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Nigeria: Odi Massacre Statements
Nigeria: Odi Massacre Statements
Date distributed (ymd): 991223
Document reposted by APIC
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+
This posting contains two documents concerning recent
incidents in the Niger Delta which pose the most significant
challenge yet to the new Nigerian government's credibility in
dealing with the issue of human rights abuses and control of
oil wealth in the Niger Delta. One statement is from Nigerian
human rights and civil society groups; the other from Human
Rights Watch (Africa). More details, including the full text
of the HRW background paper and an earlier book-length report
on The Price of Oil: Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights
Violations in Nigeria's Oil Producing Communities, are
available on the Human Rights Watch web site
Genocide in Odi
Being the Text of a Press Conference by Leaders of Human
Rights and Civil Society Groups Who Visited Odi, Bayelsa State
on Wednesday December 8th 1999.
(This Text was read by Abdul Oroh, Executive Director, Civil
Liberties Organisation, Nigeria. Contact: The Civil Liberties
Organisation (CLO), 1A Hussey Street, Off Herbert Macaulay
Street, Jibowu-Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria; tel: +234 (1) 860456,
846412; fax: +234 (1) 5840288; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen of the press.
We have called this press conference to ultimate you of the
pathetic situation in Odi and other Communities of the Niger
Following reports of a military invasion of Odi, a community
in Bayelsa State of Nigeria, the human rights, environmental
rights groups and civil society movements decided to visit Odi
to see for ourselves what we have heard and read. Twenty-nine
groups from all parts of Nigeria visited Odi last Wednesday
December 8 1999. Odi, a town on the bank of the famous River
Nun is populated by the Ijaws of the Niger Delta. Estimated
population before the military invasion is put at 60,000. The
inhabitant of the rural community survive through fishing,
farming, harvesting and processing of oil palm produce, and
trading. It is an oil community, and Shell Petroleum
Development Company is present and controls three oil wells
In early November a group of lawless elements who had taken
refuge in the area was reported to have abducted six
policemen. It was later reported that despite the intervention
of social movements in the Niger Delta and elsewhere in the
country and Bayelsa State government officials, the law
officers were killed by the hoodlums. This was then followed
by President Obasanjo issuing a 14-day ultimatum to the
government of Bayelsa State to produce the miscreants, or he
Obasanjo will proclaim a state of emergency.
Ladies and gentlemen, the ultimatum was yet to expire when
General Obasanjo ordered troops into Odi and the surrounding
communities. The East-West road was cordoned off by the Orashi
River at Mbiama and by the River Niger at Patani. Thereafter,
a major military operation commenced, via the use of heavy
artillery, aircraft, grenade launchers, mortar bombs and other
sophisticated weapons. So ruthless, savage and thorough was
the operation that it could only have been intended to achieve
a genocidal outcome.
It is difficult at this stage to establish the number of those
killed, but we have received reports of mass burial, mass
cremation and the disembowelment and mass dumping of corpses
in River Nun. Two weeks after the operation, the stench of
decomposing bodies dumped into various creeks could still be
perceived from one kilometre from the town. We saw, so many
corpses by the roadside as we drove along. The body of an old
man, still clutching firmly to a copy of the Holy Bible, lay
decomposing in a pond behind the Anglican Church, a chilly
testimony to the scorched-earth objective of the invading
troops contrary to the officially declared objective of the
mission: to arrest the hoodlums who allegedly killed some
policemen. So complete was the destruction that crops were
razed, yam barns were burnt, garri processing plants were
willfully wrecked, canoes were set ablaze, and every house in
the entire community, with the exception of the First Bank, a
Community Health Centre and the Anglican Church, were burnt
down. No aspect of the community's existence was spared.
Places of worship and other sacred places, including sacred
forest and groves, churches, ancestral shrines and burial
places, were demolished. We received reports that the soldiers
looted many of the buildings and made away with the valuables
before setting them ablaze. A yet-to-be established number of
person, arrested and taken away by the soldiers to military
barracks in Elele, Port Harcourt and Warri, were yet to be
seen two weeks after the operation.
