Tag Archives: Niger Delta

Odi Massacre & Origins of Militancy in Ijawland

Kaiama – December 1998

Kaiama is a small town in Western Ijaw, about half an hour’s drive from Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State. Historically Kaiama is famous for being the birth place of Major Isaac Adaka Boro, an Ijaw nationalist who in 1966 proclaimed “the Niger Delta Peoples Republic.”  In December 1998 5,000 Ijaw men and women re presenting over 40 Ijaw clans, chose the historic town of Kaiama to articulate their aspirations for the Ijaw people, and to demand an end to 40 years of environmental damage and underdevelopment in the region.

On the 11th December, 1998, they assembly presented the Kaiama Declaration.  What followed is a series of military attacks which provide an historical context and  understanding  to the present day militancy in Ijawland which has also contributed to the violence against women.  In some instances whole villages have been abandoned by women due to fear of militants and gangs.

On the 1st of January 1999 the Nigerian Military Government declared war on the Ijaw people. Following the Yenagoa massacre, the army invaded Kaiama on the 2nd January.  On the 4th January, soldiers using Chevron helicopters and sea trucks invaded Ikiyan and Opia towns.  Other towns, Odi, Sabama, Patani, Aven, Bomadi were all occupied by military. The mayhem continued unabated throughout January and February.  These communities were ransacked and looted, men and young boys were murdered, tortured and beaten.  Women were molested, harassed, beaten and raped.  Many people are still missing almost 18 months later.  The Nigerian army and Mobile Police engaged themselves in a blood bath which left over 200 dead and thousands wounded.  Once control of the area had been established by the military they settled down to occupy Ijawland and continue up to the present time to terrorise communities of mostly women, children and the elderly and commit endless.

Invasion.of Kaiama

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In Kaiama and across the region, many women and girls were raped and forced into prostitution by the Nigerian army.  They also suffered bereavement and were further impoverished through the death or disappearance of family members.

 “I stay in my house at that time, soldiers were everywhere.  Three of them came to my house and broke the door down. They take my son and I have not seen him since that day. I have no money as my son used to look after me.  Before I used to farm but I no fit farm now, I am weak. I no feel to do anything I just wait make I die, I no fit eat, every day I worry what will happen now.”

” My husband dey [was in] Yenagoa with his wife.  When he hear what happen in Kaiama he come see for himself.  Since that day when the soldier came and take him I have not seen him.  I stay in Yenagoa but they I hear say they kill people and start to worry for my husband.  Sometime those who have wounds they bring them to Yenagoa but I check and did not see my husband.  After I come hear that they kill my husband at the Motor park. (the Chief was one of many townsmen that were taken to a nearby army camp and tortured after which he was murdered).
Helen, Widow – On the day the soldiers came I ran with my 3 children to the bush. At that time I was pregnant.  My husband lock the house then follow me run.  I think that he is at my back but I am hearing gun shot.  After I come and see my husband is shot by the soldier when he is running.  They steal all my property and break everything.  Now I have no money, I can only collect firewood to sell and some small farming.  Some time the church help me.  Now my heart is cut.”

” At  that time when the soldiers came I was at home with my husband.  The soldiers came and arrested my husband and took him to the motor park.  When there he was beaten and tortured with the others. His face was cut, nose broken, lips swollen and wounded everywhere.  He had be cut on his head with an axe.  When they took my husband I ran with my children to Opukoma (nearby village) to my father’s house until after 2 days I came back to Kaiama.  At that time there was no one in the town, no medicines. After my husband went to Yenagoa but by that time it was too late for him to recover.  My husband died three months ago from the wounds he received”

Odi Town Massacre.

In the early hours of the morning of the 20th November, 1999, 27 trucks carrying over 2000 soldiers plus 4 armored personnel carriers mounted with machine guns drove into Odi Town in Bayelsa State. Between 2pm that afternoon and 6pm the following day, the town was bombarded with artillery fire. By the end of the two days, practically every building in the town was flattened, set on fire and/or looted. In all 2,483 persons – mainly women, children and the elderly were massacred in 24 hours. Thousands more fled in canoes or on foot to the forests where they hid, some up to a week with no food or shelter.

The order to invade and destroy Odi town was given by the then head of state, President Olusegun Obasanjo. The reason given for the attack at the time was that two weeks before, 9 policemen had been kidnapped and killed in the town by a criminal gang.

Odi was not the only town in the Niger Delta where people were massacred and property destroyed during the Obasanjo years. Kaiama just a few miles from Odi was attacked January and later Oleh Town, in Delta State and Erema in Rivers State were also invaded to name a few. Then there was the terrible rape that took place in Choba, Rivers state where Nigerian army soldiers were photographed raping women. No one has ever been held to account for these past and present crimes against women and other civilians.

Odi Town November 1999

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“My 15 year old son is missing. I came back and couldn’t see him. I could not see my son even his corpse I cannot see him even till now – 15 yrs – we were all in this house but when we heard the gun shots everyone take on his heels. My son ran to a different direction to myself and others.  I ran to the bush, there was no food to eat there was nothing.  I stayed in the bush for 12 days as the hunger was so much we started plucking leaves to chew and water to drink – my husband ran on his own too. We were scattered. When the soldiers left I came back and  I saw my husband.  He is looking for our son but we cannot see him.”
” You know you could not stand on the ground, the ground was shaking even the houses were shaking as if they want to fall down.  So I started running down with that fear – I heard the army shooting, even the ground was shaking from the noise of the guns, the houses too.  I had no canoe.  Everything was burnt – books, my properties, my things for teacher’s college, NCE and University of Port Harcourt certificates, everything.”

“Other people ran into the bush. Those who could not get boats ran into the nearby bushes, they were all here most of them were just right inside.  You know that time was a flood period and water everywhere, the whole of the bush was covered with water and some of them were standing on top of trees, hanging like that for days.”

Displaced women from Gbaramatu – May 2009

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On May 14, 2009 at about noon, Gbaramatu Kingdom,Delta State, was in a festive mood. There had been an influx of guests into the community from far and near. They all came to witness the presentation of the Staff of Office to the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, His Royal Majesty Ogie the third. The palace located in Oporoza was filled with well- wishers as the day also marked the King’s one year anniversary. Suddenly, three low flying helicopters were seen approaching the Kindgom. The community people initially thought they were flying dignitaries to the ceremony or that they were part of the glamour for the ceremony. They were wrong. Dead wrong!

