Friday, August 4, 2000
|Priye S. Torulagha (Ph.D., MHR)
Ready for the New Century?
The last 500
years, including the 20th century could be characterized as Africa's "Dark
Ages" This is when millions of Africans were traded as slaves, European powers
colonized Africa and divided the continent into their agricultural and political
plantations, two major world religions insatiably gobbled up the continent and
thereby sowed the seeds of perpetual "holy war" conflicts, and Africans die like
fleas in civil war conflicts.
It appears that the African political
landscape will not change for the better in the 21st century. This cynical view
is compelled by the fact that the factors which led to the brutalities of the
last century still remain and efforts have not been made to solve
Consequently, the preelection squatter-led violence in Zimbabwe is
a tip of the iceberg of the many thorny political problems that would confront
the continent in this century. A review of the flashpoints would assist
tremendously in comprehending the sad situation.
1. Traditionally, land
is considered to be a sacred property of the ancestors. No African ethnic group
can remain at peace without a clearly defined territorial land. The colonial
powers violated the sacred belief by recklessly drawing up territories that did
not reflect the ethnicity of the African groups and distributed the land to
Basically, all the post-colonial African states, with the
exception of Ethiopia, are artificial creations because they do not reflect the
ethnic boundaries that existed before. As a result, the Somalian people are
divided into five states: Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and possibly
Eritrea. The Tutsi people are divided into Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and the
Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Hausas are in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad,
Niger, and Benin, one way or another. The Hutus are in Rwanda, Burundi, and the
Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo people are divided into the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo Brazzaville and Angola. The Tuaregs and
the Fulanis are transnational and inhabit many African states. The list is
2. When an ethnic group is split into many supposedly sovereign
states, the states become incapable of functioning as sovereign entities
because the ethnic group has a transnational impact on the them. Basically, the
ethnic group is capable of marshalling political and military resources from all
around to threaten any state that refuses to dance to its strategic interest.
In the Central African region, it can be said that Uganda, the two Congos,
Rwanda, Burundi, and Angola are restless because the Tutsis seem to be on the
march to consolidate Tutsidom. Somalia can't seems to experience peace because
the conflict is reinforced by other Somali elements. Nigeria has been having
problems with Chad, Niger, and the Cameroon because the ethnic groups are so
related to the extent that a Chadian can easily become a Nigerian and a Nigerian
can easily become a Chadian or a Nigerien or a Cameroonian.
groups are scatterred into different sovereign states, they can spread a
conflict from one state to the others by both overt and covert means. The
Liberian civil war spilled into Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone because
the Liberian-based ethnic groups are related to or are an extension of the
ethnic groups in those other countries. The ethnic groups in Ivory Coast,
Guinea, and Sierra Leone could not sit by while their cousins were being dealt a
military blow. The ongoing civil war in Sierra Leone is a direct product of the
Liberian Civil War. In the Angolan civil war, some Congolese groups in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo support their cousins in Angola. That is why
Dr. Savimbi and the UNITA have been able to sustain the war for so
As soon as the other Tutsi groups realized that their cousins in
the Congo were a major part of the resistance against the regime of President
Kabila, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda joined the fray. This then forced the
Angolans to support Kabila. Zimbabwe joined for ideological and economic
reasons. Thus, the crisis in the Congo is an attempt by various ethnic groups
and their foreign supporters to control the wealth of the Central African
4. Due to lack of clearly drawn ethnically based territoital
boundaries, African states are very suspicious of each other. Ghana and the
Ivory Coast are always wary of each other. Ghana and Togo too are always
suspcious of each other's motives. Uganda and Sudan are like archenemies and
the two use various ethnic and religious groups to instigate trouble in their
backyards. Once in a while, Senegal and Mauritania would get at each other's
throat. Egypt and Lybia were in a state of war for quite awhile because each
accused the other of instigating terrorist incidents. Chad and Libya have
always been in a state of no war no peace. Eritrea and Ethiopia are like lovers
who hate each other so much and yet can't do without each other.
to the mutual suspicion and uncertainties, post-colonial African states waste so
much money trying to buy peace by investing so much on arms and internal
security. Thus, little effort is put into the scientific and technological
development of the economies. Security consciousness thwarts democratization of
the political system because every utterance, action, or inclination by the
opposition is considered to be a threat against the state. This is why no
African country can claim to be truly democratic. Every election is rigged one
way or another.
