“At the oil spill site, John Hunter’s frustration and sorrow was disrupted by the rustling of a shrub a few metres away. He stopped short. Although he saw nothing, he sensed a presence nearby. He took a few steps forward, focusing on every tiny sound, hoping to encourage his follower to reveal himself. The effort proved fruitless. The noise ceased, leaving Hunter to wonder if the toxic air was causing him to hallucinate.
The sun was setting, and a cool breeze wafted across the area. Under most circumstances, Hunter might have found the breeze refreshing, but in this case, it served only to spread the toxins more aggressively.
Hunter decided to talk to the elders of the village before nightfall and so he laboured his way toward the houses. Feeling irritable and tired of holding his hand up to his face, he stuffed his handkerchief into his trouser pocket and forged onwards in defiance of the stench. He coughed and wheezed a few times, but committing to a concept of mind over matter, he managed to adjust.
The bushes rustled again, only this time, it wasn’t sneaky or subtle, and Hunter knew he wasn’t imagining it. The noise grew louder, and it seemed to be coming from every direction, accompanied by loud, menacing voices. Hunter’s eyes darted in every direction in search of the source of the noise and for an escape route.
He staggered through the brush, unsure which direction to take. In his haste and confusion, he twisted his ankle and fell hard onto the muddy ground. He pulled himself to one knee, and against the navy blue sky, he saw the silhouettes of some twenty men circled around him.
They were from nearby villages, Hunter thought. He felt a sharp pain in his side. One of the attackers hit him in his ribcage with a big stick. A barrage of voices screamed at him, and several men leaned in closely to shout insults in broken English directly into his ears. He felt hot angry breath on his face, and saw some of them brandishing their weapons of big sticks and machetes. All they needed was the slightest excuse to use them. Hunter slowly raised his hands to show the men that he was unarmed, while being careful not to make any sudden movements.
“I’m not here to make trouble,” Hunter announced. He wanted to get his message across in the calmest tone possible, but he was forced to raise his voice to be heard over the men’s furious voices. “My name is John Hunter I do not work for the oil company. I’m a journalist. I’ve come to write a story about the oil spill.”
That is an excerpt from a new book on the Niger Delta. Titled, Ghosts of the Niger Delta, it is novel on the Niger Delta crisis that crippled Nigeria’s oil industry from 2005, will be released on Monday, March 22.
The author, Bisi Daniels, disclosed that the novel would be partly serialised in the online paper, The QuickRead, quickread.ng, before its formal publication.
The author of over 12 books, who is also journalist with decades of experience, chronicles the Niger Delta crisis in revealing details and insider information about Nigeria’s oil and gas industry’s politics through the eyes of an investigative reporter, James Hunter.
For example, it reveals that, ”In 2005, the United States conducted a war game exercise, predicting the outbreak of violence in the oil-producing area of Nigeria that would lead to expatriates’ evacuation, including US citizens, and a hike in oil prices.
“Six months after the exercise, massive bomb explosions at major oil facilities announce the commencement of violence in Nigeria and resonate worldwide.”
Told as a faction, it begins when John Hunter, The NewsHub newspaper’s award-winning investigative reporter, reluctantly undertakes an assignment to investigate pollution in the Niger Delta. He is held captive in a death camp with an American environmentalist, Jones Coleman, the son of a fictional US Senator.
After being made to bury some of the inmates tortured to death, the duo are worried about their fate when armed youths attack the camp at night.
Jones dashes back to the US.
As Hunter recovers in Lagos from the torture, the Niger Delta makes headlines with several armed attacks target oil facilities and many expatriates taken hostage by militants.
This inhibits oil production and immediately impacts the global oil marketplace. Crude oil prices soar, and oil companies and consumers panic.
Hunter rushes back to the region, which is now under the siege of angry militants.
He eventually tracks the militant commanders down at one of their camps after encounters with oil companies, security agencies, and angry residents.
Staring death in the face, he is detained for days. The cold hands of death draw closer when he is later embedded with the militants during an attack on a major oil facility.
Hunter is shocked by their efficiency and their large cache of sophisticated weapons.
With the government’s inability to halt the violence, oil companies withdraw more of their staff members from the fields and further reduce crude oil production.
Hunter’s mission to expose the corruption and exploitation that led to, and resulted from the Niger Delta crisis, makes him a target of many powerful people, including oil thieves, arms dealers, corrupt government officials and politicians. He is followed and attacked at every turn, kidnapped five times but he remains resolute and lives to tell his story.
The author says the novel provides understanding of some of the changes, like the establishment of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board that have happened in the oil and gas industry over the years