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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

NIGERIA: Act on Delta violence, HRW tells government, oil companies

ABIDJAN, 9 April 2003 (IRIN) - Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday called on the Nigerian government and multinational oil companies to take immediate measures to prevent further violence and abuses around the southern town of Warri, located in the Niger Delta.

"The Nigerian government is responsible for public order in the Delta, but the oil companies have a role to play here, too," Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the African division of HRW, said in letters to President Olusegun Obasanjo and the managing directors of three transnationals.

Since 13 March, clashes between members of the Ijaw and Itsekiri ethnic groups in the Niger Delta have claimed scores of lives. Most of the victims of the communal clashes were reported to be Itsekiris, HRW said, while Ijaws were the main victims of a combined Nigerian army, navy and police operation mounted against their villages after armed Ijaw youths allegedly killed four soldiers. HRW said it had received reports of government security forces firing indiscriminately on Ijaw villages, killing dozens of people.

Similar military operations had led to hundreds of extrajudicial killings in the past, for example in the southern town of Odi (Bayelsa State) in 1999 and in the central state of Benue in 2001, HRW noted. No one had been tried for these killings, it said.

Other people affected by the violence around Warri included staff of oil companies, according to HRW, which also reported that some companies had helped evacuate community members from the area.

The rights watchdog appealed to the main companies operating in the area, ChevronTexaco, Royal Dutch/Shell and TotalFinalElf, to publicly urge the government to restore security in a manner that respects due process and fundamental human rights and is not disproportionate.

The letter to President Obasanjo can be found at:
www.hrw.org/press/2003/04/nigeria040703obasanjo.htm
The letters to the oil companies can be found at
www.hrw.org/press/2003/04/nigeria040703chevron.htm and
www.hrw.org/press/2003/04/nigeria040703shell.htm

 

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Economy

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