“This is not a drill, this is not a drill. All workers are to report at the muster point immediately and await further instructions.”
The crew working at the Ekulama 1 flow station hastily disregarded all their efforts to mend the broken pipe that was spilling profuse droplets of crude oil into the swamp. They evacuated the station which was situated at the back of the yard housing accommodations and office complexes. They hastily marched on, heading towards the designated spot. The Safety coordinator stood not too far from the gigantic Mikano generator waving them in. They did so in anticipation. Few minutes and the safe point was surrounded with anxious faces of young and middle aged able-bodied men in blue and orange coveralls, each wielding his safety helmet in one hand.
The Human safety coordinator began, uncapping his helmet.
“We’ve received a distress call from Ekulama 2. Militants have destroyed all the oil wells, gas turbines and positive displacement meters in the station. The place is a mess. We also have intel that they will be closing in on us in no time. They came prepared in their speed boats and machine guns and AK 47 rifles.”
He paused for a minute to let the frightened workers adjust to the news. They were awed to their waists as they processed the unfortunate news of their impending doom. You could visualize the unhidden expression of fear hanging freely on their faces. They soon wished they were far away, far from the riverine areas and into the main lands where bad news like this never occurred, maybe even having lunch with their families and arguing over some unimportant family matter.
“What are we to do now?” asked an old worker with a bewildering look on his pale face.
“We simply stay calm. There are procedures meant to arrest issues such as this. In the mean time, no personnel is allowed outside this yard until the incoming ambush is averted. We’ve sent an SOS message to the army patrols outside the house boats and those patrolling the waters. Everything will be fine.”
The lot of them knew everything wasn’t going to be fine. In fact, today obviously seemed like their last. News had it that this particular insane militant group wreaked havoc on refineries, pipelines and oil rigs encircling the oil nation. What was their fate now that they were next in line for an attack?
The soldiers on patrol soon arrived and set their rifles in strategic positions around the house boat. They were on alert, awaiting the gruesome shootout that was soon to become the fight of their lives. They stacked up supplies ranging from grenades to hundreds of magazines and then more grenades. They seemed ever ready.
Inside the yard, held commotion. The oil workers were in disarray as each scurried toward their different rooms in search of solitude. Some hid under the single sized beds while some hid in the toilets. They panicked and whispered prayers to God for emancipation.
Soon, high-pitched silence spread through the vicinity like wildfire. The huge Mikano generator was shut down so as not to draw attention. Even the fishes and crabs inhabiting the shores of the flow station were nowhere to be found. They were deserted. Outside the yard, the soldiers who had set up strategic formations around the house boat clinched their firearms and held steady awaiting the blood thirsty militants. Their machine guns were directed into the open river.
This held up for several minutes until an incoming speed boat navigated its way towards Ekulama I. The captain grabbed the microphone and yelled out, “Federal Water Ways. You are advised to change course immediately.”
The speed boat to their amazement increased its acceleration towards them as bullets ravaged the roof of the house boat. The soldiers at the other side of the boat ducked and scrambled towards the side from which the shots were being drawn.
” Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta,” bullets flew from both sides creating impacts on the house boats and on the half sinking speed boat. The boat driver struggled with the steering, trying to save the boat and the passengers from drowning.
More boats were sighted from the other direction. This time not just one, but tens of speed boats decorated with submachine guns and militants in army camouflages. This was a standoff. Bullets still pelted in from both directions until ballistics projected from one of the incoming speed boats hit the heart of the house boat. It erupted huge flames finely decorated with huge cloud of smokes which could be seen from a far distance. “Boom-boom.” The impact was so catastrophic that no single shot was heard from the fast sinking boat housing corpses of the patrol soldiers. The stench of gasoline, burning metals and fabrics spread through the scene. This was obviously a precisely planned attack. With the army out of the picture, they set out to blow up the oil wells that stood in front of the station. They spread like soldier ants throughout the flow station planting explosives at core areas.
The day before was as mundane as any other. Meetings and functions and other maintenance operations were carried out periodically. It also marked the day when the highly skilled technician by the name of Chidi visited the station in accordance to a contract reached between his company and the administration of Ekulama I. After his scheduled inspection on the leaking pipes, he ruled out any form of work until the next day and set out to explore the waterside.
The villages were occupied by indigenes whose major occupation was fishing. They never attended schools as the companies around provided none. He and two other workers boarded a canoe which conveyed them to the other side of the neighboring settlement across the Black River. This particular river suffered pollution. The spilled crude oil which constituted nuisance and disrupted aquatic life could be seen suspended on the top of the flowing water like Brownian motion. It was evening and so the tide was pretty high. The young boy paddling the canoe, propelled further to the other side of the river. The turbulence disturbed the steadiness of the craft causing it to sway from this side to the other side.