 “ Most“Most of the students like me who tried to escape during the deadly incident are dead. Some in the streets, forests …they were killed by the bombs. I lost my mother and six of my brothers in the incidence. Two of my three sisters are still trapped in the forest. The place is too dangerous for them to come out now. They can’t cross with boat and they can’t risk swimming. The JTF people have blockedhave blocked the waterways. One of my sisters has been missing.

Nobody seems to know her whereaboutwhereabouts. The military people were using their helicopter chopper to destroy everything we have ever had. I saw war with my naked eyes. I saw my mum’s dead body. I saw my brothers lying helpless on the ground (here she started sobbing). Everyone was running without direction. It is a bitter experience.

They are wicked people. They are heartless. I don’t have any family member as militants. We used to survive with fishing. It was through fishing business that my mum pays our school fees. Why will the FG send military men to kill us, to destroy our community? We don’t have anywhere else to go now. No home, no place to go. My OND certificate, my only hope for a better tomorrow has been destroyed”. Miss Peres Popo, 21, ,21 from, from Okporoza .

“I was sleeping but suddenly I woke up due to the endless sound of gunshot. It was after twelve in the afternoon. I was confused. When I peeped through my window, I saw people running and screaming. It was a hot afternoon. I slept with only my pants on. I had to run without even knowing that I was naked I was not conscious of my nakedness. It was when I managed to find my way to Warri town that I was able to clothe myself with the help of a relative. I am afraid I have still not seen my younger sister. Her name is Mary. We started running together from the house but at a point Ipoint I was ahead of her. After some time, I didn’t notice her again. I pray she is alive. She is my only sister.
- Mrs. Vero Idolo ,27, mother of two.

“They bombed everywhere and everything. They don’t have feelings at all. I was lucky to have my children and husband alive. My neighbour lost his pregnant wife in the incidence. She was my friend too.” – Evelyn Emmanuel.

“We were warming up for the king’s party. All of a sudden we started seeing helicopters roving in the air. The next thing something was dropping from it and it was landing as fire and exploding and burning and killing. I was scared stiff . I have never seen this kind of thing in my life.
-Timi Tonfawei

The attack on Gbaramatu  brought a huge humanitarian crisis to the region. Besides, an estimated 20, 000 persons believed to be trapped in the forests and swamps.   Those who managed to reach Warri were eventually given shelter in a disused clinic.  Most of the displaced have now returned to their villages.

Gas flaring has been continuous for 40 years.  Gas flaring is the process used in the Niger Delta to separate petroleum from the by product, natural gas.   The process wastes a potentially useful product as well as fills the atmosphere with carbon monoxide, smoke and soot.  The gas flares are right in the middle of farmland and villages burning 24 hours a day every day.  Some of the flares are on the ground in pits, spewing out huge flames and soot and leaving the ground unusable for farming for years to come.   People literally live in fire and oil.

Gas flares

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My grandmother was a fisherwoman………

she used to fish on the Sombrero River and the adjoining creeks but then came the  oil, and  greed, and pollution and war, now most of the fish are dead, fat men and women fight over the overspill of their bellies and men with guns terrorize people trying to live in peace!  This could be a long story and maybe one day it will be but for now….

From Platform London

The picture above captioned as A Niger Delta Village In the 1960s (Before Oil) has sparked much discussion on online forums in Nigeria. While there have been debates about its veracity, what is interesting is the way that it provides a catalyst for people’s memories about the region before oil.

Here is one comment that I find particularly moving and evocative:

As a young Niger Delta boy even in the early 70s such good looking natural environment existed in the Niger Delta.

1. I remembered going to pick periwinkles in the swarms meeting blue coloured water that is reflecting the blue skies in a hot afternoon like that.

2. I remembered especially on a rainy day and especially at night going to creeks with only Calabash and bare hands coming home with good catch of fishes

3. I remembered using such clean (so to say) sea waters tasting salty to soak my garri padling my canoe while returning from Kaa or Iyanaba market

4. I remembered not bothering about tap water every morning to bath to school but jumping into this river like you do in this modern day swimming pole, wash mysely come out robe high scenting pomade and off to school

5. I remembered having my canoe capsided on the sea and I swarm to safety without any polluted water with oil to choke me

6. But I also remembered afterwards on Sobiekiri river many canoes with people on the water, someone mistakenly threw a cigaret stub on the water and it caught fire and so many people were burnt to dead including good swimmers who jumped into the river to see if they could dive past the burning oil on the water

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50 years on and Shell STILL has not cleaned up it’s mess – despite the 2011 UN Environmental Programme’s  [UNEP] damming report on Shell’s and the NNPC activities

The report found that, without exception, all the water bodies in Ogoni was polluted by the activities of oil companies – Shell Petroleum Development Company (Shell) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Indeed the report stated that some of what the people took as potable water had carcinogens, such as benzene, up to 900 times above World Health Organisation standards. The report also revealed that at some places in Ogoniland, the soil is polluted with hydrocarbons to a depth of five (5) metres.

The UNEP report revealed that the Ogoni homeland had indeed been turned into an “ecological disaster,” as the Bill of Rights asserted. We remind ourselves that the UNEP report made recommendations that most of us saw as low hanging fruits that government could easily have responded to assuage the pains of the people and commence a process of restoring the territory to an acceptable state. The apparent inaction is nothing but a squandering of opportunities to rescue a people and for impactful political action.

A total clean up of Ogoni land will take a life time or about thirty years at the least. That is the length of time UNEP estimates it would require to clean up the water bodies in the territory. And it would require an additional five (5) years to clean up the land. How is that a lifetime? Well, life expectancy in the Niger Delta stands at approximately forty-one years.

 

 

Shocking extent of oil pollution in the Niger Delta

Shocking photographs of  showing the extent of oil pollution in Niger Delta rivers, creeks and ponds.  Via National Post for more photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on the Niger Delta environment see Nnimmo’s Reflections 

 

 

 

 

 

Redux: Odi & Filling Nigeria’s Memory Hole

After 14 years, Nigerian courts have ordered the government to pay compensation to Odi Town in the sum of nearly $240 million within 21 days. He described the attack on Odi as

“brazen violation of the fundamental human rights of the victims to movement, life and to own property and live peacefully in their ancestral home.”

Odi Town Massacre

In addition to the compensation the people of Odi town have demanded an apology and the rebuilding of the town.  Odi town was one of many towns and villages invaded, destroyed, burnt, people were killed and injured during the rule of Olusegun Obasanjo – hopefully now they will one by one begin to receive justice.

