ENVIRONMENTAL TESTIMONIES #13
Date: IKEBIRI, BAYELSA STATE, NIGERIA, April 27, 1999
"I SAW DEATH"INTRODUCTION
Testimonies of Chief Samuel F. Fiubole, Deputy chief, Ikebiri (detained 8 days)
Nigerian Agip Oil Company, popularly known as AGIP, has a long history of negligent environmental practices in the Niger Delta. Several spills remain unattended to and where attempts are made to clear them these are usually most haphazardly done. The appeals of the patient Ikebiri people continued to fall on deaf ears.
Tokenism is the key word in community relations with the oil companies operating in Nigeria. They all adopt the "lollipop approach" in bids to silence the people. This strategy is wearing thin. Consider what led to the carnage at Ikebiri on Monday, April 19, 1999. Offering scholarships to the local people should be a happy thing, in other places. AGIP sent the scholarship forms through one Lt. Cdr. Adaji, Officer-in-Charge of the Internal Security Task Force at Agip.s Brass Terminal.
As reported in our Field Report #22 (titled 'Carnage at Ikebiri'), this military officer warned the youths not to tamper with Agip facilities except if they wanted a taste of the horrors that his team of army and naval personnel can inflict on them. On Saturday 17/4/99, the youths shut down Agip wells located in Ikebiri. The wells included Tebidaba well nos., 1,3,7,9,10,11.
The threat was not empty. Riding on this confrontation and an existing intra-communal conflict (over control of boats donated by AGIP), a combined team of navy and army sent by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) descended on the community on Monday 19/4/99, shot and killed at least eight local people of Ikebiri. Fifteen persons got missing.
To further compound their grief, two of the traditional rulers were arrested and taken along with two of the corpses to unknown destinations. ONE OF THOSE TRADITIONAL RULERS CAME BACK FROM BEYOND AND SPOKE TO US ABOUT HIS ORDEAL.
"I SAW DEATH"WHAT YOU CAN DO
"We were asked to come down to Yenagoa on Monday 19/4/99 by the Area Commander of police to settle the boat problem. So in the morning I left our Royal Highness (Chief Meren) at Ikebiri 1 to meet up with the rest of the persons at Ikebiri 2. I met Chief Okon Esule who was preparing himself but informed me he would join us after eating some pepper soup. The rest of us were waiting when some boys came from our Royal Highness that we were getting late for the meeting. While we were all preparing ourselves (dressing up), three boats carrying a combined team of naval and army officers with some Agip staff passed by Ikebiri 2 towards Ikebiri 1. We finished dressing, and all of us boarded the two boats with some other youths that wanted to cross over to Ikebiri 1. We were just departing from the waterfront when the three military boats that had returned to our area immediately confronted us.
IN THE SMOKE OF "BATTLE"
.Without asking any questions, one of their big boats (a double-85 engine boat) rammed into our boat and sank it whit all of us inside. Many of the youths inside swam to safety. By this time, they had started shooting at us. Because of the .chieftaincy dress. I was putting on I almost got drowned. I was rescued by some of the army boys who dragged Okon Esule and me into their boat, and asked us to lie flat on the boat.
"I did not see what was happening again but was only hearing gun shots. After some time, the army boys ordered us into one of our own boats where two of our Ikebiri boys were lying dead. I shivered at seeing so much blood but had no option. There was a hot argument between the army boys whether we should be killed or not. Finally, they settled on taking us down to Brass.
TORTURE AND ABUSE
"When we arrived at Brass, the army boys announced to their colleagues that 'these are sea pirates disturbing Agip.' On hearing this, they all descended on us, some with sticks and gun butts. They beat us and rained abuses on us. Some of the military boys even asked the team that brought us 'why didn't you kill them all there instead of bringing some alive.' We were then given pen and paper to write statements. I stated my activities that morning and how I was brought to Brass terminal.
"The commander read my statement and was mad at me when I had finished. He barked at me thus: 'look at what you have written. Do you want to implicate me? You are lucky I did not kill you there.' His men came at me again and battered me. I was given a new sheet of paper and they dictated to me what I should write. To prevent further beating, and with a gun pointed at my head, I obeyed. The same thing happened to Okon Esule.
THE MANUFACTURING OF EVIDENCE
"We were then taken to Yenagoa that evening to the Internal Security office of Major Oputa. Here, our military escort produced a bag containing red and white pieces of cloth, tied the pieces of cloth on us, and announced to their boss that we are "chiefs of Egbesu causing piracy." I don't know where they got the pieces of cloths. It appears to me that they always have them in stock stored somewhere. The military men gave us another round battering. Some of them wanted to try shooting at us to know if guns cannot kill us as "Egbesu Chiefs".
"From Yenagoa, they took us to Elele Army Barracks where we were further beaten before being taken to notorious Bori Camp at Port Harcourt the following day. At Bori Camp, we pleaded not to be beaten, and seeing our battered state they declined (thanks goodness). By this time, I was so hungry and dirty. Someone brought some bread for us and we ate. We were there for some days before we were returned to Yenagoa. At Yenagoa police station, we were shown the .statements. we made at Brass. I informed the officer that we wrote the statements at gunpoint after the original was torn. The officer asked us to write new statements which we did, and we were released from detention today (27/4/99)
"I did not know that we spent only eight (8) days in detention. I thought it was up to 3 weeks. After our release, friends rushed to the specialist hospital for medical check-up, and Okon Esule is on admission at the hospital because he received more battering with wounds in the head. It was really terrible."
- Send a letter of protest to an AGIP office nearest to you.
- Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited, Engineering Close Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria Tel: 2600100/9; 2621613 (office in charge of media affairs, Nigerian Agip Oil)
- Join the campaign against oil companies working behind military shields and against their host communities.
- Keep a critical eye on the activities of oil companies in your community, district or country