29 December 2008

Possible fallout from the arrest of militant

Earlier today Reuters
reported the arrest of purported MEND militant Sobomabo Jackrich a.k.a. Ebri Papa as he surfaced to attend peace talks. The militant hails from Buguma, an Ijaw community in the Asari-Torlu Local Government Area of Rivers State, and was a high-ranking fighter of Soboma George’s "Outlaws", before breaking away to form his own group. Jakrich purportedly has over 40 fighters in his cantonment and had been involved in violence, and hostage-taking in the Niger Delta region of Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

We asked MEND spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, to explain what this meant for the future of the delicate ceasfire, in place since the end of the "six day oil war."

The spokesman responded by saying:

The arrest of Sobomabo Jackrich by the military during a peace parley where he was invited by a Royal Father [the Amayanabo of Buguma] is an example of the betrayal of trust by the Nigerian government which only confirms their insincerity as feared.

We are deliberating on the next line of action to take and will not rule out ending the ceasefire. It is unfortunate and that is why we have told all local commanders to refrain from having unilateral negotiations that do not have the involvement of the international mediators.

We requested further information about the "international mediators" and were told, "
We are talking to the Coventry Cathedral [... They] will be the main brokers but right now we are still working on the modalities and draft agreements."

11 December 2008

Justice postponed

Earlier this month, Chevron was found not guilty of charges that it helped the Nigerian military kill and maim supposedly non-violent protesters at one of its oil platforms in 1998. To hear it from Chevron itself, one gets a much different picture. Through various press releases, Chevron repeatedly refers to the protesters as "hostage takers" and claims that they "requested the rescue [by the Nigerian military] as a reasonable response to a dangerous invasion of the Parabe platform and, the invaders were harmed when they attacked military personnel." Needless to say, the plaintiffs, a group from the Ilaje community nearby, have vowed to appeal the decision.

Lamentably, Chevron is up to its old tricks of attacking communities demanding justice. A recent field report by Environmental Rights Action of Nigeria shares testimony that the company was involved in the shooting of unarmed protesters at its Escravos facility near Warri in Delta State.

Regardless of their guilt in a court of law, or what they say in their press releases about their investments in the region, Chevron has a clearly demonstrated record of contempt for communities in the Niger Delta. Chevron must be stopped!

10 December 2008

The Deceit Called NGOs in the Niger Delta

Written by Pemii Ben

One age-old tenet that has survived decades of adulteration and willful mitigation is this simple-sounding, yet hard-to-practice golden rule: “do unto others what you will like others to do unto you.” This rule that is enshrined in the Christians’ Holy Book-the bible- finds a deduction in the worlds of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism which is the Law of Karma. In its proper interpretation, this Law of Karma states that every cause has its effect, and what one reaps is the direct consequence of what one sows. In other words, it emphasizes the need to be considerate to others and help them in their time of need. In the Christian realm, this is usually called Christian charity. But in the secular society, it is called humanitarian aid.

Lots of people that live in the Niger Delta can shut their eyes and recite the litany of needs that plague them and how deep-biting it is when these needs are not met even as they sit in the midst of plenty, carted away to meet the needs of people elsewhere. Initially, locals of the region never knew how to confront these economic oppressors disguised as friends. When the core of this enmity was laid bare through the resulting economic strangulation, it became necessary to speak out for reprieve. This is how the late Isaac Boro spearheaded the movement for economic change in the Niger Delta. Boro was misunderstood and sent to an untimely grave by the enemies of progress.

After Boro’s death, another bleak period ensued and it looked as if the Niger Delta would perish forever under backbreaking economic deprivations. Suddenly, there was another sunrise that came in the form of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his renaissance that shook the economic oppressors to their roots. Saro-Wiwa was accused of heading a secessionist movement and his enemies plotted the death of his kinsmen in May 1994. He was accused of the murder of four of his own tribe, and he, alongside eight others, was consigned to a heartbreaking grave on November 10, 1995, against world pleas for amnesty.

Saro-Wiwa said often that his was a battle of the brain and the pen and not that of guns and machetes, but since Nigeria refused to honor a peaceful struggle, the country will eventually contend with armed struggle. Today, his prediction has come true.

The initial charge leveled against Niger Deltans was that indigenes of the region were not organized in their demands, and that they never spoke with one voice and that there was no umbrella of representation. Following this, all shades of groups arose out of nowhere, but were nothing but fronts to enrich certain individuals and their followers. Those who formed the groups that were so richly “blessed,” deemed it fit to form even more groups, coining fine names that served personal, rather than collective purposes.

Like militancy and kidnapping, the formation of Non-Governmental Organisations became an innovative and lucrative trade. The language for the struggle, as far as the proliferated NGOs are concerned, began to change to “dialogue”, “youth empowerment and employment”, “re-orientation” and most recently, “sustainable development”. These beautiful concepts were bastardized and used to serve other ends. Those who have long legs, able to traverse the corridors of power, claimed fallacious representations of sections of the entire Niger Delta, formed delegations that spoke the minds of no genuine Niger Deltan, pocketed the huge sums, and smiled all the way home with take away packages. Seeing the prosperous nature of the new strategic way of trading with the Niger Delta question, the NGO-formation trade boomed significantly and a veritable non-profit industrial complex has become entrenched in the region.

Today, top political appointees and other high-ranking civil servants fabricate all manner of names and even claim to represent non-existent NGOs. These supposed groups are conduits constructed directly to personal bank accounts. The reactions to the testimonies some of the founders of these fraudulent NGOs give in churches are baffling. People give thunderous ovations for the lies well coined, and the liars go ahead to pay tithes on this blood money to the ‘holy churches’. We only hear of the inauguration of these NGOs. The next we hear is fundraising to “enable us meet the challenges in the Niger Delta.” Immediately after the funds are collected, they disappear. The ‘generous’ ones waste some of the money collected on their siblings and package them for public presentations as the fruit of “our endeavors”. The moment such dramatic scenes happen, know that its time to collect more funds. Others simply bid farewell to the public glare after the ‘prestigious’ fundraising and make remarks like: “after all, government officials do worse things with our money!” You may not blame these ‘decent’ militants and astute kidnappers of public funds. After all, some of the government officials they talk about have perpetual apartments in 5-star hotels paid for, with public funds too.

Ironically, the aid that comes to the Niger Delta that has any true impact, comes from the Western world through credible NGOs that really know and feel at heart the pains of human agony and who know the implications of the kind of abject penury those in the Niger Delta face. These NGOs hurry to the aid of the Niger Deltans at their own expense. When some of these foreign NGOs seek government partnership to enable them reach a larger number of the suffering people, the reply in most cases, is in the negative. So the question now arises: who is really killing the Niger Deltans?

08 December 2008

Sinking to new lows

In a recent interview, JTF Brig. General Rimtip essentially confirmed that his forces had been given the go ahead to "shoot-on-sight" any suspected oil bunkers and militants. He further explained that the army would not leave the Delta until all arms had been surrendered and illegal activity ceased. This raises the question: how will the army determine who is a militant or bunkerer? If they are going to be shooting and asking questions later it seems very likely that many innocent civilians will be maimed and killed in the pursuit of these brigands. Furthermore the withdrawal of troops should be a political decision, not one made by the military itself. If the policy articulated by the general, is in fact coming from the upper echelons of the government via the Defence HQ, then it shows just how unwilling the Federal government is to negotiate the peace. If there is to be a genuine push towards lowering the violence in the Delta, then the government must stop sending mixed signals--creating commissions and ministries on one hand, and granting license-to-kill to the army for the indiscriminate destruction of communities.

24 November 2008

How Corporations and the NDDC Sponsor Militancy and Criminality in Niger Delta

Written by Pemii Ben

Once the issue of militancy, kidnapping and their attendant vices are mentioned in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, accusing fingers are pointed at abstract figures and shadows. Nobody takes responsibility for the sponsorship of this menace and its effects. More often than not, militancy and other forms of unrest in the Niger Delta are blamed on lack of job opportunities, underdevelopment, and the large scale squandering of public funds by the governments of the Niger Delta states. In as much as these are highly contributing factors and undeniable realities, one must call public attention to another source of militancy, criminality and the general state of unrest in the Niger Delta region: the corporate bodies operating in this region.

The popular claim from most oil servicing companies in the Niger Delta is that youths from the region are not employable because they lack of qualification. This is not always the truth. More importantly, how would these youths be able to fund their education when the drilling activities of these same oil companies have ruined their parents’ farmlands and destroyed aquatic life, that both served as veritable sources of income in most communities?

Furthermore, most of these oil firms do not announce available vacancies. They simply recycle such opportunities among themselves and their cronies. Thus, a visit to some of these oil firms in the region will find people from selected ethnic groups in an unconquerable majority. Once in a long while, when some of these companies announce vacancies, over ten thousand applicants fight over about twenty job openings and they are often made to pass through despicable rigors in the name of “selecting the best hand.”

If the oil firms were to be the only sector responsible for this oddity, the problem would be easier to tackle. There is the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, an interventionist agency established by Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime in 2003. From its inception several billions of naira have been expended, with no results other than fictitious projects and mass forgeries of the most disheartening caliber.

By way of concrete example, in the city of Bodo in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, Nigeria, there is a primary school building in front of the popular St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. This school was built in the days of the missionaries, but the NDDC, in its treacherous maneuvers did substandard renovation work on this school and pasted this inscription on the school building “Built by NDDC”. The funniest thing is that the said NDDC is run by indigenes of the Niger Delta who should know the plights and predicaments of their own people.

By dint of political gimmicks, there are nine’s Niger Delta states covered by the NDDC. Abia and Imo states, going by the strict yardsticks used in the assessment of the true composition of a Niger Delta, should not qualify for this inclusion. But since the Commission’s inaugural chairman, Ugochukwu Onyeman, was from Abia State, and a loyal crony of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, the state was included. Worse still, the inclusion of Abia, Imo and Ondo states in the Commission’s list was further informed by the usual pacification strategy that was aimed at pleasing the Igbo and Yoruba speaking parts of the country.

