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Chronology for Ijaw in Nigeria

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Ijaw in Nigeria, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f38c49.html [accessed 2 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
1801 - 1900 The Fulani wars were fought. Missionary activities spread. Britain set up northern and southern protectorates and a colony in Lagos.
1914 Territories were combined to form Nigeria and administered through four provinces - Northern, Eastern, Western and the colony of Lagos.
1922 The Clifford Constitution stipulated that a Legislative Council administer the eastern and western regions. This was regarded as the first step toward autonomy from British rule. The Ibo and Yoruba regions were affected by this change, causing further animosities between the north, which continued to be ruled indirectly by the British, and the potentially autonomous south.
1945 - 1950 The "Jos" riots occurred in the north. These were minor riots in protest of the northern amalgamation with the southern regions. When oil was discovered in the Ibo dominated eastern region, the Emirs of Zaria and Katsina demanded fifty percent of the seats in the newly formed Central Legislature. The Emirs threatened to secede from Nigeria if their demands were not met. The acceptance of these demands signaled the beginning of northern domination of Nigerian national politics.
1953 Anti-Ibo riots broke out in the North in protest of Ibo domination of social, political, business and military institutions. Ibos were hunted down and attacked in Kano, 245 were injured and more than 52 were killed. The southern Yoruba did not participate in the fighting.
1954 The Federal Executive Council (FEC) was created to introduce the eastern and western regions to a system of greater autonomy. This caused further animosities between the northerners and their southern Ibo neighbors.
1958 Shell Oil first strikes oil on Ogoniland.
1959 A coalition between the Hausa-Fulani supported Northern People's Congress (NPC), the Ibo National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroon (NCNC) blocked the western Yoruba controlled Action Group (AG) party from gaining any significant share of central authority in the December elections. A northerner, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was named Prime Minister.
Oct 1, 1960 Nigeria gained independence. A referendum added the territory of Northern Cameroon, called Gongola state, which was administered by Britain as part of Nigeria. Prior to independence, the Ibo dominated the political, social, military and business institutions of Nigeria. After independence, the Ibo lost their privileged status, while the Hausa/Fulani gained affluence and controlled the federal government.
1963 The Federal Republic of Nigeria was proclaimed and Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Ibo, was named President.
1965 The Yoruba rioted in protest against what they saw as forced exclusion of the AG from the Federal government. Ibo attacks on AG followers in the west sparked off the violence. Federal troops had to intervene to bring calm to the areas affected.
Jan 15, 1966 A military coup d'etat led by lower and middle-ranking officers, some of them Ibo, overthrew the NPC-NCNC dominated government. Prime Minister Balewa along with other northern and western government officials were assassinated during the coup. The coup was widely considered an Ibo plot to consolidate power and overthrow the northern dominated government. General Johnson Ironsi, an Ibo, consolidated power in the military and used its power to restore order throughout Nigeria. Ironsi declared all political parties illegal and formed the Federal Military Government (FMG).
Jul 29, 1966 A counter-coup was launched by mostly northern troops. General Ironsi and many others, mostly Ibo, were killed. Between June and July there was a mass exodus of Ibo from the north and west. Over 1.3 million Ibo fled the neighboring regions in order to escape persecution as anti-Ibo riots increased. The military aided some Ibo in their flight but many of those unescorted were massacred. The FMG, now under the control of Major General Yakubu Gowon, a middle-belt tribe member and a Christian, restored calm to Nigeria. The anti-Ibo riots led many to believe that the only way they could live securely was to secede and form their own country.
Aug 1 - Sep 30, 1966 Anti-Ibo riots gained momentum and voracity, especially in the north. The exodus gained greater impetus as hundreds of thousands fled the riot torn north. Armed bands of civilians and militia slaughtered Ibos indiscriminately. Over 30,000, mostly Ibo, were said to have died in the north and west. The eastern region was now flooded with Ibo refugees.
1967 - 1970 The Biafra civil war, an effort by eastern Ibo people to secede, failed with the surrender of Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Between 1.5 million and 2.1 million were killed, including as many as 30,000 Ogoni.
1975 General Gowon was removed from office during a bloodless coup. Many attributed his downfall to his indefinite postponement of a return to civilian rule. The coup was seen as an attempt by middle-belt tribes to consolidate power in the FMG. Gowon was replaced by Brigadier Murtala Ramat Muhammad, a northern Moslem. Under Muhammad, the Ibos continued to be marginalized.
Feb 13, 1976 Muhammed was assassinated in another counter-coup and General Olusegun Obasanjo was his successor. Under the new rule, seven more states were created to allow minority groups more say in the national political arena.
1979 After elections that once again resulted in northern Moslem dominance of Nigerian politics, there were increased claims of "forced Islamization" of the southerners and middle-belt inhabitants. The new government, with President Alhaji Shehu Shagari, had little legitimacy in the eyes of in the middle-belt and southern peoples.
1983 President Shagari was overthrown in a coup d'etat and the military once again intervened to restore order across Nigeria. General Ibrahim Babangida, a northern Moslem, took over to end the corruption and ethnic and religious tension that engulfed the Shagari regime. The FMG was dissolved and the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) is created to rule Nigeria.
