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HISTORICAL OVERVIEW: ARREST OF MOSOP LEADERS, MORE VIOLENCE IN OGONILAND

It is not known how many people died during the raids, which lasted until August 1994, when the military claimed to have successfully “restored peace” to Ogoniland. In July, the Dutch ambassador told Shell Nigeria’s then chairperson Brian Anderson that the army had killed some 800 Ogonis.

Extracts from pages 25, 26 & 27 of an Amnesty International document headed: “A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE? SHELL’S INVOLVEMENT IN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN NIGERIA IN THE 1990s”

EXTRACT BEGINS

ARREST OF MOSOP LEADERS AND FURTHER VIOLENCE IN OGONILAND

On 21 May 1994, four of the traditional Ogoni leaders, who had fallen out with Ken Saro-Wiwa the previous year, were attacked while they were holding a meeting in Giokoo, Ogoniland. Because of serious flaws in the investigation and subsequent trial, and because prosecution witnesses gave conflicting accounts of what happened, the key facts surrounding the killings have never been fully established. According to the version put forward by the prosecution, the attack was carried out by a mob of hundreds of men.82 The prosecution said that these attackers beat the four traditional leaders to death and then set fire to their corpses. The victims were Chief Edward N. Kobani, who had resigned as MOSOP Vice-President in 1993, Albert T. Badey, Chief Samuel N. Orage and Chief Theophilus B. Orage.

The next day, Lieutenant-Colonel Dauda Komo announced at a press conference that MOSOP was to blame, and accused Ken Saro-Wiwa of inciting his supporters to kill his opponents.83 Ken Saro-Wiwa was subsequently arrested without charge the next day. The security forces later arrested a further 14 men, including a commissioner (minister) in the Rivers State government, Dr Barinem Kiobel. Dr Kiobel was also from Ogoniland, but was not a member of MOSOP (see below for details). Despite the fact that the government publicly levelled allegations against the men, the police did not formally charge them for next eight months. All the defendants said they were innocent.84

The ISTF was given responsibility for investigating the murders, as well as for the detention and interrogation of the defendants, and the security of the trial.85 Its commander, Major Okuntimo, was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.86

Following the murders, the ISTF launched raids on Ogoni villages.87 These raids, and accompanying human rights violations, were widely reported on at the time in Nigerian newspapers.88 National human rights groups, as well as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch published investigations.89 In operations that appeared to be carried out as collective punishment for real or assumed association with MOSOP, the armed forces carried out near nightly raids on Ogoni villages, killing some, and arresting others who were later subjected to torture or other ill-treatment. Troops carried out many extrajudicial executions.90 According to an Amnesty International report released on 27 June 1994, some 30 villages had been attacked in the space of approximately one month, and during this time “more than 50 members of the Ogoni ethnic group are reported to have been extra-judicially executed and over 180 others wounded during attacks by the security forces on Ogoni villages.”91

Nigeria’s Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) sent human rights researchers to Ogoniland, and on 2 August 1994 called for an international inquiry into the “ongoing brutalisation of the Ogonis.”92 According to the CLO:

“Our investigations show that over 43 villages have been invaded by Okuntimo’s men
since May. Today in the forests of Ogoni is a fast-growing population of refugees fleeing from the invaders. Many of them have had their homes completely destroyed. Others have simply abandoned their homes for fear that the soldiers may return….Ogoni is indeed in a state of war. Witness homes razed by fire, others whittled down to bamboo and raffia skeletons by bullets and grenades, wall crushed in, blood splattered walls etc.”93

The CLO published a list of Ogoni people, most of whom said they had fled the destruction of their homes or businesses by the military between May and July 1994. The CLO named 192 people, who said that between them they had 921 children.94

In February/March 1995, through interviews with victims of attacks on Nwe-ol, Uegwere/Bo-ue, Bori, Bera, Barako, Bane, Biara, and Bomu, Human Rights Watch also established that the ISTF’s raids generally involved the indiscriminate use of armed force and followed a consistent pattern:

“Troops entered towns and villages shooting at random, as villagers fled to the surrounding bush. Soldiers and mobile police stormed houses, breaking down doors and windows with their boots, the butts of their guns, and machetes. Villagers who crossed their path, including children and the elderly, were severely beaten, forced to pay ‘settlement fees’, and sometimes shot. Many women were raped. Security forces randomly arrested and detained several hundred Ogonis, primarily young men, while a number of other prominent MOSOP activists were declared wanted by Rivers State Police Commissioner Bukar Ali. Before leaving, troops looted money, food, livestock, and other property.”95