Odi Town Massacre.

In the early hours of the morning of the 20th November, 1999, 27 trucks carrying over 2000 soldiers plus 4 armored personnel carriers mounted with machine guns drove into Odi Town in Bayelsa State. Between 2pm that afternoon and 6pm the following day, the town was bombarded with artillery fire. By the end of the two days, practically every building in the town was flattened, set on fire and/or looted. In all 2,483 persons – mainly women, children and the elderly were massacred in 24 hours. Thousands more fled in canoes or on foot to the forests where they hid, some up to a week with no food or shelter.

The order to invade and destroy Odi town was given by the then head of state, President Olusegun Obasanjo. The reason given for the attack at the time was that two weeks before, 9 policemen had been kidnapped and killed in the town by a criminal gang.

Odi was not the only town in the Niger Delta where people were massacred and property destroyed during the Obasanjo years. Kaiama just a few miles from Odi was attacked January and later Oleh Town, in Delta State and Erema in Rivers State were also invaded to name a few. Then there was the terrible rape that took place in Choba, Rivers state where Nigerian army soldiers were photographed raping women. No one has ever been held to account for these past and present crimes against women and other civilians.

Mother and child outside their burnt home in Odi

In the original report on the invasion of Odi the term used for those who killed the police was “criminal gang’. This has now been revised in line with the ubiquitous use of the ‘war on terror’ narrative, to ‘militants’ and ‘terrorists’ by both President Obasanjo and Jonathan. Remember this was in 1999 and rather than put an end to militancy – there wasn’t any at this time, it is very likely the action gave birth to the militancy they now claim was the reason for the invasion. In response to Jonathan’s claim that the massacre of Odi people did not put an end to “terrorist’ acts Femi Fani-Kayode wrote

“The Governor [Alamieyeseigha, the then Bayelsa State governor] said that he was unable to do so and President Obasanjo, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, took the position that security personnel could not be killed with impunity under his watch without a strong and appropriate response from the Federal Government. Consequently he sent the military in, to uproot and kill the terrorists and to destroy their operational base which was the town of Odi. The operation was carried out with military precision and efficiency and it’s objectives were fully achieved. The terrorists were either killed and those that were not killed fled their operational base in Odi.” The people of Odi town have denied the charge that the men were militants and that Odi was ‘an operational base’.

I use the invasion of Odi as an example of the extent to which militarism pervades governance and all aspects of Nigerian society – cultural, social, economic and gender justice, in Nigeria. Successive Nigerian governments both military and civilian have always chosen violent responses, under the guise of protecting citizens, to silence political protests, punish ethnic and religious conflict, evict street vendors, destroy informal settlements and remove beggars from the streets.

Group of elderly Odi women after the invasion

The award winning environmental and human rights activist, Nnimmo Bassey describes the responses to the Odi massacre and destruction of property and livelihoods in the Niger Delta as a’Blanket of Silence”. The impunity with which the murder of civilians and the extra judicial execution of alleged  criminals is never questioned.  Such is the desensitization to violence. No where in the media reports or in any other statement on the invasion, does anyone question the use of collective punishment – the massacre of 2,483 people and the total destruction of a town which can only be described as a war crime.  What arrogance and shamefulness it is that an ex-President can attempt to justify the murder of 2,483 unarmed women, children and elderly men.

When I speak of violence, I am speaking of an inclusive violence. Women have been at the center of this violence and they continue to be so.   Women have always been at the center of these acts of violence which are psychological, sexual, physical, emotional and verbal, as well as  the fear of those acts.   The true nature of the gendered violence which comes from the relationship between the militarized ruling elite and multinational oil companies, is obscured by the focus on supposed militants and or criminal gangs. In June 2009 the government of the late President Yar’Adua bombed Oporoza town, Gbaramatu Kingdom, in Delta state supposedly to ‘root out’ militants. Yet not a single militant was killed and there is no real evidence that any were present. Once again women, children and elderly men were killed and driven out of the town to hide in the swamps. Many trekked for days before reaching the city.  Later some 2000 women and children were placed in a refugee camp outside Warri run by women’s rights activists from Rivers State.

In the post amnesty period, 2009 to the present much of the violence against women has come from cultist and criminal gangs empowered by the culture of violence around the protection of oil production and bunkering. At the same time women have become increasingly disempowered through the perpetual violence and the loss of their livelihoods as market traders, farmers and fishing. Many women have had to move to Port Harcourt and despite the hardship and poverty of living in the city, they remain fearful of returning to their villages.

It is now 2012, the militants have been given amnesty yet the region remains heavily militarised and it is impossible to move by water or land from village to village or town to town without facing a checkpoint. In a 2011 audit of security forces carried out by myself and Emem Okon of Kebetkachie Womens Resource Center, Port Harcourt,  we listed the following security in the region.

Nigerian security forces: The River’s State Internal Security Task Force – used against the Ogoni people. The Special Naval Task Force, regular forces of the Nigerian Army, Mobile Police and police units, and more recently the Joint Task Force [JTF].

On the militant’s side there were [are] two main militias: the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force led by Asari Dokobo and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta [which has a number of splinter groups]. In addition there are various other militias some being splinter groups of the main two such as the Coalition for Militant Action in the Niger Delta (CMND), South-South Liberation Movement (SSLM), Movement for the Sovereign State of the Niger Delta (MOSSEND), DE Gbam, DE Well, Niger Delta Vigilante, and Meninbutus. There has also been at various times a Joint Revolutionary Council whose aim was to bring together leaders from all the militias.

The multinationals [Shell, Chevron, Agip, Elf, Mobil] all have their own private security personnel as well as a close political, economic and general working relationship with the various Nigerian security forces. Since the 2009 amnesty many of the ex militants have been employed by oil companies as security. In addition there are criminal / cultist gangs at work in urban centers and villages especially in those where there are oil facilities; There are also ex militants, church and other institutional security forces.

The culture of militarism is thus an all pervasive one which impacts directly on the rights of women as it extends into the domestic sphere, traditional spaces and the environment through a systemic destruction of the ecological system.

* The phrase ‘Memory Hole’ is taken from an article by William Finnegan in the New Yorker.

