Friends of the Earth Scotland is adding its voice to the call for the immediate and unconditional release of Friends of the Earth Nigeria staff, including the executive director Nnimmo Bassey (Chair of Friends of the Earth International) and a Dutch MP and their companions, who have been arrested by the Joint Military Task Force on the Niger Delta while on official duty.
Duncan McLaren, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland said: "When Nnimmo Bassey visited Scotland last year he was welcomed by the Scottish Government, and invited to speak at their conference on Climate Change and Human Rights.
"It is distressing that when European parliamentarians and diplomats visit Nigeria to see the problems of the Niger Delta first hand, in the company of Mr Bassey, they should face this unacceptable violation of their human rights by the Joint Military Task Force."
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA) staff were on a visit to a gas flare facility in the company of the Dutch parliamentarian when they were detained by men of the Joint Military Task Force(JTF) at Oben, a border town between Delta and Edo State on the allegation that they were on a clandestine mission.
Repeated appeals that their visit was totally in conformity with ERA's monitoring activities fell on deaf ears as the JTF soldiers insisted the arrested ERA staff and the foreign nationals will only be released when such an order comes from their headquarters.
Reacting to the development, ERA Programmes Director, Godwin Ojo described the incident as “embarrassing and unfortunate”, Godwin Ojo, ERA Programmes Director, and continued: "We demand the immediate and unconditional release of ERA staff and the Dutch parliamentarians. This unwarranted action must be fully investigated and perpetrators brought to book. We also demand an unreserved apology from the JTF for the trauma that victims have passed through. Anything short of this is unnacceptable.
"This unwarranted action is a clear indication that the Niger Delta is still a militarised zone where people cannot move freely as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution. The JTF must simply explain this action."
Ojo pointed out that the action of the JTF adds to a growing list of human rights violations the task force has been enmeshed in, in recent time, including the Odi massacre in 1999 and Ayakoromor bombing last month, which led to tens of deaths, loss of property and displacement of Ayakoromor community in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State.
Ojo said the excesses of the JTF in recent time is a growing cause of concern, even as he added that the Federal Government has the responsibility of guaranteeing the military acts responsibly and respects the rights of not only the people of the Niger Delta, but also every Nigerian.
For more information please contact:
Per Fischer, Press Office, Friends of the Earth Scotland
t: 0131 243 2719
The Dutch MP is Sharon Gesthuizen, spokesperson of House Committee on Economic Affairs.
Nnimmo Bassey received the Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm in earlier this year
Dutch Parliament plans public hearing on Niger Delta crisis.
Friends of the Earth Scotland exists to help people in Scotland look after the planet for everyone's future. We think globally and act locally in Scotland, delivering solutions to climate change by enabling and empowering people to take both individual and collective action. We offer help to people with the big things in life – helping to sustain a healthy society and environment. We believe that all of our children’s futures will be better because of what we do.