6. The territotial contradictions create perpetual
distrust. As the African states are distrustful of each other, they hope to
strenghten themselves by aligning with their former colonial masters. Such
reliance enables the former colonial powers to destabilize the continent by
supporting destructive elements within the states.
7. The issue of
land distribution has not been fully discussed. The failure would eventually
lead to major politcal crises in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and probably
Namibia. In these countries, the colonial authorities directly transferred
lands from the indigenous ethnic groups to the white settlers. The white
settlers currently owned the most arable farmlands while most of the indigenous
ethnic groups are trying to make do with little plots of land that are not very
arable. The other factor is that a few handful of whites have most of the
farmlands while a majority of the black people have no lands or are barely
Infact, one of the main reasons for the attempt to overthrow
the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) regime in Rhodesia (now
Zimbabwe)was to retake the land. However, the British and the United States
intervened to end the war and hurriedly arranged to hand over power to Mr.
Robert Mugabe and the Patriotic Front. While the political side of the equation
was resolved, the land issue was not. Many of the African fighters were
disappointed that the land issue was not resolved. The failure and the anger
boiled over, hence, the squatter battalions have emerged. Robert Mugabe became
an opportunist and seized upon the anger to encourage the disillusioned
supporters to grab farmlands from the white farmers.
In this issue, Mr.
Mugabe should assume full responsibility for failing to do something about the
land issue until election time in the year 2000. He had 20 years to find an
agreeable solution to the land problem but he did not.
experience should serve as a training lesson to the political authorities in the
Republic of South Africa. Many blacks are increasingly unhappy over the fact
that apart from the political transfer of power, nothing else has happened.
Most arable lands still belong to the whites while a vast majority of the blacks
have little or no land. This is a respite for political cisis in the nearest
In both Zimbabwe and South Africa, well meaning blacks and whites
should join forces and begin to seriously discuss ways of resolving the issue of
land inequality. Possibly, concerned citizens should call upon the United
nations to get involved so that whatever arrangement agreed to can have an
international support. Perhaps, some kind of financial payment can be worked
out so that land can be redistributed.
8. A major cancer that is
going to tear away the African soul is religion. In particular, Islam and
Christianity are a major source of political conflict in Africa. Although,
Africa partially escaped the historical "holy war" conflicts between the two
religions in the past, it can nolonger do so.
post-colonial African state is divided into two. Quite often, the Northern half
is Islamic and the Southern half is Christian. These religions greatly
challenge the sovereignity of the African states because they are transnational
and receive their marching orders from foreign lands. Nigeria is increasingly
becoming like Sudan, Algeria, Egypt etc., because of the recent and continuing
introduction of the Sharia by the Islamized Northern states. The Southern
states are reacting with threats of breaking away if necessary so as not to be
Islamized. The holy wars have just begun and they would not stop. Meanwhile,
traditional African religion is still relegated to the dumpster even though it
is the bedrock of the traditional African culture. In the future, there is a
great possibility that the exponents of traditional religions will rise and
challenge the authority of Islam and Christianity.
9. African leaders
create huge problems due to their unwillingness to depersonalize the leadership
process. African rulers tend to act like monarchs even when they are not.
Whether by military or democratic means, when they get into power, they
personalize the system by transferring the focus of citizens support from that
of the state to themselves. Citizens who support the state and not the leaders
are punished. Likewise, any one who criticizes the leaders is regarded as a
traitor or a nonpatriot.
10. African leaders tend to confuse
nation-building with tribalization. Many of them attempts to develop the state
by loading the government with people from their ethnic or regional areas. By
so doing, they unwittingly denationalize the system. The marginalized groups
then launch either separatist or irredentist military attacks to either change
things or transfer power onto themselves. This has been a major source of
political destabilization and war. Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Togo, Chad,
Cameroon, the two Congos, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Egypt, Liberia, Angola etc. have
persistently suffered from inability to build a detribalized state system.
11. African leaders gargantuanly contribute to the lack of political
development by remaining in power for too long. Whether by military or
democratic means, they tend to promise one thing and do the other. As soon as
they become heads of state, they refuse to let go and remain in power until
either they are kicked out or they die. The unwillingness contributes to
instability because it violates the constitutional process of an orderly change
of power. African leaders are hypocritical because they promise to uphold the
constitution and yet apply every unconstitutional tacitcs to remain in power in
perpetuity. For example, Robert Mugabe was a very popular African military hero
but he has squandered that popularity by continuing to remain in power after 20
For purpose of peace and stability, the following leaders need to
voluntarily retire. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, President Muamar
Ghaddafi of Libya, President Mubarak of Egypt, President Omar Bongo of Gabon,
President Arap Moi of Kenya, President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, President
Museveni of Uganda, President Eyadema of Togo, and a host of other African
leaders who have remained in power for too long.
It is unfortunate that
they are still in power whilethe United States has experienced numerous changes
in leadership. From 1979 to 2000, the US has had President Jimmy Carter,
President Ronald Reagan, President George Bush, and President Bill Clinton.
Meanwhile, in Kenya, Gabon, Egypt, Togo, Libya, etc. the same people continue to
rule as if the states are their personal fiefdoms.
They need to retire
so that power can be smoothly transferred to others in a peaceful and nonviolent
manner. On the other hand, leaders like Nelson Mandela of South Africa, the
late Dr. Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria
(during military regime), the former President Leopold Senghor of Senegal etc.
should be congratulated for voluntary vacation of office. Leaders like Gen.
Nimieri of Sudan, President/Gen. Siad Barre of Somalia, Gen Ibrahim Babangida
and Gen. Sani Abacha of Nigeria did everything possible to remain in power and
ended up destabilizing their nation-states.
The 21st century will not result in any
positive development for the continent unless some painful actions are taken to
remedy the situation.
1. Africans must become intellectually bolder and
be willing to experiment politically. The tendency to adopt or borrow political,
economic, military, legal and religious systems and ideas from the former
colonial masters must be stopped. Every new policy should be guided by the
African condition, historical experiences, and cultural predispostion. For
example, Nigeria is facing a religious crisis today because it did not make any
effort to design a legal system that recognizes the triple heritage of the
country. It ignored traditional and Islamic legal tenets and assumed that the
Westernized and Judeo-Christianized secular system is sufficient enough to cater
to all Nigerians. Well, the chicken has come to roost. The Moslems have
decided to act on their own.
2. Africans must redefine their
destiny. This meansthat Africa cannot accept the current international meaning
of state sovereignity because the existing African states have territotial and
structural problems that negate the application of such international law. To
solve this problem, African states must be willing to readjust or realign
themselves. Perhaps, Nkrumah's Pan African State system would be a better
choice than the present state system. A Pan-African model would entail having a
continental congress in which the current states would become subregions. The
Europeans are heading in the continental direction as a means of eliminating
ethnic and territorial conflicts. Libyan and Ghana areencouraging a continental
union, as indicatred by the recent meeting inLibya. Nigeria is a little
suspicous the Libyan role. It should be recalled that Nigeria was also initally
hesitant about the formation of the organization of African Unty.
is imperative that some territrories have to be redrawn so as to reflect the
true character of African political divisions. If there is anyway all the
Tutsis can be put together in one state and all the Hutus put together in
another, the better for Rwanda and Burundi. Rwanda and Burundi can never
experience peace unless a drastic step is taken to ameliorate the present
condition. If possible, Southern Sudan should become part of Uganda or become a
separate state. Since the early 1960s, Sudan has engaged in a genocidal war to
possibly Islamize the South or drive the ethnic groups out so that the resources
there can be exploited. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) seems unaware
of the genocidal nature of the Sudanese civil war.
4. African states
should endeavor to promote traditional African religions. The purpose is to
reorientate peoples' attitude toward Islam and Christianity with the intent of
minimizing the adoption of extreme views so that these two religions would not
become a source of constant conflict.
5. African states need to change
their approach to economic development and economic relationships with the
industrialized world. The present economic system is exploitative and does not
allow for genuine growth. Instead of putting so much emphasis on international
economic relations, the strategy should be to build an intraAfrican system where
those countries that are fairly advanced would help those that are less so.
Likewise, raw materials should not be exported outside the continent until their
utilization have been exhausted within. South Africa would be a focal point
for the development of the industrial sector in the continent.
Organization of African Unity should develop an all-embracing constitutional
framework that would guarante human rights to all Africans. This would be a
radical departure from the present OAU system that protects the states against
their own citizens. Presently, the OAU cannot do anything when a leader unduely
abuses the rights of his /her citizens. Even when millions of Africans are
dying, the OAU still clings to the notion of noninterference. By so doing, the
leader is given a free hand to destroy and kill as much as he can. An
all-embracing constition would make it difficult for leaders to abuse citizens'
rights because there will be a continental condemnation of the abusive
behavior. The European Union is adopting such methods in an effort to make sure
that a dictatorial leader does not rise again in the continent as Hitler
7. An African Court of International Justice is needed. The
states, ethnic groups and even individuals can go to this court to resolve legal
issues. Likewise, any leader who embezzles or greatly abuses the rights of
citizens can be summoned to this court to answer charges. This court will also
serve as a political-tension-reliever in the sense that an aggrieved party can
go there and take action. For instance, Nigerian Moslems can go to this court
an argue for the introduction of a legal system that reflects their religious
heritage. likewise, the people of the Niger Delta can go to this court and
challenge the Nigerian government over revenue allocation.
African military High Command is needed to mobilize and coordinate African
troops for peace keeping purposes in the continent. So far, it is very shameful
that whenever a crisis errupts in the continent, African states always wait
helplessly for foreign powers to intervene. Generally, by the the time the
United Nations, the US, Britain, France, or Germany decide to intervene, it is
already too late as thousands of Africans might have already died. Apart from
the 2nd World War, no part of the world has experienced death and destruction as
life of an African is worth less than any animal in the game parks of Central,
Eastern and Southern Africa. Infact, the world discusses more ways of
preserving the lives of animals than those of Africans.
It is the
responsibility of Africans to make things better for themselves. The only way
to make things better for Africans is for Africans to start cleaning up the
house intellectually, politically, militarily, economically, socially, and
religiously. Africans should stop imitaing and start being creative. Otherwise,
Africa will continue to be in a state of political and economic purgatory with
no hope of ever making it to the next stage of development.
Africans should join forces and petition Western governments to pass laws that
will make it illegal for Western banks to legalize stolen public money. Of
course, this is politically impossible since it is in the strategic interest of
Western nations to use such stolen money to prop up their own economies.
However, it is politically possible to pressure the Western banks from doing
business with embezzlers from Africa and other developing countries. After all,
under domestic law, anybody who receives a stolen money or goods is considerd to
be an accomplice to the crime. Logically, an effort could be made at the United
Nations to pass an international law which penalizes any bank for receiving any
stolen money, using the tenets of domestic law as the basis to justify
It is imperative that some drastic steps must be taken. It is very
shameful to realize that 40 years after independenc, most African states still
beg for foreign aid. Infact, it can be said that foreign aid is probably the
only focus of African foreign policy. No wonder, Africa is a laughing stock of
the world. Europeans, Asians, Americans etc. wonder why Africans cannot take
care of themselves.
Friday, November 22,
Odi, The Niger Delta and Oil: The Need for Legal
|On the third anniversary of the invasion
and destruction of Odi, it is now time for the Ijaws and other ethnic groups in
the Niger Delta to change tactics and pursue the struggle for economic,
environmental, and human rights through the courts, both in Nigeria and
In an article titled "Political Consolidation and
Enhancement: What the Ijaws must Do?" this writer suggested five strategic
goals that the Ijaws should pursue. The goals included (1)International
Recognition, (2) National Involvement, (3)Regional Cooperation, (4)Internal
Cohesion and Consolidation, and (5)leadership Recruitment and
Under strategic goal #1 (International Recognition, it was
suggested that the Ijaws should work ceasely to publicize the struggle
internationally. In addition, it was suggested that the Ijaws should form a
legal team whose duty would be to sue those who have violated their economic,
environemtnal, and human rights.
Under strategic goal #2 (Regional
Cooperation), the Ijaws were encouraged to form a regional alliance so that all
the ethnic groups in the Niger Delta can work together to achieve the goals of
the region. In subsection A and B, the Ijaws were advised to work togehter
instead of fighting indvidually to confront Nigerian security forces and the oil
companies. Likewise, Ijaws, particularly the youths, were advised to change
tactics: avoid militant confrontation and adopt political and legal means to
tackle the problems.
Based on those strategic goals, it is now time for
the Ijaws to take action and begin to initiate legal actions on all fronts,
instead of just screaming and protesting.
There are possible five areas
in which legal action can be initiated. (1)A class action lawsuit for the
destruction of Odi. (2)A class action lawsuit by the Ijaws and the other ethnic
groups for human rights violations. (3) A class action lawsuit by the Ijaws
and the other ethnic groups for economic discrimination and environmental
destruction. (4) A regional lawsuit involving the oil-producing states against
the federal government of Nigeria demanding the return of a percentage of the
total revenue that has been accumulated through oil exploration and production.
(5) A class action law suit by the Ijaws working alone or with the other ethnic
groups to force Nigeria to withdraw its secuirty forces patrolling the oil
flowstations and paltforms.
Lawsuit #1: The
Ijaws should immediately begin a class action lawsuit against the federal
government of Nigeria for the destruction of Od. This is a test case because
the evidence is indisputable. Moreover, the federal government continues to
perpetrate suffering against the people of Odi by refusing to rehabilitate them
through compensation and reconstruction after burning down their houses and
rendering them homeless in their own territory. The Odi suit will be followed
by the Ikenyan and Opia suits. It should be recalled that Chevron supplied
helicopters to the Nigerian secuirty forces which launched destructive attacks
against the two communities.
Mr. Oronto Douglas of the Environmental
Rights Action (ERA)has decided to file charges on the Odi matter. This is a
major step toward achieving political, economic, and environmental rights for
the people of the Niger Delta.
Human Rights Violations. The Ijaws and the other ethnic groups in the
oil-producing states should file class action lawsuits, either on ethnic or
group basis, for all the killings and destruction of property and the
environment by Nigeria's security forces and the oil companies.
Ijaws, please refer to Mr. Felix Tuodolo's catalog of atrocities committed by
Nigerian military and security forces In Ijawland titled THE IJAWS: VICTIMS OF
OFFICIAL TERRORISM (Online: Ijawnation@yahoogrous.com. Decemebr 3, 2000).
Other atrocities include the various pipeline explosions in Delta
State. In Jesse, over 700 people died. Egi and Choba have suffered brutal
clamped downs by Nigeria's security forces.
The constant threat of
military attacks whenever the indigenes of the region complain about life
endangerment due to oil spillage. Whenever there is an oil spillage, Nigeria
responds by despatching security forces to protect the company property without
doing anything to clean the oil mess. This is a reckless violation of peoples
right to live in a clean environment.
The towns and communities which
would be joined in this class suit includes Yenagoa, Ovu, Yenegwe,
Ekeki,Opolo,Agudama, Kaiama,Sagbama, Patani, Aven, Bumodi, Ijaw women in Port
Harcourt, Obama,Okigbene,Ferebaghagbene, viticms of Nembe waterfront, Ikebiri,
Fish Town, Okokodiagbene, Benin River victims, Ogbeh-Ijoh waterfront victims,
Okirika jetty, Bonny, Finima, Oluashiri/Soku, NPA Warri, Obama, Akamabogu,
Brass Okpoma, Liama, Etiama, Olugbobiri, Aleibiri, Foutoroghene, Tsekelewu,
Ekulama, Eweleso, Bille, Epebu, Amabulu, Egi, Choba, Iko community in Akwa Ibom
state, Arogbo, Escravos etc.
Tha above named communities suffered brutal
deaths, destruction of property, maiming, and raping of women and children.
The other ethnic groups too should enumerate their victimizations and
prepare to take legal action to redress the abuses.
Law Suit #3: Economic Discrimination and Marginalization
and Environmental Destruction. The unrestrained activites of the oil companies
in the Niger Delta have done innumerable damage to the economic wherewithal of
Nigeria's policymakers and the oil companies have
intentionally discriminated against the indigenes of the Niger Delta. Oil
company workers are largely recruited from the non-oil producing regions of the
country so much so that unemployment among the youths of the Niger Delta is very
high. Even the National Youth Corps Service system is designed to shuffle out
qualified indigenes of the region while shuffling in graduates from the non-oil
producing regions to the Niger Delta. The result is that Niger Delta graduates
cannot get employment in the oil companies that operate in their backyards while
others take the jobs. Discrimination is so pervasive to the extent that even the
Delta Steel Company, located at Ovwian-Aladja, rarely hire indigenes of the
neighborhood while Nigerians from other regions are hired indiscriminately.
