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Dateline: December 15, 1999
Subject: Voices from Odi (part 3)
Dispatch: Odi & Yenagoa

It was announced over the radio that everyone should return to the community. Based on that announcement, indigenes of Odi obediently went back to their town. Little did they know that death was awaiting them in Odi. Mr. Tombara Gagariga, a retired civil servant, also heard the news and decided to take his 70 year old mother home. Sights of wanton destruction greeted him: a destroyed house and properties. In addition he discovered that his grandmother was missing.

Many people had lost their lives. The king of Odi, King Bolo, was shot on the leg for demanding that buildings should not be torched or dynamited.


"We heard it over the radio that everyone should come back to the village and so we brought our mother home only discover that everything in the house has been burnt down.

"We had her 70th birth day party in October so after the party we took her to Port Harcourt to spend sometime. Shortly afterwards we heard of the crisis and decided she should remain in Port Harcourt for sometime. When it was announced that people should come back to the village we decided to bring her home, only to come and see that everything in the house has been destroyed. All the properties in the house have been destroyed.

"We have not seen our grandmother. She was in the house when we took our mother to Port Harcourt. We have not seen the man who was living with either, but we were told that he fled to the bush when the soldiers came. He could not carry an old woman, so he left and ran away.

"When the government said everybody should come back home we thought the houses were intact, we thought everyone.s property was intact because what we heard over the radio was that the soldiers were coming to arrest some robbers. We never expected that they would come and burn down houses and loot properties.

"A lot of our things have been looted because we can not see their traces in the ashes of the things burnt down. Our television sets, video sets, our boxes, (some of them are fire proof), our clothes, everything has been removed.

"What they cannot carry they have destroyed. You can see that our generator and other things have been destroyed. You can also see that they have written several things on the wall of our house. I don't know what they mean. If you go inside you will see the kind of things they have written: "Bayelsa State will be silenced," "Odi will talk no more."

"From all indications they were living here, we can see our pots and other things they were using to cook. When they were leaving, they destroyed everything. Can the Army be so mean as to destroy Bibles, plates and the things they used inside the house? Even the house, they used as a cover, they burnt down before leaving. Can they be so mean?

"Even during the civil war, houses were not destroyed like this. But how can they destroy the whole village because they came to arrest some robbers? Is that why they should destroy all the properties? I have not seen this type of a thing in my life. President Obasanjo should do something to rehabilitate my mother because I don't know where to go with her. They say we should come home, I have brought her. Obasanjo should come and make a place for my mother to live or else she will live here in the village as it is, and she might die.

"I don't want to take her back to Port Harcourt, let Obasanjo come and see things here for himself, let him come and see what the Army he sent here has done. I have been listening to radio and reading newspapers, but I have never read nor heard anything like this.

"I don't know what to do. I don't even know how my mother is going to start her life again. She is retired and her pension is just about N1,000 a month How can she build another house? She has no money to start her life again.

"I am even more bitter with the things they have written on our walls. This is the police station, they did not stay there. They came to our house and wrote rubbish.

"I want President Obasanjo to come and see this place. Let him come and see Odi for himself."

"In the afternoon of November 20, we received an information that the military wants to attack Odi. No sooner than we received the information, we started receiving some artillery bombardments. In the process five "Asawana" boys were killed. Their heads were cut off and their bodies were beyond recognition. Only two could be recognised.

"After a while, we started hearing rifles and some shelling until around 5 p.m. In the morning, we started seeing soldiers. The next thing we saw was that they started destroying all the buildings with their weapons. They continued the destruction from Oborubeinghe quarters to the end of the town and back again. We all ran into the bush and we were peeping from there. Presently in Odi you can only pick the First Bank office and the Police Post. Even King Bolo, the King of Odi was shot in the leg simply because he protested against the destruction of the buildings.

"To be candid, if we are to estimate the destruction, it is more than five billion Naira, because you can't see any building again. The only buildings you can see at Odi are thatched buildings and mud houses. We were in the bush for three days. Mosquitoes and other insect beat us and we almost starved to death since there was no food.

"I eventually escaped from Odi together with some other people through the bush. Then we swam across the River Nun. We were two, we swam across to Sampou then from there, we escaped through another creek. We got to Gbarain, then to Okolobiri, then through bush path we came to Yenagoa. Even the dress I am wearing right now belongs to my younger brother.

"To add more to my problem, I am a victim of the fight between the OPC and Ijaw people in Lagos. During the incident, our family head was attacked and his hand was cut off while a relative was attacked with acid. I lost all my property as a result of the incident. I returned home from Lagos hoping that when I come home I will have rest of mind.

"But I never had rest. My three-bed room flat at Odi is destroyed. In fact, I don't know where to lay my head. In fact, I am confused."

  1. Write to the Nigerian Federal Government to protest the massacre at Odi
  2. For Nigerians: Send copies of your letter to your legislators, and lawmakers from your constituency requesting them to raise issues of environmental concern as a critical part of their mandate and obligation to the people
  3. Send copies of your letters to local newspapers