1985 An attempted coup was thwarted and over 300 people were arrested. Many of those arrested were summarily executed.
1986 General Babangida allowed the country to join the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). This sparked widespread rioting in universities throughout Nigeria and in many southern cities. At this point, the country was thought to be less than 50% Moslem. Clashes between Moslem and Christian students in the north lasted over a week in Kaduna state. The government declared a dusk to dawn curfew to restore calm. A decrease in the price of oil devastated the Nigerian economy which had become dependent on oil sales.
1987 Religious tensions increased as northern Moslems called for the imposition of Islamic law and courts for Nigeria.
1988 General Babangida announced that Nigeria will remain a secular state. However, to reduce religious tensions, he allows Shari'a courts in Moslem dominated areas.
May 1 - Jun 30, 1989 More than 100 people were killed during widespread rioting which was sparked by student protests against strict economic austerity measures. The rioting spread through several cities and the army was called in to restore order in Lagos and Benin. The government announced that political activity would be temporarily banned in those cities. Eight universities were closed.
May 3, 1989 President Babangida announced the promulgation of a new draft constitution. He also announced, in line with the 1987 timetable for a return to democracy in 1992, the lifting of the ban on political parties.
Jun 22, 1989 The ban on political activity was lifted.
Oct 7, 1989 President Babangida announced the dissolution of all 13 political parties which had applied for registration. He announced the creation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC). The members of the 13 parties were to merge with the newly created parties. The original members of the 13 groups were prohibited from recruiting new individuals to either party. Local elections were postponed.
Dec 1989 A wide-ranging reshuffle of the government left northern Moslems in the offices of the President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Army and police chiefs, and the Ministers of External Affairs, Petroleum Resources, and Budget.
Jan 1, 1990 President Babangida, in an attempt to polish Nigeria's poor human rights record, ordered a general amnesty for those held in prisons for light offenses who had not yet been tried.
Jan 1990 In early January, Adamu M. Fika and Stephen B. Agodo were appointed to head the two national parties, the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) respectively.
Jan 8, 1990 In the wake of the Cabinet reshuffle, Christians demonstrated in the predominantly Moslem towns of Ondo on 8 January. On 11 January they demonstrated in Kaduna, Jos, Yola and Buachi.
Apr 22, 1990 Dissident middle-ranking Army officers led by Maj. Gideon Orkar attempted to overthrow President Babangida. The mutineers implied that their motives were religious and regional (the mutineers being mainly from the south and Christian). Maj. Orkar stated that he had the backing of the Nigerian Labor Congress, the Bar Association and the unions of journalists and students. Heavy fighting was reported and 10 people were killed. General Sani Abacha, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chief of Army Staff, reaffirmed the military's loyalty to the President and to the continuation of the transition to a multi-party, democratic, civilian ruled state. Major Orkar and 200 lower ranking soldiers were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the attempted coup.
Jul 27, 1990 Forty-two soldiers were executed by firing squad after being found guilty of staging the coup attempt in April. Major Orkar, the organizer of the failed coup, was among those executed. Altogether over 800 people stood trial.
Sep 5, 1990 Several senior government appointees were retired from the armed forces in a major restructuring of the military. The move was in alignment with the process of drastically downsizing the armed forces for the move to civilian rule.
Sep 13, 1990 Twenty-seven soldiers involved in April's coup attempt were executed. The total coup related executions stood at sixty-nine.
Dec 8, 1990 Local elections were held for the first time since the military coup of 1983. A low voter turnout was cited in the south of the country. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) won 232 chairmanships of local government and had a total of 2,934 councilors elected. The National Republican Convention (NRC) won 206 chairmanships and had 2,558 councilors elected.
Oct 14, 1991 A curfew was declared and all religious gatherings were banned after a major outbreak of religious rioting began in Kano, a principal Moslem center in northern Nigeria. Over 200 were killed. The riots began when 10,000 Moslems marched in the town center, protesting that permission had been granted for a five-day Christian revivalist rally, whereas some weeks previously permission had been refused for a Moslem imam to speak in Kano.
Dec 12, 1991 Abuja, a more politically neutral city in central Nigeria, formally became Nigeria's federal capital.
Dec 14, 1991 State elections took place peacefully. The NRC, right of center party, won 16 of the 30 state governorships and gained control of 13 state assemblies. The SDP won control of 16 assemblies, including those in three states- Lagos, Katsina and Cross River, where the NRC won the gubernatorial poll. The results were thought to hail the end of the regionalization of Nigeria.
Dec 19, 1991 The government, in a surprise move, lifted the ban on former politicians taking part in the transition to democracy. On 20 December, eleven former politicians, earlier detained for contravening the ban, were released.
Jan 1992 The Movement for the Survival of the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality established its Charter.
May 19, 1992 The federal government announced an immediate ban on all associations with "religious, ethnic, tribal, cultural, social group, or individual interests" after months of Muslim-Christian clashes in the north.
May 21, 1992 Fresh rioting was reported in Lagos after the 18 May arrest of Beko Ransome Kuti, Chairman of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), and of other leading CD activists. The CD, an umbrella organization of 25 opposition groups, had called for the resignation of the government on 10 May. Kuti accused the government of instigating the violence to delay the transition to civilian rule.
Jul 4, 1992 The SDP won 52 seats and the NRC won 37 seats in the Senate elections. The SDP won 314 seats, the NRC 275 seats in the House of Representative elections. SDP support came from Lagos, the Yoruba-speaking region of the south-west and the middle-belt states. NRC support came mainly from Moslem Hausa and Fulani-speaking states in the north. Fighting was reported at polling stations in several states, mainly in the southeast, and a few elections were postponed in other areas for various reasons.
