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Published by ebendokubo

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Published by: ebendokubo on Sep 06, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The current travails of Bonny where armed gangs strike terror into the marrowsof citizens bring to the fore, the painful plight of the people of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, a confluence of affluence and despair. Residents of Bonny arefleeing from their homes and many have perished during the perilous journeyout of the islands. Radio announcements by the Police, Local Government, andRivers State Government officials have not stemmed the tide of exodus. Bonnyis a case-study in failed appeasement, divide and rule, trickle down policy, andmyopic strategic planning.Blessed with a rich culture going back many centuries the people of Bonny areendowed in more ways than one. Thanks to early contact and commercialinteraction with the Europeans, the people of Bonny, like their Okrika, Kalabariand Nembe kinsfolk were trailblazers in education with which came civilizationthat spread to other parts of Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt. Together with Akassa, Brass, and Abonnema, Bonny was a gateway to prosperity in the pre-colonial and colonial era. It was through Bonny that seedlings of cocoawere introduced into Nigeria which went on to become the world’s largest producer. However, it is for the high quality crude oil, very easy to refine because of its low sulphur content christened
 Bonny Light 
which is the benchmark for global crude oil prices that Bonny is now world famous.So strategic is Bonny to Nigeria’s stability that when during the civil war,heroes like Alani Akinriade and Isaac Adaka Boro fighting on the Federal siderisked their lives to liberate Bonny Island, the victory marked the beginning of the end of the Biafran resistance. A young university lecturer named KenSarowiwa was appointed as the Sole Administrator of the island. The shiploadsof relief materials, cash and other resources were distributed equitably to allthose in need. Nothing was diverted to enrich himself or his cronies. No cashwas embezzled and used to buy up the peoples common heritage. Therehabilitation was quick and total. People lived without fear. They went aboutfending for themselves in the creeks and elsewhere unhindered. Decades later, Nigeria rewarded Sarowiwa, not with a National Honour, but with a noose.To the regret of all, today, Bonny is again a war front. The sight of fully kittedsoldiers with fear on their faces, instilling fear on the faces of those they cameto protect is disheartening. They are unable to stop the guerrilla-warfare kind of 
attacks on randomly selected targets, soldiers today, traditional rulers tomorrow; banks today, innocent civilians tomorrow. The sudden collapse of security isincomprehensible. The income stream that flows through Bonny ‘Upstream’ tothe Netherlands, home of Shell, all of Europe, and the United States of Americaand the pockets of a handful of privileged Nigerians is steady. Vessels fullyladen with sweet crude and others filled with liquefied natural gas set sailwithout let or hindrance. “Downstream” the story is different. Open fibreglass boats with rickety wooden benches and outboard engines convey indigenes anditinerant workers from Bonny to Port Harcourt the economic hub of RiversState. In their bid to escape the sporadic machine gun fire that is nowcommonplace on the island, they set sail with trepidation and are oftenambushed, waylaid, attacked mid-sea, robbed, brutalized and rapedThe economic disequilibrium brought about by the massive oil and gas relatedinvestment in Bonny is the sole source of this breakdown in law and order.Should the export of crude oil and liquefied natural gas from Bonny be haltedtoday the people will have little or nothing to lose. They neither have equity participation nor symbolic profit sharing from the huge investments. All theyreceive are a trickle down pittance which invariably pitches brother against brother, family against family and clan against clan. Even with a major oilexport terminal and a seven-train Natural Gas liquefaction plant, unemploymentis extremely high, cost of living astronomical, and HIV/AIDS in pandemic proportions.It is not asking too much for the Federal Government to declare Bonny adisaster area. The peculiar problems of Bonny must be tackled head-on. Labour-intensive enterprises must be initiated. The natural beach which is a giant touristattraction must be made accessible to the indigenes. The policy of appeasingonly some traditional rulers, party stalwarts, government officials, andvociferous armed groups must be reviewed. Unless a sense of belonging iscreated and reinforced in concrete terms, the majority of the citizens will remainalienated and continue to sulk because there is nothing in it for them. For example, when the Federal Government forked out millions of dollars to dredgethe Bonny channel to enable large vessels come in with ease to lift oil, there wasnothing in the contract for the “Locals”. Such multi billion naira contracts oughtto be tied to concurrent local development. For instance, the sand from thedredging should have been used to reclaim land around the various islands. Thatway we end up with a win-win situation.

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