It sounds pretty surprising but not unexpected that the city of Port Harcourt, a once very glamorous city, has been ranked among the three most dangerous cities in the world.
The human resources unit of New York-based Marsh & McLennan Cos. has ranked Port Harcourt with Baghdad, Yemen’s capital of Sana’a and Khartoum in Sudan, as the world’s most dangerous cities.
Going by the ranking published by Bloomberg, Port Harcourt ranks with Baghdad as one of the world’s most dangerous cities for foreign workers as criminal gangs and guerillas seeking greater control of energy revenue step up attacks.
Port Harcourt, a city of 1.6 million was once the home of nightclubs crowded night and day with well-paid petroleum workers. Now dotted with heavily armed checkpoints, Port Harcourt’s transformation from a city that offered round-the- clock-fun to one offering round-the-clock fear. Security has deteriorated as the region moved from agitation to rebellion.
But a prominent leader from Ogoni land, the external visitors’ coordinator,Ogoni council of traditional rulers, chief Sunday Kotes has described the ranking of Port Harcourt as one of world’s dangerous city as baseless and a calculated attempt to dent the image of the city.
In an interview with the LEADERSHIP yesterday, Kotes stated that Port Harcourt currently has over sixty oil companies which are operating peacefully and comfortably. “Port Harcourt is a peace loving home, nobody should dent its image, the report is baseless and it is an economic sabotage .I stand against the report”, he declared.
The Ogoni leader described those behind the report as shortsighted and did not make proper investigation into Port Harcourt before arriving at that conclusion.
“Port Harcourt is not a dangerous city; it is the most beautiful city in the world as far as I know. Presently in Nigeria, Port Harcourt is the treasure beat of the country and they deserve the best rating” he added, observing that the leaders of Port Harcourt are intact and currently craving for investment.
Kotes disclosed that the people of Ogoni have declared their support for President Umaru Yar’Adua whose 7- point agenda includes the development of the Niger-Delta and who is currently building the roads in Ogoni land.
“We stand by President Yar’Adua and we have declared our support for him and we are working very hard to see that the 7-point agenda as it concerns Ogoniland is fully and successfully implemented”, he said.
He blamed the current crisis in the region on corruption and enemies of progress saying that “Ogoni started the struggle perfectly well and stand by what it started. What is happening in Ogoni now is not from Ogoni people and if any Ogoni person is involved it is from somewhere else.
Also speaking during the interview the President of Ogoni Youth Assembly, comrade Saturday Opoga protested the ranking describing it as a mere propaganda play.
The high wave of crime involving kidnappings, robbery and attacks on oil facilities started way back in 2006 and has continued unabated. The government put the blame on the activities of oil thieves and unemployed youths, the youths and traditional rulers of communities in the region have put the blame on politicians, government and the oil companies for their selfish approach to the development of the area. According to expatriate report more than 300 oil industry employees, or two a week, have been kidnapped in the Niger River Delta since a surge in violence began in 2006.
Majority of the militant groups fighting in the Niger-Delta have claimed that they are fighting for the poor masses of the region but this claim has been debunked by high ranking indigenes of the region among whom is the Governor of Rivers state,Rotimi Amaechi who described the militants as armed bandits who are fighting for their selfish economic gains to the detriment of the poor. According to Amaechi at an oil and gas forum in Abuja, no body who is fighting for his people will kidnap them for ransom and destroy facilities put in place in the region, however the governor admits that the Niger Delta is one of the most neglected regions in the world and a positive struggle towards its development is justified.
The militant groups have often targeted the facilities and staff of the major oil companies operating in the region such as Shell and Chevron. Bloomberg reported Tola Adeogba, Shell’s exploration manager in Nigeria as saying that the security situation in Port Harcourt is taking a huge toll.
Most oil companies have either evacuated expatriates or kept them hunkered down in guarded compounds. The metal gates outside Shell’s offices in the city are flanked by two sandbagged positions manned by guards with automatic weapons. Last week, irate youths attacked guards protecting three oil flow stations operated by Royal Dutch Shell to push demands for more funds for the local community, security sources said. A military spokesman said the attackers delivered a letter to security guards threatening further raids if Shell did not provide more funds to the local community.
The attacks in the Niger-Delta region has cut exports from Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer by more than 20 percent, and last month the Delta’s main guerrilla group said it was resuming a campaign against the industry after a four-month ceasefire. A union representing office workers said it may pull members out of the region after gunmen killed the 11-year-old daughter of a Royal Dutch Shell Plc employee and abducted her 9-year-old brother in Port Harcourt.