ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS ACTION [ERA]
RELEASES CASAULTY FIGURE IN ODI INVASION
November 19, 2002
Three years after the invasion and destruction of Odi, Bayelsa State, full names of the dead have been released by the environmental pressure group Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN). In a new report titled A Blanket of Silence: Images of the Odi Genocide, ERA listed 2,483 casualties, comprising 1,023 females and 1,460 males. ERA wondered why despite President Olusegun Obasanjo's acknowledgement, while on a visit to Odi, that the soldiers went 'beyond their brief', the president as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces has failed to offer any apology or even order compensation to the community. The NGO faulted official claims that the invading soldiers were in Odi to arrest a band of lawless elements accused of killing law enforcement officers.
"The world now knows that the killing of the ! policemen was never the reason for the onslaught on Odi. It was just an excuse by the government of General Obasanjo in cahoots with Shell and the other oil companies to summarily resolve the Niger Delta question", said ERA Executive Director Nnimmo Bassey. "The idea was to contain the agitation of the peoples of the Niger Delta for resource and environmental control, political autonomy and a democratic federal Nigeria. Obasanjo and the social forces he represents perceive this agitation as a major threat to the status quo. They therefore want to conquer the Niger Delta by force of arms, the easier to sustain the rape on the people and their resources."
ERA quoted Nigeria's Minister of Defence General Theophilus Danjuma as telling the Economic Committee of West African States (ECOWAS) ministerial conference on November 25, 1999 that: " This Operation HAKURI II, was initiated with the mandate of protecting lives and property- particularly oil platforms, flow statio! ns, operating rig terminals and pipelines, refineries and power instal lations in the Niger Delta.".
Odi is an oil community with three capped oil wells controlled by Shell Petroleum Development Company Ltd.
A Blanket of Silence contains ERA reports from Odi, testaments from the local people and the sick graffiti which Nigerian soldiers left on Odi. The group gave five reasons for publishing the report, namely:
1) to draw attention to the human rights record of the Obasanjo regime in the Niger Delta;
2) to highlight the sorry fact that oil, not human security, motivated the attack on the oil-bearing community of Odi;
3) to support the legitimate demands of the Odi people for reparations; 4) to campaign for an independent inquiry into the Odi massacre and the punishment of all those responsible for the genocidal attack
5) to contribute to our active history
Finally, ERA recommended as follows:
TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
* Set up an independent judicial commission of inquiry to look into the immediate and remote causes that led to the invasion, destruction, killings and maiming in Odi
* Identify persons, groups, concerns or entities who took part, encouraged, instigated, approved or perfected the invasion of Odi and have them prosecuted.
* Provide relief, succour, rehabilitate and rebuild Odi town
* Compensate all those who have suffered one way or the other in the Odi invasion
* Apologise to the Odi people for this unwarranted assault on their communal sanctity.
* Cause to be published a detail report of the independent
judicial commission of inquiry
TO THE BAYELSA STATE GOVERNMENT
* Co-operate with the Federal Government in ensuring that steps taken towards identifying the immediate and remote causes which led to the invasion of Odi are realised.
TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
Institute an International War Crime Tribunal to try and
punish all those who in one way or the other perpetrated the atrocity in
* Speak out against the genocide in Odi
* Prevent any identified person(s) or groups from enjoying international goodwill such as visits to countries who do not support the type of activities carried out in Odi
* Arrest any officer or personnel who took part in the
Odi invasion whenever they visit any country that is signatory to the Geneva
Convention Against Genocide and Torture.
Head, Lagos Office