13th June, 2011
The relocation of the military cantonment to Ogoniland claimed at least two lives in Zor-Sogho in Khana Local Government area in Rivers state yesterday.
A statement by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP),signed by Bari-ara Kpalap, its spokesman, in Port Harcourt, alleged that two persons were killed when some mobile policemen wanted to effect some arrest in Zor-Sogho village in Khana Local Government Area of Ogoni led the killing of two Ogoni youths. MOSOP identified the killed as Goteh Keenam, Dambani and Job Nkpai
It was also alleged that the killing of Keenam and Dambani while the policemen were trying to carry out arrest consequently provoked spontaneous reaction that led to a mob attack that claimed the third person: Job Nkpai.
Nkpai was the man who brought the armed policemen to arrest some persons he felt were obstructing the military cantonment project in Zor-Sorgho.
MOSOP has called on the Rivers State Government to immediately investigate the matter with a view to bringing perpetrators to book.
However, MOSOP also called on the people of Zor-Sogho and the police to exercise restraint and keep the peace while efforts are being made to find enduring answers to the problem.
Majority of the people of Zor-Sogho are opposed to a seeming sale of a very large parcel of their farmlands for the Port Harcourt military cantonment relocation project without the consent of the people.
Some chiefs and elites in the village, including Job Nkpai, were accused of promoting the proposed project having been compromised and thus mortgaging their collective survival.
They have further reasoned that that level of land grabbing would threaten their food security, which would have dire implications for their existence.
The strong opposition mounted by the villagers did not to go down well with Nkpai who later reported to the police alleging that his life was being threatened by some youths in Zor-Sogho. The police in company of Mr. Nkpai came to the village June 12 to make arrests but their unprofessional approach inflicted such tragedy on the village.
MOSOP further said that it is â€œgravely concerned that the planned military barracks relocation to Ogoni, which has had overwhelming opposition and public protests against it, has now consumed three sons of Ogoniâ€.
â€œWe are especially worried that while vital and sustainable development projects are sited in other communities in the state, Ogoni appears to be only qualified for a proposed military cantonment, which benefit is doubtfulâ€.
MOSOP warned that â€œOgoni does not have the land that can accommodate such gigantic project, and as such government should look elsewhere to actualize its dream. We do not believe that the era of slave â€“master relationship exists and as such our interest must count.â€
MOSOP cited Article 30 (i) of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) states that â€œ Military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples, unless justified by a relevant public interest or otherwise freely agreed with or requested by the indigenous peoples concernedâ€ while Article 30 (ii) provides that â€œStates shall undertake effective consultations with the indigenous peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, prior to using their lands or territories for military activitiesâ€.
On the other hand Article 32(1) states that â€œIndigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resourcesâ€ while (ii) provides that â€œStates shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resourcesâ€. The provision of the article states that â€œStates shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impactâ€.
Ben Ugwuegbulem, the spokesman for the Rivers State police Command declined to make comments.
ByÂ Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt