With the discovery of crude oil in any community one would expect that developmental changes follow suit like we have seen in developed countries like Russia and U.S.A where oil boom enhanced their economy. In Nigeria's case, beginning with the discovery of crude oil in Ogoniland, oil is yet to bring any good to the land and people of the host communities. Rather than prosperity, it brought gloom and doom to the people of Ogoni, especially.
The Ogoniland comprises of three local governments in Rivers state-- the Tai, Khana and Gokhana area. Due to its proximity to the Atlantic, situated in the riverine, farming and fishing are the major occupations of the Ogonis. Ogoniland has been the site
of oil industry operations since the late 1950s and with the discovery of crude oil there were lots of expectations from natives and neighbouring communities. Unfortunately, this has now become a Nightmare.
Ogoniland has a tragic history of pollution from oil spills and oil well fires, the people could no longer indulge in their farming and fishing, which is the basic means of livelihood, because of polluted water and land. More so, the Ogonis are exposed to production hydrocarbons in outdoor air. Sometimes, drinking water at elevated concentrations. They are also exposed to health risk through dermal contacts from contaminated soil, sediments and surface water.
With the addition of the crude oil spill in Biara recently, the Ogoni people have suffered over three major spillages in five years. Consequently, this implies reduction of life expectancy, poor soil and contaminated water which endanger their lives and means of livelihood.
Hence, the boom has placed them at a gloomy corner as their positive expectation suffers setback. What then is the point of envy? What is the developmental growth rate of Ogoniland compared to Gusau, Muri or Lafia in the North? Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) was made to pay $1billion as compensation for environmental hazard and clean up, maintenance and infrastructural development. Despite that huge allocation fund, the situation only got worse.
This reality prompts us to ask a very crucial question; Who squandered that money?It is needless to ask anyway .Since corruption, misappropriation and embezzlement are the trademark of our society so why dissipate energy searching for what is resting under somebody's seat?
Ironically, the land that generates the billions of dollars that vanishes every now and then from our economy enjoys abandon and neglect from the government. Starving the hen that lay the golden egg.
I recall vividly my experience as a youth corper in Rivers State when I
walked over 200 metres into an oil spilled area in Gokhana on my way to Bonny Island where I was posted (NYSC place of primary assignment).As an eye witness myself, it dawned on me that the government is more interested in the crude and resources that they get from this area than the people. Their cry for development just sounds like the buzzing of a mosquitoes-- so irritating.
The Ogonis deserve better than the neglect that they enjoy from the government. Unless we are categorically saying that the struggle of Ken Saro Wiwa was in vain.
**Kome Agbauduta is the Co-Founder and Associate Publisher of Delta Forte Magazine; Founding Partner, KREED. His interests are Business & Politics.
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