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Toronto Star: Nigerian troops raid houses in oil delta slum

Government orders use of `force for force’ against wave of kidnappings

Residents forced to flee as soldiers open fire `sporadically,’ radio reports

Aug. 19, 2006. 01:00 AM
AUSTIN EKEINDE
REUTERS NEWS AGENCY

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria—Troops stormed a riverside slum in the southern oil capital of Port Harcourt yesterday, moving from house to house and shooting sporadically, forcing residents to flee, local radio reported.

The raid follows a government order for troops to use “force for force” against militants who have kidnapped more than a dozen foreign oil workers in a string of incidents in Africa’s top oil producer this month.

“Troops have landed in Ilabuchi (district) and they are shooting sporadically, moving from house to house,” Port Harcourt’s Rhythm FM reported. “People are now fleeing the area.”

Soldiers were seen detaining at least five people.

“This is the beginning of something bigger to drive all the bandits from the state,” said military spokesperson Maj. Sagir Musa. “It will continue. It is ongoing.”

Residents said troops fanned out over a riverside area along a road where kidnappers last Sunday dumped and burned a getaway car after abducting six foreign oil workers from a nightclub popular with expatriates.

Port Harcourt is the largest city in the Niger Delta — which is about twice the size of New Brunswick — that yields all the country’s oil and gas.

Militant attacks have forced foreign oil firms to evacuate hundreds of workers and cut the OPEC cartel member’s output by a quarter since February.

So far the government has promised restive militants much-needed development for the wetlands region where about 25 million people live. But a string of kidnappings of foreign workers around Port Harcourt this month triggered a change of tack. About 17 foreigners have been abducted, while nine have been released.

Militancy has arisen because the region that produces 90 per cent of Nigeria’s wealth is poverty-stricken, polluted and politically marginalized.

Previous military assaults in the delta, involving helicopter gunships and patrol boats equipped with machine guns, have brought accusations of human rights violations and inflamed tensions further.

Oil executives fear that heavy-handed reprisals against the militants could cause a bloodbath and trigger more crippling attacks on their oilfields located deep in mangrove-lined creeks.

The attacks in February that forced Royal Dutch Shell to shut oilfields producing 500,000 barrels per day in the western delta followed a military raid on barges the government suspected of transporting stolen crude.

The latest wave of violence in the delta has coincided with a series of suspected political assassinations ahead of general elections next year.

with files from Associated press

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1 Comment on “Toronto Star: Nigerian troops raid houses in oil delta slum”

  1. #1 Ben Wuloo Ikari, author of Inspiration-Speak Your Mind & Ken Saro-Wiwa And Mosop-The Story And Revelation
    on Aug 21st, 2006 at 01:55

    The current waves of violence in Nigeria today is pathetic, as it reals from hostage taken to political assassination. It however owe it root to the colonial era, when the British (Crown) Government raided different ethnic communities and forced them against their wishes to concoct (amalgamation of Northern, Southern Protectorates) the contraption called Nigeria in 1914. The aim was to promote the development and expansion of the British empire to the detriment of the previously free and independent nations. So, a country formed by coersion would no doubt see peace as it was not meant to be. As time graduates more and more people’s consciousness would be high, hence agitation for their bonafide properties. As the independence of October 1, 1960 did not really help matters-captives still yearns for freedom, equal rights, and justice. In retrospect are similar arrangements (of forcing a man and woman whose love for each other is at zero level) which have failed in Eastern Europe and other hemispheres-Nigeria cannot be exception!

    The said violence in form of kidnappings and destruction of oil installations by some youths of the Niger Delta as reported is not because these youths are just crazy and therefore taste for violence. It is mainly because the Nigerian Government in collaboration with $hell Oil and several other oil prospecting companies choose to force and steal the natural mineral (Crude Oil) resources of the Niger River Delta people since 1956 to date. The violence that was applied by the Crown of Britain has not been dismantled but rather transferred to the Nigerian Government always controlled by the so-called majority ethnic groups of Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, and their Igbo counterpart. Also on the pitch is $hell, the British/Dutch economic vehicle.

    The Ogoni people under the leadership of late Ken Saro-Wiwa treated the government and $hell with open-door policy for dialogue, but what did Ken receive in return, 21st century hanging in broad-day light, with 8 of his Kinsmen, for nothing other than he arouse the present consciousness Ogoni and Niger Delta have today. The type that puts the environment that is man’s first right at the fore. But because $hell do not care about the Ogoni/Niger Delta environment she decided to kill him the messager so as not to grant the honest message passage. Now, what is the hanging of 9 innocent men by $hell oil and the government called, is it not corporate and state terrorism? Therefore the benefit of the irrational thought of both government and $hell in particular. Suffice to say that irrespective of the enormous oil wealth that has been carted away by $hell whom the Delta money has so enrich has no pipe-borne water, not to mention electricity, access road, or standard school.

    It is not surprising to note that the Nigerian Government who should be the custodian of the conscience, rights, and safety of its people have for decades protected multinationals like $hell while exposing and killing her citizens for the contant flow of oil that runs from the veins of Niger Deltans. Well, no military raid in Nigeria or elsewhere has been conducted without a chase of shadow, for the most part. By this I mean, the reported military raid in search of so-called militants by the military ( that created the uncontrolled unrest from remembered time) paid by oil companies and their international conspirators would end up rounding up and killing innocent people as history has thought us. Remember Iraq, Lebanon, etc.

    The question is, does the Niger Delta problem has solution? And the answer is, YES! The solution lies with the Federal Government of the nation to immediately act responsibly, create jobs, respect the rights of the Delta region which is termed “minority”-restructure the epileptic federal system to proper federation that allows ( power decentralization) regional or ethnic autonomy or self-determination that offers the control of natural resources and the environment by the federating units. The government should also have the courage or gut to enact environmental and other laws that strictly directs reckless companies like $hell Oil on the imperativity of respecting the Delta’s environment just like it has done to those of the British, America, and other European countries. That oil companies mandatorily conduct environmental assessment, social and health impact studies as done in other places before exploration can take place.

    Both government and oil companies should pay all stolen monies from accrued oil wealth to the inhabitants of Niger Delta; thoroughly clean up whatever spills/pollution which have occured from 1956 to 2006, and embark on massive revampment of the battered and degraded environment. If these and other measures aimed at developing and genuinely resolving the crises in Niger Delta are carefully mapped out, executed, and completed, the current violence of hostage taken, disruption of oil activities, etc., would be a thing of the past. Violence either by the Nigeria Army or “militants” is never the answer to the over 5 decade controversy. But, should the government and oil companies continue to ignore the genuine demands of the people the only other option that would be open, I think, would be for the oppressed which are in this circumstance christen “militants” to seek means of freeing themselves and asserting control over their resources. This development would no doubt bring more chaos as the federal government would not want to concede. However, nothing under the sun is impossible-all it takes is sacrifice.

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