In response to Human Rights Watch’s inquiries about allegations of widespread human rights abuses in Ogoniland, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Okuntimo acknowledged that “there may have been a few small problems” during the “first few weeks.” His troops were searching for the killers, he said, and the “process of separating the chaff from the wheat” was not an easy one. He labelled the rest of the allegations “propaganda.”96

Human Rights Watch spoke to two soldiers involved in the violence (different men from those referred to earlier). One soldier stated that:

“We were told that any mature man in the Ogoni areas was a suspect. We needed to find as many as possible for interrogation. The idea was to go into villages, shooting in the air, and then when people ran, to grab some as prisoners. The orders were to shoot on sight able-bodied men, if they ran. The Ogonis, they lost many people.”97

The other soldier also reported being told to shoot at will. He also said many villagers were wounded in the gunfire, but the military made no effort to care for them. The testimonies of the two soldiers were consistent with accounts of local church workers, who told Human Rights Watch that soldiers had warned them against entering Ogoniland in the days following the murders of the four Ogoni chiefs because they had been given orders to shoot local villagers. They are also consistent with information gathered by Amnesty International at the time.

Despite Paul Okuntimo’s claims of propaganda, his public statements appear to confirm serious human rights violations. Speaking after May 1994, he addressed a press conference, which was broadcast by national TV:

“The first three days, the first three days of the operation, I operated in the night. Nobody knew where I was coming from. What I will just do is that I will just take some detachments of soldiers, they will just stay at four corners of the town. They…have automatic rifle[s] that sound death. If you hear the sound you will freeze. And then I will equally now choose about twenty [soldiers] and give them…grenades – explosives – very hard one[s]. So we shall surround the town at night…The machine gun with five hundred rounds will open up. When four or five like that open up and then we are throwing grenades and they are making ‘eekpuwaa!’ what do you think the…and they know I am around, what do you think the people are going to do? And we have already put roadblock[s] on the main road, we don’t want anybody to start running…so the option we made was that we should drive all these boys, all these people into the bush with nothing except the pant[s] and the wrapper they are using that night.”98

In June 1994, Paul Okuntimo publicly claimed that the army had taught him 204 ways of killing people. He claimed at a news conference that he had practised only three and that he would welcome the opportunity to exercise the rest of his repertoire.99 It is not known how many people died during the raids, which lasted until August 1994, when the military claimed to have successfully “restored peace” to Ogoniland.100 In July, the Dutch ambassador told Shell Nigeria’s then chairperson Brian Anderson that the army had killed some 800 Ogonis.101

Footnotes

82. Michael Birnbaum QC, A Travesty of Law and Justice, p. 2.
83. Footage of press conference on file with Amnesty International.
84. Amnesty International, Nigeria: The Ogoni Trials and Detentions (Index: AFR 44/020/1995).
85. Amnesty International, Nigeria: The Ogoni Trials and Detentions (Index: AFR 44/020/1995), p. 9.
86. Amnesty International meeting with Paul Okuntimo, 11 December 1994.
87. Amnesty International, Nigeria: Military Clampdown on the Opposition (Index: AFR 44/013/1994).
88. Uche Maduemesi, This is Conquest, TELL, 18 July 1994; The Guardian (Nigeria), Terror in Ogoniland, 25 July, 1994; Claude Ake, Nightmare of State
Violence, TELL, 25 July 1994; Tomson Ajayeoba, The Killing Field, TELL, 25 July 1995; Ibiba Don Pedro, Inside Ogoniland, The African Guardian, 8
August 1994; Sam Olukoya, The Ogoni Agony, Newswatch, 26 September 1994.
89. E.g. Amnesty International, Urgent Action, 27 June 1994 (Index: AFR 44/06/94); Civil Liberties Organisation, No Roof Over Their Heads, Liberty,
May-August, 1994; Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria
90. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria.
91. Amnesty International, Urgent Action, 27 June 1994 (Index: AFR 44/06/94).
92. Edetaen Ojo, CLO seeks international inquiry on Ogoni massacre, The Guardian (Nigeria, 2 August 1994.
93. Okko Sylvester Olumhense and Oronto Douglas, Ogoni: Agony of a Nation, Liberty, May-August, 1994, p16.
94. The CLO gathered the names and dates of birth of each individual. Three were aged 12-17, the rest were adults. The list does not specify whether the
adults’ children, who numbered 921 were accompanying them or not. Civil Liberties Organisation, No Roof Over Their Heads, Liberty, May-August,
1994, p17-22.
95. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria.
96. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria.
97. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria.
98. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria.
99. Claude Are, War and Terror, The News, 22 August 1994, cited in Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria.
100. Stepp Offi, What Manner of Peace?, TELL, 22 August 1994; Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern
Nigeria, p. 15.
101. Brian Anderson, Nigeria Update, 26 July 1994 (Exhibit 48. A000001-6).

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