23 November, 1999
President of Nigeria, Obasanjo's Letter Threatening
A State of Emergency in Bayelsa State of Nigeria.
Dear Prime Minister Jospin,
Please sir, allow us to draw your attention to a brewing danger in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, specifically in Bayelsa State. The threat of a state of emergency if carried out has the potential to scuttle the evolution of Nigeria's nascent democracy.
You are probably aware that the Niger Delta region is where the oil wells and gas fields in Nigeria are located, which is why the Niger Delta is the source of virtually all of the country's foreign exchange earnings and the main source of federal government revenue. Despite the region's unparalleled contribution to the economy of the nation, the delta region is ironically the least developed and the most ecologically ravaged, resulting in acute denigrating poverty to which the indigenes have been perennially subjected due to decades of oil exploration. In an effort to draw attention to their plight, the people of the Niger Delta communities are constantly protesting the activities of the multinational oil corporations that prospect for and extract oil in the area. Under such situation, the activities of miscreants who are eager to take advantage of a volatile situation are not uncommon. Indeed, there have been isolated cases of kidnapping and extortion by few over-zealous individuals. These are deplorable acts because such incidents tend to confound the legitimate demand by the people of the Niger Delta for socioeconomic justice. Unfortunately, government's response to the peaceful demonstrations and the people's right to freedom of expression and assembly has often been the deployment of large numbers of security forces across the delta with orders to shoot and kill.
Consequently, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, indiscriminate and widespread violation of civil and political rights, are the horrible conditions to which the Ijaws and others in the Niger Delta are subjected each time security forces are deployed to the area; it happened when Abacha was the military President of Nigeria (recall the brutal murder of Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni eight), this pattern was repeated during the tenure of his successor, Abdulsalam Abubakar and the prospect for this wanton brutality to repeat itself under President Obasanjo's civilian regime is unthinkable. Recently, at Odi Town in the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State (in the Niger Delta), twelve policemen were reportedly killed allegedly by rampaging youths there. A recent report, by 'The Vanguard' (a Nigerian daily newspaper) however, attributed the killings to armed robbers out for a loot. President Obasanjo's response to the situation is a letter dated November 10, 1999, addressed to the Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, containing a 14-day ultimatum for the governor to identify and arrest the alleged culprits or he will impose a state of emergency at the end of 14 days. Mr. President, the idea of repeatedly subjecting innocent men, women and children in the Ijaw territory (most of whom have become frail, emaciated and traumatized due to repeated brutality on them by Nigerian soldiers) is inhuman and detestable by all accounts.
Which is why THE COUNCIL OF IJAW ASSOCIATIONS ABROAD (comprising of several organizations of the Ijaw ethnic nationality of Nigeria located in, various states in the United States of America, Canada, Europe and Japan) is writing to you to prevail upon President Obasanjo not to declare a state of emergency in Bayelsa State. In retrospect, the crisis that engulfed the Western part of Nigeria in 1966 which eventually led to the Nigerian civil war was triggered by the state of emergency imposed there. At this critical stage of Nigeria's development and history, actions and declaration that have the potential to precipitate another major crisis will tragically set the nation back and this we cannot afford. After many years of brutal military dictatorship in Nigeria, we all look forward, for the first time, to the prospects for democracy and stability in the country. Mr. Prime Minister sir, we cannot over-emphasize the fact that, a democratic Nigeria is the key to a stable and prosperous West Africa and by extension to the rest of Africa. In view of the gravity of the situation, therefore, THE COUNCIL would like to repeat its call upon you to prevail upon President Obasanjo, to rescind his government's threat to impose a state of emergency in Bayelsa State, expected to come into effect from Wednesday, November 24, 1999.
Your attention to this important matter will be greatly
Godfrey Ambakiderimoh Okoro, MBA
President, CIAA Executive Council
Secretary, CIAA Executive Council
PROTOCOL, PUBLIC RELATIONS, RESEARCH & PUBLICATIONS
COMMITTEE: Ebiamadon Andi Brisibe, Ph.D. - Chairman, Matthew Oruowei
Sikpi, Ph.D; Dawari Longjohn; Rowland Ekperi; Ebi Burutolu, Ph.D; Tiefa
Niweigha; Kabowei Akamande; Patrick K. Audley and Sokari Ekine, Ms. ===============================================================
On behalf of : Ijaw People's Association Of Great Britain & Ireland,
Ijaw National Alliance Of The Americas - INAA, Ijaw Forum Germany, Izonebe
Group - Japan, Izon Ebi Association - Washington DC, Izon Association Of
Greater Kansas - Kansas City, USA - Niger Delta Sister Cities (KC - PH)
Foundation, Kansas City, Ijaws Of Northern California - INCAL, Izon Association
Of Southern California, Izon Ibe Association - Michigan, Ijaws in Canada,
Ijaw United Fund - Houston, Texas, Ijaw American Caucus - Minneapolis/St
Paul, Bayelsa State Union - Georgia, Independent Members. ===============================================================