Urhobo Historical Society

November 24, 1999

Editorial Foreword
In matters of military operations, Nigerians were at a disadvantage on the amount of information that flows to the public. From its British colonial origins, the Nigerian military regard civilians as the enemy in such operations. Information to them was not part of the understanding of such military operations. Information had filtered out from the fact that the Warri-Port Harcourt Road had been sealed off for the purpose of the invasion. Nigerians therefore had no choice but to  rely on information coming from the Federal Government on its own version of what was going on in the military front in the Niger Delta.

The first selection here was taken from BBC which was probably much more privileged as a source of news of what was going on in the military front in the Niger Delta than Nigerian news organizations, since President Obasanjo's Government was intent on pleasing and reassuring its foreign friends. The second selection is from Reuters reporting on a meeting between President and the powerful international oil companies.

Subject: [naijanews] DELTA SITREP
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 20:14:50 EST
From: "Nowamagbe Omoigui M.D." <nowa@RICHMED.MEDPARK.SC.EDU>
Organization: USC School of Medicine
To: naijanews@egroups.com

BBC Report By Barnaby Phillips in Lagos:


In its first public comments after several days of fighting in the troubled Niger Delta, the Nigerian Government has said it has deployed security forces to enforce law and order and ensure what it calls the speedy return of normality.

It said the gruesome killing of 12 policemen earlier this month and subsequent attacks on other policemen made an intervention in the Delta imperative.

But it was keen that the move should be seen as an operation controlled by the local authority rather than a military campaign under central control.

A government statement broadcast nationwide denied that it had launched a military action and said no state of emergency had been declared in Bayelsa state where the fighting has been taking place.

Following a meeting between President Olusegun Obasanjo and his security chiefs, the government said the safety of law abiding citizens in the Delta was assured.

But reporters who travelled to the conflict area on Monday found their route blocked by government soldiers.

The reporters saw hundreds of displaced people, many of them elderly. The displaced people said they'd run away from the army and that the soldiers had been killing people.

More gunfire could be heard coming in the direction from which the people had fled.

President Obasanjo has said he is still committed to addressing the legitimate grievances of the people of the Niger Delta but after the events of the past few days the search for reconciliation will be more difficult than ever.

Reuters Report
November 22, 1999, Filed at 4:01 p.m. ET


 ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo tried to reassure oil executives Monday after several soldiers were killed trying to put down unrest in the oil-producing Niger Delta at the weekend.

Military sources said the soldiers were killed trying to storm the village of Odi, the base for a band of ethnic Ijaw youths believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least a dozen policemen.

``The soldiers are in Odi now,'' Norman Morris, spokesman for the governor of Bayelsa State, told Reuters from the state capital Yenagoa.

``They are in Odi only to fish out the armed bandits, hoodlums and miscreants. They will leave for their barracks as soon as the criminals are sifted out, and the governor has called on people not to panic.''

Obasanjo has grown increasingly frustrated with events in the Niger Delta and has threatened to declare a state of emergency there if unrest does not abate.

A presidency statement said Obasanjo had told the oil executives the government was ``very much aware of the concerns of the oil producing companies for law and order.''

He restated his resolve not to allow the region to be overtaken by lawlessness while pledging urgent action to address the region's lack of development, the statement added.


Presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe said the deployment of troops did not signal the beginning of a state of emergency, which could see the elected local governor Diepriye Alameisiegha removed under emergency powers.

``Security forces were...deployed to the area, under the control of the state governor primarily to ensure the enforcement of law and order and the apprehension of those responsible for the cold-blooded murder of law enforcement agents,'' he said in a statement.

State television said Obasanjo was chairing a National Security Council meeting in the capital Abuja to discuss conflict areas around the country, including the Delta.

In the oil town of Warri, another militant Ijaw group condemned the deployment of troops in Odi and threatened to target oil firms and ``join forces with our brethren in Bayelsa state.''

``We will not allow the federal government of Nigeria to massacre us with military weaponry acquired with our God-given resources,'' the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities group said in a statement.

Violence has claimed hundreds of lives in the past year and threatens the oil exports on which Africa's most populous nation relies for its hopes of reconstruction after 15 years of crippling military rule.

The unrest, which has been building in the Niger Delta for years, stems from the demands of impoverished communities in the mostly Ijaw region for a greater share of oil wealth.

But violent incidents have been increasingly linked not so much to political activists as to groups of frustrated youths, such as those in Odi, who see kidnapping and disrupting oil industry operations as their only source of cash.