction by extortion” of our natural resources which first and foremost belong to the people was set in cyclic motion in 1957 in Umuechem community when Bonny-light crude oil was discovered in commercial quantity.
There are empirical evidences to prove that SPDC and Federal Government with gallows of inhumanity has monumentally neglected Etche people against rationality, despite our sacrifices and d8ifficulties in respect to environmental degradation and multinationally induced community crises that usually lead to wanton destruction of lives and properties. It is on record that there has never been any incident of oil theft or pipeline vandalism in Etche land, yet there is no commensurate social amenities and infrastructures in Etche to prove otherwise, while our youths are yet to benefit from pipeline surveillance project and program. It is said that every time truth is violated, the seed of violence and disorder is sown.The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has vaingloriously and delusively evinced abhorrent traces of ironic sense of pecuniary betrayal of Etche people, an ominous orchestration of cumulative neglect of host and whole community. Throughout the length and breadth of Etche land, there is virtually no meaningful or beneficial project credited to SPDC to give credence and equally justify our oil producing status, unless abandoned, manual garri processing plants, dilapidated town halls, dismantled mono-pumps, chronic youth unemployment, antiquated market stalls etc. Lord Justice Heward posited that it is merely of some importance, but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.
The dysfunctionality of SPDC context in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and cynically exploitative “give-back” procedure to Etche land will never fail to attract radical cudget of criticism. The cathartic instance of epiphany that signposts the onomatopoeic reference to total disenchantment, maladjustment, gross insensitivity and crass insincerity of SPDC to Etche people is that the bridge linking two major oil and gas producing communities Odagwa and Owaza, where Shell has operated with heavy equipments for over 45years of uninterrupted oil production is still in the “colonial metal state”, while the link road has continued to claim innocent lives through accidents due to dangerous condition. The much acclaimed Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) promulgated by Shell and administered through Cluster Foundations with brazen ignominy, is nothing short of whimsical messianic delusion built on falsehood and clothed in deception. The implementation of the said GMOU in Etche land is the main reason why the link roads in all our oil and gas producing communities cannot be accessed during rainy season due failed road condition, and this goes a long way to contribute to our socio-political and economic tantrum. The road condition in Etche at present has impoverished the people, contributed to sever loss of man hour, inflates maintenance cost of vehicles, defaces the social status of the people, and generates psychological trauma due to betrayal. While other oil producing ethnic groups in Niger Delta Region hosting ELF, MOBIL, AGIP, and CHEVRON etc are partially harnessing the byproducts and give backs of their oil resources in terms of good roads, electricity, educational grants, contracts, employment, empowerment etc, Etche land under SPDC is witnessing serial environmental degradation, cyclic social deprivation, gross political marginalization, and our communities cannot be accessed by road in the event of rainfall i.e Umuechem, Abara, Ozuzu, Okoroagu, Chokocho, Igbo, Chokota, Ikwerrengwo, Umuebulu etc. Therefore the presence and operation of SPDC in Etche land is in constant and consistent conflict, and in gross violation of the provisions and principles of our Fundamental right to Healthy Environment and Development as captured by United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous People, Human Rights Organization of Africa, and Chapter II, Section 17 (2) (d) of Nigerian constitution.
Finally, it is now 24 years since SPDC induced audaciously nauseating massacre was carried out by security agents in Umuechem community, and nothing has been done to alleviate the sufferings of the people who lost their properties and loved ones, not even in form of financial compensation or cleanup of the environment. The peaceful protest carried out by the chiefs, youths and women of Umuechem in 1990 over monumental neglect of the community by SPDC right from 1957 when Bonny-light crude oil was discovered in the area. The people were angry that despite over 30years of uninterrupted oil and gas exploitation by SPDC on behalf of Federal government, the community still lacks basic social amenities, Healthcare facilities, schools, and youth unemployment remains endemic. The protest was very peaceful until SPDC management sent SOS to the then military administrator in Rivers state Col. Godwin Abbe, and the DPO of Okehi Division, DSP F.A Miebaike also sent reinforcement signal to police Headquarter Port –Harcourt.
It was reported that over 100 Mobile police officers were drafted to the community by mid-night of 31st October 1990, and the troop occupied the community for six days (1st – 6thNov, 1990), and also fed on the community resources like goats, chickens, dogs, coconut, citrus, oranges etc. it was rumoured that the troop had a mission to wipe out Umuechem from the map of Etche ethnic nationality because in less than no time corpses were heaped and set ablaze with tyres and flammable materials, all the houses in the community were burnt down, only two churches and a primary school were left out of the destruction, economic trees were not even spared.
The second class chief of the community HRH Eze A.A Ordu was shot in the head and belly, corpses were left to decompose on the streets, the only health center in the community did not escape the mayhem either. The people of Umuechem lost their vehicles, educational certificates, farms, household equipments, houses, garri processing plants, bicycles, motorcycles, and over hundreds of lives were either lost or declared missing. The remaining ones were turned destitute and beggars. It took two whole weeks (13th Nov, 1990) for Col. Godwin Abbe, the Rivers state military administrator to visit the community in a helicopter, he was angered by the level of destruction of lives and properties, and set up a 4-man judicial commission of enquiry headed by Rtd High Court Judge, Justice Opubo Inko- Taria, including Chief J. A. Ahiakwo, Chief Godwin Amadi and Mr. B. A. Alamina, they were to access human and material loss, make recommendations, identify all those who acted in breach of law and bring them to book. The military administrator also set up another committee to enable the state government send relief materials to displaced citizens. The police authority also visited the community on 13th of November led by DIG in charge of operation, Parry Osanyande, after his assessment of the devastation, he noted that “the extent of damage done in the community was not commensurate with the threat by the villagers, and that any of the policemen whose actions bordered on criminality would be punished, and that they are investigating the role of the police in the operation, and to determine those guilty of impropriety. It is now 24years after the unfortunate massacre in Umuechem community, nobody has been detained, arrested or punished, and no form of compensation has been paid to the people. To be more accurate in description, the community is worst of now than it were in 1990 in terms of infrastructure, social amenity, and youth employment. It is on record that the Umuechem crises happened before the 1991 Oron Bill of Right, 1994 Ogoni Bill of Right, , 1998 Kaiama Declaration, 1998 Urhobo Economic Summit, 1999 Warri Accord and 1999 Odi massacre. It is unfortunate that every other ethnic nationality involved in the initial agitation in Niger Delta Region have received adequate financial, social, political, and infrastructural compensation unless Etche why?
Com. Japhet .A. C. Ogbueri
National Leader, Etche Peoples Liberation Congress (EPLC)