Real Story Behind Odi massacre in Bayelsa
The Odi massacre was an attack carried out on November 20, 1999, by the Nigerian military on thepredominantly Ijaw town of Odi in Bayelsa State.
The attack came in the context of an ongoing conflict in the Niger Delta over indigenous rights to oil resources and environmental protection.
People generally say that the massacre was ordered by the regime of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
The military has often defended its action saying it was ambushed on its way to Odi. As a result, tensions rose before entrance into the village.
Before the massacre, twelve members of the Nigerian police were murdered by a gang near Odi, seven on November 4 and the remainder in the following days.
In retaliation, the military decided to invade the village but there are reports that the army was ambushed close to the village thus tensions soared, they broke through the ambush and exchanged fire with armed militias in the village who were believed to be using the civilian population as cover.
This and the "ambush" provocation led to the attack on the civilian population and the town's buildings. Every building in the town except the bank, the Anglican church and the health centre was burned to the ground. All of this happened in president Olusegun Obasanjo's reign. A wide range of estimates has been given for the numbers of civilians killed. Human Rights Watch concluded that "the soldiers must certainly have killed tens of unarmed civilians and that figures of several hundred dead are entirely possible."
Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action, claims that nearly 2500 civilians were killed. The government initially put the death toll at 43, including eight soldiers, In February 2013, the Federal High Court ordered the Federal Government to pay N37.6 billion compensation to the people of Odi community in kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa state. Justice ordered that the compensation should be paid within three weeks.
In his judgment, Justice Lambi Akanbi of the Federal High Court, condemned the government for a "brazen violation of the fundamental human rights of the victims to movement, life and to own property and live peacefully in their ancestral home." The case led to the payment of N15 billion from the Goodluck Jonathan led administration as out of court settlement.