Sep 1992 Primary elections were held and appeared to be bedeviled by corruption, in spite of a decree which imposed severe penalties on anyone found guilty of electoral corruption.
Nov 16, 1992 President Babangida announced a delay in the transfer from military to civilian rule. Presidential elections were to be held on June 12, 1993 instead of December 5, 1992. The 23 prospective presidential candidates who had contested the discredited primaries would not be permitted to run again and were prohibited from joining the political parties.
Dec 15, 1992 A civilian Transitional Council was appointed to form a temporary administration until the return to civilian rule currently scheduled for August 1993. Power still resided with the president and National Defence and Security Council.
Jan 4, 1993 Up to 300,000 Ogoni protest against Shell Oil activities and the destruction of Ogoni land. Led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, it was the Ogoni's first mass demonstration. . Also in January, Shell withdraws its personnel from the region.
Apr 1993 In the past three years, 3000 people have been killed in the north in Christian/Muslim clashes. Christian Ibo live in the Muslim-dominated north as traders.
May 24, 1993 Saro-Wiwa began a European tour drawing attention to the plight of the Ogoni people.
Jun 12, 1993 Presidential elections took place as scheduled. The voting went smoothly but there was a low voter turnout.
Jun 15, 1993 The Association for a Better Nigeria (ABN) won a ruling in the Abuja High Court directing the NEC to halt the publication of election results. The NEC complied on June 16. Both political parties issued demands for the release of election results. As tensions increased the military tightened security in the main cities.
Jun 18, 1993 Defying the Court ruling, the Lagos-based Campaign for Democracy (CD) released what it claimed to be the final banned election results. According to them, SDP candidate, Moshood Dashimawo Olawale "MKO" Abiola, who is a Muslim Yoruba, had easily defeated NRC candidate, Bashir Othma Tofa, a Moslem from the north, winning outright in 19 of the 30 states. About one-third of northerners voted for Abiola, seeing him as being more independent of the military than Tofa. After the following months of Yoruba protests, however, Abiola lost support in the north as the Hausa/Fulani began to fear southern domination.
Jun 23, 1993 Two days after the NEC had lodged an appeal against the Abuja High Court ruling with the Federal Court for Appeal in Kaduna, the NDSC announced that the presidential elections had been annulled.
Jun 24, 1993 Moshood Abiola, a Muslim Yoruba and member of the SDP, proclaimed himself President of Nigeria and urged the international community to support him against the military. The CD called for mass disobedience until the NDSC rescinded their annulment.
Jun 25, 1993 President Babangida promised that the transfer to civilian rule would occur as scheduled but a new poll would be held and new rules written so that Abiola and Tofa would be banned from the new election. Also in June, outbreaks of unrest, in which over 100 were killed in northern and western states, were reported.
Jul 5, 1993 Political unrest brought Lagos to a halt as thousands heeded a strike and civil disobedience call. Protesters cordoned off the business district with burning barricades and called for the immediate installation of SDP candidate Abiola as president.
Jul 7, 1993 Tanks were dispatched to quell the violence in Lagos, calm was reportedly restored.
Jul 13, 1993 The NDSC formally withdrew its offer of setting up an interim government and called for new elections. The new election date of August 14, was announced a few days later. The SDP repeated its refusal to participate in the new elections stating that the June elections were free and fair. The NRC accepted the new dates.
Jul 27, 1993 Hundreds of northern and eastern Nigerians began to flee their villages after rumors of war began to circulate. The Hausa, Kanuri and Ibos feared that despite Lagos' calm, a new wave of unrest could explode if Babangida reneged on his promise to relinquish power. Within following weeks, 10,000 fled Lagos.
Jul 31, 1993 President Babangida resurrected the idea of an Interim National Government (ING), that would consist of members of both parties and military personnel. The proposal was rejected by Abiola.
Aug 4, 1993 Abiola fled Nigeria after receiving death threats. He began a trip to seek international support.
Aug 12 - 14, 1993 A three day strike was called by the CD and was heeded in Yoruba areas. Lagos, the country's main economic area, was once again deserted and idle. The government put tight restrictions on the publishing of papers and tougher penalties on those papers that print "false statement, rumors, or reports".
Aug 25 - 27, 1993 The CD organized another round of strikes and the country's economic heartland came to a standstill.
Aug 26, 1993 President Babangida stepped down, handing over power to a non-elected Interim National Government (ING). Two advisory bodies were created, the National Defence Council (NDC) and the National Security Council (NSC). The NDSC became obsolete, but several of its members joined the new Cabinet and Councils.
Aug 27, 1993 The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), a federation of 42 main unions, rejected the ING and demanded the installation of a constitutional administration headed by Abiola. An indefinite strike began the following day. They were joined by the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (Nupeng), which said its 50,000 workers would bring production to a halt.
Sep 19, 1993 The NEC announced that presidential elections would be held on February 19, 1994. Following the announcement, the CD called for a national strike between September 29-October 1. There were mixed reports on the success of the strikes. Nigerian radio reported that the strike call had gone largely unheeded. However, Pan-African News Agency (PANA), reported that the streets of Lagos were empty and that most businesses and banks were closed.