This is what led to the demonstration at the DSC recently by about 4,000 women
who want jobs for their husbands, sons,a nd duaghters. Their palcards read "Give
our husbands jobs... No to Slavery"(Posted on Ijawnation, 2002, November
Without jobs, the indigenes of the Niger Delta cannot accumulate
sufficient wealth to build or create their own businesses. In this regard, the
people of the Niger Delta must challenge the awarding of oil exploration
contracts to Nigerian businesses if the contractors do not include indigenes of
the Niger Delta. Contractors who do not come from the oil-producing areas would
behave as colonizers and become reckless, thereby further destroying and
polluting the environment.
The destruction of the environment through oil
spillage and gas flaring is making it very hard for the indigenes of the Niger
Delta to feed themselves. Before oil exploration became a major activity in the
region, the people of the region were self-sufficient due to abundance of
agricultural and marine products. Today, the Ijaws now buy "Iced Fish" even in
their own towns and villages. The Isokos used to be great farmers and the
Uhrobos used to be great traders.
Thus, a class action suit should be
filed to claim damages for economic and environmental destruction. The suit
should compel Nigeria and the oil companies to institute very effective
environmental programs to clean and rejuvenate the area.
Suit #4: A regional law suit involving the Ijaws and the
oil-producing ethnic groups against the federal government of Nigeria should be
instituted. The law suit would demand that Nigeria pay back to the
oil-producing region a percentage of the total revenue that has emanated from
oil exploration and production because the region has been unjustly treated both
politically and economically. The money is needed to launch major development
programs to rehabiliate the Niger Delta, both economically and environmentally.
Another reason being that Nigeria treats the Niger Delta as an economic
plantation and has not invested some of the revenue in the region. In fact,
Nigeria's attitude toward the region is not different from the attitude of the
Royal Niger Company. The Royal Niger Company carried out military operations to
destroy indigenous economic activites while looting and consolidating its hold
on the region. Nigeria also carries out military operations in order to protect
oil interests without caring a Kobo about the indegenes. Evidently, Captain
Awoyemi, the Commanding Officer (CO) of the Naval base NNS Umalokun, near Warri,
should not be surprised that Niger Delta youths, particularly Ijaw youths, have
been harassing and disarming military and police personnel who protects oil
company properties(Obende, 2002, November 20). The youths are extremely unhappy
that Nigeria treats the region as a colonial possession. Moreover, the fact
that Nigeria protects foreign business interests against the interest of
Nigerian citizens is particularly annoying. The Navy can be a little more
friendly by establishing environmental cleaning operations to clean up after any
oil spillage. Such a goodwill gesture can dramatically reduce tension. However,
the military always tend to show up in the localities as a threatening force.
Captain Awoyemi, it would be also nice to see some of the oil money flowing back
to the Niger Delta and not into foreign bank accounts. Lastly, it is a pity
that Captain Awoyemi is expected to solve a political problem in a military
fashion. It is not working, hence the frustration.
Thus, there is no
difference between the Royal Niger Company and Nigeria. Nigeria seems to be an
extension of RNC in its destructive political, economic, and environmental
policies toward the Niger Delta.
A regional lawsuit intended to force the federal government to remove its
occupation forces from the Niger Delta. The presence of Nigeria's military
personnel in Ijawland is particularly insulting, since the main purpose of the
security system is to protect the interests of the companies that are wrecking
environmental havoc in Ijawland.
In any case, since every ethnic
group tends to work toward self-preservation, if a regional effort is not
possible in any of these suits, then the Ijaws must pursue them by themselves.
The Ogonis have done an excellent job taking legal action in US
As stated in the "Political Consolidation and Enhancement: What
the Ijaws Should do?", there are laws in the US which makes it possible to sue
for claims under certain conditions. The Alien Tort Claims Act allows US courts
to hear cases involving human rights crimes committed outside the US. The
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act allows cases involving
bribery and corruption to be tried in the US. Likewise, the 1998 Rome Treaty
which created the International Criminal Court can be used to try cases
involving crimes against humanity(Lobe, 2002, march 19).
