Mass arrests of Ogoni

Issue 

Nigerian authorities have arrested hundreds of Ogoni people, causing thousands to flee their villages. Military checkpoints have been established throughout Ogoniland, where those passing are forced to undress. People bearing Ogoni tribal scars on their chests are automatically arrested.

Confirmed information puts the number of Ogoni men already arrested in the hundreds. Most are being held in the Bori Military Camp, Port Harcourt. There are also unconfirmed reports of Ogoni being killed.

With the increased harassment, thousands of Ogoni have left their villages, particularly in Gokana, where the killing of four Ogoni leaders occurred on May 21. Widespread looting by Nigerian soldiers, both state and federal, of the deserted villages has been reported by eyewitnesses.

The town Gioko in Gokana has been described as a "ghost town". Other affected villages include Nwe-ol, Bera Barako, Deeyor, Nwebiara, Biara, Mogho, K. Dere, B. Dere and Lewe.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) president, is being held without charges in Bori Military Camp. He is still in leg cuffs, which has resulted in the severe swelling of one of his legs. He is also in need of medical attention for a long-standing heart problem. On May 27 Saro-Wiwa's lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, was refused access to him.

Being held with Saro-Wiwa are Ledum Mitee, MOSOP deputy president, and Ogoni lawyer and commissioner Dr Barinen Kiobeh. Unconfirmed reports have noted the unusual arrest of Chief Kalikpo, from Bane village — a traditional Ogoni ruler not generally recognised as an active MOSOP member.

The mass arrests have come after the implementation of an extensive mobilisation of armed forces for "restoring and maintaining law and order in Ogoni Land", as laid out in Operation Order No. 4/94 from the Rivers State commissioner of police.

Tensions were further heightened when these troops prevented Saro-Wiwa from campaigning for the Constitutional Assembly elections on Saturday, May 21.

The Ogoni have been engaged in a non-violent struggle against the environmental degradation and social neglect of their land and people caused by Shell and other multinational oil companies in cooperation with the Nigerian government.

Ogoni is a Member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisations (UNPO), a grouping of nations and peoples not adequately represented in international forums such as the United Nations.

[From UNPO via Pegasus.]