Sep 24, 1993 SDP leader, Abiola, returned to Nigeria and was greeted by over 100,000 supporters.
Oct 3, 1993 The SDP, previously divided over support for Abiola, reconciled and announced that they would boycott any new elections. They viewed the June 12 elections as free and fair and demanded the installment of Abiola as president. In contrast, the NRC, on 19 October, rejected the June 12 elections and embraced the idea of new elections.
Nov 10, 1993 The Lagos High Court declared the ING unconstitutional and illegal in a ruling of a case filed by Moshood Abiola.
Nov 15, 1993 Shonekan's plans to hold new elections appeared non-viable after a voter registration campaign met with a complete boycott in the south-west, a stronghold of Abiola.
Nov 17, 1993 Nigeria came once again under the control of the military. The Defence Minister, Gen. Sanni Abacha, took over as Head of State after forcing the resignation of Chief Ernest Adegunle Shonekan, head of the Interim National Government. Abacha took over the positions of Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
Nov 18, 1993 General Abacha announced the dissolution of the main organs of the state and established the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC). Almost every political appointment or governmental structure created under Babangida was dismissed and dissolved. Abacha called on the unions to return to work immediately. He lifted the bans on the media and promised to establish a constitutional conference with full constitutional powers.
Nov 21, 1993 Abacha reinstated the 1979 Constitution (of the Second Republic) and formally established the PRC. The government included several prominent supporters of Abiola in its Cabinet.
Jan 2, 1994 Ken Saro-Wiwa was placed under house arrest. In 1993, there were 51 incidents of violence in Delta, Edo and Ondo states and 108 incidents in Rivers, Akwa, Ibom, Imo and Abia states.
Jan 4, 1994 The Ogoni leaders arrested in December were released and Saro-Wiwa's house arrest was lifted. The three major oil companies in Port Harcourt are reported to have lost 200 million dollars in 1993 due to the protests of the Ogoni.
Apr 1994 Clashes between Hausa-Fulani and Berom broke out in the city of Jos. Ijaw Association president George Weikezi released a statement that "the people of the Ijaw ethnic nationality have nothing to show for their membership of the Nigerian Federal Union of Ethnic Nationalities." (Inter Press Service (IPS), 4/14/1994)
May 22, 1994 Ken Saro-Wiwa was seized from his home by armed forces. An application for his release was made to the Nigerian High Court. At least 8 other Ogoni were being held with Siro-Wiwa. The abductions follow the murder of four pro-government Ogoni leaders.
May 23, 1994 Nigerians were given the day off to vote on a new Constitutional Conference to sit from June to October to debate how to convert the state to civilian rule. There were neither parties nor issues. Only 10% of the voters turned out. The 273 delegates elected to the constitutional conference were mainly Hausa-Fulani from the north and some Ibo from the southeast. Yoruba politicians did not take part in the conference. In addition to the elected delegates, the military reserved the right to name 96 delegates to the conference.
Jun 23, 1994 Moshood Abiola was arrested on charges of sedition.
Aug 1994 The crisis facing Nigeria after the failed elections was the worst since the Ibo attempted to secede in the Biafra war. Over 100 have been killed in pro-democracy protests. There were some reports of clashes between Yoruba youth and Ibo shopkeepers as the Yoruba attempted to force the Ibo to comply with anti-government strikes. Abiola's trial was put on hold, and he was reportedly suffering from ill-health. Ogoniland is declared a "military zone."
Jul 1995 Saro-Wiwa was on trial by military tribunal for the murder of four pro-government Ogoni. More than 50 Ogoni have been executed without trial in the wake of these murders in May 1994.
Sep 1995 Sani Abacha dispatched an emissary to Europe for meetings with Washington officials to discuss the return to democracy in Nigeria. Abacha proposed a transition period of four years and the U.S. representatives responded that 18 months should be enough.
Oct 1, 1995 In a speech, Sani Abacha pledged to institute a program under which the country's top six political positions would be rotated among six regions in an effort to minimize ethnic tensions. He also commuted the death sentences of 14 people convicted of plotting a coup against him. Others given life imprisonment sentences had their sentences reduced to fifteen years' imprisonment. The human rights group Campaign for Democracy's leader Beko Ransome-Kuti and former president Obasanjo were among those whose sentences were reduced to 15 years
Oct 12, 1995 Sani Abacha commissioned several projects in Rivers State, including a gas turbine in Ogoniland. On State Radio, he said that urgent measures were being taken by the federal government to address ecological areas in Ogoniland and other oil producing areas. However, he also stated that his government would not tolerate any form of communal conflict in the oil producing areas.
Oct 30 - 31, 1995 A special tribunal in Port Harcourt convicted and sentenced to death Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogonis. There was much international outrage at the sentencing and NGOs and some governments tried to convince Abacha to commute the sentences.
Nov 10, 1995 Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogonis were executed by hanging. The British Commonwealth voted to suspend Nigeria and threatened it with expulsion. The European Community suspended its development aid, including $778 million allotted for 1991-95 which had not yet been disbursed. Other government pulled out their diplomats and imposed further restrictions on arms sales in protest following the executions, but no government imposed an oil boycott on Nigeria.
