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Nigeria must end army killings in oil delta - Amnesty

By Estelle ShirbonABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian security forces protecting oil industry interests in the southern Niger Delta kill local people and raze villages with impunity, human rights group Amnesty International said in a report published on Thursday.Amnesty accused the government of ignoring the army's abuses and failing to tackle the poverty and injustice it said were the root causes of frequent unrest in the delta.Nigeria is the world's eighth oil exporter and the bulk of its 2.4 million barrels per day output comes from the delta.''Despite a return to civilian government in 1999, those responsible for human rights violations under military governments have not been brought to justice,'' Amnesty said.''The security forces are still allowed to kill people and raze communities with impunity,'' it added.It called on the government to set up independent inquiries into abuses in the area, including a raid by security forces in February on the village of Odioma. It said at least 17 villagers were burnt or shot to death in the raid, two women were raped and 80 percent of homes were razed.The human rights group said foreign oil companies, as partners of the Nigerian state in exploiting the delta's oil resources, bore a share of responsibility for the poor human rights situation in the region and should do more to improve it.Most of the 20 million people in the delta, a maze of swamps and mangrove creeks, live in poverty with no basic services.Many resent the oil industry which, as they see it, has wrecked their environment and generated enormous profits from their lands, but yielded few benefits for them.This sense of injustice breeds frequent protests at oil facilities as well as sabotage, theft of crude, kidnappings of oil workers and conflicts between communities.VILLAGE RAIDThe report highlights the Odioma raid and another incident in February in which soldiers fired on protesters at an oil terminal operated by Chevron, killing one and injuring at least 30 others, according to Amnesty.The protesters had entered the facility to show their anger at what they saw as unfulfilled promises from Chevron of jobs and development for their community.Amnesty said these examples demonstrated that the human rights situation in the delta has not improved in the 10 years since environmental and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others were hanged by the government.The hangings in November 1995, under military dictator Sani Abacha, caused an international outcry and Nigeria became a pariah state. In 1999, a civilian government took power after 15 years of army rule and Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has since regained respectability.''We haven't seen any extra-judicial executions since...1995 but in terms of other human rights violations the problems are still there,'' said Ulrika Sandberg, one of the authors of the Amnesty report.''We're aware of a few initiatives by the government and by companies to address the human rights situation but we've seen very few effects on the ground,'' she told Reuters.

Posted Date: 
3 November 2005 - 3:51pm