Urhobo Historical Society

November 24-28, 1999

Editorial Foreword
 One of the most bizarre developments in the history of the invasion of Bayelsa State was the behavior of the Governor of that state. He had been dragged before the awesome presence of the National Security Council. While other Deltans were expressing their outrage on President Obasanjo's rough and dismissive attitudes towards the Governor of a constituent state of the Nigerian Federation,  Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Governor of the state, meekly succumbed to Presidential pressure. He declared support for the military invasion, insisting that it was necessary to arrest those who killed policemen. Although the Federal Government alleged that the Governor was directing the military operations in his own state, he apparently had no idea of the enormity of the military invasion of Odi. When he was finally allowed to see the town in total ruins, the good Governor wept.

Why did Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha throw his support for President Obasanjo's invasion of his state? Many Ijaws have suggested that he was intimidated and bullied by President Obasanjo. Others have added that he had good reasons to be fearful of what could befall him if his state was taken over in a formal state of emergency. In other words, succumbing to President Obasanjo was his own way of avoiding a state of emergency. A second viewpoint, a great deal more generous towards him, is that the Governor  was betrayed by the Federal Government. He had trusted Obasanjo's promise that it was a limited operation. If so, he was not the only one who was betrayed. President Obasanjo has also implied that his soldiers went too far in carrying out their mission.

A Viewpoint From the State's Governor

Reported By Chima Okereafor, Port Harcourt, and Modestus Uwalaka, Abuja,
Daily Champion, Wed, 24 Nov 1999

Subject: [edo-community] Why soldiers stormed Bayelsa -- Governor
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 18:17:17 EST
From: "Nowamagbe Omoigui M.D." <nowa@RICHMED.MEDPARK.SC.EDU>
Organization: USC School of Medicine
To: edo-community@egroups.com

Bayelsa State Government has denied that the deployment of soldiers to the crisis-torn Odi community in the state was an indication that a state of emergency would soon be proclaimed in the town.

It said that the move was meant to flush out criminal elements who had in recent times kidnapped and in some instances killed policemen and their security agents.

Chief press secretary to the governor Mr. Norman Morris, who explained the situation yesterday in an interview with Daily Champion, said that activities of these elements were portraying the state in bad light, "hence the need to get rid of the criminals."

The Federal Government had recently given governor Dieprey Alamieyeseigha a 14-day ultimatum within which to restore peace to the state, fish out the killers of at least a dozen policemen sent to maintain peace in the area, or risk a state of emergency. The ultimatum expires Wednesday.

But according to Mr. Morris, the soldiers currently in Odi would leave as soon as the task for which they were deployed was successfully accomplished.

Daily Champion learnt that latest trouble started last Friday when soldiers got wind of the alleged kidnap of four of their colleagues by Odi youths.

The next day, Saturday, some soldiers were detailed to ascertain the true situation and since Odi youths were aware that they were coming, they allegedly ambushed, attacked and injured many of the soldiers.

Some of the lucky ones escaped and went for reinforcement. On returning to Odi, the youths allegedly engaged them again in a free-for-all fight at the end of which many died and some others were injured.

Attempts by Daily Champion to get the number of casualties were unsuccessful as the University of Port-Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and the military hospital where the injured and death were taken refused to grant our reporter access, for security reasons.

Meanwhile, there has been more reinforcement of soldiers in the trouble spot from Enugu and Warri, just as peace was yet to return to the town.

Contacted, Army public relations officer at the 82 Amphibious Brigade based in Port Harcourt Capt. John Agim said he could not make comments on the situation until later.

He said the Army would only make statements on the issue by next weekend. When reminded that it was an emergency and Nigerians needed to be told what was happening, he referred Daily Champion to Army headquarters.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Stock Exchange seminar, earlier scheduled for November 25 in Yenagoa Bayelsa State capital, has been put off indefinitely as a result of the crisis.

Manager of Port-Harcourt floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Mr. Joe Ekpe in charge of the seminar had his car smashed by soldiers at Mbiama junction.

He said he had reported the matter to the police.

Meanwhile, the National Defence Council (NDC) yesterday in Abuja, began a meeting to find immediate and long-term solutions to the myriad of security problems facing the country, especially in the Niger Delta area.

The NDC, headed by President Olusegun Obasanjo, had met on November 8 and reviewed the security situation in the country, with a view to working out a strategy for resolving the crisis in all conflict areas in the country.

The 1999 constitution lists members of the council as the Vice-President who is its vice-chairman, minister of defence, the
three service chiefs, and any other person whom the president may appoint.

The constitution says that the council "shall have powers to advise the president on matters relating to the defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria."

The president had earlier met with the heads of oil-producing companies in the country, perhaps to ask for their contribution to the development of communities from which they tapped oil before the commencement of the defence council meeting.

