Nigerians were greeted with the news on Thursday morning that President Muhammadu Buhari had cancelled his trip to Ogoni in Rivers State to launch the clean up of the oil-rich but environmentally devastated land.
Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, who confirmed this decision to The Trent said that the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo would be representing the president in the historic Ogoni clean up ceremony. However, he failed to give reason for the sudden about-turn by Buhari.
There are speculations that the president’s decision is based on an a radio-calling threat, reportedly, made on Radio Biafra. The Trent did not report the story, though pro-Biafra activists had tried to shop an audio recording of the supposed Niger Delta Avengers’ militant calling in to the pirate radio station to say Buhari would be assassinated if he visited the oil rich region of the Niger Delta. We could not confirm the authenticity of the said recording.
We couldn’t help noting that Buhari’s government has a frosty relationship with the Ogoni people. A major flashpoint is the decision by the government to seize a Ken Saro Wiwa Memorial Bus by the customs boss, Colonel Hamid Ali (rtd), appointed by the president. The wicked seizure marred the Ogoni Day Memorial Celebration of 2015.
Colonel Ali has a terrible record with the Ogoni people, having sat on the kangaroo military tribunal that convicted an Ogoni hero and icon, Ken Saro Wiwa and sentenced him to death by hanging. His only crime, speaking up against the environmental and human rights abuses of his people.
Then there is the disturbing matter of the military invasion of an Ogoni community by Nigerian soldiers and arrest of a paramount ruler, His Royal Highness Barinadaa TD Gbaranee of Yeghe Community. The paramount ruler was dragged out of his palace like a common criminal by a team of brutal troops. Army authorities say that he was arrested because of “security issues in his domain” and that the Ogoni royal father was being detained “while investigations are being done”.
The arrest of Chief Barinadaa TD Gbaranee has sparked protests in the community.
You may read the two stories below:
Customs Boss, Col. Hamid Ali Orders Seizure of Ken Saro-Wiwa Memorial Bus
A sculpture created as a memorial to Nigerian environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists has been denied entry to Nigeria, where it had been sent as a gift to mark the 20th anniversary of their execution by the military government.
Customs officials impounded Sokari Douglas Camp’s sculpture, in the form of a steel bus, when it arrived at Lagos port on 8 September, on grounds of its “political value”. Leaflets and reports sent by courier to commemorate Saro-Wiwa’s life and death were also seized.
Col. Hamid Ali (rtd), who was handpicked by the Abacha regime as a member of the kangaroo tribunal that sentenced renowned environmentalist and minority rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa to death by hanging, was on Thursday, August 27, 2015 named by President Muhammadu Buhari as the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
Subsequent efforts by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Social Action and other pressure groups have failed to secure the work’s release and a memorial vigil in Bori-Ogoni may have to go ahead without it.
Celestine AkpoBari, national coordinator for the Ogoni Solidarity Forum-Nigeria, has spent the past two months working to secure the release of the sculpture, called The Bus – Living Memorial, from a secure area of Lagos port and remains determined to get it to Ogoniland, nine hours’ drive from Lagos, next week.
“I have been fortunate to see the bus in London but it will be so exciting to see it in Nigeria, I don’t know if I might faint,” he told the Guardian. “It will give so much happiness and strength and every Ogoni will want to come home and see it. We are still looking forward to hearing the good news, we need the bus because it is the symbol of our struggle now that Ken is not with us. We will use the presence of the bus to begin another era of our campaign for justice.”
The Bus was commissioned following a competition to mark the 10th anniversary of the executions and first exhibited outside the Guardian’s London offices in 2006. The artist described her work as a “spectacle” and symbol of the importance of transport to environmental debate.
It was given to the Ogoni people by UK campaign group Platform, to show solidarity with continuing efforts to get oil giant Shell to repair damage caused by spills in Ogoniland over many years.
Saro-Wiwa’s hanging on 10 November 1995 sparked international outrage and led to the country’s suspension from the Commonwealth for four years, until the military handed control back to a civilian government in 1999. In 2009 Shell agreed to pay $15.5m (£9.6m) to settle a claim brought by relatives of the Ogoni nine, after it was accused of having collaborated in the violation of their human rights.
The Bus spent four days at the bottom of the Thames in August, after it was dropped while being loaded on to a ship at the Port of Tilbury in Kent, and was repaired before leaving the UK for Lagos on 19 August. The plan was for it to make several stops in Nigeria en route to its final destination in Ogoniland.
Reacting to the cold-blooded murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni indigenes, Col. Ali said he had no regrets over his role in the judicial process that led to Saro Wiwa’s execution.
Nigerian Army Arrests And Detains Ogoni Paramount Ruler Over ‘Security Within His Domain’
The Nigerian Army on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 admitted that they arrested and detained of an Ogoni paramount ruler, HRH Barinadaa TD Gbaranee of Yeghe Community of Ogoniland, Rivers State.
The Trent had reported that the Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers (COTRA) had raised an alarm on the abduction of HRH Gbaranee. The royal fathers had condemned the abduction, demanded his immediate release, and termed the act an abomination.
The statement was delivered to The Trent by email and signed by COTRA’s chairman, HRH King Suanu T.Y. Baridam.
Following press enquiries, the Nigerian Army has admitted that HRH Gbaranee is in their custody “in connection with on-going investigation”.
Curiously, the statement did not come from the acting director, army public relations, Colonel Sani Usman, who yesterday scoffed at the report of the abduction of the Ogoni chief and dismissively said that “the army does not abduct”.
Captain Eli Lazarus, assistant director, army public relations, 2 Brigade, Port Harcourt issued a statement to News Express saying, “The Paramount ruler of Yeghe Community HRH Barinadaa TD Gbaranee was invited by 2 Brigade Nigerian Army in connection with an ongoing investigation that relates to security within his domain. I assure you that he will return to his community as soon as investigation is completed.”
This arrest comes amidst heightened tension in the oil-rich Niger Delta following renewed militancy in the region. A new militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, has begun a campaign against oil production in Nigeria and has successfully reduced production by 800,000 barrels per day by blowing up strategic pipelines and oil installations.
Hattip The Guardian