Nov 11, 1995 Since coming to power in November 1993, Sani Abacha has jailed Moshood Abiola, winner of the 1995 multiparty elections, Beko Ransome-Kuti, leader of the pro-democracy movement, General Olusengun Obasanjo, the only military leader in Nigeria's history to freely give up power to a civilian government. The three are from the Yoruba ethnic group. He has also jailed a powerful northern politician General Sehu Musa Yar'Adva and senior members of the military. After 25 years of extracting oil worth over $200 billion, Nigerians enjoy the same per capita income of $300 that they earned in pre-oil days. During the regime of Ibrahim Babangida, 1985-1993, $12 billion in oil revenues could not be accounted for.
Nov 15, 1995 Shell announced that it planned to remain in Nigeria and that it would continue with its plans to take a 24% stake in a natural gas project on Bonny Island in Ogoniland.
Nov 17, 1995 NADECO ( National Democratic Coalition, a pro-democracy umbrella group) stated that the international community's isolation of Nigeria was not enough to bring real change to the military-ruled country.
Jan 3, 1996 Among those pressing for some degree of autonomy in the south are the Ijaws, Urhobos, Edo, Ibibios, Effiks, and Annangs. Though none of the groups are as well-organized as the Ogoni (The Independent), groups such as the Ijaw, Itsekiri, and Urhobo have grown increasingly vocal in expressing their displeasure with the government's policies in the Delta region. Ethnic conflict and confrontations with government forces increased in the Delta during 1995. (U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1995, 3/1999)
Jan 25, 1996 The 15 member European Union has accepted Nigeria's three-year transition to democracy plan in a sudden change of policy from its former demand that the period be shortened.
Feb 24, 1996 According to an independent record of Shells spills from 1982-1992, 1,626,000 gallons of oil were spilt from its operations in Nigeria in 27 separate incidents.
Mar 4, 1996 The United States returned its ambassador to Nigeria. It had recalled Walter Carrington to protest the execution of nine Ogoni on 10 November 1995. Administration officials said Carrington was taking specific messages to Sani Abacha's military government and that the U.S. remains concerned about continuing violence, human rights abuses and considers the transition to democracy too drawn out.
Apr 10, 1996 A United Nations mission was in Nigeria investigating the execution of nine Ogoni activists and to ask authorities about allegations from Ogonis of intimidation and arrests. The United Nations Refugee Agency recently said that about 1000 Ogoni had fled to Benin since the November 1995 executions.
May 12, 1996 A former Shell Environmental Studies head, Bopp van Dessel, said Shell ignored many warning from its own environmental department that production in Nigeria was causing widespread pollution. van Dessel resigned from Shell in late 1994. Last week, Shell and the Nigerian National Petrol Corporation offered an environmental clean-up in Ogoniland if the Ogoni community would agree to renewed operations in the area. MOSOP criticized the offer as insincere and said there was a military build-up going on in the region.
Jun 12, 1996 The Nigerian government reformed two decrees, including the one under which nine Ogoni were executed in November 1995. Effective immediately, no military person would sit on special disturbances tribunals such as the one that convicted the Ogoni nine. Further, verdicts from these tribunals would from now on be open to appeal. The other decree to be amended deals with detention without trial. The amendment provides hope that some of the dozens of detainees under the decree will be released through the courts which are now allowed to hear their suits against the detention.
Aug 1996 Sani Abacha has reportedly dismissed all 30 State Administrators in a purge of regional bureaucrats, and replaced them with middle-ranking military officers. Eighty people have been killed in ethnic clashes between the Karimjo and Fulani in eastern Nigeria. More than 400 Karimjo houses have been razed and over 6000 people have fled their homes in the violence which was reportedly started by an attempted rape of a Karimjo woman by a Fulani man.
Sep 1996 The leader of the Muslim Brothers, a group of young Islamic fanatics from the minority Shiite sect in Nigeria, Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, was arrested for questioning about his organization's activities.
Nov 1996 Amnesty International released a report on Nigeria stating that little has changed for the Ogoni since the execution of the Ogoni nine in November 1995. It stated, "the government continues to violate the human rights of its critics, including opposition politicians, journalists, human rights activists, and members of the Ogoni ethnic group." Shell reported that its spending on community assistance in the Delta region has risen sharply in the past two years. Thirty million dollars have been spent this year while $90 million has been spent on the environment. Oil production lost to sabotage and other community disturbances has been sharply reduced since its peak in 1994.
Feb 1997 The Nigerian government said it has uncovered fresh plans by pro-democracy groups to destabilize the country using university students. The government alleges the plot to disrupt local governmental elections slated for March involves the National Liberation Council of Nigeria (NALICON), led by exiled writer Wole Soyinka, MOSOP, NADECO and the United Democratic Association (UDA).