During the meeting of the security council early this month, Governor of Rivers State Dr. Peter Odili, and his Bayelsa State counterpart Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, were invited to brief the council on the crises in their states.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that within the last few weeks, there have been renewed violent agitations for self-determination from the people of the Niger Delta area, whose violent youths had taken up arms against law enforcement agents and killed about a dozen policemen in the last few days.

Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who is the council's vice-chairman, addressed a special press conference on the outcome of the Security council meeting, during which he warned that the Federal Government would not hesitate to declare a state of emergency in the Niger Delta area if the wanton destruction of lives and property in the region persisted.

Since the Federal Government's warning was issued, the situation in the Niger Delta area has escalated with more policemen being killed by youths, who had ignored appeals for calm from their governors, elders and traditional rulers.

The National Assembly is yet to pass a presidential bill sent to it in June on the establishment of a new body for the development of all oil producing areas.

In a related development President Olusegun Obasanjo is to meet monthly with governors of oil-producing states and key players in the oil industry to review progress made towards the improvement of oil producing states.

The decision to institute the meeting was part of the outcome of a meeting held at the State House yesterday between the president, leaders of the National Assembly, the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and oil-industry executives.

A statement by Dr. Doyin Okupe, special assistant to the president on media and publicity said the meeting focussed on means of restoring law and order in the Niger Delta and ways of implementing a rapid programme of development in the area.

President Obasanjo, the statement said, had said government was aware of the concern of the oil companies for law and order in the Niger delta and the threat which its breakdown could pose to the country as a whole.

Said Okupe: "President Obasanjo restated his recent warning that the federal government would not tolerate a descent into criminality by persons who could demand an amelioration of their problems by peaceful means."

Present situation in the Niger Delta, he said, dictated that government and all concerned parties must get their acts together and expedite action on whatever they were doing to address the many problems of oil producing areas of the country.

He advised the oil companies to explore ways of making their host communities stakeholders in the successful operation of the industry and suggested that one way of achieving this objective was to accommodate indigenes of oil producing communities in their employment programmes.

Specifically, the president urged the companies to employ indigenes as community and public relations officers to bridge the communications gap between them and their host communities and enhance good community relations.

In attendance at the meeting were Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senate President Dr. Chuka Okadigbo, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Na'Abba, PDP Chairman, Chief Bernabas Gemade, chairman of the party's board of trustees, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and others.

A Second Expression of Support By Governor of Bayelsa State For the Invasion of His State

Reported By SAM ONWUEMEDO, Yenagoa,
Vanguard, Sun, 28 Nov 1999

Subject: [edo-community] If I were Obasanjo - by Alamieyesegha
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 09:18:30 EST
From: "Nowamagbe Omoigui M.D." <nowa@RICHMED.MEDPARK.SC.EDU>
Organization: USC School of Medicine
To: naijanews@egroups.com
CC: edo-community@egroups.com

Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha has maintained that the presence of the military in Odi was the best option necessary to douse tension in the area.

He said at the weekend at Yenogoa: "If I were the President, I would have done the same thing."

Governor Alamieyeseigha said, the President had critically looked at the unfolding scenario and had assured him on telephone that the security situation in the state did not warrant the declaration of emergency.

Adding: "the assurance became necessary in view of the apprehension among residents because of the Federal Government's threat."

The Presidency had early this month issued a 14-day ultimatum to Governor Alamieyeseigha to apprehend the killers of the 12 police officers , or face the risk of a state of emergency being declared in his state. The ultimatum expired Wednesday.

"The military is in firm control of the area to restore order. Efforts are also being made to arrest the fleeing ringleaders and bring them to face the wrath of the law. Communities providing protection for the fleeing criminals should hand them over to the law enforcement agencies or risk being invaded by military personnel."

Governor Alamieyeseigha, however, regretted that inspite of the immense contributions of the state to the nation's economy, it had nothing to show for it, adding that such neglect was criminal.

"Bayelsa State is the least developed area, not only in the country, but in the world. The state has been in darkness for more than eight months now following the breakdown of the gas turbine generators which was the only source of power in the state. There is no federal presence in the state. It is unfortunate that none of the forty-six road projects recently announced by the Federal Government was for Bayelsa.

"This is why we have appealed to the Federal Government to site the headquarters of the proposed Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Yenagoa. The gesture would instill in the people a sense of belonging. The people of the area have no plans to fight the Federal Government. But we are only asking for fairness, equity and justice within the Nigerian federation", he asserted.

Meanwhile, indigenes of Bayelsa State in Abuja, have condemned the killings and wanton destruction of lives and property in the state, calling on the restive youths in the state to exercise restraint.

They also expressed sympathy for the families of the police officers allegedly killed by Odi youths, but condemned the publication of the states of origin of the killed policemen by government agents, pointing out that the publication was aimed at inciting other tribes against the Ijaws.