We saw no single livestock, poultry or other domestic animals
except a stray cat. The community's 60,000 inhabitants had
tied into the forest or been arrested or killed. Only a few
thoroughly traumatised old women, old men and children could
be seen around, some of them suffering from fractures and
other injuries sustained while trying to escape from advancing
soldiers. We also received information that the soldiers were
particularly contemptuous of books. Several libraries and
educational materials were particularly targeted and
The Odi invasion by our investigation was premeditated. It was
carefully planned to annihilate the people in order to make
things smooth and easy for the oil companies. The invasion was
called operation Hakuri II by the Minister of Defence, General
T.Y. Danjuma. Briefing the Ministerial Conference on November
25, he explained Operation Hakuri II on Odi and other
communities of the Niger Delta thus:
"This Operation Hakuri II was initiated with the mandate of
protecting lives and property - particularly oil platforms
flow stations, operating rig terminals and pipelines
refineries and power installation in the Niger Delta."
In other words, it was for oil and oil alone that the soldiers
who are today maintained with oil money from Odi and other
communities of the Niger Delta went to Odi to commit those
Some of the graffiti left on the walls of the destroyed
buildings by the soldiers also confirm their genocidal state
of mind. A few examples of such graffiti include the
"We will kill all Ijaws
"Bayelsa will be silent forever"
"Worship only God not Egbesu"
" Egbesu, why you run "
"Our power pass Egbesu. Next time even the trees will not be
"This land is for soja, not for ljaws".
We believe the soldiers were on drugs or were fed with
divisive propaganda to motivate their punitive expedition.
There is nowhere in the world where battalions of troops - the
airforce, army and navy - are sent to arrest a few miscreants.
In the light of the foregoing we wish to observe and state as
- That the events in Odi cannot be isolated from the larger
crises in the Niger Delta which have their root in the
historical political alienation, economic deprivation,
environmental devastation, physical brutalisation and
psychological traumatisation of the people by an oppressive
Nigerian State and exploitative multinational oil corporations
- That General Obasanjo's handling of the Niger Delta crisis,
as exemplified by his unconstitutional and reckless deployment
of troops to Odi, has been consistent with the oppressive
philosophy of governance of erstwhile military dictators which
conceives of force as the basic strategy for resolving social
and political problems. We would have expected that the coming
into power of a civilian government would have ushered in a
different approach to the crisis, one that would emphasise
dialogue and popular participation in the quest for a just and
lasting solution. Odi has cast a big question mark on the
ability of the Obasanjo government to resolve the nation's
social problems in a democratic manner.
- The military action in Odi not only violated sections of
the 1999 Constitution, it was inconsistent with the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
- The actions of the soldiers in Odi amounted to a genocide
and were clearly inconsistent with Article 5 of United Nations
Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officers.
Flowing from the above observations, we make the following
calls and demands:
- An independent Judicial Commission of Enquiry should be
conducted into the miIitary action Odi with a view to
determining the circumstances surrounding the President's
unconstitutional action, investigating the atrocities
committed by soldiers and punishing the perpetrators.
- A complete reconstruction of Odi should be embarked upon
urgently by the Federal Government and its inhabitants
resettled, rehabilitated and compensated adequately.
- We call for the immediate withdrawal of all troops from
the Niger Delta in order to end the devastation, killing,
looting, raping, maiming, and other forms of inhumanity for
which the troops have become notorious
- We support the legitimate struggles of the peoples of the
Niger Delta for self- determination, resource control,
environmental justice, cultural self-expression and genuine
participation in determining the conditions under which oil
companies operate in the area. We therefore endorse the Kaiama
Declaration, Ogoni Bill of Rights, lkwerre Rescue Charter,
Aklaka Declaration for the Egi, the Urhobo Economic Summit
Resolution, Oron Bill of Rights and other demands of peoples'
organisations in the Niger Delta.
- We call on the Obasanjo government to commence forthwith
a transparent process of multi- lateral dialogue that would
involve the government, the oil companies and freely chosen
leaders of the Niger Delta peoples to work out the modalities
for meeting the just demands of the people.
- We call on the United Nations and the Organisation of
African Unity to institute an International War Crime Tribunal
to try and punish all those who in one way or the other
perpetrated the atrocity in Odi.
For and on behalf of the underlisted organisations.