“We Remember Differently” – Oil is Everything in Nigeria

From Bella Naija – Chimanada Ngozi Adiche responds to some of the criticism of Chinua Achebe’s memoir “There Was a Country”.   I finished reading ‘There Was a Country’ a few days ago and was contemplating my own response to some of the critical reviews of the book.  Fortunately for me Adichie has said nearly everything I wanted to say and probably much better too.   She unlike Achebe’s few lines of reference and unlike all of the reviews I have read, has at least mentioned  one of the two elephants in the room – the Biafrian minorities.     My memory of this period is a vague which probably shows that the war had little impact on our lives.  I do know that our Igbo workers did not leave the compound and there were large numbers of soldiers and check points everywhere – something which has never gone away.    In that sense it was a frightening time – the soldiers were frightening.  Young men with machine guns and red eyes and limited vocabulary.   I do know that families were split between those  who supported Nigeria and those supporting Biafra.   My parents were on the Nigerian side – then.  The Biafran side were in Port Harcourt or thereabouts.    A good question to ask is how much choice did minorities  have but to stay when Biafra was declared and they woke up to find they were in another country?

The other elephant in the room is oil.  I do think it’s worth asking the questions – Would there have  been a war without oil? Would there have been a secession?  Would there have been a succession of coups?  Because Oil is everything in Nigeria.   It would be another 20 years of dance and thievery in what was known as the ‘oil boom’ for some and for others the ‘oil doom’ before the Ogoni people, drowning in oil polluted swamps, would rise up and set in motion a new consciousness amongst Nigerian minorities of the east.
“Chinua Achebe at 82: “We Remember Differently” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie”

” I have met Chinua Achebe only three times. The first, at the National Arts Club in Manhattan, I joined the admiring circle around him. A gentle-faced man in a wheelchair.

“Good evening, sir. I’m Chimamanda Adichie,” I said, and he replied, mildly, “I thought you were running away from me.”

I mumbled, nervous, grateful for the crush of people around us. I had been running away from him. After my first novel was published, I received an email from his son. My dad has just read your novel and liked it very much. He wants you to call him at this number. I read it over and over, breathless with excitement. But I never called. A few years later, my editor sent Achebe a manuscript of my second novel. She did not tell me, because she wanted to shield me from the possibility of disappointment. One afternoon, she called. “Chimamanda, are you sitting down? I have wonderful news.” She read me the blurb Achebe had just sent her. We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers. Adichie knows what is at stake, and what to do about it. She is fearless or she would not have taken on the intimidating horror of Nigeria’s civil war. Adichie came almost fully made. Afterwards, I held on to the phone and wept. I have memorized those words. In my mind, they glimmer still, the validation of a writer whose work had validated me.

I grew up writing imitative stories. Of characters eating food I had never seen and having conversations I had never heard. They might have been good or bad, those stories, but they were emotionally false, they were not mine. Then came a glorious awakening: Chinua Achebe’s fiction. Here were familiar characters who felt true; here was language that captured my two worlds; here was a writer writing not what he felt he should write but what he wanted to write. His work was free of anxiety, wore its own skin effortlessly. It emboldened me, not to find my voice, but to speak in the voice I already had. And so, when that e-mail came from his son, I knew, overly-thrilled as I was, that I would not call. His work had done more than enough. In an odd way, I was so awed, so grateful, that I did not want to meet him. I wanted some distance between my literary hero and me.

Chinua Achebe and I have never had a proper conversation. The second time I saw him, at a luncheon in his honor hosted by the British House of Lords, I sat across from him and avoided his eye. (“Chinua Achebe is the only person I have seen you shy with,” a friend said). The third, at a New York event celebrating fifty years of THINGS FALL APART, we crowded around him backstage, Edwidge Danticat and I, Ha Jin and Toni Morrison, Colum McCann and Chris Abani. We seemed, magically, bound together in a warm web, all of us affected by his work. Achebe looked pleased, but also vaguely puzzled by all the attention. He spoke softly, the volume of his entire being turned to ‘low.’ I wanted to tell him how much I admired his integrity, his speaking out about the disastrous leadership in my home state of Anambra, but I did not. Before I went on stage, he told me, “Jisie ike.” I wondered if he fully grasped, if indeed it was possible to, how much his work meant to so many.

History and civics, as school subjects, function not merely to teach facts but to transmit more subtle things, like pride and dignity. My Nigerian education taught me much, but left gaping holes. I had not been taught to imagine my pre-colonial past with any accuracy, or pride, or complexity. And so Achebe’s work, for me, transcended literature. It became personal. ARROW OF GOD, my favorite, was not just about the British government’s creation of warrant chiefs and the linked destinies of two men, it became the life my grandfather might have lived. THINGS FALL APART is the African novel most read — and arguably most loved — by Africans, a novel published when ‘African novel’ meant European accounts of ‘native’ life. Achebe was an unapologetic member of the generation of African writers who were ‘writing back,’ challenging the stock Western images of their homeland, but his work was not burdened by its intent. It is much-loved not because Achebe wrote back, but because he wrote back well. His work was wise, humorous, human. For many Africans, THINGS FALL APART remains a gesture of returned dignity, a literary and an emotional experience; Mandela called Achebe the writer in whose presence the prison walls came down.

Achebe’s most recent book, his long-awaited memoir of the Nigerian-Biafra war, is both sad and angry, a book by a writer looking back and mourning Nigeria’s failures. I wish THERE WAS A COUNTRY had been better edited and more rigorously detailed in its account of the war. But these flaws do not make it any less seminal: an account of the most important event in Nigeria’s history by Nigeria’s most important storyteller.

An excerpt from the book has ignited great controversy among Nigerians. In it, Achebe, indignant about the millions of people who starved to death in Biafra, holds Obafemi Awolowo, Nigerian Finance Minister during the war, responsible for the policy of blockading Biafra. He quote’s Awolowo’s own words on the blockade — ‘all is fair in war and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder’ and then argues that Awolowo’s support of the blockade was ‘driven by an overriding ambition for power for himself in particular and for the advancement of his Yoruba people in general.’

I have been startled and saddened by the responses to this excerpt. Many are blindingly ethnic, lacking in empathy and, most disturbing of all, lacking in knowledge. We can argue about how we interpret the facts of our shared history, but we cannot, surely, argue about the facts themselves. Awolowo, as de facto ‘number two man’ on the Nigerian side, was a central architect of the blockade on Biafra. During and after the war, Awolowo publicly defended the blockade. Without the blockade, the massive starvation in Biafra would not have occurred. These are the facts.

Some Nigerians, in responding to Achebe, have argued that the blockade was fair, as all is fair in war. The blockade was, in my opinion, inhumane and immoral. And it was unnecessary — Nigeria would have won anyway, it was the much-better-armed side in a war that Wole Soyinka called a shabby unequal conflict. The policy of starving a civilian population into surrender does not merely go against the Geneva conventions, but in this case, a war between siblings, people who were formerly fellow country men and women now suddenly on opposite sides, it seems more chilling. All is not fair in war. Especially not in a fratricidal war. But I do not believe the blockade was a calculated power grab by Awolowo for himself and his ethnic group; I think of it, instead, as one of the many dehumanizing acts that war, by its nature, brings about.

Awolowo was undoubtedly a great political leader. He was also — rare for Nigerian leaders — a great intellectual. No Nigerian leader has, arguably, articulated a political vision as people-centered as Awolowo’s. For Nigerians from the west, he was the architect of free primary education, of progressive ideas. But for Nigerians from the east, he was a different man. I grew up hearing, from adults, versions of Achebe’s words about Awolowo. He was the man who prevented an Igbo man from leading the Western House of Assembly in the famous ‘carpet crossing’ incident of 1952. He was the man who betrayed Igbo people when he failed on his alleged promise to follow Biafra’s lead and pull the Western region out of Nigeria. He was the man who, in the words of my uncle, “made Igbo people poor because he never liked us.”

At the end of the war, every Igbo person who had a bank account in Nigeria was given twenty pounds, no matter how much they had in their accounts before the war. I have always thought this a livid injustice. I know a man who worked in a multinational company in 1965. He was, like Achebe, one of the many Igbo who just could not believe that their lives were in danger in Lagos and so he fled in a hurry, at the last minute, leaving thousands of pounds in his account. After the war, his account had twenty pounds. To many Igbo, this policy was uncommonly punitive, and went against the idea of ‘no victor, no vanquished.’ Then came the indigenization decree, which moved industrial and corporate power from foreign to Nigerian hands. It made many Nigerians wealthy; much of the great wealth in Nigeria today has its roots in this decree. But the Igbo could not participate; they were broke.

I do not agree, as Achebe writes, that one of the main reasons for Nigeria’s present backwardness is the failure to fully reintegrate the Igbo. I think Nigeria would be just as backward even if the Igbo had been fully integrated — institutional and leadership failures run across all ethnic lines. But the larger point Achebe makes is true, which is that the Igbo presence in Nigerian positions of power has been much reduced since the war. Before the war, many of Nigeria’s positions of power were occupied by Igbo people, in the military, politics, academia, business. Perhaps because the Igbo were very receptive to Western education, often at the expense of their own traditions, and had both a striving individualism and a communal ethic. This led to what, in history books, is often called a ‘fear of Igbo domination’ in the rest of Nigeria. The Igbo themselves were insensitive to this resentment, the bombast and brashness that is part of Igbo culture only exacerbated it. And so leading Igbo families entered the war as Nigeria’s privileged elite but emerged from it penniless, stripped and bitter.

Today, ‘marginalization’ is a popular word in Igboland. Many Igbo feel marginalized in Nigeria, a feeling based partly on experience and partly on the psychology of a defeated people. (Another consequence of this psychology, perhaps, is the loss of the communal ethic of the Igbo, much resented sixty years ago. It is almost non-existent today, or as my cousin eloquently put it: Igbo people don’t even send each other.)

Some responses to Achebe have had a ‘blame the victim’ undertone, suggesting that Biafrians started the war and therefore deserved what they got. But Biafrians did not ‘start the war.’ Nobody with a basic knowledge of the facts can make that case.

Continue reading on Bella Naija

 

#16Days: – Nigeria’s Memory Hole*

In the early hours of the morning of the 20th November, 1999, 27 trucks carrying over 2000 soldiers plus 4 armored personnel carriers mounted with machine guns drove into Odi Town in Bayelsa State. Between 2pm that afternoon and 6pm the following day, the town was bombarded with artillery fire. By the end of the two days, practically every building in the town was flattened, set on fire and/or looted. In all 2,483 persons – mainly women, children and the elderly were massacred in 24 hours. Thousands more fled in canoes or on foot to the forests where they hid, some up to a week with no food or shelter.

The order to invade and destroy Odi town was given by the then head of state, President Olusegun Obasanjo. The reason given for the attack at the time was that two weeks before, 9 policemen had been kidnapped and killed in the town by a criminal gang.

Odi was not the only town in the Niger Delta where people were massacred and property destroyed during the Obasanjo years. Kaiama just a few miles from Odi was attacked January and later Oleh Town, in Delta State and Erema in Rivers State were also invaded to name a few. Then there was the terrible rape that took place in Choba, Rivers state where Nigerian army soldiers were photographed raping women. No one has ever been held to account for these past and present crimes against women and other civilians.

In the original report on the invasion of Odi the term used for those who killed the police was “criminal gang’. This has now been revised in line with the ubiquitous use of the ‘war on terror’ narrative, to ‘militants’ and ‘terrorists’ by both President Obasanjo and Jonathan. Remember this was in 1999 and rather than put an end to militancy – there wasn’t any at this time, it is very likely the action gave birth to the militancy they now claim was the reason for the invasion. In response to Jonathan’s claim that the massacre of Odi people did not put an end to “terrorist’ acts Femi Fani-Kayode wrote

“The Governor [Alamieyeseigha, the then Bayelsa State governor] said that he was unable to do so and President Obasanjo, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, took the position that security personnel could not be killed with impunity under his watch without a strong and appropriate response from the Federal Government. Consequently he sent the military in, to uproot and kill the terrorists and to destroy their operational base which was the town of Odi. The operation was carried out with military precision and efficiency and it’s objectives were fully achieved. The terrorists were either killed and those that were not killed fled their operational base in Odi.” The people of Odi town have denied the charge that the men were militants and that Odi was ‘an operational base’.

I use the invasion of Odi as an example of the extent to which militarism pervades governance and all aspects of Nigerian society – cultural, social, economic and gender justice, in Nigeria. Successive Nigerian governments both military and civilian have always chosen violent responses, under the guise of protecting citizens, to silence political protests, punish ethnic and religious conflict, evict street vendors, destroy informal settlements and remove beggars from the streets.

The award winning environmental and human rights activist, Nnimmo Bassey describes the responses to the Odi massacre and destruction of property and livelihoods in the Niger Delta as a’Blanket of Silence”. The impunity with which the murder of civilians and the extra judicial execution of alleged  criminals is never questioned.  Such is the desensitization to violence. No where in the media reports or in any other statement on the invasion, does anyone question the use of collective punishment – the massacre of 2,483 people and the total destruction of a town which can only be described as a war crime.  What arrogance and shamefulness it is that an ex-President can attempt to justify the murder of 2,483 unarmed women, children and elderly men.

When I speak of violence, I am speaking of an inclusive violence. Women have been at the center of this violence and they continue to be so.   Women have always been at the center of these acts of violence which are psychological, sexual, physical, emotional and verbal, as well as  the fear of those acts.   The true nature of the gendered violence which comes from the relationship between the militarized ruling elite and multinational oil companies, is obscured by the focus on supposed militants and or criminal gangs. In June 2009 the government of the late President Yar’Adua bombed Oporoza town, Gbaramatu Kingdom, in Delta state supposedly to ‘root out’ militants. Yet not a single militant was killed and there is no real evidence that any were present. Once again women, children and elderly men were killed and driven out of the town to hide in the swamps. Many trekked for days before reaching the city.  Later some 2000 women and children were placed in a refugee camp outside Warri run by women’s rights activists from Rivers State.

In the post amnesty period, 2009 to the present much of the violence against women has come from cultist and criminal gangs empowered by the culture of violence around the protection of oil production and bunkering. At the same time women have become increasingly disempowered through the perpetual violence and the loss of their livelihoods as market traders, farmers and fishing. Many women have had to move to Port Harcourt and despite the hardship and poverty of living in the city, they remain fearful of returning to their villages.

It is now 2012, the militants have been given amnesty yet the region remains heavily militarised and it is impossible to move by water or land from village to village or town to town without facing a checkpoint. In a 2011 audit of security forces carried out by myself and Emem Okon of Kebetkachie Womens Resource Center, Port Harcourt,  we listed the following security in the region.

Nigerian security forces: The River’s State Internal Security Task Force – used against the Ogoni people. The Special Naval Task Force, regular forces of the Nigerian Army, Mobile Police and police units, and more recently the Joint Task Force [JTF].

On the militant’s side there were [are] two main militias: the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force led by Asari Dokobo and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta [which has a number of splinter groups]. In addition there are various other militias some being splinter groups of the main two such as the Coalition for Militant Action in the Niger Delta (CMND), South-South Liberation Movement (SSLM), Movement for the Sovereign State of the Niger Delta (MOSSEND), DE Gbam, DE Well, Niger Delta Vigilante, and Meninbutus. There has also been at various times a Joint Revolutionary Council whose aim was to bring together leaders from all the militias.

The multinationals [Shell, Chevron, Agip, Elf, Mobil] all have their own private security personnel as well as a close political, economic and general working relationship with the various Nigerian security forces. Since the 2009 amnesty many of the ex militants have been employed by oil companies as security. In addition there are criminal / cultist gangs at work in urban centers and villages especially in those where there are oil facilities; There are also ex militants, church and other institutional security forces.

The culture of militarism is thus an all pervasive one which impacts directly on the rights of women as it extends into the domestic sphere, traditional spaces and the environment through a systemic destruction of the ecological system.

* The phrase ‘Memory Hole’ is taken from an article by William Finnegan in the New Yorker.

From Oil City to Book Central!

My friend, Richard Ali, has also written about Port Harcourt as the World Book Capital City 2014. I consider his thoughts refined, and even apposite.

Here is an excerpt:

The sense of achievement in this win is seen at the popular level, but the significance of this win is even clearer amongst writers such as me. It is the primal significance of illumination, how a stand is made against the chaos of a world without words–so that I can introduce myself as a writer proudly. The core of Greek mythology is found in the stories of benevolent, Fire-stealing Prometheus; the Judeo-Islamo-Christian monotheisms locate the start of the human story in the creation of Light by the Deity. It is the same way that the year 2014, with this great victory, will hold up the book in the same manner as the Statue of Liberty’s torch to the world, the rays of the activities planned falling first on Nigeria, which surrounds the pedestal, and then rippling in happy, harmonizing words around Africa and then on to the rest of the world.

Read the rest, here.

Port Harcourt: An Outpost City

My short essay on the successful bid for Port Harcourt as the World Book Capital for 2014 by the Rainbow Book Club appears in YNaija.

Here’s a short excerpt:

“Port Harcourt as the World Book Capital of 2014 will thrust books, and literature into public glare. It is not the case that Nigerians and Africans are not a reading, or ‘literary’ public. It is the case that we need to enliven our books: adapt them into films, exhibit excerpts from them alongside photographs, convert them into formats for mobile devices, serialize them into soapies, adapt them into comic strips, read them aloud as podcasts and audio books, broadcast SMS excerpts from them–endlessly reuse them. So, we need an incident, an event, to galvanize literary efforts within the African continent. Port Harcourt as World Book Capital 2014 is thatevent.

I recognize the gift this successful bid is to collective memory, to what Nigeria is, to whom Nigerians are. Port Harcourt is a historic city, by all ramifications; a centre point for British military operations in World War 1; Nigeria’s most prominent oil city; a symbol of the struggle for equity and environmental sustainability. From this standpoint of history we can imagine a coming history, when Port Harcourt is described as the outpost of Nigeria’s literature.”

Read the rest here.

 

Black Gold: “We are rebels of the struggle”

Black Gold: The Struggle of the Niger Delta” is a feature film written and directed by Nigerian filmmaker, Jeta Amata. Based on the film synopsis, Black Gold sounds fairly straightforward. A  community protests against multinational oil companies and the Nigerian government but to little effect. Enter militants and war is declared. Its not possible to evaluate a film based on a 2 minute trailer but there are a number of reasons to feel positive about the film. Apart from a BBC production some years ago, most films on the region have been documentaries which have to a very large extent been accessible only to western audiences. As a feature film and a Nigerian production Black Gold, has the potential to reach local audiences.  This is especially important now as the US Supreme Court rules on whether US based corporations can be sued for human rights abuses committed overseas with specific reference to  Ogoni activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others [Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuinewho] who were executed on November 10th 1995 for protesting against Shell.

