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WHEN DEVELOPMENT BECOMES A CRIME: THE CASE OF BOMU COMMUNITY

WHEN DEVELOPMENT BECOMES A CRIME: THE CASE OF BOMU COMMUNITY

PEMII BEN. B.

Ban Ki-Moon, the former secretary-general of the United Nations, once asserted that: “sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance.”

Going by the dictates of the above quote, it becomes glaring that there is a nexus between development and social justice which, by extension, procreates social stability and mutual co-existence. The absence of “sustainable development” therefore portends danger, especially social unrest which emanates from neglect in every ramification.

Another prime causative agent of social unrest, which is popularly referred to today as “restiveness,” especially among the youths, is social injustice such as denial of basic human, socio-economic and politico-religious autonomy. The intense provocation that this oddity ferments and dashes back to the society now manifests in various forms such as inter-communal crises and similar unrests.

Ogoni, as an ethnic nationality domiciled in the vast concourse called the Nigerian State, with her immediate abode being Rivers State, has made some of the greatest sacrificial commitments to the development of the Nigerian State, and indeed the international community. Prominent Ogonis who laid down their lives, especially, Ken Saro-Wiwa, did so in the quest for constitutional democracy which Nigeria now enjoys, yet, the country leaves his name and those of his kinsmen, on a criminal list.

The Ogoni Nine’s offence was that they stood in the way of Shell’s exploitative antics in their operations in Ogoni. Dr. Barinem Kiobel, then a serving commissioner, was offered huge bribes by the same Shell and the learned man, who had a conscience, refused to accept a bribe against collective interest. So, Shell allegedly ensured that these men were killed. 

Bitter as every piece of truth has always been, the better side of it cannot be appreciated less by men and women whose consciences do not taste the sordid hoax of tyrannical villainy. In a country where power is wielded with recklessness, one is not surprised at the garrulity of some public office holders who neither account for resources in their keep nor their utterances. Yet, they query the nitty-gritty of integrity that does not end in praise-singing their overblown ego.

Ogoni did not murder her own, the paymasters–who are known to the garrulous and architects of mendacity–murdered illustrious sons of Ogoni. Today, Ogoni has not stopped being a killing field because the murderers of the high and mighty Ogonis have gone into murdering their remnants and as usual, cast aspersion on the people. The tragedy about this sad episode and trade in humans in blood is that some callous Ogonis have always been hired to play the snippers’ role against their kith and kin.

Over the years, Bomu Community in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, which is a major player when it comes to development indices in Ogoni, in Rivers State and in Nigeria, has been known to be peaceful in spite of the significant government neglect that the community has enjoyed. Known for its industriousness and ever-busy nature, indigenes of the community have never been known for the perpetration of communal or inter-communal unrest. This peaceful disposition, however, has not been appreciated by the mongers of war and by implication, mongers of underdevelopment and social unrest. This retrogressive bent of the warmongers, who are visibly invisible by virtue of the protection they receive from their paymasters, have been smiling to the bank, at the expense of human lives and gross socio-economic destruction.

Ironically, these warmongers perambulate the corridors of power, feeding false information to the powers that reign just to tarnish the image of a supposed foe and forcefully take that which belongs to the perceived enemy.

In recent years, Bomu as a community has put on the levers of excruciating endurance, tolerance and an unimaginable gift of patience, especially in the face of unwarranted and unbearable provocations from Lewe community, a neighbouring tenant who enjoys the benevolence of Bomu community.

In 2016, Lewe murdered two Bomu indigenes, both of them, motorbike operators who were about their legitimate businesses. To this day, their remains are in Lewe in spite of pleas to release same for proper interment. The murder was an act of transferred aggression following a supposed altercation among “kpofire” operators (illegal operators of modular refineries). The “kpofire” squad from Lewe claimed that an indigene of Bomu absconded with their “products”. As an act of immediate retaliation, a car belonging to a Bomu indigene was impounded by the Lewe “kpofire” squad. Following intense negotiations, the car was released. Everyone had believed that the matter had been resolved amicably until the murder of the two bike operators. Bomu did not retaliate but tendered formal reports to the appropriate security agencies. To this day, the perpetrators of the heinous crime are yet to be brought to justice.