NDDC’s greatest achievement, since its inception, has been the execution of non-existent projects and poor quality renovations with a smattering of other failures spanning the length and breadth of the Niger Delta. Those who head the Commission always ask Niger Deltans to tighten their belts and be ready for action, while NDDC’s funds go into their and others’ private pockets. To perfect this fraud so as to look and sound genuine in the global market, the Commission seeks partnership with “credible” agencies which, in most cases, are owned by some of the helmsmen of the Commission. The youths who know about these pranks, of course, get restive.

But sometimes, some of these youths are “settled” and sing the praises of the Commission’s non-achievement and those of the helmsmen, which they deceptively present in the media as inviolable milestones. Should you follow legitimate procedure to push through a proposal at the Commission, you, surely, will be wasting your precious time unless you have secured the services of the most dreaded fetish priests who often disguise themselves as “Men of God” and sometimes come to the Commission for “prayer sessions.”

Once in a while, the Commission organizes what they usually call “Skill Acquisition Programmes,” which, when properly examined, are another avenue to siphon funds. After all, most of the so-called skills the youths are forced to acquire are archaic and unproductive, which is as good as having done anything. The Commission does not offer scholarship schemes of any sort. They leave the youths to ferment academically and thus become viable tools for mayhem of the most regrettable sort.

22 November 2008

Some serious problems with the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Act

"The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (Establishment) Act" is deeply flawed and provides little to no protection for environmental protection for degradation caused by the oil and gas sector. Last time we checked, the Niger Delta is still part of the Nigerian Federal Republic. If that is still the case, why then are the most pressing environmental issues facing the region completely ignored in the Federal legislation meant to protect people and the environment? We are not dealing with some corrupt politicians looking the other way while oil and gas companies pollute the region, with both making off like bandits. Instead we are talking about official, national legislation that gives these companies the right to ignore any and all standards of decency and environmental protection. This type of shoddy legislation continues the government's pattern of abuse and neglect for the Niger Delta region and only enforces the bitterness felt by so many in the creeks.

Lets take a more in depth look at the Act, which specifically exempts the oil and gas sector from nearly all provisions, allowing it to operate essentially outside of the law and any regulation. The Agency is:

- Exempted from complying with standards for hazardous materials {7(g)}
- Exempted from compliance monitoring {7(h)}
- Exempted from environmental control measures (registration, licensing and permitting) {7(j)}
- Exempted from public education on environmental issues {7(l)}

With relation to the oil and gas sector, the newly established environmental regulation agency will NOT have the power to:

- Conduct public investigations on pollution and the degradation of natural resources {8 (g)}
- Develop environmental monitoring networks at national and international levels {8 (l)}
- Research causes, effects, extent, prevention, reduction and elimination of pollution {8 (m)}
- Share information with agencies or organizations regarding the effects on the environment {8 (n)}

In the Financial Provisions section (V), the Agency, with relation to the oil and gas sector, is specifically barred from:

- Making regulations on effluent limitations, on existing and new point sources, for the protection of human, animal, marine and plant life {24 (3)}
- Co-operating with Government agencies for the removal of any pollutants discharged into the Nigerian environment {29}

20 November 2008

JTF to Militants: Surrender Arms IF You’re Sincere

Written by Pemii Ben

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary, the evil it does is permanent.”

Those who have been following the trend in the Niger Delta in recent years would be the first to admit that it has become more and more of a bloodbath, not because of any declaration of a Civil War, but because of the armed struggle aimed at the economic emancipation of the region. This was, ab initio, spearheaded by Alhaji Muhajid Asari Dokubo’s Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), an armed militant group that claimed to have as its mission, the economic salvation of the Niger Delta region. Other groups soon sprang up following incessant disagreements in the mother group.

Initially, these militant groups and their acclaimed missions enjoyed a free rein in the region, having no restrictions or counter attacks from any quarters, save those of rival groups. Several innocent lives were lost and property worth billions of naira went down the drain. When the Federal Government eventually talked sense into Asari and the groups loyal to him, he found reasons to, at least at face value, “surrender” his arms and convinced his boys to do same.

Also on the prowl was the physically challenged Ateke Tom of the Niger
Delta Vigilante along with splinter groups, such as the Niger Delta Patriotic Force (NDPF). These groups seemed to find no reason to accept dialogue. To Ateke and his associates, the creeks seemed to have been the friendliest habitation. This, besides earlier provocations, ignited the use of military might to curb the menace.

The initial military intervention seemed as if nothing much was achievable in the face of the growing militancy, especially when the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) came on board. The tension increased and every movement of unknown persons was doubly checked with maximum suspicion and closer watch.

In all this, lots of blames were laid on the Federal Government whom many said lacked the political will to tackle the problem. Imbued, in some backwards way, with a will to solve the Niger Delta problem, military might was released in full force to combat militancy. Since then, the clash of the Titans had raged on.