Over the past two years there has been a growing number of literary ventures focusing on the Niger Delta:   Ayo Akinfe’s “Fueling the Delta Fires”, Helon Habila’s “Oil on Water”, the yet unpublished graphic novel, “Light Sweet Crude”, a collaboration between Kenneth Coker and Chris Feliciano Arnold; and Christie Watson’s, “Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away” [I will be reviewing this shortly]. The film’s timely release is further evidence that the region is finally seeping into consciousness of Nigerians.

Ken Saro-Wiwa on how it was, how it remains & how it could be

KSW reminds us of a struggle Nigerians have largely ignored or at best dismissed. The Nigerian media [pre social media] has to take major responsibility for the lack of information and analysis no doubt bullied as usual by military and pseudo military governments including Goodluck Jonathan’s. He reminds us of our right to stand up to oppressive leaders. He reminds of the misery oil has brought to people’s lives and how this has been ignored by multinationals and western governments. He reminds us of the existence of a ‘political cabal’ and an ‘oil cabal’. He reminds of our right to the fruits of our land and our resources and that we as people are part of an ecology system not outside of it.

We know that nothing has changed since this interview in 1995 except today we the people have the media in our hands. We can, if we choose and are prepared to make the effort and the sacrifice, do things differently so people do not have to feel they have no stake in this geospace called Nigeria and therefore have to chip a bit off and create their own space. The Niger Delta IS an Occupy Nigeria issue so far as it is part of Nigeria and so far as it is the source of all Nigeria’s income for the past 55 years. Oil is and has always been central to the Nigerian political economy and one cannot act and speak as if the source of that oil is not central to the oil equation.

There is no such thing as a “Niger Delta” issue that is not a Nigerian issue – to say so is to imply that the region is not part of the country and the people are not Nigerians. To do so is to disconnect the misery oil production has brought to millions of Nigerians from those who have benefited at their expense; from the benefit of free flowing oil including fuel subsidies; from political corruption, government waste, the terrible poverty in the north, south east and west and all the other social and economic ills we have faced as a nation.

This could be an opportunity for Nigerians to finally stand up and support the struggle of all Nigerians not just their own little corner and this works all ways. I hope people will have the imagination and vision to really move beyond the status quo. Because if petrol returns to N65 and political salaries are halved, fraudulent oil marketers are prosecuted but gas flaring and oil spills continue to destroy peoples lives, then we havent moved very far!

Part I

Part II

Video via @zulagroup

“He cursed the earth for spouting oil – black gold they called it!”

“And as I was going, I was just thinking how the war have spoiled my town Dukana, uselessed many people, killed many others, killed my mama and my wife, Agnes, my beautiful young wife with J.J.C and now it have made me like porson wey get leprosy because I have no town again.

And I was thinking how I was prouding before to go to soza and call myself Sozaboy. But now if anybody say anything about war or even fight, I will just run and run and run and run and run. Believe me yours sincerely” Ken Saro Wiwa, Sozaboy

On this day in 1995 Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine were executed by the Nigerian government of General Sani Abacha. The Ogoni nine were murdered because they exposed the systematic ecological destruction of Ogoniland by successive Nigerian governments and their allies the multinational oil companies namely Shell, Chevron and Elf AND demanded a greater share in the oil profits from their lands. After years of campaigning the US Supreme court has finally agreed to hear a dispute between the Ogoni people and Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company which alleges Shell’s complicity in the torture and deaths of the Ogoni Nine by the Nigerian government

Normalisation of oil pollution and violence in the Niger Delta

A new series of photos from Nigerian photo activist George Osodi presented at Bamako 2011. The series shows “the duality of life” in the Niger Delta where oil pollution and violence have become a normalised everyday part of life


 

Report finds Shell complicit in human rights abuses & payments to militants

A new report has found that Shell fuelled human rights abuses in Nigeria by paying huge contracts to armed militants. The report, called Counting the Cost, is published by Platform and a coalition of NGOs and featured in todays UK Guardian.

The report, uncovers how Shell’s routine payments to armed militants exacerbated conflicts, in one case leading to the destruction of Rumuekpe town. There are four oil companies operating in Rumuekpe including Shell. In July this year I visited Rumuekpe and spoke with a large group of women activists from the town. The women explained how the towns people were terrorised by competing militants which led to the estimated deaths of 60 people. Eventually the whole population had to run from the town leaving behind their homes, properties and farms. What is left is a ghost town and on the day we visited, the women and ourselves were fearful that we were being watched and it was too dangerous for us to stay for any length of time or walk through the town center.

Shell also continues to rely on Nigerian government forces who have perpetrated systematic human rights abuses against local residents, including unlawful killings, torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. This has been further exacerbated in recent years by war lordism across the region which has particularly led to violence against women, rape and forced prostitution. The women of Rumuekpe and Okrika Town pointed out that those towns where there were no oil companies were free of militarised and environmental violence and people were able to live in peace.

What writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa dubbed the “slick alliance” between oil multinationals and the Nigerian military is alive and harmful as ever. Shell’s operations remain inextricably linked to human rights violations committed by government forces. The Nigerian government, driven to keep oil revenues flowing and working in close partnership with oil multinationals, has heavily militarised the Delta. Shell alone has hired over 1,300 government forces as armed guards. For communities, the impacts have been devastating and are in addition to ongoing environmental damage from oil spills and gas flaring.
Continue reading

“Our Africa” – New critical thinking by African women

“Our Africa” is a series of “critical analysis and fresh thinking” by African Women. The essays highlight the key issues facing African women and “the economic and political forces shaping” the continent. The series is edited by Jessica Horn, Jane Gabriel, and Amel Gorani.

On the launch of the series Mariame Toure Quattara writes on women farmers organising to denounce agricultural policies in Burkina Faso; Amina Mama on how women must and can respond to the impact of growing militarism on our lives; and Jessica Horn reflects on the lives of two African feminists, Kenya’s Wambui Otieno Mbugua and Nigeria’s Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti

On 30 August 2011 Wambui Otieno Mbugua passed away in her home country Kenya, after a life of dedicated and fearless activism. She may not have been a household name of the variety beamed through our television sets across the globe, although she certainly was a household name in the hearts of many an African activist. And yet the landscape of the battles that she fought and the issues she fought for are now given audience in mainstream policy forums. As a young leader in the Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule she risked her life in the name of her people’s freedom, facing sexual violation at the hands of a British colonial officer. She was adamant that silence was not an option, and called for her rapist to be prosecuted. Throughout her life Wambui Otieno continued to question the masculist pen in which the rules of society were written – choosing against the logic of ethnic nationalism to marry a man of a different ethnic group, challenging customary rules that deemed her without a right as a woman to decide on where her dead husband would be buried, and later withstanding public criticism at her decision to choose a second husband decades younger than her. Eulogies by contemporary African activists such as Muthoni Wanyeki – former director of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission – attest to brightness of the flame that Wambui Otieno lit.

