Wednesday 12 December 2012

Security Challenges of Oil Industry Activities in Eleme, Nigeria

All over the world, human activity and development, whether social, economic, industrial and sometimes cultural, must go on in one or all the components of the environment. These components generally categorized into air, land and water (surface and ground), are inextricably tied to each other in a cycle. The ever increasing industrial activities in Eleme, especially petroleum exploration, exploitation and distribution and their downstream processing and marketing coupled with the frightening influx of people from different parts of Nigeria and beyond presents Eleme with peculiar security problems.

The huge land acquisition by oil companies, land destruction, deforestation, deprivation and degradation, aquatic ecosystem pollution arising from spilled oil, waste dumps etc that are washed frequently into the channels of rivers, creeks and streams and the high level of air pollution and acid rains occasioned by the unending emissions and effluent discharges emanating from the activities of these companies as well as the menace of heavy duty trucks and oil tankers, do not only create health hazards to the people of Eleme but also pose serious security challenges.

The oppression of the people of Eleme through forceful acquisition of their means of livelihood – lands and seas – and the wicked and mindless pollution of their environment which uprooted them from their roots, alienated them from the national economic system also created a displacement and maladjustment that have plug this once law abiding, patriotic, peaceful, hardworking and industrious people into a beggarly stock and lure them into crimes of diverse nature. This sudden summersault of their life and dislocation of their culture coupled with the accompanying frustration is still like a dream because it is unbelievable that a girl of Eleme extraction can engage in broad daylight prostitution; it is unimaginable that an Eleme boy can involve himself in kidnapping, robbery and the likes; it is unthinkable that an Eleme son or daughter can be part of an organized criminal group. Impossible yesterday but very possible today!

The increasing influx of people from all over the country and oversea countries is another contributing factor. Loose young men and women who find their ways into Eleme in search of greener pastures are worsening the situation. Apart from baptizing our young boys and girls into crime they have invariably initiating many of them into secret societies and cultism with the promise of fake invisibility, false disappearance at will, and phony powers over gun shots and knife cuts. And one of the established requirements of entrance into these demonic organizations is the commission of a heinous crime such as murder, kidnapping, robbery, rape, terrorism and so on. Hence our children are tricked into crimes and they are proud of it. The respect for human life no longer exists; the shame of wrong doing is no longer there. The fear of being labeled a deviant is now a thing of the past. Criminals are honoured and deviants are celebrated. The institutionalization of crime is the bane of our development.   

The living poverty which is visible all over Eleme is another factor fueling the current wave of crime in the area. There is anger in the land. The lands and the seas that keeps the people in agricultural activities are no more yet, no job for the increasing army of unemployed youths, no food on the table, no money in the pockets, no social amenities to cushion the effect of frustration, no hope of a future; and therefore, no need for living. The summation is to see the government as an enemy, the system as a target of attack and the society is thus victimized, in whatever way possible.

The security challenges prevalent in Eleme now include: Child Prostitution, Child Trafficking and Slavery, Theft, Robbery, Assault, Burglary, Kidnapping, Oil Racketeering, Cultism and Gangsterism, Touting and Thuggering, Invocation of Juju, Armed Attack and so on.

Today we will consider child prostitution and child trafficking/slavery. Child prostitution thrives in Eleme. Child prostitution can be seen in areas such as Trailer Park in Ejamah Ebubu, Tankers Park in Alesa and New Town in Ogale, AP (opposite PHRC), Akpajo Junction and the numerous drinking joints and bush bars that dots Eleme here and there. To an innocent person passing by the different drinking joints and bush bars in the area, and seeing these young girls either serving or dancing, he/she would probably comment on the fact that the young girls are being overworked at such late hours.  But, this is a tip of the iceberg. The work such as dancing and serving is just a camouflage of the main work done by these young girls. They are prostitutes. To render their services, they charge between N500 to N5, 000.

Poverty and unemployment are rife in Eleme. The way and manner oil companies’ workers, notably, expatriates display wealth in Eleme that is already stricken by unemployment and menaced by poverty may continue to entice and instigate more indigenous young girls and even housewives to engage in prostitution as a means of livelihood. 

Consider the case of Ekaete. She was 11years old when her father died. A businessman bought her from her mother for N15, 000 promising her a good job. The price paid for her was termed “an advance on her earnings”, a sure way to keep her tied to her new owner of good. Instead of being given a decent job, Ekaete was taken to a brothel in Eleme, where clients pay the owner between N500 and N2, 000 an hour for her services. Ekaete is virtually a prisoner, for she cannot leave until her debt is paid. This includes her cost to the brothel owner in addition to the interest and expenses incurred in transporting her to Eleme. Worse still, if she tries to escape, she might be killed.

Recently, I interacted with a young girl who managed to escape her cruel madam in Akpajo. Ada was given fraudulent promise to work, transported to Lagos and then sold into a brothel, where she average 5 and 15 customers a day for five months. In tears, she narrated how she escaped with the help of a customer who asked her out after paying her madam N10, 000 for “till-day-break” (TDB). After speaking with Ada, I realized that she would be a slave for a long time to come, in her mind. Ada cannot project beyond the dawn. The future is one of the many abstract concepts she lacks.

Another form of slavery common in Eleme is ritual slavery. The story of Lale best illustrates this phenomenon. Lale is a 14 years old girl from Ebubu Eleme. She is one of the thousand girls who served as Nga Ejor (deity’s concubine) or Owa Ejor (deity’s wife). Either way they are slaves of the gods or deity.
Lale was forced into a life of slavery and redemption for an offence she did not commit – an invocation of Juju which led to the death of her father when she was only 6. To pay for the revocation of the Juju and other related rituals she was sold to the Juju Priest.

Before now, her responsibilities were limited to household chores for the local Juju Priest. But the situation has changed. Her duties have been broadened to include providing sexual services to the sixty years old Priest, who is her owner. By middle age Lale will be replaced. Then the Juju Priest will find other appealing girls to serve him as Nga Ejor or Owa Ejor.  

Like Lale, thousands of girls who are victims of religion/ritual slavery are offered by their families to work as virtual slaves in an effort to atone for act interpreted as a sin or an offence against holy decree. All over Eleme, girls or women are obliged to perform religious duties and to provide sexual services to priests on the pretext that they are married to a deity. They are not free to change their place of residence or work, and often, remain in servitude for many years.
The primary aim of security is protection of lives and property. Life becomes very important when viewed from the background of human life as the pivot upon which all other facets of human existence and activities revolve.  In this context, child prostitution becomes a concern of security. These implications include but not limited to the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV virus, risk of damage to the reproductive system which eventually leads to infertility, unwanted pregnancy, criminal abortion which often times leads to death and where the girl survives, there is likelihood that so much damage is done that the womb is ruptured or completely removed, complication during birth resulting in Vesico Vagina Fistula (VVF), psychological trauma etc. The tar of prostitution stains everyone.

Victims of the crime of prostitution suffer depressions, anxiety, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite (anorexia). Some may be maimed for life while some are out-rightly killed. A young girl who experiences rape may be frightened for life or contract venereal diseases including HIV/AIDS infection.

Any factor that decimates a nation’s population weakens that nation in all ramifications. One of the strengths of Nigeria that is respected globally is her huge population. Eleme as a people must rise up to protect her population. Number is power, quality is wisdom!

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