In fact, the
indigenes of the Niger Delta and the Nigerian masses can even sue Nigerian
leaders and officials who have embezlled, if specific evidence can be gathered.
It is quite easy to demonstrate that a public official has embezzled. The
reason being that it is an internationally accepted code of official behavior
that public officials are supposed not to engage in other business activities
while they are serving as public officials. Consequently, any Nigerian leader
or official who has assets in excess of the value of his/her salary/benefits
means that the person has embezzled public assets. Moreover, any public
official who becomes a millionaire means that the money is stolen.
Since Nigerian leaders cannot explain why Nigerians continue to remain
poor while billions of oil dollars have been earned by the country, the citizens
have a right to compel the leaders through a class action lawsuit to explain
what happens to their money.
The Ijaws and the other ethnic groups in the
Niger Delta can seek the services of outside lawyers if Nigerian lawyers are not
willing to take the cases. In particular, Mr Ed Fagan (an American lawyer) is
very specialized in tackling cases involving human rights abuses. He helped the
vicitms of Nazi Holocaust to win a case against Swiss Banks who participated in
exploiting the Jews. He is now representing the victims of South African
Apartheid system (Reynolds, 2002, June 17). In the second South African case,
many multinational companies including Texaco, Chevron, Exxon,/Mobil etc. are
charged for making profits through apartheid. Another prominent lawyer is
Professor Dumisa Ntsebze who is working with Mr Fagan in the South African
case(BBC News, Africa.2002, June 19). In the case against Royal Dutch Shell
Petroleum Company, the families of the late Ken Saro Wiwa hired Richard Herz of
EarthRights International, based in the U.S.(Lobe,2002, March 19).
Mr. Oronto Douglas has decided to pursue the Odi case, the other Ijaw
organizations, including the Ijaw National Congress and the Ijaw Youth Council
etc. should join the effort by gathering evidence from the victims. Mr. Douglas
can seek the assistance of other Nigerian lawyers who are committed to democracy
and human rights. Likewise, the assistance of international lawyers like Mr.
Fagan should not be disregarded. A legal action is much preferable at this
juncture than militancy since such reactions can be equated with terrorism. A
legal action would inform everyone of the need to be socially responsible in
their policies and actions.
In the United States, some states took a
legal action against tobacco companies for producing and selling products that
cause health problems. The states sued to claim compensation for paying the
cost of medical care to patients who suffered from smoking cigarettes. The
government of Libya was sued for being responsible for the destruction and
killing of passengers on PANAM Flight 103. The United States settled
financially for interning Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. THe
McDonald's (Hamburger) fast food chain is being sued by some of its consumers
for producing fatty foods that cause many medical problems. Thus, there is a
legal precedent for filing class action lawsuits against governments, leaders,
and companies who are not socially responsible. Increasingly, there is a
growing international movement to ensure that leaders and organizations are
responsible for their actions. It is time for legal action to seek
Africa. (2002, June 19). Apartheid victims file suit. Online:
________________ (2002, November 12). Firms hit by second
apartheid lawsuit. Online:
Lobe, J. (2002, March 6). Nigerian lawsuit against Shell
passes major test. One World US.
Obende, J. (2002, November 20). Youths stall peace moves in
Warri, says Naal chief. Daily Times.
Okafor, C. (2002, November 13). Ijaw accuse Navy of raiding
Delta community. Online:
Reynolds, P. (2002, June 17). Legal maverick takes on
apartheid. BBC News, Africa. Online:
Guardian. (2002, November 11). Delta Steel shut down as women protest neglect
of communities. Online:
Torulagha, P. (2002, October 18). Political
and enhancement:what the Ijaws should do? Online: Ijawnation@yahoogroups .com
Tuodolo, F. (2001, December 3). The Ijaws: vicitims of
official terrorism. (An address presented at a memorial service of Ijaw heroes
(2002, November 20). 2,483
lives lost to Odi armed invasion.
|Odi,The Niger Delta and Oil: The Need for Legal Action