Civil Liberties Organisation, Environmental Rights Action,
Ijaw Youths Council, Niger Delta Women for Justice, Ijaw
Council for Human Rights, Women in Nigeria (WIN), Ikwerre
Solidarity Congress, Journalists for Democratic Rights
(JODER), Pan African Youth Movement (PAYM), Nigerian Institute
of Human Rights (NIHR), International Center for Development
& Environmental Planning (ICDEP), Community Rights Initiative,
National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS),
Constitutional Rights Project (CRP), Campaign for Democracy
for Human Rights (CDHR), Pan Ibo Federation, Huri-Laws, Agape
(Birth Rights), Bayelsa State Youth Development Foundation
(BSYDF), Oduduwa Liberation Movement, Institute of Human
Rights and Humanitarian law (IHRHL), United Community Action
Network, Public Inhouse Lawyers link, Media for Ethnic
HRW Call For Action Against Abuses In The Niger Delta
Human Rights Watch (New York)
December 21, 1999
For further information, contact Human Rights Watch, 350 Fifth
Avenue, 34th Floor, New York, NY 10118-3299 USA.
TEL: 1-212-290-4700 FAX: 1-212-736-1300 E- mail:
1522 K Street, N.W. Washington D.C. 20005;
TEL: 202/371-6592 FAX: 202/371-0124.
Web Site Address: http://www.hrw.org
New York - Human Rights Watch today called on the Nigerian
government to initiate criminal proceedings against soldiers
responsible for abuses in two recent incidents in the oil
producing Niger Delta region. In a background paper based on
recent research in Nigeria, Human Rights Watch condemned the
razing of the village of Odi, Bayelsa State, by the Nigerian
army, and confirmed allegations that soldiers committed rape
in the nearby community of Choba, Rivers State.
"It looks like the new civilian government in Nigeria is using
the same methods as the old military governments," said Peter
Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa Division of
Human Rights Watch. "The new regime has made progress in some
areas of human rights, but these latest events in the delta
cast doubt on President Obasanjo's real intentions." On
November 20, at least several hundred soldiers were deployed
to Odi, where a gang of armed youths had killed a dozen
policemen in recent weeks. The soldiers made no apparent
attempt to arrest the suspected perpetrators, and instead
systematically destroyed the village over the next two weeks,
leaving only three buildings undamaged. At least several dozen
unarmed civilians were killed in the army operation, possibly
In Choba, in Rivers State, on October 28 soldiers dispersed
demonstrators outside the premises of Willbros Nigeria Ltd, a
subsidiary of an American contractor to the oil and gas
industry, based in Oklahoma. The soldiers killed four people
and raped a number of women from the community. The Nigerian
federal government dismissed the reports of rapes, asserting
that photographs alleged to show the soldiers assaulting the
women were staged, and the police have refused to
investigate. Human Rights Watch found the women's claims of
rape to be fully credible, and believes that contesting the
accuracy of the photographic evidence is an inappropriate
response by the government to serious allegations of human
There has been increasing unrest in the Niger Delta in recent
years, as local people have demanded greater control over the
natural resources, chiefly oil, found beneath their land.
"The government and oil companies have legitimate concerns
over protest when it takes criminal forms. Hostage-taking or
the killing of security officers deserve a serious response,"
said Takirambudde. "But this kind of brutality from the army
is certain to make the situation worse. It will fuel arguments
that there is nothing to be gained by attempting to dialogue
with the new civilian government, and that people must take to
arms to make their case." Human Rights Watch called on the
Nigerian government to:
- Undertake an immediate process of criminal investigation of
the events in Odi and Choba with a view to instituting court
martial proceedings for murder, rape, and other offences
against those responsible for the army operations in each
case, including both perpetrators and their commanding
officers, where appropriate.
- Appoint independent and public judicial commissions of
inquiry into the events in Odi and Choba with a wide mandate
to examine the causes and consequences of the army operations
and to make recommendations for appropriate relief and
compensation to those affected, including the rebuilding of
- Undertake an immediate consultation process with a wide
range of respresentatives of opinion in the delta with a view
to ensuring that in future clear distinctions are drawn
between legitimate political demands and criminal acts and
that those allegedly responsible for criminal offences are
arrested and tried according to Nigerian law.
The organisation called on Willbros to:
- Send staff from company headquarters to investigate the
alleged rapes, killings and assaults by soldiers outside its
premises on October 28 and 29, 1999; take steps to protest
abuses with the appropriate authorities and urge that
appropriate criminal and disciplinary action be taken against
those responsible; review security arrangements to ensure that
similar abuses cannot happen in future; and review its
relations with the Choba community, consulting widely to
develop means of improving that relationship.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary
objective is to widen international policy debates around
African issues, by concentrating on providing accessible
policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide
range of groups and individuals.