News / Africa

Nigeria Government Ordered to Pay for Human Rights Violations

A woman coated in oil perches near a mangrove after fishing in a creek near the River Nun in Nigeria's oil state of Bayelsa, November 27, 2012.
A woman coated in oil perches near a mangrove after fishing in a creek near the River Nun in Nigeria's oil state of Bayelsa, November 27, 2012.
Heather Murdock
Fourteen years after the Odi community in Nigeria's Niger Delta was flattened in what many call a 'massacre,' a Nigerian court this week ordered the government to pay the community nearly $240 million within the next three weeks. 
 
Exactly what happened in Odi, a town in oil-rich Bayelsa State, is still unclear. Human Rights Watch says gang members in Odi killed twelve policemen in early November 1999.  
 
A few weeks later, Human Rights Watch says soldiers raided the town of about 15,000 people, destroying almost every single building and possibly killing hundreds of people.
 
Locals say it was thousands who died, and the attacks were racially motivated against ethnic Ijaws, with soldiers writing, "We will kill all Ijaws” on demolished buildings.  The government of the time still defends the raid, saying it was rooting out terrorists and destroying their base.
 
This week, a Nigerian judge ordered the government to pay the town nearly $240 million within 21 days for what it called a "brazen violation of the fundamental human rights of the victims to movement, life and to own property and live peacefully in their ancestral home."
 
Perye Brown, a former chairman of Bayelsa State Youth Council, spoke outside the courtroom. “I find it very exciting.  It has been really, really a breakthrough for the people of Odi, especially the young people of Odi, a lot of whom lost their parents, a lot of whom lost their sort of livelihood that would have earned them an education and [allowed them to] pursue their aspiration," Brown said. "But today this compensation and this justice delivered will show the truth that the people are law abiding and that they believe in the rule of law.”

Nigeria’s attorney general, Nkolika Awa, represented the government in the trial and was surprisingly unconcerned by the verdict. “I found that the judge put in a lot of work.  Always in the law, arguments can go either way or the other.  So really, it does not really matter which way it goes,” Awa stated.

Awa’s lack of concern could be because this decision does not really implicate the current government.  In fact, it implicates the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a critic of President Goodluck Jonathan.
 
Bayelsa is also Jonathan’s home state and the heart of his support base.  Late last year, he told reporters he went to Odi after the incident and saw the bodies of old people, women and children, but no militants.

Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godfrey...USA from: USA
February 21, 2013 10:40 AM
Nigerian Judges are waking up from their slumber. I think this should open the door for EFCC to probe Obasanjo. Secondly, OBJ should be held responsible for the payment of this judgement. He stole enough money during his rule and that money belong to the Nigerian government.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs