FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 21, 1996
OGONI LEADER CALLS FOR ACTION FROM COMMONWEALTH MISSION TO NIGERIA
Diana Wiwa, acting coordinator of The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in Canada, called today for the Commonwealth to take further and more effective collective action against the military regime of General Abacha in Nigeria.
Mrs. Wiwa said that, "After the execution of writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni in November last year for protesting the exploitation of Ogoni by Shell Oil and the Nigerian dictatorship, the suspension of Nigeria from the organization was just not enough. The human rights situation of the Ogoni people has deteriorated since then, and the upcoming Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has a chance to see how bad things really are. Their findings should call for no less than a full oil embargo of Nigeria and a recommendation for the expulsion of Nigeria from the Commonwealth."
On August 29, 1996, the CMAG may visit Nigeria to examine the human rights situation and whether any transition is being made to democracy. The Mission is being led by the Foreign Ministers of eight Commonwealth countries: Canada (the Hon. Christine Stewart, Secretary of State, Latin America and Africa), United Kingdom, Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malaysia, Jamaica and New Zealand. The Commonwealth has insisted the Nigeria make a transition to democracy within two years of November, 1995. Canada imposed unilateral sanctions on Nigeria in June, 1996. The Mission hopes to visit Ogoniland.
In the oil rich Ogoniland, where some 500,000 Ogoni people live, Nigerian soldiers still occupy the area in great numbers. Ogoni people are still detained arbitrarily by the military. Despite more than 35 years of oil exploitation of the area by Shell Oil and the Nigerian government, the Ogoni people still live in appalling conditions: no running water, no electricity, no hospitals. The Ogoni seek rights over their resources and compensation for decades of environmental destruction of their territory.
A group of 19 Ogoni men, detained since May, 1994, face the same military-appointed tribunal which tried and condemned Ken Saro-Wiwa on trumped-up charges in 1995. These 19 men are kept in appalling and isolated conditions. One of these men, Clement Tosima, died under mysterious circumstances in August, 1995. These men also face the death penalty.
The last official mission to Ogoniland in April, 1996, by representatives of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, resulted in the detention and subsequent torture of over eighty Ogoni men and women.
Diana Wiwa said, "We hope the Commonwealth Mission gets free access to Ogoniland. But we fear that if the Ogoni come out to tell the truth, they'll be detained, tortured and killed."
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For more information please contact: MOSOP (Canada), telephone: (416) 966-0910