US-Based Ogoni Professionals Lament Failure to Prosecute Okuntimo, Umahi, Seek Passage of New Law

The Council of Ogoni Professionals (COP International, USA) applauded the Jonathan Administration for recently forwarding the “Enforcement and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, Genocide and Related Offences, and to Give Effect to Certain Provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in Nigeria, 2012 bill to the National Assembly.

A statement yesterday said , “this proposed legislation which aims to punish Nigerian security operatives who violate the rules of engagement and commit terrible atrocities such as rape, torture, murder, extermination, and many others when dealing with civilian populations during crises in accordance with International Law as reported in the Punch Newspaper of Sunday September 2, 2012, captioned “JTF Soldiers to face trial for rape, murder and torture” is a bold step in right direction, although having such a law in Nigeria is belated.”

The US –based Ogoni professionals “ recalled that in the heat of the Ogoni Crisis in the 1990s, then Major Paul Okuntimo, Chairman of the defunct Rivers State Internal Security Taskforce and his successor, Major Obi Umahi committed pogrom that constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ogoniland but they were not prosecuted despite overwhelming evidence. These war-criminals were rather promoted by the military authorities and are still walking on the streets in Nigeria as free men, while their unfortunate victims are either lying in their untimely graves or living with perpetual nightmares and permanent scars.”

“In every crisis in Nigeria, the Nigerian military has been indicted for committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity yet no single soldier involved has been brought to justice and such culture of impunity cannot continue to be tolerated while Nigeria remains a signatory to international statutes and conventions on human rights and an important player in promoting democracy across the globe” the council said in a statement signed by Anslem D. John-Miller ,chairman, caretaker committee.

“In view of the importance of this legislation in the protection of defenseless civilians in particular and the overall promotion of democracy,  human and minority rights in the country, we therefore call on the Nigerian National Assembly to immediately pass this bill into law” the council said.

We emphatically call on President Goodluck Jonathan and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, to work closely with the National Assembly to ensure that this crucial legislation is given priority attention and subsequently passed.

The body of Ogoni professionals in America appealed to all human, environmental and labor rights activists and organizations in Nigeria and around the world to mobilize their base(s) and prevail on Nigerian National Assembly to pass this crucial legislation without any delay.