Apr 1997 Ethnic violence has erupted in Warri in southwestern Nigeria. The Urhobo (a subgroup of the Edo ethnic group), Itsekiri (a sub-group of the Yoruba), and Ijaw (an ethnic group unrelated to any other) have been fighting since March when a local government headquarters was moved from the Ijaw town of Ogbe-ijoh to the Itsekiri area of Ogidigben. More than 100 have been killed and hundreds injured. Warri is the headquarters of a number of oil companies, and Shell has pulled out some of its staff, cut production by 20%, and delayed exports. The distribution of wealth from the oil revenues appears to flow unevenly among the three groups. The Urhobos and Ijaws complained that oil royalties are paid to the Olu of Warri, the traditional ruler of the Itsekiris. Ijaws are a relatively large ethnic group (>5 million) in Nigeria, but they are spread out over six states and are not the majority in any of them. Over the past couple of years while the Ogoni in the region protested, the Ijaws were quietly arming themselves. Similar protests have taken place all over Nigeria since the restructuring of local councils took place in March. There is a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed over the region, and a heavy presence of armed forces. The Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo youths have been involved in kidnapping oil workers and hijacking tugboats, as well as burning down houses. (Inter Press Service (IPS), 4/21/1997)
May 7, 1997 A bomb exploded on an army bus in Lagos wounding several people. A second blast followed. It was the fifth bomb attack in Lagos targeting the military since December 1996. Police have blamed the blasts on NADECO, the pro-democracy movement of Nigeria. NADECO denies involvement. Shell Oil has been losing about 80,000 barrels per day due to ethnic violence in the Delta. The Ijaw complained that the moving of local government headquarters will further deny them access to limited resources reaching the area. Control over land in the Warri area has been a matter of dispute between the Ijaw and Itsekiri for generations. (Financial Post (Toronto), 5/6/1997). More than 70 people have died in seven weeks of fighting. (Deutsche Press Agentur (DPA), 5/8/1997)
Jun 1997 Washington officials launched informal discussions about reviewing U.S. policy on Nigeria. Human rights and environmental groups have been pressuring the U.S. government to take stronger action against the Abacha regime because current sanctions have had no noticeable effect on the Nigerian government. Almost half of Nigeria's oil exports are shipped to the United States and provides Nigeria with 90% of its export earnings. As violence flared again in Warri, Itsekiri leaders have withdrawn from a government commission of inquiry into the roots of the ethnic dispute between their community and the Ijaw. (DPA, 6/16/1997, 6/17/1997) People in Warri have taken to writing their ethnic origins on their homes in the hopes of avoiding being targeted by violent youths. At lease 16 Ijaw and 2 Itsekiris were killed and 24 houses razed in violence on 15 June. The army has denied that it is targeting Ijaw youth, and the Military Administrator David Dungs reported that the fighting followed a dispute over the ownership of market stalls. (IPS, 6/18/1999)
Jul 10, 1997 Shell Oil in Nigeria faced new threats from villagers in the southeast who say they may attack its installations in the Burutu area. The dispute escalated when Shell announced it would appeal a ruling that it should pay compensation to villagers for an oil spill that occurred 15 years ago. Fighting in the Warri area continued between Itsekiri and Ijaw peoples. They are fighting for control of part of Warri in order to get access to jobs and funds from the oil companies operating in the Delta. There is apparently an abundance of weapons in the Delta region. Shell has said it has lost $35 million in oil production because of community disputes in Warri region this year. Shell has recently been accused of cooperating with the government in the arrest of Ogoni activist Matthew Eregbene who was taken from his home earlier this week. Shell has also announced it will appeal against a court order of 27 June 1997 that it should pay compensation to villagers for an oil spill in 1982. Shell maintains it cleaned up the spill after it happened. Shell is planning to return to Ogoniland by 2000, and claim to be in talks with local representatives, including MOSOP. MOSOP, however, denied there had been any contacts. Ogoniland is still controlled by a military task force and residents speak of continuous harassment.
Jul 28, 1997 About thirty people were arrested and six hospitalized following clashes 19 July between soldiers and civilians in Biu, Borno State. Ethnic clashes have been rife in the Niger Delta since March. Hundreds of deaths have resulted from the fighting. (BBC)
Sep 1997 Soldiers reportedly attacked an ethnic Ijaw town in Delta State. It was a reprisal attack for the disappearance of four soldiers involved in extorting money from the villagers. (U.S. State Department, 1998)
Oct 18, 1997 Five journalists were arrested in Ogbia town, Bayelsa State while covering a rally organized by youths of the district to protest against the activities of Shell and the government in the Niger Delta. The reporters were subjected to an intensive interrogation and released hours later with a stern warning not to publish any stories on the incident.
Nov 1997 Professor Akinjide Oshuntokun was arrested as he boarded a plane to Germany. He was to give a public lecture on Nigeria's environmental crisis. The lecture was sponsored by the German NGO, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The Foundation was later ordered to leave Nigeria.
Feb 1998 The U.S. State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997 reported pervasive human rights abuses in Nigeria. There were numerous reports of torture and other abuses, including extrajudicial execution and arbitrary detention, by the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force in Ogoniland. An unknown number of Ogoni have fled to neighboring or Western states in search of asylum. Clashes continued between rival ethnic groups in Delta, Rivers, Benue, Cross-River, Bayelsa, Osun, Kaduna, Plateau, and Taraba states. The on-going government review of boundaries for state and local government areas sparked several communal clashes, most notably between the Ife and Modakeke in Osun State and the Ijaw and Itsekiri in Delta state. These clashes led to over 100 deaths in each case. In general, incidents of ethnic conflict and confrontation with government forces increased significantly during 1997. The Ogoni maintained that the government continued its systematic campaign to deprive the group of its land and wealth. Other ethnic groups in the oil producing states have echoed the Ogoni claims of environmental damage and government indifference.
