Disturbing news has emerged that on Sunday 12 June, 2 Ogoni youth were reportedly shot dead by Nigerian police following a protest against the relocation of Bori Camp military base to Ogoniland. A government official who was backing the Rivers State Government’s plan was also reported killed in a retaliation.
Saharareporter’s investigations revealed that trouble started today, following the relentless protests in the wake of the Bori camp proposal. Chiefs, elders and youths of the Sogho community convened at the request of Mr. Nkpai [a government official], to try to convince the villagers to accept the relocating of the controversial military facility in their community.
When the meeting commenced and Nkpai introduced the topic and the irate villagers in attendance started shouting at the top of their voices, telling him to keep quiet, as he had not done anything to help their community. Some of them argued that in spite of his high position in the government and despite the contracts given to him to provide services for the community, he had failed to do so and instead, embezzled their money.
In the uproar, the police attached to [Nkpai] fired their guns at two of the youths, killing them instantly.
Angered by the arbitrary shooting of the helpless youths, some of them attacked Mr. Nkpai’s regal country home in the community, and with the man inside it, set fire to the property.
In recent weeks, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) stepped up its campaign against the military base, mobilising protestors across the region. Ogoni activists condemned Sunday’s violence and affirmed their committment to peaceful protest.
The planned military base is a highly controversial move by the Rivers State Government. Ogoniland is already under heavy security. On a typical journey from Port Harcourt villagers will be stopped by at least five or six police checkpoints and subjected to a routine of harrassment, extortion and intimidation. Increasing the level of security forces is widely seen as unnecessary and is deeply unpopular. Legborsi Pygbara of MOSOP argues:
It is illegal to site a military base in Ogoniland. Ogoni is an indigenous territory… If the government attempts to do this, it means it will fight the UN, which it can’t afford to.
Many Ogoni people lived through the brutal military crackdowns of the 1990s and are strongly opposed to the plan. During the 1990s, Shell collaborated with military operations that led to crimes against humanity and gross human rights abuses in Ogoniland.
The escalation in repression coincides with Shell’s plans to resume oil production in Ogoni, which ceased in 1993. Earlier this year, it was announced that Shell plans to work in partnership with Nigeria’s National oil company NNPC to re-develop its lucrative assets in Ogoniland.