Human Rights Watch has learnt with dismay of the arrest of Isaac Osuoka, an activist with the Nigerian human and environmental rights organization, Environmental Rights Action.
Mr. Osuoka was arrested at a roadbloack in Lagos by a combined team of soldiers and police on May 26, 1998, together with a visiting environmentalist from the Netherlands, Aart van den Hoek. Both were attending the second biannual conference of the African Forest Action Network and the car they were in contained leaflets relating to human rights abuses in the Niger Delta. Mr. van den Hoek was released the next morning, May 27, after being held overnight in police cells.
"This is just the latest in a recent series of arrests, in which human rights activists, journalists and opposition politicians have been rounded up," said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "The Nigerian military government, which depends on oil for its life blood, has once again demonstrated its determination to prevent any discussion of the negative effects of oil on the environment of the Niger Delta. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Isaac Osuoka and all other political prisoners in Nigeria."
Others who have recently been detained by the Nigerian government include Olisa Agbakoba, convenor of United Action for Democracy; Bola Ige, former governor of Oyo State; Ayo Opadokun, secretary general of the National Democratic Coalition; Olusegun Mayegun, member of the Committee for Defence of Human Rights; Usman Bugaje, a Muslim intellectual from northern Nigeria; Ayo Alonge, administrative officer of the Campaign for Democracy, and numerous journalists.
Environmental Rights Action is the Nigerian chapter of Friends of the Earth, and is also part of Oil Watch, a worldwide network of groups concerned about the effects of oil on the environment of the people who live in the oil producing regions. Isaac Osuoka is seconded by ERA to coordinate Oil Watch Africa, while Aart van der Hoek is the co-ordinator of Oil Watch Europe.