The Rainbow Watch and Development Centre, a non-governmental organization known for the campaign for social justice in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, has received with displeasure the recommendation of Nigeria's Environment Minister that over 3000 soldiers be deployed to the oil devastated Ogoniland before the proposed commencement of environmental remediation of the area.
The proposed militarization is believed not to be unconnected with the planned resumption of oil activities in the area by Anglo-Dutch Oil Company – Shell, and a plot to forcefully rig the 2019 general election in the area considering the dissatisfaction of the people with the delay of the implementation of the UNEP report, lack of political will, and show of insincerity by the federal government. The group recalled that a similar incident played out in the early 1990's when the militarization of Ogoniland as recommended by the then Major Paul Okuntimo led Internal Security Task Force, led to the elimination of a generation of Ogoni Leaders including the Ogoni 4, Ken SaroWiwa and eight others. We fear that history is about to repeat itself.
Deploying over 3000 soldiers to Ogoni is an indication that the federal government may be having an undisclosed and hidden agenda on how to possibly aid Shell to forcefully gain entrance back to the Ogoni oil field, after it's earlier proposal to build a cemetery and maximum security prison in the area was rejected by the people. If the process is genuine and transparent, the people will own the project, and the concern raised may not be there. Except that there is a plot by the Minister to do some shoddy jobs with the military in place.
RWDC queries the planned deployment of troops to the peaceful Ogoniland, saying these soldiers are needed more in the troubled North-East region of the country where the BokoHaram and Fulani Herdsmen has unleashed terror on innocent Nigerians. The huge budget for the deployment of the military should be used to provide relief materials for the Ogoni people, and create job opportunities for the jobless youths in the area.
The group also frowned at the Minister's level of insensitivity to the plight and pathetic state of the Ogoni communities whose farmlands, streams, and rivers has been completely destroyed by decades of oil exploration and exploitation activities in the area.
To RWDC, the Federal Government need to as a matter of urgency call the Minister to order, by replacing him with a more competent and technically capable Nigerian, as he seems to have lost focus on the recommendations of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in its report on Ogoniland, and he is now calling for the deployment of soldiers instead of embarking on the implementation of emergency measures; which include the provision of pipe-borne and portable drinking water for the Ogoni people.
RWDC call on the international community, UNEP, civil society organizations and well-meaning Nigerians to pressure the Federal Government of Nigeria to shelve the militarization option, and commence the full implementation of the cleanup of Ogoniland without any excuse