The community wants the government to implement a court judgement.
By Arodiegwu Eziukwu.
Residents of Odi in Kolokuma-Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State on Friday blocked the East-West Road to protest the Federal Government’s ‘nonchalant’ attitude to the community after its invasion by Nigerian troops during the tenure of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The community members said they are aggrieved that several months after securing a favorable judgment, the government has been reluctant to pay the N37.6 billion damages awarded them by the Federal High Court as compensation for the November1999 military invasion of their community.
The protesters chanted songs in their dialect as they brandished placards with various inscriptions.
The women wore black mourning clothes as they rolled on bare ground and on the major roads recanting the bloodshed that accompanied the masacre.
Some youth carried a mock coffin as a symbol of harvest of deaths that accompanied the Odi violence.
Some Niger Delta human rights organisations, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), and some human rights activists also participated in the protest and criticized the action of Mr. Obasanjo.
The Odi community leaders ensured that the demonstration was peaceful and that the busy East-West Road was cleared after 20 minutes of barricade.
The CLO Chairman in Bayelsa, Nengi James, recalled the destruction of lives and property during the invasion and said the human rights community should petition the United Nations with a view to dragging Mr. Obasanjo to the International Criminal Court of (ICC).
Mr. James asked the government to immediately comply with the contents of the Justice Lambi Akanbi judgment in the spirit of the rule of law and to put Odi on the path of recovery.
“It is the duty of the state and its institutions to safeguard the rule of Law, harmony in the society. But the perversion of justice with impunity by these entities leaves much to be desired,” he said. “The Ijaw land and Odi community and indeed the entire Niger Delta cannot afford to sweep the military attack on Odi under the carpet or forget it in a hurry.”
A retired Permanent Secretary, Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, said Mr. Obasanjo’s action against Odi betrayed the carrot and stick approach he recommended in his letter to President Goodluck Jonathan.
She said Odi had yet to recover from the aftermath of the invasion.
“We have won all our cases and the court had ordered that money should be paid to us. We are not happy with Jonathan because if the court had given judgment, he should have complied with it in the spirits of the rule of law. If they had not reported to Mr. President, we want to inform him through our protest”, she said.