Several years into the epic struggle of military versus militants’, yours truly ran into Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, the spokesman for the Joint Military Task Force. Assessing the situation, the JTF spokesman said “it’s nothing unusual, from time-to-time we do have clashes with militants. We are doing our job with the needed commitment, just the way it should be done.” He noted that here are some who, for the sake of personal gain, dislike “the good job we are doing, but that does not deter us.”

Sometimes in the recent past, rumors were rife that some military personnel were behind the recruitment and training of militants. Lt. Col. Sagir Musa said “I have not heard of that allegation. It is just a claim which has to be proven. I have not heard any case of that.”

Those with diligent observational prowess will also notice that militancy activities are concentrated in Rivers, Bayelsa, and Delta States. This gives the impression that the other Niger Delta States where militancy activities are not felt do not need the much trumpeted economic deliverance. Commenting on this, the JTF Spokesman said in those states where militancy activities are rife, “we are doing our best so that everything does not degenerate into a breakdown of law and order.”

There have been allegations against the JTF that in the course of their operations against militants, some innocent civilians were sent to their early graves. Not mincing words about the allegation, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa said “it is not true. It is sheer propaganda from militants.” He gave an instance of other such propaganda when the militants had said they killed over 20 soldiers, a thing that was promptly reported by the media, which, according to the JTF spokesman, was false. This also applies to regular claims by militants of blowing up oil installations, he said.

It would be difficult to believe that in their fight against militants and their activities, the military would have had their battalion intact without the loss of some men at the hands of the militants. The common expectation is that the military is bound to record some casualties in spite of their professional proficiency. Lt. Col. Sagir Musa agrees with this point but stated that the military has lost about 2 to 3 men, quite contrary to the “propaganda of the militants. There is no need for us to hide those killed on our side” he added. He emphatically stated that in the recent resurgence in some parts of Rivers State where he is based, there were no casualties on the part of the military but for an officer who sustained injuries and who will soon be discharged from the hospital where he is receiving treatment.

The recent declaration of a unilateral cease-fire by the militants is one thing that has gladdened the hearts of many. But then, the JTF spokesman said “the issue of cease-fire does not arise because we are not at war. At the JTF level, we will continue to do our job, monitor the situation, and wherever our men are, they should be at maximum alert. Our mandate is to ensure that an enabling environment is created for all law-abiding citizens to go about their legitimate businesses and we will not shy away from that responsibility. If MEND really means what it calls a cease-fire, then they should surrender their arms.”

Some critics have slammed the military option used to tackle the menace of militancy in the Niger Delta, while Lt. Col. Sagir Musa respects these opinions, he stressed that besides the military option, there has to be the political will to tackle the problems of the region, and with it, economic empowerment of the youths, holistic development of the region, functional education and health systems, among others, should be given priority. The JTF Spokesman stressed that religious leaders have profound roles to play in the fight against militancy. In his words: “the religious leaders must continue to expose the fallacy of a life of militancy.”

Africa is credited with a maintaining respect for elders, a thing that accounts for the survival of the traditional stool, not only in Nigeria, but in the Niger Delta as well. For this reason “our traditional leaders must condemn militancy,” as well as those Leaders of Thought whose voices cut beyond frontiers. “The entire society,” said Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, “should rise in total condemnation of the menace of militancy.” “This is the solution to the Niger Delta crisis.” By deduction, the JTF spokesman affirms the creation of the Niger Delta Ministry, which he noted could bring about development in concrete terms.

In spite of all odds, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa expressed complete confidence that the situation in the Niger Delta is under control. He however regretted the fact the media have succumbed to the propaganda of the militants especially those of MEND whose email, he said, the media swallow hook, nail and sinker. In any case, he acknowledged that alertness should be encyclopedic, leaving no room for miscreants to capitalize on.

It has been rumored in the media and in some other quarters that some 1,000 soldiers are on their way to the Niger Delta to beef up security on the ground. To this allegation, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa said, “it’s not true. There is no such intention. What we have on ground is enough to deal with the situation. With recent happenings, it is clear that militancy has come to an end. They did not stop at the so-called unilateral cease-fire, but they sent emissaries to Abuja asking for the dialogue they had initially turned down. I keep saying that nobody or group of individuals is beyond the capabilities of the Nigerian Army. Militancy is an in-house crisis and so we are managing it.” The JTF spokesman reminds the militants by way of advice that there is no option better than peace and so everyone should remain law-abiding and peaceful.

19 November 2008

Bad couple of weeks for Chevron

These last couple months have been quite problematic for Chevron. This week the company declared force majeure on 90,000 barrels per day of Nigerian oil exports following the sabotage of a main supply pipeline to its Escravos export terminal. In addition to its economic woes, the company's public image is in jeopardy due to the opening of the damages trial in U.S. District court in the "Bowoto v. Chevron" case. The case is a reaction to events during May 1998, when unarmed residents of the Niger Delta protested at the company's offshore Parabe platform, demanding that the corporation contribute more resources to the development of the area, and were met with violent opposition from the Nigerian military and Chevron security, resulting in the maiming and death of protesters. The suit further attempts to implicate Chevron in gross violation of environmental standards leading to the destruction of ecosystems, and land erosion.

Clearly, Chevron is beginning to lose credibility with respect to its dealings in Nigeria. At what point do the international community and Delta communities begin to lump Chevron with other nefarious companies like Shell and demand openly or through continued sabotage, that they quit the region?

13 October 2008

MEND denies plans to meet with Technical Committee

There seems to be a breakdown, once again, of communication between government envoys and Delta militants. In an article published today in The Punch newspaper, a source close to the coordinator of the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta said the sub-committee for Conflict, Militancy and Demobilisation of said body will be engaging militant groups such as the MEND and NDPVF at a meeting in Oporoza, Delta State.

Hours later, Spokesperson Jomo Gbomo of the Movement for the Emancipation a statement via email distancing the group from the proposed meeting.

"MEND can confirm that non of its bona fide members or leaders will be participating in that meeting. Any person or group that purports to represent MEND in that gathering should be regarded as imposters and fraudsters. Instead, we advice the technical committee to meet with Henry Okah who they can access for discussions on the way towards genuine peace and reconciliations. Henry Okah's position after such a meeting will be binding on us."

Although the hope was that MOSOP member Ledum Mitee would have some weight with Delta militants, it seems like no matter what the government throws at the militants, they are unwilling to sit down and talk. It is hard to blame them. For meaningful talks to happen, preconditions are generally necessary and those have certainly not been met. There continues to exist a state of heavy military repression in the Niger Delta and one of the MEND's key demands: fair treatment for Henry Okah, has been ignored for months.

27 September 2008

Terrible coverage

Recent coverage of the situation in the Niger Delta has been particularly lacking.

On September 25th, the BBC published an article on its website claiming a mass arrest of over 200 militants. The article has no author and the only source is the "military commander in Rivers state." There are no photos, no request for a response from militant spokespeople, nothing.

In response to this rumor, nigerdeltaunrest asked MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo to verify or deny the BBC's claims. He responded by saying, "it is one big lie!" He went on to say, "MEND is disappointed that the BBC would report a one sided story of an event that has two sides in the conflict. They [the BBC] have access to us through this medium so we are surprised they chose not to."

We also pressed Mr. Gbomo for a response to yet more rumors that the Nigerian military is building up arms for an imminent attack on militant positions. Here is his response from earlier today:

"We do not believe that story about the military amassing helicopters and gunboats for an invasion. It is a joke over here for us. What makes the military believe that an oil war can be won by such conventional methods that did not work for the Americans in Vietnam or Somalia. We do not have fixed positions the way the Germans had in Normandy and besides the only way mosquitoes can be eradicated is by chemical weapons and this they can not use. We are mosquitoes."

19 September 2008

MEND to begin documenting activities

"Hurricane Barbarossa" as the MEND calls its recent wave of intense attacks on oil and military installations--in response to recent repressive government incursions in creek communities--has proven once again that there is no coherent system for visually documenting the human rights abuses in the Niger Delta.

It seems that the MEND has finally come around to recognize the importance of images as part of their larger struggle. As an excerpt from a recent communique states:

"If the Nigerian military is confident of its capabilities, let them be bold to take journalists and photographers to Orubiri to assess by themselves the aftermath of Barbarossa. We will henceforth begin documenting our raids by providing digital cameras and camcorders for each fighting unit."

This is good news for all of us who, in solidarity, wish to show the world the consequences of allowing the current government-industry cabal in Nigeria to operate unseen and unchecked.

11 September 2008

Not another ministry

On Wednesday, Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua announced plans for the creation of a ministry dedicated solely to the Niger Delta that will focus on development and youth empowerment. This move comes amid a wholesale restructuring of the governments federal ministries and on the heels of the announcement of a 40 member panel, the so-called "Niger Delta Peace Committee," to begin a "dialogue" about how to resolve the conflict in the area. These two new revelations have risen out of the ashes of the failed Niger Delta Summit, which was roundly criticized and ultimately scrapped over the summer.

What is the government playing at here? The names have changed but the insincerity remains. Layering more levels of bureaucracy on top of a nearly incomprehensible system of existing commissions, development entitities, and so on, is absurd. If pre-existing entities like the NDDC don't work, and this is the message from Abuja when they anounce plans to create redundant structures, why do they still exist? In its attempt to appear concerned and keep busy on the issues of the Niger Delta, the Nigerian government has once again come off looking foolish.

05 September 2008

MEND statement regarding the Niger Delta Peace Commitee

Issued on Friday, September 5th, 2008, by Jomo Gbomo

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) considers the 40-man Niger Delta Peace Committee which is scheduled to be inaugurated in Abuja on Monday, September 8, 2008 as the appetizer on the menu of another banquet of deceit orchestrated by an insincere government to give it a semblance of integrity.

Without the release of Henry Okah, no right thinking militant that has evaded capture can trust that the government wants genuine peace. Treating those in its custody differently from those that are in the creek is sheer hypocrisy. Henry Okah must be a part of the process and not an agenda for debate.

MEND therefore dissociates itself from this peace committee and can assure them that without putting the horse before the cart, they are bound to fail as the Gambari led one before it. Peace in the Niger Delta will be determined from the mangrove creeks and not from air-conditioned rooms in Abuja.

13 August 2008

The problem with 50%

Akwa Ibom based NGO, Community Watch of Nigeria, called for 50% of oil revenues to be shared with the Niger Delta as a possible solution to the conflict there (read article here).

All of this is well and good, but it seems like routing more money through corrupt agencies or state or local governments will merely increase the chaos. Yes the Niger Delta deserves its fair share of revenues, but how do you ensure that the money actually benefits the residents of the area, rather than further enriching a governor or local elite?

The term "resource curse" exists for a reason, and the Niger Delta is a classic example. More money flowing into the Delta simply means more to steal, and further instability.

11 August 2008

What happened in Agge?

As we all know the community of Agge, in Bayelsa state, was hit pretty hard by a JTF raid recently. Most recent tallies say that over 1000 have been displaced and the whereabouts of another 30 are unknown. Rather than commenting on these events, which are outrageous and shameful, it seems necessary to bring something else to light.

While the local print media in the Delta does a commendable job covering the ongoing strife in the Delta, it remains nearly impossible to find reliable photographs on anything that is going on. Attacks on communities by the Nigerian military or police must be made public beyond Nigeria's shores. This very infrequently happens. There is international coverage for militants who attack installations, but when the government hits back, in typical cowardly fashion against unarmed communities, nothing appears.

This lack of coverage and attention to human rights abuses is caused by two factors: one, it is difficult and dangerous to get images out of the Delta. In a personal correspondence with a MEND spokesperson months back, prodding them to be more savvy about how they use images, Jomo Gbomo responded with the following: "We are trying to develop a team to take pictures and video coverage of events happening down there. We try to be extremely cautious because being caught with a camera is a death sentence."
Is it more of a death sentence than being caught with a rifle? There are countless other groups that rely heavily on using images to promote their cause, surely we can find a way to do so in the Niger Delta. Furthermore, there must be a more concerted effort on behalf of activists and militants to get images of these abuses out into the world.

The second factor is a bit more complicated, but it seems like the "struggle" doesn't really understand - or the ideas are not privileged sufficiently - how to use such atrocities to build moral advantage. Clearly there are individuals and groups fighting for justice in the Niger Delta, but when something like that in Agge happens, these groups must come together and denounce the actions of the government as a unified front. So far the recent crisis in the Niger Delta has been cast as being primarily about economics; about how many barrels have been knocked out, about how much the republic has lost in revenues, etc. How about we start counting how many people have been killed in the conflict since 2006? The protection of the populace must become a leading edge for the militants and activists, and they must figure out a way to convey it more effectively.

03 August 2008

One way to disarm the delta

It seems that the Nigerian police apparatus has become reticent to restock its riverine police stations with arms (read article here). Militants have been so persistent at attacking and looting police armories that most local commanders now feel a strong dis-incentive to restock. Apparently, they feel that restocking will draw the attention, and fresh attacks, of militants.

What all this shows is a weakness on behalf of the state. This weakness, evident to all will probably have a positive and negative outcome. On the positive side, the fewer violent contacts between local police and militants, the better for the overall population. If the police are unarmed and afraid, they will be less likely, at least in theory, to pester and harass the local population. Unfortunately, when a police system fails, it tends to be replaced by a strategy of militarization. This has been the case in the Niger Delta, and will probably continue to be for some time.

Perhaps the militants will find a way to disarm the army as well...

17 July 2008

Another Vietnam?

What is all this talk of Britain sending "advisers" to the Niger Delta? What is all this talk from the Nigerian President about "Blood Oil"?

At the most recent G8 summit in Japan the President Yar'Adua reached out to Gordon Brown to ask for assistance in quelling the violence in the Niger Delta, and creating an orderly environment for the oil industry. His requests were quickly answered by the UK leader. That government will be sending "a training and advisory support package which could help improve Nigerian capability to improve security in the Delta." In other words, military advisers. Last I remembered, this usually constitutes and connotes some sort of shadowy counter-insurgency force.

Nevertheless, Yar'Adua confirmed to his UK counterparts, "his commitment to a peace process in the Niger Delta, which addresses the need for reconciliation between all parties and can deliver improved developments across the region."

How can this be possible when you are attempting to further militarize the Delta? How can a Nigerian president allow the British, of all people, former colonizers and exploiters of the country, to come in and "protect" natural resources? This is disgraceful. We all know what this military advice is about, and Mr. Brown even said it himself when he stated, "the security arrangements that we're discussing to be done jointly are very important to the future not just of Nigeria and peace there but also to the world energy market."

