Heavily armed soldiers and aerial bombing runs have reportedly killed as many as 150 people in the southern delta, a human rights activist said.
Oghebejabor Ikim, national coordinator for the Forum of Justice and Human Rights Defense, described devastation in the village of Ayakoromo in Delta state with houses destroyed, civilians killed, and women raped. Soldiers are said to be looking for a militant leader called John Togo.
“I can describe it as a killing spree of innocent civilians,” Mr. Ikim said. “Houses have been burnt. Women are raped. There are killings. Is that how to get at John Togo?”
Nigerian officials say they are looking to reach a truce with militants in the Niger Delta who have turned to militancy over failed government pledges to clean up the environment, share oil incomes, build schools, and health care centers. The “rebels” have turned to attacks on pipelines, kidnapping of petroleum company employees, and fighting with government troops.
The attacks have cut drastically into crude production in Nigeria, an OPEC-member nation that is one of the top suppliers of crude oil to the U.S.
The Nigerian Red Cross and other activists have been unable to reach the targeted communities as the military has sealed off the winding muddy creeks that lead to the region. Activists say they continue to see smoke rising from the area and can hear gunfire.
Meanwhile, in a related development, Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey recently received the “Alternative Nobel Prize” in Stockholm, for his effort to “reveal the full ecological and human horror of oil production.”
In his acceptance speech, Bassey, who heads Friends of the Earth International, said he represented ‘suffering peoples in the oil fields’ in Nigeria and other parts of the world. Polluters, he said, should face trial for ‘crimes against humanity’. Last year, Bassey was named “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine.
-Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network