Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image To Be Izon Today in Nigeria

BY Prof. John Pepper Clark, Vanguard (Nigeria): EXTRACT FROM ARTICLE

Shell, the principal player, for instance, in its deliberate policy of divide-and-rule, continues to prowl the Niger-Delta, waving wads of memoranda of understanding as meaningless as the treaties that the Royal Niger Company earlier signed with the people.

Natives of such places as Letugbene, Agoro and Agge, often cannot follow the legalese of the small print where the clauses that matter are embedded. At the same time, Shell in the same Ekeremo Local Government Area, refuses to sign an MOU with the entire community whose capital is Amatu, the ancient settlement on the overside of Letugbene, where the River Dodo, a principal distributary of the Niger, enters the Atlantic Ocean.

Visible across the shallow waters, on a clear day, is the famous Bonga Oil Field which Shell now touts as its prize find offshore. It gleefully sites the political judgment by the Supreme Court of Chief Justice Uwais that there exists a dichotomy between oil and gas fields found onshore and those offshore, the very definition sought by the (then) Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, (the late) Bola Ige.

The fact of daily life, however, is that the flares and fumes of the frenetic activities on its rigs blow in the full face of Amatu and Letugbene as does the oil pollution washing over them every full tide and destroying all their fish stock.

The community, therefore, expects compensation but Shell insist the rights lie with and at Abuja, following that famous Supreme Court judgment. But the argument by the people of Amatu and Letugbene remains simple and irrefutable. The field belongs to them first before it extends to Nigeria of which they admit they form an integral part. Or put another way, Bonga Oil Field belongs to Nigeria by reason of being first their own at the local level. If it did not exist there as their own piece of land and water in the first instance, there would be a void or vacuum, a no-man space or land, over which Nigeria would have to leap to gain possession of the field.

This field, in fact, should be named for the Idiwini Clan, not after some local fish named in pidgin with a head not fit to eat. But Shell has this evasive practice of naming its fields and rigs after places and objects over which, it believes, the people living around have no direct claim and, therefore, cannot collect compensation from a predatory company operating in their midst.

Now that federal troops occupy the Niger-Delta, largely inhabited by the Izon people, with orders to shoot on sight by their commander-in-chief, who seems to sweep aside all points of agreement he reaches with the Izon people at various meetings, let it not be said that the United States and the United Kingdom, under guise of GGESS, acronym for Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy, are now preparing to provide military support for a president, bent on suppressing the legitimate political aspiration of the lzon people within the nation of Nigeria. And to hear the British envoy, Grozney, a most uncommon English name, speak on Nigerian matters more and more like a viceroy. Yet, choppy and muddied as the waters are, Izon people must pursue their cause, call every hand that can help on deck, and maintaining a steady course, steer for that port and land of hope, freedom and equity, which, we believe, Nigeria can become under a good management team of honest dedicated men and women, proud to be obedient servants of the people, instead of being over-bearing masters, avaricious and uncaring.

Above all, the Izon people must live by the strength of their name, Izon, not Ijo or Ijaw, all anglicized forms of that singular word which of course means truth, truth to themselves, and truth to their neighbours, so that, as Nigerians, they may all be members of a free, tolerant, and secure society.

Prof Clark gave this paper at the Annual Lecture of the lzon National Congress, delivered at Yenagoa, February 23 2007

Published: Mar 11, 2007

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