While Yar'Adua was at the G8 summit, he also urged the world community to create a vetting system, similar for that which exists for African diamonds, to ensure that oil coming from Nigeria is not the product of bunkering or hijacking. Putting the words Blood and Oil next to one another seems to be a pretty fitting description of the entire oil industry in Nigeria since its inception. People are dying in the Niger Delta, whether directly or indirectly, not because of the insurgency but because of militarization and environmental degradation. All of the oil from the Niger Delta is "Blood Oil", not just that which has been bunkered and illegally sold.

Once the UK arrives with its "advisers" there is going to be quite a bit more blood in Nigeria's oil. We must demand that this stop immediately.

reference articles

10 July 2008

MEND to lift ceasefire due to British PM statements

In a communique issued early this morning, the MEND called off its most recent ceasefire and strongly criticized British PM Gordon Brown, for his offer of support to Nigeria. The Prime Minister is quoted as saying, "We stand ready to give help to the Nigerians to deal with lawlessness that exists in this area and to achieve the levels of production that Nigeria is capable of, but because of the law and order problems has not been able to achieve." While those around Mr. Brown are denying that Britain means to supply military support, it does not seem outside the realm of possibility, considering that one of the major oil players in the Delta is Royal Dutch Shell, a partly British company. That company has lost hundreds of thousands of barrels of output over the last two years and increasingly since April. It also now appears that the sham peace summit is even more unlikely since UN Under-Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari, who was strongly criticized by most in the Niger Delta, has decided not to participate. There is no peace summit. There is no peace. It seems fairly reasonable, for lack of any other viable option from their point of view, that Britain will support its interests quietly through military support to Abuja. This will only mean more violence and chaos in the Delta.


The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) wishes to sound a stern warning to the British Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown over his recent statement offering to provide military support to the illegal government of Umaru Yar'Adua in further oppressing the impoverished people of the Niger Delta.

To demonstrate our seriousness to the UK support of an injustice, MEND will be calling off its unilateral ceasefire with effect from midnight, saturday July 12, 2008.

Mr Yar'Adua in a fraudulent appeal to the G8 leaders in Japan, misled the international community into believing that the unrest and agitation in the region is due to oil theft which encourages "blood oil".

The international community and independent researchers are very well aware that the unrest in the region is as a result of over five decades of oil exploration that has developed other parts of Nigeria to the detriment of the environment and people of the Niger Delta.

The United Kingdom is part of this problem with the politics it played pre- independence that gave leverage to some sections of the country which has helped in marginalizing and exploiting the region today.

Should Gordon Brown make good his threat to support this criminality for the sake of oil, UK citizens and interests in Nigeria will suffer the consequences.

Jomo Gbomo

04 July 2008

Increased attention in the media

Read the story "One Reason Gas Is Emptying Your Wallet: Nigeria", from this past Sunday's New York Times. Although the story doesn't pierce beyond the surface issues, it is a reasonably good sign that people are beginning to pay attention to what is happening in the Delta. If we wish to see justice there, it will be up to activists and others to begin framing the issues in such a way as to spur international support and continue weakening the legitimacy of the regime.

27 June 2008

Chevron declares Force Majeure

Following recent attacks and a strike by Chevron's Nigeria staff, the oil giant declared force majeure on oil deliveries. Chevron is the second major oil company forced to break its contractual obligations due to targeted attacks by militants. The situation with employees on strike is also something to keep an eye, because it amplifies the actions of youth in the creeks.


19 June 2008

Offshore attack shows tactical sophistication

A communique from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta:

On Thursday, June 19, 2008, at 0045 Hrs, gallant fighters from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) overran the supposedly fortified Bonga offshore oil fields operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company. The main computerized control room responsible for coordinating the entire crude oil export operations from the fields was our main target. Our detonation engineers could not gain access to blow it up but decided against smoking out the occupants by burning down the facility to avoid loss of life.

However, our next visit will be different as the facility will not be spared. We therefore ask all workers in the Bonga fields to evacuate for their safety as the military can not protect them. In order that the Nigerian military does not pass off this humiliating breach as another "accident", an American, Captain Jack Stone from an oil services company, Tidex has been captured. This man was supposed to only be released in exchange for all Niger Delta hostages being held in northern Nigeria by the Nigerian government. Because the criminals in the government and state security want to use this opportunity to make money from ransom, we have decided he will be released in the coming hours.

The location for today's attack was deliberately chosen to remove any notion that off-shore oil exploration is far from our reach. The oil companies and their collaborators do not have any place to hide in conducting their nefarious activities. We use this opportunity to ask the oil majors to evacuate their expatriate staff from Nigeria until the issues in the Niger Delta have been addressed and resolved. Oil and gas tankers are also warned to avoid Nigerian waters. They stand the risk of laden crude oil or natural gas tankers being attacked.

Jomo Gbomo

reference article here: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_resources/article4171039.ece

18 June 2008

Amnesty for Militants being offered

This posture from the Federal Government, although ridiculous without a goodfaith attempt to ameloriate the situation in the creeks, is at least better than earlier proposals to hire restive youths to police the swamps.

