Urhobo Historical Society

P. O. Box 1454
Amherst, New York 14226, USA
Email: NigerDelta@adelphia.net
 Fax: 1 (208) 361-9469

May 21, 2001

The Honorable Colin Powell
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W., 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Niger Delta Coalition In the Diaspora represents the interests of Niger Delta, Nigeria’s oil-producing region. The constituent organizations of Niger Delta Coalition In the Diaspora are in Europe, Asia, and North America. Our main focus of interest is the deepening environmental crisis in the Niger Delta and the political actions and inactions that now threaten the survival of this very important region of Africa.

We are therefore pleased to learn that you will include regional problems affecting Nigeria and the West African region in your concerns during your current trip to Africa. We believe the issues of the Niger Delta are of vital interest for peace considerations in the West African region. There are grave matters of humanitarian importance in the relations between  the Federal Government of Nigeria, headed by President Olusegun Obasanjo, and the people of the Niger Delta. In addition, major oil-producing companies operating in the Niger Delta, including Chevron, an American corporation, are doing business in ways that threaten the survival of the people and cultures of the Niger Delta. These are matters that we wish to call to your attention as you plan for discussions with Nigeria’s leaders

While we have no wish to crowd your agenda with only problems relating to the Niger Delta, we certainly hope that in your future discussions with Nigeria’s leaders you will raise the most serious matters on the Niger Delta crisis. We say so because we are persuaded that the grave issues of the Niger Delta are matters that the Federal Government of Nigeria seeks to hide from the international community, even though its vicious actions against the Niger Delta adversely impact on international human rights as well as global peace and security.

We are struck by the position taken by Human Rights Watch regarding Nigeria in its letter to you dated May 18, 2001 on the subject of your forthcoming visit to Africa. We note the following request by Human Rights Watch in its letter to you: “We therefore urge you to call on President Olusegun Obasanjo to carry out thorough and credible investigations and prosecutions for human rights abuses by the Nigerian armed forces in Nigeria as well as in Sierra Leone.” We fully endorse the request that “human rights abuses by the Nigerian armed forces in Nigeria” be investigated and prosecuted. We wish to call your attention to the fact that these abuses were carried out in the Niger Delta. In our considered view, these abuses are as serious as those that the international community is currently examining in Yugoslavia.

In this regard, we wish to underline the facts of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Federal Government’s invasion and destruction of Odi Town in Niger Delta’s Bayelsa State in November 1999. Human Rights Watch has written a brief on this unprovoked attack on a peace-loving people titled “The Destruction of Odi and Rape in Choba December 22, 1999” (see http://www.hrw.org/press/1999/dec/nibg1299.htm). A fuller report titled “A Documentation of Destruction of Odi Town,  Bayelsa  State, Niger Delta, By Nigeria's  Military Forces, November 20-24, 1999” is available at the following web site: http://waado.org/Environment/FedGovt_NigerDelta/BayelsaInvasion/EntryToDocumentation/Entry.html. In particular, we would like to call to your attention a compilation by Environmental Rights Action of revealing graffiti left behind at Odi Town by the invading soldiers at the following web site: http://waado.org/Environment/FedGovt_NigerDelta/BayelsaInvasion/AssessmentOfInvasion/Graffiti.html

A full review of these sources of information on the destruction of Odi Town will convince you that the conduct of Nigeria’s Federal Government in this matter constituted wanton aggression against a civilian population and therefore warrants international attention. This is more so because President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Federal Government rewarded the military officer who supervised the destruction of Odi Town with promotion shortly after the invasion. In these circumstances, we urge you to request an explanation for the invasion and destruction of  Odi Town in the Niger Delta from the Nigerian Government. Furthermore, we would want to know why President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Federal Government has refused to rebuild a town that its military forces had no credible reason for attacking nor any justifiable reason for destroying. At the minimum, we ask that you demand that all military personnel who participated in Odi’s invasion and destruction or in the mass rape at Choba be barred from participating in all international peacekeeping missions.

