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Ogoni group wants action on African rights commission’s ruling

Minority rights activists in Nigeria have called on the government to act urgently on a ruling by the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) that the state perpetrated massive abuses in the southeastern area of Ogoniland.

The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) said in a statement sent to IRIN on Friday that it was seeking an audience with Justice Minister Kanu Agabi to obtain the prosecution of those who violated the rights of the 500,000-strong Ogoni and compensation for the victims as requested by ACHPR.

The commission, based in Banjul, The Gambia, announced its ruling in a letter dated 27 May 2002. It found successive military governments in Nigeria guilty of massive violation of Ogoni rights. It also said the Ogoni had suffered from widespread environmental degradation by oil companies operating in their area, which is part of the oil-rich Niger Delta.

The commission's decision was in response to complaints filed in 1996 by a Nigerian human rights group, Social and Economic Rights Action, and the US-based Council for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

"The Security forces were given the green light to decisively deal with the Ogonis, which was illustrated by the widespread terrorisations and killings," the ACHPR said. "The pollution and environmental degradation to a level humanly unacceptable has made living in Ogoniland a nightmare ... They affected the life of the Ogoni society as a whole."

The Commission said that during a mission to Ogoniland between 7 and 14 March 1997, its members saw "the deplorable situation ... including the environmental degradation". It said they found violations of articles of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights that protect the right to life, enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, health, housing and development.

It therefore appealed to the Nigerian government to take action. Measures it proposed included conducting an investigation into the human rights violations and prosecuting the security and other officials involved.

"In response to this ruling MOSOP is seeking an urgent meeting with the Attorney-General to understand whether the federal government is finally willing to respond to its obligations to Ogoni," the group said. "We are also calling on President (Olusegun) Obasanjo to show leadership in respecting and giving his full support to the ruling of the Africa Commission."

Founded in 1990 by Ogoni intellectuals, including late writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, MOSOP bore the full brunt of brutal repression under different military regimes for spearheading a campaign that drew attention to decades of environmental devastation by oil companies and the neglect of the Niger Delta by successive governments.

In 1993, Royal/Dutch Shell, the main oil company with operations in the Ogoni district, was forced to pull out of the area in the face of intense hostility from local people.

Eager to stop MOSOP and what it represented in the oil region, late Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha ordered the execution of Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists on charges of murder after what was widely condemned as a flawed trial. A special military force he stationed in the area was accused of numerous killings, rapes and other atrocities.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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