For references, see these two articles:

17 June 2008

Mainstream coverage

Time magazine ran an article at the end of May called "The Nigerian Rebel Who 'Taxes' Your Gasoline". The article itself is nothing special, although framing the issues in the context of the impact on global oil prices is important and should be further investigated. While mainstream coverage is welcomed, the glaring absence of any commentary about rethinking energy truly boggles the mind.

11 June 2008

New book about Niger Delta

National Geographic contributor and photographer Ed Kashi was interviewed today on the radio program the world, introducing his new book, Curse of the Black Gold. I have seen the proofs, and this books is really high quality.

Slowly, there begins to be more coverage of the issue...

Listen to the interview with photographer Ed Kashi:

09 June 2008

What is MOSOP thinking?

AFP recently reported that the President of Nigeria, Umaru Yar'Adua, would replace oil giant Shell as an operator in Ogoniland. This represents the first steps in 15 to resuming oil production in this part of the Niger Delta. While acknowledging Shell's horrid activities of the past is a good first step by the government, it is surprising to hear how eager the Ogoni and MOSOP are to have ANY oil company operating in their lands.

Oil extraction, especially in Nigeria, is a messy and dangerous process, that in all instances has brought with it misery and degradation. Why would a new operator in Ogoni be any different?Simply because they are not Shell? As MOSOP states, it will "seek to play a constructive and leading role in the debate over what will be required of an oil operator to win the confidence of our communities and provide a groundbreaking positive model for the Niger Delta." Maybe the groundbreaking model should be one that respects the gains of the past and tells the oil companies, no matter under what banner, "You are not welcome here!"

Okah's lawyer attempts to tie arms trafficking to Shell and FGN

Today, lead council for Mr. Henry Okah, detained Niger Delta activist, sent a letter to Nigeria's Inspector General of Police to request official copies of communications from 1994 between Shell and the government, allowing the multinational to import arms into the Niger Delta. As detailed in the letter, Mr. Okah is being charged with various crimes including the importation and distribution of various armaments, amounting to treason against the Nigerian Government. It seems Okah's lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, is attempting to prove that the Nigerian Army, with the consent of the Federal Government, has been likewise at the heart of flooding the Niger Delta with arms and creating an environment of instability and social chaos.

Here is the letter:

June 9, 2008

The Inspector-General of Police,
Police Headquarters,
Louis Edet House,


We are Solicitors to Henry Okah who is currently standing trial for treason, treasonable felony and related offences at the Federal High Court.

Specifically, our client is alleged to have committed treason by providing “250,000 assault rifles, General Purpose Machine Guns, Rocket Propelled Launchers/Canisters, Bazookas and assorted ammunition to armed groups” in the Niger Delta to levy war against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

However, in the course of preparing our client’s defence we traced the proliferation of arms and ammunition in the Niger Delta to the Nigerian Army and The Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Limited.

In the circumstances, we hereby apply for a Certified True Copy of the Approval dated 20th July 1994 given to The Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Limited to import arms and ammunition to the Niger Delta.

It is hoped that this application will be favourably considered having regard to Section 36(6) of the Constitution which provides that every person charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled to be given “adequate time and facilities required for the preparation of his defence”.

Kindly find attached the relevant documents on the matter.

Yours sincerely,


05 June 2008

Act locally, act globally: making the oil companies think twice

Yesterday, Total, the French oil group raised the possibility of pulling out of the Niger Delta. This follows the continued "force majeure" status on Royal Dutch/Shell delivery of sweet crude in effect since the end of April. Clearly, the consequences of attacks and kidnappings by militants are being felt by oil majors and consumers at the pump.

The actions in the Niger Delta represents, among other things, represent an important strategy in the global effort to stop climate change? Although, locally militant actions are more focused on putting pressure on the government to allocate more resources to the empoverished area, they should also galvanize some international support from those thinking realistically about global warming and how to stop it.

For those of us who feel our survival is intimately related to what happens to the global environment, how do we imagine that the carbon economy is going to come to end? Reason and scientific proof are not enough to dissuade politicians and their business cronies to simply abandon oil. Furthermore, the common wisdom of how to regulate the current system is to slowly wean the world off petroleum through a series of free-market measures. Perhaps those will have some affect, but the great weakness here is that they uphold the consumer-capitalist hierarchy and essentially reinforce the doctrine of "consumption at all costs".

While it might seem that the crisis in the Delta is helping to enrich oil companies and corrupt politicians, this is only a short-term compromise. If those of us with a more radical streak unite behind local struggles that are having a true impact on weakening a system that profits from the destruction of the earth and its inhabitants, then we may have a chance at redemption after all.

*Article reference:


For too long the issues and challenges facing the Niger Delta and its people have been left by the wayside. It is high time that people everywhere take notice.

We hope this temporary blog will serve as a gathering point for those interested in finding out more about the struggle for justice in the Niger Delta of Nigeria and how to get involved. In the near future, we will be launching a comprehensive website that we hope can be an even greater resource