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Probe Arrest Bassey, Other Activists, ERA Tells FG

Probe Arrest Bassey, Other Activists, ERA Tells FG

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has urged the Federal Government to investigate the unwarranted detention of ERA staff, including the executive director, Nnimmo Bassey and two Dutch parliamentarians by the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) on the Niger Delta, insisting that the action was a human right violation.

ERA Staff were on official assignment to a gas flare facility in the company of the foreign parliamentarians when they were accosted and subsequently detained by men of the JTF at Oben, a border town between Delta and Edo State on the allegation that they were on a clandestine mission.

Before they were released at about midnight (after seven hours), repeated appeals that their mission was totally in conformity with ERA’s monitoring activities fell on deaf ears as the JTF soldiers insisted the arrested ERA staff and the foreign nationals will only be released when such an order comes from their headquarters.

Reacting to the development, ERA Programmes Director, Godwin Ojo described the incident as “embarrassing and unfortunate”, saying the ugly incident was a sad reminder that the military is yet to wean itself of the siege mentality when dealing with civilians.
“This unwarranted action is a clear indication that the Niger Delta is still a militarised zone where people cannot move freely as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution. The JTF must simply explain this action”

Ojo pointed out that the action of the JTF adds to a growing list of human rights violations the task force has been enmeshed in, in recent time, including the Odi massacre in 1999 and Ayakoromor bombing last month, which led to tens of deaths, loss of property and displacement of Ayakoromor community in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State.

Ojo said the excesses of the JTF in recent time is a growing cause of concern, even as he added that the Federal Government has the responsibility of guaranteeing the military acts responsibly and respects the rights of not only the people of the Niger Delta, but also every Nigerian.

“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of ERA staff and the Dutch parliamentarians. This unwarranted action must be fully investigated and perpetrators brought to book. We also demand an unreserved apology from the JTF for the trauma that victims have passed through. Antything short of this is unacceptable,” Ojo noted.


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