Like many communities in Rivers State, Ogoni communities were infiltrated by deadly opposing cult groups, which turned the once peaceful Rivers State to killing fields that earned the state the sobriquet, Rivers of Blood.
Initially, they were cult groups fighting for superiority. But with time they added to their territoriality claims to oil pipelines, tributes from companies operating in the area and juicy security briefs. But it has since snowballed into communal conflicts, assassinations, kidnappings, unlawful oil bunkering and political thuggery.
The amnesty programme of the Nigerian government brought some respite in 2009 and the few years that followed. But the situation had relapsed since then, even with several amnesty programmes launched by the Rivers State Government.
The result is that entire communities have been evacuated and thousands of Ogoni people relocated to nearby communities where they had become one form of economic refugee or the other. Farming, which was the mainstay of the local economy has suffered greatly.
It is in this state that a pan-Ogoni organistion, Conscience of Ogoni People, COOP, has written to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene by deploying a special task force to bring the situation under control
In the letter titled, “Request for deployment of a special joint task force to combat cult-related violence and insecurity in Ogoniland and to mop up illegal arms in Ogoni communities,” COOP called the President’s attention to “the sudden resurgence of violent crimes which has engulfed Ogoniland in recent times, particularly between February and May 2020.”
Gani Topba, the Leader and Spokesman of COOP, said in the letter dated 22nd May, 2020 that so many people have died in the resurgence of cult clashes in the area that needs urgent intervention by government.
“There has been unusual intensity in cult clashes and counter-cult clashes which have consumed countless Ogonis – mostly youths in their primes – leaving on their trails colossal destruction of properties and the sack of countless communities.
“Cult related violence erupted in Ogoniland and festered for the greater part of 2019. During this orgy of violence, arson, beheading of victims, mass murder of villagers, and sacking of communities became the order of the day. It took the intervention of the Nigerian security forces, especially the men of the Nigerian Army, 6 Division Port Harcourt to successfully dislodge the criminal elements which held Ogoniland and the entire Rivers State under siege. It was the gallantry and selfless service of these security men that ensured that the unprecedented violence abated and the sacked communities returned to their various homes.”
Toba said some of the legacy projects being executed in Ogoniland would suffer greatly if the situation does not abate. “It will interest Your Excellency to note that the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report on Ogoniland which was flagged off in 2016 is still ongoing,” he said in the letter.