Particular Reference to Nigeria’s Niger Delta
Africa is a continent of National states which were originally created by the European colonial masters mainly or only for the purpose of promoting their commercial and economic interests. This happened in 1884 when the European powers came together in Berlin Conference in order to arbitrarily divide up the African continent into single entities (which they called nations) along boundaries marked by rivers or other possible lines. By so doing people of same tribes or same cultures found themselves included in same boundaries with people of other tribes or cultures other than their own. No thought was given to possible consequences, of which we are now familiar – conflicts, wars, mass murders, mass annihilations, rape, oppression and so on. The continous and never-ending conflicts of macabre nature which we see today among African peoples are traceable to the Berlin Conference. For the reason that peoples were arbitrarily divided and were forcibly thrown under the rules of different or various European powers; old African kingdoms or hegemonies were destroyed under these new structures. Different African cultures were, therefore , forced to live under one roof, so to speak.
As the “wind of change” started blowing through Africa in the 1960’s in the wake of which many African nations gained independence from their colonial masters it was very important to note that the basis for independence for the National African states is to satisfy the wishes and wants of their colonial masters, in areas of economic and commercial considerations. So it was that any person or any peoples that were considered a threat were or are ruthlessly eliminated or annihilated. This method took different forms in different areas of the African continent. This f… has been confirmed by several Europeans themselves – (Refer “Der Spiegel” of March 19. 2007. In it, James McAvoy (28), of the Oscar winning film “The Last King Of Scotland” fame said: “Wir haben uns in Afrika viele hundert Jahre eingemischt; wir haben diesen Kontinent zugrunde gerichtet.” „We“ refers to European Powers!
The fact that African rule Africans in independent African states in which the economic interests of Europeans are served has the tendency to strengthen governments to deal with weaker, smaller tribes with violence and violation of rights for the purpose of enslavement and annihilation. What untold sufferings and death this tendency brought on Africans can only be imagined.
Nigeria is one good example. More than 250 peoples of different cultures and tongues were brought under one roof as a nation by the British only on the basis of same colour of skin. This happened in 1914 when the northern and southern British protectorates were brought under one authoritative rule under Lord Lugard, who was then the Governor General.
After independence in 1960 a few elites took over the rule of the country and the bitter and difficult ethnic differences were too obvious to be ignored. The major actors in the political scene, who were from the three major tribes, namely Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Ibo, soon were openly divided, a division that cut across members of the civil service and the military. This led to a situation whereby they started going after the throats of each other – the bloody civil war in which an estimated one million people died was the result.
Foreshadowing the cause of the civil war was the oil revenue. Oil was discovered in the Niger Delta Area of Nigeria in 1958. Shortly after independence, oil revenue increased in leaps and bounds. In order to gain control of the oil revenue, military leaders resorted to the power of the gun. One military dictator after another, and mainly from the Hausa-Fulani tribe, forcibly took over the rulership of the country.
These military dictators were nothing more than bandits accompanied by big western oil trusts, namely Shell, and their main objectives was to loot the public treasury to the extent, that every military officer became a millionaire. For the fact, that the dictators had no formal meaningful education to be able to discharge their enormous state duties, they hand-picked individuals to assist them. Together they looted the treasury. Nigerian upper-class, who were not willing to work, but were satisfied with the free oil money flowing freely to them through corrupt practices, also lend them support.
They slashed away their loots running into hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign banks without giving a thought to investing in Nigeria so that young people can benefit by way of gaining employment.
The military had nothing to offer the people of Nigeria other than violence and death. Through threats of violence they blindfolded the people and that way they held the different tribes together as one nation. Under these circumstances, the interests of the minority groups, particularly in the Niger Delta region, suffered untold hardships.
The sufferings and deaths in Nigeria’s Niger Delta will be of particular interest here. The oil exploitation carried out in Niger Delta rendered the entire region in desperate waste and pitiable desolation.
As a result of the oil exploitation land, particularly farmlands, rivers and creeks are completely and permanently contaminated with oil, the air is pestered with methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide emanating from gas flaring which has continued 24 hours a day since up to 50 years and this right near human habitations.
Acid rain, oil pipeline leakages and oil-blow-outs here left the region of Niger Delta completely in waste. High pressure pipelines criss-crossing landscapes and economically useful potions of the land.
The result of this uncontrolled environmental destruction and contamination is the complete destruction of the ecosystem of the Niger Delta. Sauna and fauna are dead. Mangrove forests die out and nypa-palms are adversely affected. The rain forests fall to the destructive axe of oil firms, wild life has disappeared, fishes are all dead, farmlands are no longer farmable for the reason of very poor or no yields because of acid rain. Fresh air is now a thing of the past. Economic crops are destroyed without any compensations.
Now the people of the Niger Delta are mainly fishermen and farmers. Entailing the environmental destruction is the fact, that millions of farmers and fishers were thrown out of their jobs – contaminated soil, dead fish.
Consequently, men are no longer able to feed their wives and children, nor are they able to send their children to school.
Added to all these, the people of the Niger Delta are politically marginalized and denied their rights, even to their lands and means of livelihood. In spite of the oil wealth of the region, the people of the Niger Delta live in the most primitive and backward conditions. They live in tattered huts in mosquito infested surroundings without electricity, potable water, hospitals, houses and schools. They are like slaves amidst their own god-given riches.
Since over 50 years there have severed cases of paid assassinations, murders, disappearances or imprisonments of people who have dared to demand rights for the people. The most prominent and well known, perhaps, is Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was a teacher in 1965 of the writer of this article – in Stella Maris College in Port Harcourt. In short, if any one raises his finger in protest he has his head cut off.
Space does not allow complete list of woes that have befallen the people Niger Delta for so long. But sufficient to mention just a few here.
Because of poverty, some people resort to bursting oil pipes to fetch oil to sell and unfortunately most lost their lives due to fire resulting from pipeline explosions.
In the little town of Apawar (inhabitants about 2000) more than half died from fire while extracting oil from a burst oil pipeline.
On the 12 th July 2000 in the town called Adeje more than 250 got burnt alife in the same way and 497 were treated for serious burns, 97 of whom later died.
Or November 20th 1999, protesting youths from the Ijow tribe killed two policemen in a town called Odi (inhabitants 25.000). As a result the Obasanjo Regime sent in mobile police and military panzers. In their trail they left many people dead, including women and children and laid all houses flat. The government prevented foreign journalists from getting there and did not allow them to interview wounded soldiers in Port Harcourt hospitals.
On April 11th 2000 in K-Dere, inhabitants were protesting against Shell building a road across community land. A boy by name Barimadua Jungle Obarako was shot dead, 5 others died later. Houses were burnt down because a police inspector was wounded. Some Ogonis were arrested and mishandled in detention.
Around march 2007 militant youths in Niger Delta kidnapped a group of Filipino seamen and held them hostage for a period of time just to draw the attention of the world community to the situation of the people in Niger Delta.
1. that all those, who are extra-legally imprisoned be set free!
2. Try those who have wasting in detention over the years!
3. End extralegal executions and mistreatment of detained persons!
4. Extralegal executions and mistreatment to be investigated!
5. Do away with Sharia courts!
6. Take drastic steps to wipe out corrupt practices!
7. Pay compensation to locals in the Niger Delta!
“Mwalimu”, refugee from Nigeria