Cablegate: Southern Nigeria Human Rights Update, April

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

041455Z May 05



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. This cable is a roundup of various recent
incidents that reflect the human rights situation in
southern Nigeria. This summary is organized by section
of the annual Human Rights Report. These incidents
have not been reported in other cables, or are updates
of previously reported items.

--------------------------------------------- ------
Section 1 - Respect for the Integrity of the Person
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. On February 17, an Ijaw group captured and held a
South Korean employee of Daewoo Nigeria Limited in
Bayelsa State. South Korean Embassy and Bayelsa State
officials assisted Daewoo in securing the employee's
safe release the following morning. South Korean
officials believe the group took the employee to raise
its profile, though the captors also asked for ransom.

3. On March 6, a headless body was found along a road
in Ibadan. On March 8, three headless bodies were
discovered in different locations in another area of
Ibadan. Local police suspected ritual killings, but
investigations have not yielded any additional

4. On March 22, the Ikeja High Court ordered the
unconditional release of 100 inmates from the Ikoyi
Prison in Lagos. The inmates had been awaiting trial
for six to fifteen years. The Constitutional Rights
Project (CRP) filed the motion for the release of the
prisoners and presented the case before the court. CRP
representatives argued the periods spent awaiting trial
were unconstitutional because the Nigerian Constitution
states that any person imprisoned longer than the
period allowed by law should be released
unconditionally. The law requires suspects to be
charged within forty-eight hours of arrest. A CRP
representative confirmed that the prisoners have been

5. In March, five suspects were arrested for killing
of seven oil workers, including two Americans, on April
23, 2004, in Delta State. The trial began March 31 at
the Warri Magistrate Court and is still proceeding.
Two of the suspects have indicated they were "very
involved" in the incident, while the other three are
believed to have been accomplices.

6. On April 11, a federal high court in Lagos granted
bail to 52 members of the Movement for the
Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB)
arrested in September and charged with treason. The
53rd member of the group had already been released on

7. In early March, the Rivers State government
demolished the bulk of the shanty town known as "Agip
waterside" in Port Harcourt (reftel). The action
leveled hundreds of dwellings and displaced thousands
of people. On April 13, the State resumed demolition.
The police arrested two Australian journalists when
they asked permission to film the demolition. The
journalists were released after several hours, without
charges. (septel)

Section 2 - Respect for Civil Liberties

8. On March 27, two reporters from the Daily Sun
attended the naming ceremony for a grandson of a wife
of President Obasanjo. Their intent was to report the
event for the newspaper. The infant's parents claimed
the reporters planned to abduct the child and called
the police. The reporters were arrested, held
overnight, and released without charges. The Daily Sun
editors believe the parents called the police because
they did not want the event reported and feared the
information would be used maliciously.

9. On April 8, military authorities detained for
questioning the chief correspondent of the Associated
Press in Nigeria. Soldiers stopped the correspondent
at Dodan barracks in Lagos, on his way to observe a
Muslim prayer session for a story on Christian-Muslim
relations in Nigeria. The authorities told the
correspondent he was detained for entering a military
zone without the necessary permit. The authorities
released the correspondent after several hours but
asked him to report to the garrison command on April 11
to formalize his release.
Section 5 Discrimination, Societal Abuses,
and Trafficking in Persons

10. On March 21, Osun State enacted a law aimed at
punishing those who encourage female genital mutilation
(FGM). The law makes it a punishable offense to remove
any part of a woman or girl's sexual organs, except
purely on medical grounds as approved by a doctor.
According to the provisions of the law, an offender
shall be any female who offers herself for FGM, any
person who coerces, entices, or induces any female to
undergo FGM, any person who allows his or her daughter
to undergo FGM, and any person who other than for
medical reasons performs an operation removing part of
a woman or girl's sexual organs. The law provides for
a N50,000 ($375) fine or one year's imprisonment or
both for a first offence, with doubled penalties for a
second conviction.

Section 6 Worker Rights

11. On March 11, members of NUPENG and PENGASSAN,
Nigeria's two oil employee unions, began a strike
aboard sixteen Tidex Nigeria vessels in Delta, Bayelsa,
and Rivers states. (Note: Tidex Nigeria is a
subsidiary of the U.S. oil services firm Tidewater
International.) About ten days later, the striking
employees ordered the ships to be anchored at three
ports and prevented other crew members, including 13
Americans and 32-37 other expatriates, from leaving the
vessels. The unions began the strike as the result of
several industry- and firm-level grievances, including
impending staff reductions, changes in hiring
practices, and benefit levels of recent contracts.
Crews of two of the vessels returned to work on April
2. On April 7, due to USG, GON and national union
leadership efforts, the striking employees allowed the
expatriates to leave the vessels. The unions ended the
strike April 14 after negotiating an agreement with
Tidex. Tidex management, however, remains unhappy with
some of the terms of the agreement, so further
negotiations may be needed.


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