They jumped down as it hit the shores. Each man adjusted his clothes in attempt not to look disheveled as the prying eyes of the natives feasted on them. They were considered foreigners, “oil men” with plenty money as the indigenes called them.
Thatched houses, pregnant young girls with crying babies in their arms and fleets of canoes were all they could see.
They asked for directions and soon found a beer parlour in the middle of all the thatched houses. This one at least was erected with bricks and metal roofs.
The trio entered the Tavern. Several “oil men” also occupied some tables, each having a different brand of beer in one hand and a burning cigarette in the other. Neon lights flickered all through the room producing an inspiring atmosphere for pleasure.
After much pacing, they soon found a free table scattered with four empty chairs. They sat down and beckoned on the young attractive waitress. She sashayed towards the group. They stared admiringly at the gorgeous lady advancing in style towards their table and pondered where in the world she learnt such walking style. They placed their orders. Three bottles of Heineken and three plates of pounded yam and white soup. Few minutes later, she returned with their orders. Delicious plates of steaming pounded yam and white soup richly garnished with snails, shrimps, fat crabs and oversized fishes sat before them. The gentle air breezed in through the half open window swerving the steams emerging slowly from the plates. They rinsed their hands in a bowl and proceeded to devouring the tasty meals hungrily with their bare hands.
Local ashawo (whores) flaunted their assets for interested customers to see. They stood in groups wearing short gowns and hills that made them elongated. On the rear side of the beer parlour stood a fair mysterious young lady dressed in a tight short reddish gown that matched the black purse she held tightly In her left hand. The necklaces dangling on her slim neck were silver coloured, long and stylish like that of a model. The teat of her busty breasts protruded like an antenna for the whole world to see. She held a glass of wine in her left arm from which she sipped at short intervals.
She stared directly at Chidi. This stare was contagious. He soon felt uneasy and restless as he noticed the fixated gaze from across the bar. This was icing on a gigantic cake. This reality beat his expectations. The delicious meal, the captivating scenery, the cultures and traditions of these people, the fleets of canoes, and not forgetting the impeccable beauty standing at the other side of the slightly populated tavern was nothing compared to the vague imaginations he held for this place.
He rinsed his oily fingers then partially dried them on the curtain blinding the faint light from outside. He peeped through it and stared at the flickering flood lights illuminating Ekulama 1. To be truthful, no view beat the tiny lights scattered throughout the station. He excused himself and strode majestically towards the bar. There he whispered some words into the ears of the elderly bartender. The older man nodded and smiled teasingly then motioned to him to go through the hidden door behind the bar, which he did. He threw a wink at the lady fair lady in red. The mysterious lady followed suit, drooling behind.
That was yesterday. Today, he squatted behind the toilet door, quivering and shaking in fright. The thoughts of the previous evening played vividly through his unbalanced guilty mind. He wished he was in the city, maybe on a beach, in shorts and singlets, watching the waves tumble against each other, watching the little children build sand castles then breaking them down with feet. He wished he was safe.
” Boom-boom-boom.” More explosions erupted from the oil wells then another from the platforms housing flow pipes, gas turbines, pressure safety valves and positive displacement meters, then another from the neck-high metal bollards surrounding the yard and then another destroying the generator and then the loudest shattering the windows of the office complex.
“wou – wou – wou-wou.” The alarm systems wailed noisily from various directions.
From where Chidi crouched hidden, he crawled towards the small window, slowly stood up, peeking through the polythene shaded glasses. What he saw drew blood out from the corners of his dilated eyes. Three men knelt on the grasses, with their hands on their head facing forward towards the small window from which he peeked from. The cook and his assistant, alongside the potbellied laundry man gazed at him as they mumbled their last prayers.
“Click…ta-ta-ta.” The dead bodies slumped with a loud thud as they hit the ground. The gunner instantaneously shifted his tribal marked face from the dead bodies to the window,then commanded his mates to sweep the entire rooms. They dashed out in diverse directions like a beehive disturbed by the wind, yelling out “kugbou ha, kugbounu ha,” (kill them, kill them all).
Few minutes, and they were scattered all around the accommodation, combing out innocent workers. The number of hostages summed ninteen. From within, cries of pains and agony emerged followed by Rapid gunshots. High-pitched cries of pain and regret filtered its way from Ekulama 1, then an abrupt silence. The silent whispers of death.
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