Indigenes of Odi in Bayelsa State have concluded plans to file a suit against former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over what they call the genocide of November 20, 1999.
Sources close to the community told the Nigerian Tribune on Wednesday that the people of Odi have been working with some local and international human rights bodies to collate their data for some time now.
Source said that the people have also contacted a number of lawyers who would present the details before the United Nations (UN) Court.
A source close to the Odi community said in Abuja that the people of Odi have been able to marshal their points in the suit which will also involve the Federal Government of Nigeria.
A source said that as the head of the Nigerian government at the time of the invasion, Obasanjo is the primary target of the suit and that he would be charged for crime against humanity.
Already, the people are said to also be angry with the Federal Government for failing to rebuild the community after the invasion of November 20, 1999.
It was gathered that the community had, during the Obasanjo administration, contacted Human Rights lawyer, Mr Olisa Agbakoba, to help secure compensation from the government for the troops’ invasion of the community in 1999 and that till now, the government has failed to respond.
“We are dragging Obasanjo before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. That is a fact I can confirm to you. As for the lawyers that will handle the matter, I will leave that out for now,” a source in the know said, adding that details of the crime committed by federal troops during the invasion were pathetic.
“When the troops invaded Odi on November 20, 1999, the different groups that worked on the site counted 2,284 deaths. The deaths included the aged, women and children. When the late Senate President saw the scene, he said there was nothing to say but that it was like a civil war,” another source said.
The source further added that reports which are available to the government had confirmed that none of the militants who perpetrated the killing of soldiers and policemen was hurt during the raid and that the militants only relocated to different parts of the Niger Delta after the attack.
The source said that the leader of the militants believed to have perpetrated the attack on security operatives, Ken Niweigha, now late, was not hurt during the operation by the government troop and that he relocated afterwards to Delta State.
“Our people are seeking two things, conviction of the former president for crime against humanity and compensation from the Federal Government for the destruction of Odi. The details are ready with pictures but we don’t want to pre-empt the International Court,” a source close to the community said, adding that the names of the victims and their pictures have been compiled for onward transfer to the United Nations.
The source added that the suit will be filed before the end of the year.
The community is also said to be claiming that rather than help stop the problem of militancy in the Niger Delta, the invasion of Odi only aggravated the problem and that as of the time of the attack, no militant camp was operating in the Niger Delta.
“After the attack, militant camps sprang up across the Niger Delta. For instance, the leader of the militants that attacked the soldiers and policemen, Niweigha, relocated to Okporpoza and joined Tompolo to form Camp Five, Asari Dokubo and Atake Tom established camps in Rivers while General Boyloaf established a camp in Bayelsa. We are going to include that all the deaths recorded after the formation of the camps are also part of the war crimes of Obasanjo,” the source said.
The troops had been deployed to the community following the killing of soldiers and security operatives by the Niger Delta militants who used the community as their base.
Although the matter had not been talked about for some time since the action, it was resuscitated on Sunday night by President Goodluck Jonathan during a media chat where he described the invasion of the community as a failure because it did not achieve its intended purpose.
But in a reaction, Obasanjo had faulted President Jonathan’s claim which he described ‘factually incorrect’ and borne out of misinformation.
Speaking through Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, his spokesperson, the former president had explained that the deployment of soldiers to Odi actually stopped the killing of soldiers with impunity by the militants and was thus a mission accomplished.