Feb 5, 1998 Coastal communities in the southeast are pressing for compensation for damage done by a huge oil spill 12 January 1998. Forty-thousand barrels of crude leaked from the Mobil operational area five miles off the shore of the Akwa-Ibom state. The slick spread west to four other states: Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Lagos. About three hundred people were arrested after the spill when youths barricaded all routes to Mobil's operational base demanding an immediate clean-up and improved employment opportunities for local people.
Mar 20, 1998 The Ijaw and Urhobo clashed at Oburo village in the Bortu local government area of Delta State. About 30 people were killed. (BBC)
Jun 8, 1998 Military leader Sani Abacha died of a heart attack. Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar became the new head of state. Prior to his death, Ijaw youth had become increasingly vocal in anti-Abacha campaigns. (U.S. State Department, 1999)
Jun 15, 1998 The German NGO Friedrich Ebert Foundation was told to leave by the Nigerian government. The NGO claimed it was ordered out of the country for sponsoring pro-democracy and human rights activities in Nigeria. Prof. Oshuntokun who was reportedly detained for his association with the group in November 1997 remained in prison without charge or trial.
Jun 16, 1998 Gen. Abubakar released nine prominent political prisoners including Gen. Obasanjo and NADECO chief Otumba Olabiyi Durojayi.
Jul 1, 1998 Attacks 5 and 7 July in Delta State between Ijaw and Itsekiri occurred over a land dispute. (BBC, 7/14/1998)
Sep 1 - Oct 31, 1998 At least 50 people drowned in Akpata region when a boat they were in capsized. They were fleeing week-long clashes over oil-rich land between the Ijaw and Ilaje communities which have claimed up to 200 lives (unconfirmed). ( Africa News Service (ANS), 9/28/1998; DPA, 9/24/1998) Thousands have been left homeless in the region and scores of homes torched. Oil industry officials are worried over an escalation of the fighting. Ijaw derive most of their income from fishing and accuse other ethnic groups of treating them as second class citizens and depriving them of a share in local government positions. (Toronto Star, 10/5/1998)
Oct 8, 1998 Ijaw youths seized Shell facilities in Delta State demanding the return to their area of a local council. They also have interrupted ongoing national voter registration for elections to be held over the next few months. (ANS, 10/8/1998). Since August, mainly Ijaw youths in the Delta region have mounted a series of attacks against the multinational oil companies seizing wells, pumping stations and oil workers. They have managed to shut down 30% of Nigeria's total petrol exports. (International Herald Tribune, 10/20/1998)
Oct 23, 1998 Ethnic clashes occurred in Orgubo between Ijaw and Itsekiri peoples. Six people were confirmed dead, and troops were sent in to quell the violence. About 100 Shell workers were taken hostage by Ijaw youths, but later released. Ijaw are still in control of a number of oil installations. (Xinhua, 10/23/1998)
Oct 24, 1998 A curfew was imposed on three local government areas around Warri. (BBC)
Oct 26, 1998 Ijaw youths torched the ancestral palace of the Olu of Warri, the traditional leader of the Itsekiri. (ANS)
Oct 29, 1998 Ijaw and Itsekiri met in Asaba and agreed to a resolution to stop hostilities between the two communities. They agreed to support government efforts to resolve their conflict and to send a delegation to Abuja for consultations with the federal government. (BBC). Ijaw youths continued a 24 day protest which has shut down 1/3 of Nigeria's oil production. They hold about 20 Shell and Chevron oil facilities. Leaders who agreed to a truce called on the youth to give up their positions. (ANS) Armed troops were flown into the Delta region during the week (ANS, 11/2/1998)
Nov 1998 A new resistance movement based in the Delta region appeared in the news for the first time. The Chikoko Movement is comprised of Ijaw, Itsekiri, Ogoni, Andoni and Ilaje activists. At a press conference, they called for the immediate withdrawal of all MNCs operating in the Delta region until the crisis there can be resolved. They also demanded payment of reparations for violence and ecological damage caused by decades of reckless oil and gas production activities and demanded the right to self-determination for all constituent ethnic communities in Nigeria. Finally, they want the present state and local government structure scrapped. (ANS, 11/30/1998)
Nov 9, 1998 Ijaw leader Shokare Clark, brother of Chief E.K. Clark, was assassinated. The Federated Niger Delta Izon Communities and Movement for the Survival of the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality issued statements of concern over Ijaws being arrested indiscriminately. (ANS)
Nov 12, 1998 Scores of villages have been destroyed in Ijaw raids and tens of thousands displaced over the past month. The army and police avoid the rural delta and are ill-equipped to fight a guerrilla war in its tangle of mangrove swamps and creeks. The military to date have been able only to hold talks between the Ijaw and Itsekiri leaders. (International Herald Tribune)
Dec 6, 1998 Eight people were killed in election related violence in the Niger Delta. (ANS) The Ijaw largely boycotted the municipal elections 12/5. (BBC, 12/10/1998)
Dec 16, 1998 The curfew imposed in October around Warri was lifted. (ANS)
Dec 18, 1998 Isoko youths seized five oil wells demanding that Shell give them compensation for three decades of exploitation, a local government office, and jobs and social services. Shell evacuated its workers from the area. (AFX News)
