Monday, November 22, 2010

UN plans probe of alleged rights abuses in Niger Delta

PROTESTS and complaints of rights violation in the Niger Delta are to be probed by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Council took the decision following a petition by the Niger Delta Project Group, that the Federal Government had consistently abused the rights of the people, including the exploitation of the resources without due compensation.
The petitioners, who have already taken the Federal Government to court, seeking 90 per cent of the total revenue accruing from oil and gas derivable from the region and its natural resources, want the UN to stop what they described as systematic and calculated bloodshed against the people.
The group, comprising Idaye C. Opi Owupele Philemon, Ilamina Agada, Samuel Effik, Patrick Ederi and Emeka Dite Ojoko, had petitioned the Council accusing the government of forcefully and compulsorily taking from the Niger Delta the revenues from their oil and gas resources without paying royalties to them.
In a letter written to the group and made available to The Guardian, the Secretary of the UN Human Rights Council, Goro Onojima, said the petition has been registered and would be investigated.
“This is to inform you that the communication referred to above has been registered and will be examined under the complaint procedure of the Human Rights Council, established by Council Resolution 5/1 of June 18, 2007, to address consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of all human rights and all fundamental freedoms occurring in any part of the world under any circumstances,” he said.
Onojima assured the petitioners that in accordance with paragraph 106 of the annex of Council Resolution 5/1, they would be informed of the proceedings at the following key stages: when the communication is deemed inadmissible by the working group on communication, “or when it is taken up for consideration by the working group on situations or when a communication is kept pending by one of the working groups or by the Council itself.”
The petitioners had told the Council that for long, there had been general restiveness of the youths and people of the Niger Delta due to the injustice inflicted on them by the Nigeria government, which has taken over the ownership and control of their God-given natural resources.
They explained that the restiveness has led to agitation for resource control, demonstration, riots and sometimes, direct confrontation with the government and its joint venture partners.
“The effect has been bloodshed, loss of lives and destruction of whole communities by the Nigerian state and its security agencies all in a bid to keep the oil pipelines flowing with crude oil,” the group said.
They told the Council that Section 44(3) of the Nigerian Constitution and Section 1(1) of the Petroleum Act, which state that the control of mineral resources such as oil and natural gas, are vested in the government is an indication of how the Nigerian authority had under obnoxious laws denied the people the benefits of their resources. 
“It is submitted most respectfully that the Petroleum Act and its legislative companion, the Land Use Act Cap. 202, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 are obnoxious legislations enacted by the Nigerian state to undo and over reach the proprietary interests of the applicants, who are minorities in Nigeria”, the group said.
It therefore appealed to the Council to intervene by working an out of court settlement of all the issues involved in the matter so as to bring a lasting solution and peace to the Niger Delta and indeed the country.
And to keep the resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta in full check, Defence authorities have ordered the deployment of more operatives to the region.
Defence sources told The Guardian that the renewed attack on oil facilities by suspected militants did not go down well with the military top brass, as intelligence report showed that the gunmen were planning to make the region ungovernable and to stop oil firms from operating in the zone.
The source said operatives have already swung into action by combing volatile communities in Delta, Rivers, and Bayelsa states.
A security official said: “At this critical time in the nation’s history, it is very important for the government to identify the new militant group, discuss with them so that they can surrender arms like their predecessors did, we need lasting peace for the development of the nation.”
A new militant group code named Niger Delta Liberation force (NDLF) had in the past one week unleashed havoc on various oil facilities within the Niger Delta, kidnapping oil workers and engaging the Joint Task Force (JTF) in gun battles.
Meanwhile, the Batch Nine of the former militants at the Obubra post-amnesty training camp have disassociated themselves from recent spate of attacks in the region.
They accused top politicians and political office holders of sponsoring the renewed violence in the Niger Delta.
One of the repentant militants alleged that a particular state government sent its agents to them before they arrived at the camp selling the idea of recruiting them “to work for them during the 2011 elections.”