By Ijaw National Alliance of
the Americas (INAA)
November 20, 2000
P R E S S R E L E A S E ! !
NEW YORK, USA, Monday, November 20, 2000
For Immediate World-wide Release
ODI MASSACRE: ONE YEAR ON
ON Saturday November 20, 1999, the Nigerian armed forces on direct orders from the commander-in-chief, President Olusegun Obasanjo, ravaged the town of Odi in Bayelsa State, killing many innocent men, women and children in what has been described as the worst human rights violation of the government. The mission of the expedition team to Odi was supposedly to apprehend a group of hoodlums who had murdered twelve officers and men of the Nigeria Police.
One year on, the Ijaw National Alliance of the Americas (INAA) commemorates this sad and callous event and hopes that the families of the victims and the people of Odi will, some day, have their dreams and aspirations for a fair and equitable solution to their plight fulfilled. INAA made a monetary donation to the Odi Reconstruction Fund during its annual Isaac Boro Day celebrations in May, 2000, and has pledged to construct a befitting memorial to the victims of Odi as soon as arrangements can be concluded.
INAA has noted with profound sadness that since Odi, the Obasanjo government has, in fact, escalated the violence in the Niger Delta by:
(a) Intensifying the military option to control the oil fields and pipelines. Through the specially created Nigerian Military Task Force for the Niger Delta with specific orders to "shoot-to-kill" protesting indigenes, Obasanjo has, once again, demonstrated his propensity to use brute force to compel silence and acquiescence.
(b) The brazen rape of women and young girls by security operatives in Choba; the gunning down of unarmed youths who protested against unemployment in Bonny Island.
(C) The ravaging of communities in Ke-Dere in Rivers State, for protesting Shell Petroleum's unceremonious and forceful return to Ogoni land.
(d) The massacre on October 17, 2000 of 15 protesting youths in Tebidaba in Bayelsa State.
The foregoing actions clearly demonstrate that President Obasanjo has resolved to continue the use of brute-force in dealing with civil protests in the Niger Delta just like his military predecessors. If President Obasanjo would learn from History, he would be aware that compelling silence and acquiescence through force and intimidation did not work for his predecessors and there is no reason to expect it to work now.
The Ijaw National Alliance of the Americas reaffirms its support for the rights of the Ijaw peoples, and indeed of all Nigerians, to protest peacefully without being harassed or killed by government agents. INAA reiterates its principled stand that only dialogue and genuine negotiation between the government, oil companies and local communities can bring about a fair, equitable and lasting resolution to the problems in the Niger Delta.
INAA calls on the Obasanjo government to seek a more honorable path which is the one of negotiation and civil discourse in solving the incessant protests by various communities in the Niger Delta due to decades of criminal neglect and marginalization.
In pursuance of this, INAA calls on the Nigerian government to immediately implement the following course of action as a sign of its declared goodwill towards the people of Odi and the communities in the Niger Delta:
1. Withdraw all military personnel of the Niger Delta Task Force occupying and patrolling oil fields and pipelines in the Niger Delta.
2. Institute a judicial commission of inquiry into the ravaging of Odi, as widely demanded by human rights groups across the country and overseas, which will among other things, determine the extent of the human casualties and damage to property. The commission should also recommend punishment for overzealous soldiers in the expedition team because there is clear evidence that they executed their orders with spite, malevolence and utter vengeance.
3. Undertake the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Odi and other towns and villages in the Niger Delta which have been razed by the Nigerian military in the past twelve months and as a matter of urgency, send relief materials to the victims of Odi who are still squatting with relatives and friends in neighboring villages and settlement camps.
4. Make serious efforts to restructure Nigeria as a truly federal state where no section or ethnic group would be subjugated by another. The current structure whereby states depend on the largesse and goodwill from Abuja is inherently a source of discontent and disaffection in Nigeria.
The actions INAA have listed above are not by any means unfamiliar to the Obasanjo government. Individuals, groups and organizations in Nigeria and various parts of the world have called for the implementation of these and other actions aimed at moving Nigeria forward.
Eighteen months after assuming office, time is overdue for President Obasanjo to begin to undo the damage by implementing ALL of the above actions. It is INAA's unequivocal view that this is the only path to any peaceful and lasting solution to the seething problems in the Niger Delta in particular and the country in general.
Executive Council of the Ijaw National Alliance of the Americas:
Matthew Oruowei Sikpi, Ph.D President
Joseph Miebi Ebiware, Ph.D Immediate Past President
Dawari Longjohn Vice President
Tonye Awoyesuku Whyte General Secretary
Sepribo Lawson-Jack, Ph.D Publicity Secretary
Andi Belle Assistant General Secretary
Ugebai Poweigha, (Mrs.) Financial Secretary
Grace Amaso, (Mrs.) Treasurer