Dec 30, 1998 Thousands of Ijaw took to the streets in Yenagoa as part of their plans to enforce the newly declared Kaiama Declaration which demands the withdrawal of all oil companies and military forces from Ijaw territory. (ANS, 1/5/1999) The Kaima Declaration demanded, among other things, ownership of all land and natural resources within the Ijaw territory, and the withdrawal of all military forces from Ijaw land. They also expressed their intentions to ignore all repressive laws including the Land Use Decree and Petroleum Decree, their solidarity with all peoples of Nigeria struggling for self-determination and justice, and their rejection of the transition program of Abubakar as it was not preceded by the restructuring of the federation. (ANS)
Jan 4, 1999 Security forces clashed with Ijaw in Yenagoa, state capital of Bayelsa in the Niger Delta. Three were killed and 1000 displaced. Col. Paul Obi, military administrator of the state declared a curfew and state of emergency. The main military wing of the Ijaw Youth Council is the Niger Delta Volunteer Force. It has given the government 60 days to meet its demands, including the construction of roads and distribution of oil resources, or face sabotage of oil infrastructure in the region. (IPS)
Jan 5, 1999 The Niger Delta Human and Environmental Rights Organization alleged that more than 125 people have been killed in violence which began December 30th in Bayelsa State. The organization also reported grave human rights abuses against Ijaw, especially at Kaiama. (ANS)
Jan 11, 1999 More than 200 international human rights and environmental NGOs are urging Shell, Chevron and Mobil to suspend their activities in the Delta region until Nigeria's military withdraws. Between 26 and 240 people have been killed in clashes with the government. Some Ijaw have also accused the government of raiding Ijaw villages. (IPS). The Consultative Assembly of Ijaw, Isokos and Ndokwas called on South Africa, the U.S., France, the U.K. China, Canada, and Russia to put pressure on Nigeria's leadership to negotiate with the Delta communities. (Business Day, 1/12/1999)
Feb 4, 1999 Alliance for Democracy presidential candidate Chief Olu Falae expressed his support for the Ijaw youths' struggle in the Delta. (ANS)
Mar 3, 1999 The president of the Bayelsa Youths Federation of Nigeria (BAYOF) stated that Ijaw youths will oppose the Obasanjo government. The Ijaw Youths Council president added that Obasanjo was part of the problem of the Delta people and that the people of the region should oppose him. (ANS)
Apr 22, 1999 General Abubakar emerged from the Provision Ruling Council meeting to announce that the issue of creation of new local governments and placement of existing ones would be left to the state governments. He had earlier indicated that new local governments would be created, but changed his mind after the meeting. The Ife Action Council advised the government against the creation of new local government areas. (ANS)
Apr 24, 1999 BAYOF accused uniformed men of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company at Ikebiri of killing seven Ijaw youths. They were among a couple of dozen people aboard a boat traveling between villages who were called on to stop by the armed men. When the boat's captain refused to stop, the men reportedly opened fire killing the youths. The Bayelsa State Police Command refused to confirm or deny the report. (BBC)
May 1999 An addition 1000 soldiers were deployed in Delta State to quell unrest. Reinforcements were also sent to Warri in an attempt to free 25 soldiers kidnapped by Ijaw youths. (BBC, 5/12/1999). At least 15 autonomy groups met in Lagos to join the Oodua People's Congress to prepare a campaign for autonomy should the government fail to heed the popular call for genuine federalism. The groups from the Niger Delta, who have started thinking of a Niger Delta Republic, said they would be willing to align with the Oodua people in view of their pursuit of regional autonomy. Groups at the meeting included: Oron National Forum, Ijaw Youth Council, Ogoni Solidarity Movement, Chikoko Movement, MOSOP, Environmental Rights Agenda, Ndigbo Movement, Democratic Socialist Movement, Media for Ethnic Equality, and various pan-Yoruba groups. (ANS, 5/18/1999). Elections took place on the 29th, and Olusegun Obasanjo, former military ruler, was elected president. A civilian governor, James Ibori, was installed in the Delta Region. Over 200 people were killed in the two weeks following Obasanjo's election as Ijawa and Urhobos fought Itsekiris in Warri. (IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Network, U.N. Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs), 6/11/1999). A Human Rights Watch report blamed oil companies in the Niger Delta of failing to respond adequately to serious human rights abuses in the region while the government continued to crack down on the Ijaw community. The report stated that while there were genuine security concerns in the Delta region, soldiers were responsible for on-going human rights violations including extortion, arbitrary arrest and torture and occasionally summary executions. In addition, Human Rights Watch reported that elections in the Rivers Bayelsa and Delta states were particularly flawed with widespread electoral irregularities. (HRW, May 1999 v.11 n.2(A))
Jun 1999 According to Nigerian media, clashes between Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo beginning at the end of May left scores dead, thousands of homes destroyed, and hundreds of thousands displaced. Warri was placed under a curfew once again. (IPS 6/6/1999) Calm returned to the region after about two weeks, but Ijaw remain upset over the movement of a local government headquarters in 1997. (BBC, 6/10/1999) Governor Ibori announced that policies were being implemented to end the tensions in the region. He said there would be urban development projects, education in the public schools, and peace meetings between Urhobo, Ijaw and Itsekiri leaders (BBC, 6/19/1999)
Jun 30, 1999 Youths from the Isoko ethnic group threatened to close Shell oil wells, most of which are located in Isokoland. They claim that Shell is going back on an agreement to develop the area. The youths shut down Shell's flow stations in the area in December 1998. (ANS, 6/30/1999)

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