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The Niger Delta
12 Sep 2003
Human Rights Watch
When a civilian government was reinstated in Nigeria in 1999, many of those living in the Niger Delta region, the source of Nigeria’s oil wealth, hoped that a “democratic dividend” would end decades of neglect they had suffered under successive military regimes. From the early 1990s a cycle of protest and repression had led to the militarization of large parts of the delta, notably in Ogoniland, a small area of Rivers State where demonstrations leading to the closure of oil production had led to a five-year deployment of a special military taskforce to the area and the 1995 execution of nine minority rights leaders, including author and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. The situation has eased under the new government, and in particular Ogoniland is no longer occupied. But there is still widespread deployment of army, navy, and paramilitary Mobile Police at oil facilities across the delta. In November 1999, five months after the new government headed by President Olusegun Obasanjo took office, soldiers destroyed the town of Odi, in Bayelsa State, killing hundreds of people. Though the past three years have seen no incident of similar seriousness in the delta area, past human rights violations by the security forces have gone unpunished and new abuses related to oil production continue to be committed. Moreover, though vastly increased sums of money are flowing from the federal government to the delta region, under a new “derivation formula” that requires at least 13 percent of the oil revenue to be returned to the states where it is produced, ordinary people living in the delta see little if any benefit from these funds.

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