11,645 total views, 1 views today
The Odi Massacre in Bayelsa State, 21 Years later (Pictures And Videos).
Almost 21 years ago, precisely on November 20, 1999, the Nigerian military, acting on the orders of then-President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, invaded Odi, a predominantly Ijaw community in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, and wreaked monumental havoc on the community.
The attack, which many observers have described as a pogrom, came at a time when there was conflict in the oil- rich Niger Delta region over widespread agitations for oil resources control and environmental protection.
Prior to the incident, there were reports that some armed bandits murdered 12 police officers close to Odi. Unconfirmed reports also said military personnel deployed in the community were ambushed close to the town, which increased tension in the area. The soldiers broke through the ambush and exchanged gunfire with the armed bandits in the town, which further escalated the tension.
In retaliation, the military, allegedly on the orders of Obasanjo, invaded the town and leveled the community. In the course of the invasion, many people were killed while most of the houses in the community were set ablaze.
While the Federal Government put the casualty figure at 43, some reports said about 2, 500 civilians were killed.
The matter became a matter of litigation and N37. 6bn damages was awarded in favour of the community against the government by the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt. In 2014, the Federal Government reached an agreement with the community and N15bn was eventually paid. That also created a conflict in the community, as the chairman of the negotiation committee was kidnapped and held in captivity for some days.
In the biggest internal military operation, Nigerian soldiers destroy an entire village in the restive Niger Delta, igniting local and international condemnation for President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Soon after General Olusegun Obasanjo’s election in the 27 February 1999 presidential election, Nigerians faced their first test over their new leader.
On 19 November, more than 50 army trucks trundled through snaky paths and forests into the heart of Kolokuma/Opokuma. It would not be the first time people of the local government area in Bayelsa State would see soldiers. But, not this many. At least, not in peace times.
Those who had attained cognitive ages during the 1967- 70 Biafran civil war may remember having seen that much number of troops. Unofficial sources put the number of troops at between 3, 000 and 5, 000.
Even though no war had been declared, everyone knew where the soldiers were headed. Two weeks earlier, the news had spread through the surrounding villages, that there was a problem in Odi. Youths protesting the presence of policemen in the village had seized seven of them and slaughtered them. Then, again, another five were sent to their early graves. The situation appears to have gone out of control.
An enraged President Olusegun Obasanjo gave the Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, two weeks to fish out the cop killers and restore peace to the area. The Governor threw up his hands in defeat.
When the Police Affairs Minister, Major- General Jemibewon (rtd.) visited Yenagoa last, the account the Bayelsa Governor gave him of the situation in Odi before the army action was the same he gave to the Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, on Monday. He said that one Ken Nneweira, an indigene of Odi and a dangerous criminal who allegedly had a gang of bandits perpetrating armed robbery on the East-West Road and piracy on the waterways, was responsible for the killing of the policemen.
According to the governor, Ken sacked his late father’s wives and took over his house, converting it to the ‘ command headquarters’ of his ‘ army. ‘ His late father, according to Alamieyeseigha, was a police officer. When the news got to Odi that the Odua People’s Congress clashed with Ijaws in Ajegunle, Lagos, during the funeral of an Odi indigene, Ken started training Odi youths for a future showdown with the OPC. The police heard about this and wanted to pre-empt him.
However, some of the murderous youths, including Ken Nneweira, were linked to Alameiyeseigha’ s electioneering campaign. His campaign organisation had allegedly recruited them to strike fear into his opponents. The promise of proper settlement after he won the election having not been met, the hoodlums allegedly took over a part of Yenagoa and imposed a regime of terror. They extorted money from innocent passers-by of the place that came to be known as ‘ black market. ‘ People were routinely robbed and women raped. After a time, the police moved in and after a fierce battle, dislodged the hoodlums.
The Area Commander for Yenagoa himself, Mr. Thomas Jokotola, CSP, led that operation last September. There were some casualties. Some of the ‘ black market boys’ were killed, a good number were arrested and clamped into detention. As they fled, the hoodlums encountered some soldiers along Harbour Road, Yenagoa. The unsuspecting military men were mowed down. Life seemed to return to normal after that bloody clash in Yenagoa.
However, two months after, CSP Jokotola, a Yoruba ‘ with heavy facial tribal marks’ from Ipetumodu in Ife North Local Government Area surfaced in Odi, with six other policemen, on ‘ special duty. ‘ The hoodlums who had retreated to that town pounced on him and his colleagues. Their corpses were discovered days after. Already smarting from a spate of violent clashes across the country, President Obasanjo read Alamieyeseigha, the riot act.
However, sources disclosed that the Federal Government believed that the governor might not be able to handle the situation. The ultimatum, if anything, was a subtle indictment. He did not, however, wait till the expiration of the ultimatum.
Five days clear of the 24 November ultimatum, the President lost his patience and invoked emergency powers. Forty- eight hours later, the rural town of Odi was leveled. Only a church and a bank building survived the operation. Nothing which had life be it man or animal was moving. They were either dead or in hiding in the bushes. ” The instructions given to the troops were clear, specific, and unambiguous- that is, dislodge perpetrators of violence, restore law and order and apprehend suspected murderers. ” Dr. Doyin Okupe, Obasanjo’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity clarified.
The soldiers commanded by one Lt. – Col. Agbabiaka clearly overshot their brief. Over 300 were reported killed in the most widely condemned military action since the General Sani Abacha pacifist troops overran Ogoniland. Alamieyeseigha himself gleefully confirmed to women from across the state who met him for peace talks, that ” your children, all those that are involved (in the killing of the policemen) are dying like chickens. I just pity the people of Odi.
Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Senate President who visited Odi days after the massacre was too shocked by what he saw to make a statement. So also, Professor Isoun, a prominent son of Odi. He could only manage, ” we are mourning now, so I cannot say anything. ” Senator Sulaiman Ajadi who was in the Okadigbo entourage was aghast. ” I don’t see the reason for hitting an ant with a sledgehammer, ” he bemoaned, adding, ” even a foreign invasion would not have been more devastating. “
Professor Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate and social activist lamented the heavy- handedness. Nothing, he said at a news conference, justified the murder of policemen, and in the same vein, there was no justification for the ” revenge mission. “
WHAT THE INTERVIEW VIDEO OF FORMER PRESIDENT OBASANJO DURING HIS LAST DAYS IN OFFICE
DO YOU HAVE ANY NEWS YOU WANT TO REPORT? CLICK HERE TO REGISTER AND SUBMIT YOUR NEWS FOR PUBLICATION ON TOKTOK9JA
WATCH MORE NEWS ON OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE