Urhobo Historical Society

By Ijaw National Congress (USA)
November 20, 2000

Subject: [Ijaw_National_Congress] THE DESTRUCTION OF ODI: A YEAR AFTER
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2000 14:45:28 -0000
From: "Ijaw National Congress" <incusa@aol.com>
To: Ijaw_National_Congress@egroups.com

November 20, 2000



A year ago on November 20, under the pretext of a mission to arrest Some alleged criminal elements in Odi, the Obasanjo administration sent a military force under the command of one Colonel Agbabiaka of the Nigerian Army. This force reminiscent of the typical expeditionary raids of the colonial times, in a very ruthless manner completely destroyed this erstwhile serene community in Bayelsa State. It is important to put this event in a proper context, in order to understand the full intent and purpose of what occurred in Odi a year ago. Given the dastardly act of the slaying of ten policemen in the line-of-duty, it was imperative that the perpetrators of this crime be apprehended and made to face the full weight of the law. The question then becomes; under the prevailing circumstance, which of the myriad instruments of coercion at the disposal of government could have been used to arrest these criminals. Without flogging the issue a military force was the most inappropriate machinery to use to effect the arrest of these criminals. But was the government ignorant of the possible outcome of a military action? Obviously not! Just as in colonial times the intent and purpose was clear destroy and conquer. This was the explicit instruction of those who approved operation HAKURI II. In fact a sampling of some of the graffiti left by the soldiers speak for themselves the mindset and operational order of the executioners of the operation. Below are a few:

a. We don finish Odi. We don finish the work.
b. Learn a lesson. Visit Odi.
c. We were sent by the government to kill and burn your community, take heart.
d. Shame to the Ijaw people.
e. We go kill all Ijaw people with our gun.
f. Na you get Oil? Foolish people.

The above-cited graffiti were compiled by volunteers of grass-root organizations who were witnesses to the destruction of Odi in its immediate aftermath. With these words we are in no doubt as to the intent of the Obasanjo administration silence Ijaws physically and psychologically. In their thinking, if you can silence Ijaws, presently the most vocal nationality expressing the injustices and attendant inhumanity of the twin actions of the Federal government and oil companies, then the agitation for justice and equity by the peoples of the Niger-Delta region will be stifled.

What the government failed to realize is that at the crux of the Present conflict in the Niger-Delta is the crucial question: Who owns the land, and who has the right to manage the utilization of the land? The fight in the Niger-Delta is for the rights of the people to manage their ancestral environment as they deem fit. Must the presence of a highly coveted non-renewable commodity such as oil and gas dispossess the people the right to their property? We may well ask another question: Does the fertility of the soil in Obasanjo Farms and the abundant yield of farm produce it may bear empower the government local, state, or federal to appropriate and dispossess General Olusegun Obasanjo of his property rights? To the extent that the land belongs to the people physically and spiritually, no amount of intimidation will silence the
fight for its reclamation.

It is pertinent to note that within the last one year, mini replicas Of Odi Destruction have been played out in the Niger-Delta. Numerous villages around Sapele in Delta State have been destroyed recently on the orders of the Vice-President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. All in the name of apprehending criminals who vandalize petroleum pipelines. On October 14, 2000, soldiers protecting the Italian multinational oil-company AGIP shot and killed 10 young men from Olugbobiri community in Bayelsa State. These are indications that rather than engage the people in dialogue to resolve the crisis in the Niger-Delta, the military option seems to be the preferred path of the government. The government must be reminded that the crisis in the Niger-Delta cannot be wished away by the acts of genocidal campaigns. It is only through a fundamental restructuring of the Nigerian polity towards a fair and equitable distribution of resources and responsibilities among the component parts will peace prevail in the Niger-Delta.

As the current revelations at the Oputa Commission is showing, ultimately planners and executors of operation HAKURI II must be made to account for their actions in Odi. In spite of the government's intent of callously ignoring the plight of the victims of her ruthless action, we will continue to demand appropriate recompense for the loss suffered by the Odi community.

Francis Ebi Porbeni,
Director of Publicity

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Ijaw National Congress USA
14737 Union Turnpike, Suite 131,
Queens, New York City, NY 11367
Tel: 718/380-4636 or 817/605-7191
Email: INCUSA@aol.com

The Ijaws are a nation of more than twelve million people in the Niger Delta region. The Ijaws are the most populous indigenous inhabitants of the Niger Delta and constitute the fourth largest ethnicity within the borders of Nigeria.

Crude oil was first discovered in commercial quantity in Oloibiri community of Ijawland in 1958. Since then, oil companies such as Shell (Anglo/Dutch), AGIP (Italian), Elf (French) and Chevron (American) have colluded with the military and successive governments of Nigeria to wage a war of economic exploitation and environmental degradation, as well as the institution of internal colonialism. Chevron in particular has been implicated in several acts of human rights abuse in the Niger Delta. Chevron's corporate policy of instigating violence against the Ijaws continues unabated.

The Ijaw National Congress is involved in the struggle to achieve structural change and free the people of the Niger Delta, particularly the Ijaws, from decades of environmental pollution, corporate violence, unjust socio-economic structure and political oppression.

The Ijaw National Congress USA (INCUSA) is a grassroots organization whose membership includes persons and socio-cultural groups of Ijaw descent and is currently resident in the United States of America. The rallying philosophy of INCUSA is clearly articulated and espoused in the organizational motto as being the pursuit of "Equality, Fairness and Justice".

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