Such a demand on the Nigerian Government will be appropriate because there is clear evidence of its disregard for the observance of any standards of human rights in the Niger Delta. This failure extends to commitments made by the previous Military Government on which President Olusegun Obasanjo made promises before his election to office. An important example of this conduct is with respect to the commitments of the Federal Government following the finding by a United Nations Committee that the trial and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others were badly flawed.  A report submitted and accepted by Nigeria’s Federal Government, amongst several other recommendations, called for the compensation of the victims of military rampage in Ogoniland. President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Government has ignored this commitment. Moreover, the soldiers who perpetrated grave human rights abuses in Ogoniland are still in active service. Indeed, the military officer who supervised the torture of thousands of Ogoni people and the judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Niger Deltan environmentalist, has been rewarded with rapid promotion. Our request is that you raise these matters with the Nigerian Government and that the military personnel who committed these atrocities in Ogoniland be barred from participation in international peacekeeping missions.

Other Requests

We have three other requests to make on the Niger Delta. First, we ask that you include the Niger Delta in any future visit by you to Nigeria. We do understand that the Nigerian Federal Government does not like foreign dignitaries to visit the enormous filth created for the Niger Delta by the Federal Government of Nigeria and its friends, the multinational oil companies. However, there is a special reason why we press that you visit the Niger Delta. We urge you to visit the Escravos deep in the Niger Delta where Chevron’s reckless oil-prospecting tactics have ruined entire communities, rendering them unlivable. Chevron is an American corporation. Its overseas operations should be of interest to your Government.

Second, we request that you urge President Olusegun Obasanjo to stop the commencement of the "West African Gas Line Project” which he is rushing through without a proper and credible environmental impact study. We fear major disaster for the areas of impact of the projected gas line that is planned to begin in the Escravos in the Niger Delta and run through various territories inside the Niger Delta and through the countries of Benin, Togo, and Ghana. World Bank funding is required for this project.

Third, we strongly urge you to let President Olusegun Obasanjo know of our viewpoint from the Niger Delta that his plans to dredge the River Niger, without any credible impact studies, may prove catastrophic for most areas of the Niger Delta. Among its other ill-consequences, there are low-lying islands in Delta, Bayelsa, and Rivers States of the Niger Delta that may be inundated and wiped out of existence as a result of this project which is being driven by the lure for lucrative contracts to the utter disregard for the welfare and survival of the people of the Niger Delta.

We regret that we have been compelled to appeal for your intervention in these matters instead of talking to the Federal Government of Nigeria. Sadly, however, President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Federal Government do not listen to representations from the Niger Delta whenever such viewpoints will diminish their money-making oil explorations in the Niger Delta. But the people of the Niger Delta are fighting for their survival. The international community is our last resort for appeal for help.

These issues are of grave concern to the people of the Niger Delta and to other Nigerians. We therefore ask for your indulgence and permission to circulate copies of this letter inside and outside Nigeria for the benefit of Niger Deltans and Nigerians generally.

We thank you for your attention to these matters.

Sincerely yours,

Interim Niger Delta Leadership Group in the Diaspora:

Bawo Ayomike Bawo_Ayomike@freddiemac.com Ebiamadon Andi Brisibe bridges@gld.mmtr.or.jp
Joseph Ebiware Jebiware@mcla.mass.edu  Goddey Ejuwa gejuwa@uswest.net
Peter Ekeh peterekeh@adelphia.net Sokari Ekine owukori@btinternet.com
N. H. Ibanga gaussa@earthlink.net Michael Ikhariale IKHARIAB@aol.com
Clement Ikpatt cikpatt@hotmail.com Uwem Inyang ninyang@hotmail.com
Igho Natufe inatufe@NRCan.gc.ca Steve Nwabuzor ukanwabuz@naijanet.com
Peter Nyiam pbn5_2000@netzero.net Orevaoghene Charles Obaro impexma@online.no
Benedict Okwumabua okwumabb@state.mi.us Nowa Omoigui nowa@prodigy.net
GBENEWA PHIDO gphido@hotmail.com Edemma Udoh edemmaf@aol.com
Benson Uwumarogie marogie@aol.com


1. Human Rights Watch, “The Destruction of Odi and Rape in Choba.” December 22, 1999.

2. Environmental Rights Action,  “A Documentation of Graffitti Left Behind At Odi By Invading Nigerian Soldiers” Compiled on Christmas Day, 1999.

3. Urhobo Historical Society, "A Documentation of the Invasion and Destruction of  Odi Town of Bayelsa State in Niger Delta."