The disharmony between Nigeria and the Ogoni people over oil may be a familiar terrain, the recent and heightened security situation in Ogoniland may no longer be news. But what may not be well known is how the Nigerian government significantly contributed to the current insecurity involving armed bandits in Ogoni.
In the past one month, I have toured all parts of Ogoniland. From Nyokhana, to Ken-Khana, Gokana, Bori special area, Tai, Eleme and Ban Ogoi special area. Despite the largely inflated insecurity problem, it was glaring that there was little, insignificant Police presence in the Ogoni.
Disturbed by this observation, I had to do some checks and found out that the Police was incapacitated. Consider these findings:
Khana local government with headquarter in Bori, which is also the largest local government in Rivers State, has just one police station which is older than independent Nigeria. Records show that it was originally built as the “Queen’s Prison” and later became a Police Station.
The Bori police station does not have a single functional patrol van and there are less than 200 men on ground to police the area.
Bori also serves as the headquarter for the entire Rivers South-East senatorial district covering seven local government areas – Oyigbo, Khana, Gokana, Andoni, Opobo-Nkoro, Eleme and Tai.
Gokana, Tai and Eleme, the other 3 local government areas within Ogoniland have just one Police stations each. Gokana LGA has 17 communities and Eleme has 10.
Given these facts, It can easily be concluded that government failures created room for bandits to operate freely within Ogoni. So the situation is not that the Police has been overwhelmed by bandits but that they have been incapacitated by the government which has failed to provide the required logistics.
I accuse the government of creating the security problem in Ogoni giving room for armed bandits to easily invade the area. It is my conviction that the deplorable security situation in Ogoni is a continuation of what had become a policy of neglect for the Ogoni in Nigeria.
We have always known that Ogoni’s refusal to permit oil exploitation on her soil has earned her great hate from the government and the multinational oil company – Shell. This culminated in the 1995 hangings. The neglect and hate has now become very visible on her infrastructure, health of her people and her very future. One strategy of government to crush the Ogoni resistance and resume oil operations in the area had been to use the military against us and the activities of armed bandits in Ogoni has now been used as excuse to call in the military to Ogoni. There appears to me a conspiracy.
Today, some have played into the hands of those who have deliberately masterminded the security problem, calling for a military solution. But the reality is that Ogoni is not at war and will not require a military occupation to deal with the excesses of young people.
I recommend three measures to be adopted immediately to solve this problem:
Firstly, the government must as a matter of urgency increase Police presence in Ogoni, equipping them with the facilities necessary to function. If the Nigerian government can deploy 28,000 police officers to conduct elections in Ogoni, then it should be able to immediately increase Police presence with required logistics in the area to curb the excesses of young people.
Secondly, the Police will require support from the Ogoni community to effectively address the problem. In this regard, I think the government can organize some young Ogonis involved in its amnesty programme and effectively utilize them to provide intelligence for the Police.
The government currently pays some Ogoni youths under the federal government amnesty programme. It will be good to organize these youths into the intelligence arm of the Police, Organizing them into an intelligence team will mean making them truly productive while giving them greater responsibility for the security of their communities.
Thirdly, government must investigate the sources of small arms flow into Ogoni. I am convinced that the recent arms flow into Ogoni is a direct fallout of the recent, very bloody, elections held between 2015 and 2016. Our politicians must therefore be kept under close watch because they are certainly a part of the problem. Unfortunately, we focus on the bandits but not on the politicians.
I am confident that these three suggestions will guarantee the effectiveness of the Police in Ogoni and address what has appeared to be a daunting security problem. I am also confident that this model will be helpful in improving the security situation in the entire Niger Delta.
This post is the opinion of Fegalo Nsuke, Publicity Secretary of The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). He wrote from Bori, Ogoniland.