In furtherance of the quest for peace, Bomu community sent a delegation to the then caretaker committee of the Gokana Local Government Area that was headed by Hon. Louise Alawa. The response of the committee was rather shocking: “I was not sent here to separate a fight.” With this response, it was obvious that that committee hadn’t the will to change the awkward narrative. Some relief came with a change of caretaker committee leadership and Hon. Dum Ben ensured more than relative peace. Things however took their worst turn after the local government elections in 2016. With the swearing in of the newly elected Local Government chairman and councillors in 2016, peace eluded the people and what became known as Bomu-Lewe crisis began.

Lewe began by destroying Bomu people’s crops and stretched the provocation to burning down over one hundred houses belonging to Bomu indigenes. At the time of reigniting the crisis, Bomu’s quest for development was at its peak as the community was working on the return of Bomu-Bonny road. The more efforts the community made in that direction, the more intense Lewe’s hostilities became. Bomu soft-pedalled on the demand and that was when Lewe would accept to come to the tables for dialogue. An initial truce was brokered and near-normal activities resumed until Bomu again made moves to reclaim the Bomu-Bonny road. Hostilities against Bomu by Lewe immediately resumed at higher firepower, leading to loss of lives and properties. Lewe only accepted to sign a peace deal with Bomu the day Bomu gave up the idea of reclaiming Bomu-Bonny road. The peace deal lasted for almost a year.

The same Lewe resumed a fight against Bomu when the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas company (NLNG) concluded plans to site one of it’s tranches in Bomu. At the mention of the company coming to Bomu, Lewe, in a spate of one week, all in the month of April 2021, killed three Bomu indigenes, who, like the first two killed in 2016, were carrying out legitimate businesses. Besides killings, Lewe made daily moves to abduct any indigene of Bomu they could get hold of. They went as far as paying commercial motorcyclists, cab and bus operators to kidnap Bomu indigenes who procure their services.

Winding the clock to a retrospective reminder, it will be pertinent to recall that in July 2018, when Lewe invaded Bomu and had a field day of arson, the State Governor, Barr. N.E. Wike was in Gokana for the One Million Man Match for Wike. NO security agencies in Gokana responded to the distress calls from Bomu and the governor did NOTHING about it.

That same year, Lewe shot and fatally wounded a soldier when they shot at an army patrol vehicle. Till today, that matter was swept under the rug because the paymasters were at work. Codenamed “the Sambisa of Ogoni,” Lewe harbours the toughest criminals in the area and procures their services at will. The same Lewe community hires the services of some of the “best” witch doctors in the West African subregion, especially the Cameroons, all in a bid to drive home their evil schemes against Bomu community.

In all this, the Rivers State Government maintained superior quietness. Suddenly, the State Governor woke up from his slumber to realise that the crisis is tied to land dispute and so the government will have to acquire the land. What an irony!

At this juncture, it will be an act of necessary charity to educate Gov. Nyesom Wike that he has been thoroughly misinformed about the true cause of the Bomu-Lewe crisis. The crisis has NOTHING to do with a land dispute. It has everything to do with obstructing every development coming to Bomu community by emissaries of rift and woes who are advocates of underdevelopment. These are men and women, a lot of whom caress the nipples of power, and who are ferociously jealous of the robust projects Bomu naturally attracts by virtue of her peaceful disposition, strategic location and being the entry port of the Shell Petroleum Development Company into Ogoni and Nigeria at large.

Let it be on record that Lewe community doesn’t have any inheritance rights as far as landed property is concerned. Bomu and Nwe-ol communities are Lewe’s landlords. Lewe’s devious land-grabbing antics are not new to Bomu community and to lovers of peace in general. Therefore, if land acquisition is the only interest the Rivers State Government has in a crisis that has claimed countless lives and ruined fortunes, then we now know who the real enemy is.

(Pemii Ben. B., an independent Journalist, wrote from Ogoniland, Rivers State, South-South, Nigeria)

Disclaimer: Any views, information, allegations or opinions expressed therein are those of the author/originator of the guest article.

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