The sneaky moves by a company that is not wanted in Ogoni, Sahara Energy, to force its way into Ogoni through an NPDC anuction of OML 11 oilfields for a paltry $250 million does not only signal a potentially heartless decimation of the Ogoni nation just to satisfy a political hunger for oil money at the expense of the people’s safety and security but also exposes a system of political patronage that has limited social benefits derivable from our enormous oil endowments and benefited just the ruling class and their cronies.
This move, seemingly an attempt to manipulate the parliament, engenders a more brutal genocidal campaign against the Ogoni people by a system that has struggled to sustain an unfair resource allocation at the detriment of its people, a system that has used and continue to use its military might to subvert the wishes of the people rather than deploying dialogue to achieve mutually beneficial deals that serves the interest of all parties including the government, the oil industry and the society.
Despite the people’s vocal opposition to Sahara Energy, a company with strong links to the powers that be, the Nigerian parliament was in December 2022 asked to approve the auction of the Ogoni oilfields for a paltry $250million to Sahara , a company that has utterly disregarded the complaints and concerns of the people, a company with no known history of oil drilling, no capacity to manage community interests and one that have strong strong tendencies to rely on brute force of the Nigerian military to achieve its goals.
Sahara Energy has proven to us that it can be worse than Shell whose 35 years of active oil production in Ogoni left the environment desolate. But at least, Shell did not start on such a controversial note that brazingly potends conflicts ab initio. Shell did not show any intention to deploy the strength of the Nigerian state against the people and display brazen disregard for the wishes of the people. At least, Shell gave hope but failed by its double standards when it started destroying the Ogoni environment in disregard to the standards it upholds in its home country.
Obviously, Sahara Energy does not understand the tenets of business, the importance of relationships in business and does not seem to care about its reputation. I am wondering how many thousand Ogonis Sahara Energy can kill or are willing to kill to enter Ogoni and secure its stay. Shell killed some 4,000 Ogonis between 1992 and 1999 and still could not stay. Sahara in the character we have seen so far may be willing to kill more. And like Shell, the peoples resistance and wishes will ultimately prevail to keep them far from Ogoni.
Ogoni’s Proposals to Resolve the Conflicts
There is no doubt that the Ogoni issue is one of Nigeria’s many miscalculations. But the situation is not hopeless. As a people, the Ogoni have, and will continue to push our commitment to the resolution of the problem. Our goal has been to see that our natural endowments benefit not just the oil industry and government but also directly builds a future for the Ogoni people. We deeply feel estranged from the Nigerian system to see our resources used to build Lagos, Abuja, Enugu and all of Nigeria while Ogoni lacks education, electricity and all other necessary infrastructure.
To address this huge gap and win a sustainable resolution of the conflicts, we have proposed the operation of an Ogoni Development Authority. The details of this have been well documented and presented to the federal government. We have made this proposal in good faith believing that it does not deprive other ethnic nationalities their rights to development but will serve as a framework to resolve the Ogoni problem and further enhance development in the larger Nigerian society given the enormous revenue that will be injected from Ogoni’s oil and gas sales.
Sahara’s Pressure is Real Threat to the Peace of the Niger Delta Region
Nigeria cannot pretend to be ignorant of the dangers posed by Sahara Energy’s pressures on Ogoni as the rest of the Niger Delta watches on. If history has any lessons for us, how the Niger Delta will respond will depend on how the Nigerian government treats the Ogoni people. One does not need an expert to know that whatever happens in Ogoni is being watched from the rest of the Niger Delta and around the world and there is a possibility of an escalation given the usual solidaridarity the Niger Delta will give to the Ogoni people..Let’s not deceive ourselves, dialogue is best option to resolve an endemic conflict like that which has existed between the Ogoni and the Nigerian oil industry. The starting point in this instance is to know and uphold the fact that Sahara is a real danger to national security at this time and not needed in Ogoni.
Natural Resources Should Not be a Curse
The oil block is called OML 11 and it refers to the Ogoni oilfields. Nigeria uses the abbreviation OML (Oil Mining Lease) to refer to its oil blocks. This allows contracts to be signed and the blocks to be allocated even without the knowledge of its traditional owners.
The Ogoni fields have an optimal capacity to produce in excess of 1,000,000 barrels per day and have an abundance of gas deposits. In fact, Ogoni is actually a gas field with some oil. It is the reason Shell Petroleum Development Company, Nigeria’s subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC was willing to kill all Ogonis to retain its operatorship of the block. Shell funded a military repression against the Ogoni and between 1993 and 1999, some 4,000 Ogonis were killed in state-backed repression.
Sahara Energy, a company with strong links to Nigeria’s power house wants to repeat the same thing. Sneaking into the Nigerian parliament to seek an authorization to commence production in the fields without any consideration for the people. Of course, knowledgeable about the history of conflicts in the region and the prevailing death rates caused by massive pollution in the past, common sense should tell Sahara Energy that the Ogoni people need no further pressures at this time. But Sahara will be counting on the strength of the state and hopes to use it to its fullest to forcefully commence oil production in Ogoni.
Ogoni Must Arise, Work for Peace and Stop The Threat Sahara Represents
In case there are any Ogoni people out there who have underestimated the intentions of Sahara, this is a wake up call to stand for justice for the Ogoni.
Whether you live in London, Dublin, the United States, Europe and anywhere else, its time to let the world know of the dangers Sahara Energy poses to the safety of our people and the need to raise global awreness against plots of another genocide.
MOSOP will want to state unequivocally that our consent has not been sought and we remain strongly opposed to any moves by Sahara Energy to enter Ogoni for oil production against our wishes.
To Sahara Energy, we will sound very clear that you will never escape justice for every crime of terror on Ogoni. The Ogoni people have a very long memory and the torture and killings of the 1990s are still fresh on our minds. We are never so quick to forget and forgive those who kill, oppress us and rape our women. We will explore all possibilities to hold every single individual who inflict terror on our people to account and we will neither be so quick to forget nor forgive their crimes until all those who are culpable are brought to justice.
To all Ogonis, I will repeat the words of Ken Saro-Wiwa to you:
“I call upon the Ogoni people, the peoples of the Niger delta, and the oppressed ethnic minorities of Nigeria to stand up now and fight fearlessly and peacefully for their rights. History is on their side. God is on their side. For the Holy Quran says in Sura 42, verse 41: ‘All those that fight when oppressed incur no guilt, but Allah shall punish the oppressor.’ Come the day.”
Fegalo Nsuke is president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). He wrote from Bori, Ogoni, Nigeria.