The figure of Wambui Otieno Mbugua evokes the memory of another trailblazer, Nigerian Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. As discussion on the legacy of musician/activist Fela Kuti is revived through the Broadway musical about his life, we are also reminded that it was his mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti who laid the foundations of much of his resistance politics. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was an indefatigable voice against the injustices of her time. In the 1940s she successfully organised the market women of Abeokuta, the city in which she lived, against a tax levied on them by the colonial-backed traditional ruler of Abeokuta (an event framed as the Egba Women’s War). In the same collectivist spirit she co-founded a number of mass-based women’s organisations in Nigeria. In a literal embrace of freedom of movement, she was the first Nigerian woman to drive a car.

Community guide for Nigeria elections

Stakeholders Democracy have published this excellent guide to monitoring the April elections. The guide can be downloaded here.

We have prepared a community guide to the 2011 elections which we hope will be shared and adapted by all of those who hope to promote better elections in their communities. It was drafted with the Niger Delta in mind but we are hopeful that communities in other parts of Nigeria will also find it useful.

Via Naijablog

NAIJA Voices: We are also Nigerians!

Kayode Ogundamisi meets the voices of Nigeria during the October 1st In[dependence] Day in Abuja

Main stream media did focus on the “kings and queens” the “very important persons” I was only keen to get the voice of the Nigerian, the unknown heroes and Heroines who make Nigeria great. Those who never get a mention on mainstream platforms. Towards the end of my video I arrived the bomb blast scene and it is to those unknown Nigerians that I dedicate my efforts to. That day October 1st 2010 was a day of celebration for the Nigerian government who had spent a scandalous 17.9 billion Naira on a jamboree for ordinary Nigerians and NAIJAS it was a day of Sorrow, Tears, and Blood “Viewer Discretion Is Advised” Project facilitated bywww.saharareporters.com Kayode Ogundamisi

Thoughts on “Naija Leaks” – WikiLeaks

Nigerian Curiosity has produced a synopsis of the “Naija Leaks“. The leaks provide an additional dimension to the relationship between the Nigerian government, Shell – an imperial empire in itself, and the United States government.   The “Naija Leaks”  should be read in the context of the “oil complex” – that is the relationship between the oil companies, the Nigerian Federal and State governments, traditional rulers, militants and the community and now unsurprisingly, as the leaks reveal, the United States government.     A  militarised relationship which was exposed early this week with the disclosure that the Nigerian military had framed Ken Saro Wiwa and Shell’s role in supporting the framing and implicit in that, the execution of the Ogoni 9.

The most interesting fact revealed is of course Shell’s total infiltration into all aspects of Nigerian politics and governance, acting as a spy  for the US government. I find this somewhat amusing considering successive Nigerian governments over the past 40 years have been loving bed partners with Shell acting out some of the most brutal attacks on communities and the environment, not knowing that Shell was also very much in bed with the US government.  In retrospect this is hardly surprising news but if one looks at Nigeria’s side of the relationship with Shell, it is apparent they were not aware of the duplicity and even more stupid had actually forgotten the Shell had “seconded people to all relevant ministries”.

Beyond that Ann Pickard’s comment on the probability that the amnesty of October 2009 would be short lived is prophetic plus her comment on Rivers State Governor,  Rotimi Amaechi, who unlike his counterparts in Delta and Bayelsa States, due to his lack of “political connections”  has been unable to co-op any of the militants.  The revelation that the PresidentGoodluck Jonathan discussed Nigerian elections with the US Ambassador is also revealing especially if put with other discussions of Nigeria’s internal politics such as the resignation of Yar’Adua, replacing INEC and even Jonathan’s choice of Vice President.  All of which speak to the sovereignty of Nigeria vis a vis multinational oil companies and foreign governments – again nothing surprising here.  The third revelation on the corruption of  late President Yar’Adua because he was seen to be “incorruptible” whereas now we find he was much the same as all previous head of states.

Overall, as in most of the WikiLeaks elsewhere,  there are no surprises here.  As Nigerian Curiosity comments, will these revelations be published by the Nigerian media especially with elections next April?  What I would like to see are similar cables for the period 1992-1995 and during 1998-2000, covering the heart of the Ogoni Movement for self-determination and President Obasanjo’s attacks against Niger Delta in Kaiama and Odi for example and also around 2005, the beginnings of the militancy movement.

Evidence disclosed by the Independent is corroborated by Ogoni women

The disclosure in the UK Independent that the Nigerian military framed Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni Eight is something the Ogoni people have always known. The relationship with Shell and the Nigerian military and particularly Lt-Col Paul Okuntimo is also known to the Ogoni and other Niger Deltans and was disclosed in “Where Vultures Feast: Shell Human Rights and Oil in the Niger Delta” by Ike Okonta and Oronto Douglas. The evidence of the witnesses named in the Independent are corroborated by the Ogoni women I spoke with back in March 2000 and can be seen in their individual testimonies on rape, beatings and harassment by Okuntimo’s soldiers.

Compelling new evidence suggests the Nigerian military killed four Ogoni elders whose murders led to the execution of the playwright and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995.

The evidence also reveals that the notorious military commander Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Okuntimo, whose troops were implicated in murder and rape, was in the pay of Shell at the time of the killings and was driven around in a Shell vehicle.

Read the full article here

Introduction: Ken Saro-Wiwa, 15 years on

Ben Amunwa, co-ordinator of the Remember Saro-Wiwa project introduces the Niger Delta series based on interviews during his recent visit to the region.

Episode 1: 15 years of not getting justice

As part of the 15th anniversary of the execution of the Ogoni nine, Remember Saro-Wiwa has produced a series of interviews with leading human rights defenders in the Niger Delta.

Episode I is concerned with Women’s Rights in Niger Delta, and features an interview with women’s rights activist, Emem J Okon, of Kebetkache Women’s Resource Centre, based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. Kebetkache is strong advocate of gender equality and works in some of the challenging regions in the Delta. Following the recent military attacks on Gbaramatu in the Western Niger Delta, Kebetkache set up residential camps for internally dispaced women and children, providing much needed support to the civilians whose homes were destroyed by the military.