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Soldiers and Mobile Police are still posted in Yenagoa, Kaiama, Mbiama junction, and other locations in Bayelsa State, and are continuing to harass local people. During the period of the state of emergency, there was virtually no transport coming into Yenagoa, causing a food shortage and price inflation. Although the state of emergency was lifted quickly, large numbers of soldiers remained in the community and continued to harass local people and extort money. Boats at the waterfront were charged sums of several thousand naira as well as a _50 (U.S.55¢) landing fee for each individual, causing the market to close for some time, since boatmen and traders were no longer making money by coming to Yenagoa. Market women from Yenagoa marched to State House to protest to the military administrator, who said that they should report any soldier taking money to him. Similarly, soldiers posted at numerous roadblocks on the road between Mbiama junction and Yenagoa were taking so much money that the commercial drivers went on strike and also protested to the military administrator. For a while in March the roadblocks were lifted, but as of mid-April they had been restored, though at a lesser level.32 While the level of extortion at the waterfront had decreased somewhat, and the market had resumed, there were still two machine guns mounted at the waterfront in early May, and prices for boat journeys were inflated by as much as 100 percent because of the bribes required by soldiers posted there. More positively, the harassment and rape of local women by soldiers had markedly decreased following publicity in the local press about the abuses in the "black market" area.33

Harassment of youths, on the other hand, has continued since the crisis. Five youths were stopped at a roadblock in Yenagoa on January 29 by members of Operation Salvage. They were stripped to their underwear, and examined for scars believed to be associated with the followers of the Ijaw god Egbesu. Two who had such marks were taken aside to be shot: the soldiers had raised their rifles to fire when the warrant officer in charge recognized one of the other young men, who had assisted him to identify a thief on a previous occasion, and let them go.34 Godfrey Okolo, the forty-nine year old external relations coordinator of MOSIEND, was detained from March 6 to 19, and badly beaten, after being arrested in Yenagoa by members of Operation Salvage, the Bayelsa State anti-crime unit.35

Human Rights Watch spoke to young men from Odi in mid-February, who had not left the village since the events of December 31, for fear of being picked up and beaten or worse by soldiers posted at the junction of the dirt road that leads to Odi and the tarred road that runs through Kaiama. On February 3, 1999, two youths on a motorbike had been shot dead at the junction, apparently when the driver had failed to pay the customary _20 (22¢) bribe to pass. In another case in February, two youths from Odi were pulled out of a vehicle stopped at Mbiama junction, examined for "Egbesu marks," and beaten severely.36 On March 14, soldiers came right into Odi during the night, and shot one young man dead. The next day, three youths were arrested at Odi junction and severely beaten. Soldiers then went to the clinic in nearby Sagbama reportedly looking for a young man with gunshot injuries from Odi. They intimidated staff and fired shots in the air.37 On March 20, three people were arrested at Odi junction, when they were found with copies of Ogele, the bulletin of the Ijaw Youth Council, badly beaten, and detained for several days.38

The Nigerian government is apparently anxious to prevent monitoring of security force and oil company activity in the region. On February 4, about five police in civilian clothes and in uniform, armed with rifles, confiscated the film from the camera of a local human rights activist as he attempted to take photographs of approximately twenty-five armed soldiers posted at Shell's Kolo Creek flow station, near Yenagoa.39 On February 12, two British journalistsinterviewed Chief E. Abule, the paramount ruler of Oporoma, in the riverine area of Bayelsa State, about the oil companies operating in his area. Two days later other journalists attempted to interview him, only to find that the SSS (State Security Service) had warned him not to speak to anyone else, and that he would not talk to them.40 On March 6, Shuchen Tan, Hans Fels, and another journalist from Dutch television station VPRO-Televisk, who were filming a line of cars waiting for fuel, were arrested and detained for six hours by members of the Delta State paramilitary crime unit, Operation Flush.41

On January 13, 1999, police arrested Kennedy Esi, the president of the Egi Youth Organization, in Omuku, Rivers State, for distributing two leaflets put out by the Ijaw Youth Council headed "a Call for Unity" and "a Call for Solidarity," addressed to Ijaw youths and members of the petroleum industry unions. He was kept in detention until February 4, when he was released on _10,000 ($110) bail and charged with conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace. While he was in detention his sister was beaten when she came to visit him bringing food.42 On April 19, Mobile Police reportedly shot indiscriminately at youths from Ogbugu in Egiland, arriving after the completion of successful negotiations for the youths to release a vehicle they had seized from an Elf contractor to draw attention to their grievances. Several youths and bystanders received gunshot injuries, some serious.43 The Warri law offices of Bello Orubebe, a radical Ijaw leader, were broken into on February 12, by men believed to be from the SSS. No valuables were taken, but the scrambler on his phone and confidential files were removed.44

In the riverine areas of Bayelsa and Delta States there are continual reports of youths being killed in confrontations with soldiers, as well as of kidnappings, and of soldiers themselves also being killed in some cases, though details are very difficult to establish. There are also regular clashes in Delta State between members of the Ijaw, Ilaje, and Itsekiri ethnic groups. In one of the more serious incidents, on April 19, 1999, soldiers escorting Agip personnel reportedly killed eight people, including a two year-old child, from Ikebiri community, Bayelsa State. The shootings followed the recent closure of several Agip wells by youths frustrated at the lack of progress in long-running negotiations between the community and Agip over compensation for oil spills. The soldiers allegedly fired without provocation into two speed boats (reportedly donated to the community by Agip) filled with youths and traditional leaders from Ikebiri on their way to a meeting with the Bayelsa State commissioner of police.45

32 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Patterson Ogon, April 16, 1999.

33 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews, Patterson Ogon, April 16 and 22, 1999.

34 Human Rights Watch interviews, Odi, February 16, 1999.

35 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Patterson Ogon, April 16, 1999.

36 Human Rights Watch interviews, Odi, February 16, 1999.

37 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Patterson Ogon, April 16, 1999.

38 ERA Alert, Port Harcourt, Environmental Rights Action, March 28, 1999.

39 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 4, 1999.

40 Human Rights Watch interviews, Port Harcourt, February 15, 1999.

41 Nigeria Media Monitor 04-11, March 22, 1999 (E-mail news service distributed by the Independent Journalism Centre, Lagos).

42 Charge sheet in Commissioner of Police vs. Kennedy Esi, Case 11C/99, Omuku Magistrates Court; Human Rights Watch interview with Kennedy Esi, February 6, 1999. The Egi community has seen numerous protests against Elf's Obite gas project, which it hosts, and security force action to suppress such protest. See Human Rights Watch, The Price of Oil, pp.151-2.

43 Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, "Another Impunity in the Niger Delta Region: Paramilitary Security Unit Outfit Operation Flush No.016-30 Raid Ogbugu at Egiland in Ogba, Egbema, Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, Nigeria," Press Release, April 24, 1999.

44 Human Rights Watch interview, February 13, 1999.

45 Joseph Ollor Obari, "Groups blame oil firm over killing of Ijaw youths," Guardian (Lagos), April 26, 1999; Environmental Rights Action, "Carnage at Ikebiri," ERA Field Report No.22, April 20, 1999.

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