FEATURE ARTICLE

Leburah GanagoThursday, November 25, 2004
advertisement
Glequinox@msn.com
Atlanta, GA, USA

ANNOUNCE THIS ARTICLE TO YOUR FRIENDS


RE: OGONI 9 DESERVED TO DIE



he Independent Daily of Friday November 12,2004, quoted one Mr. Joseph Daudu, the lead counsel to the Federal Government at the Ibrahim Auta Military tribunal which convicted the Ogoni Nine in 1995, as having asserted that Ken Saro Wiwa and eight of his fellow Ogoni campaigners deserved to die, because according to him, they were dully convicted by the court. In his words, : “ If a court finds a person guilty of murder, that court has finished its task. The rest is for the hangman who carries out his duty once the appropriate authority signs the warrant for execution”.

First, the dishonest attempt by Mr. Daudu to mislead the public has to be pointed out and corrected . The “Ogoni Nine” were not tried in any known court of law in Nigeria. They were rather tried by a hand-picked military tribunal specially set up to guarantee their conviction. And the manner of the constitution of what Mr. Daudu, who is, most regrettably ,addressed as a SAN ( Senior Advocate of Nigeria) forms the basis of what legal authorities all over the world have affirmed as the illegality of the trial and conviction. Commenting on this, Michael Birnbaum (Queen’s Counsel) who observed the trials on behalf of Article 19 and the British Bar, noted as follows: “ The tribunal is not independent of the government. There is no sensible pragmatic reason for the appointment of a CDST( Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal) in this case other than the desire of the FMG ( Federal Military Government) that any trial relating to the Giokoo killings should take place before a tribunal which it hopes will favour the prosecution and a desire to avoid the scrutiny of its case by the ordinary courts”. ( Africa Today, September/October 1995).

Concerning Mr. Daudu’s assertion that : “ Ogoni gave evidence because of the Ogoni four that were murdered and up till today the heads have not been found. The people ( Ogoni 9) were fingered and the Ogoni gave evidence against them”, those Ogoni witnesses whom Mr. Dauadu refers to turned out to be discredited witnesses, some of whom later defected and exposed to the world how they were procured to give false testimonies to implicate Ken Saro Wiwa and others in the Giokoo murders. P.M .News of Tuesday February 28 1995 under the caption I WAS BRIBED TO FRAME WIWA reported inter a lia; “ Barely one week after a prosecution witness disclosed in a confessional statement that he was bribed to sign a statement implicating Ken Saro Wiwa and other MOSOP leaders in the murder of four Ogoni citizens, another witness, an Ogoni man has confessed to receiving money to sign a prepared statement implicating Saro Wiwa and others.

advertisement
Continuing the report quoted the defected prosecution witness as narrating how he was approached and offered N30,000.00 as bribed and compelled to sign a prepared statement implicating and incriminating both Messrs Saro Wiwa and Ledum Mitee. According to the confessional statement which was backed up by an affidavit sworn to at the Federal High Court ,Lagos, the defected prosecution witness also revealed that beside the N30,000.00 cash he was also given an employment letter by the Gokana local government council which placed him on salary Grade Level 05 , without applying for any job position . Other incentives promised him he said, included a weekly allowance of between N1000.00 and N2,000.00 and award of contracts from Shell and OMPADEC.

If I may ask Mr. Daudu , the Nigerian SAN,( quite a pity) which legal system in the world convicts innocent people based on testimonies of discredited witnesses ?

I shall return to the Shell connection.

Mr. Daudu , no one is saying that the “Ogoni four” were not killed at Giokoo. But what every objective commentator on the issue has said is that neither the Abacha military junta nor their Mr. Daudu and his military tribunal has been able to prove beyond reasonable doubts that the Ogoni Nine were responsible for the murder of the Ogoni four.

In this regard, Michael Birnbaum QC has this to say: “ No sensible person could either doubt the seriousness of the Giokoo killings or challenge the right of the Nigerian authorities to investigate and try offences relating to them before an independent and impartial tribunal. But, against the background of an eroded Constitution, alleged human rights violations and arbitrary detentions, there were many who feared that the killings were being used as a pretext to secure unjust convictions of political opponents by a hand-picked tribunal whose decisions could not be subjected to independent review or appeal”.

Even by the standard of the military government’s primitive justice system the Ibrahim Auta tribunal failed to satisfy the stipulated conditions for its constitution. Commenting on this, the United Nations fact-finding mission’s report states: “ The special tribunal that tried Mr. Ken Saro Wiwa and others had no jurisdiction to do so because the tribunal itself was constituted in violation of section 1 of the Civil Disturbances ( Special Tribunal) Act of 1987. That Act says that if the president forms the opinion that a civil disturbance or commotion has been committed, he must constitute a special investigation committee whose report would determine if a special tribunal would be constituted, and would be arraigned before it . No investigation committee was set up by General Abacha before the Ogonis were arraigned before the tribunal , a clear violation of the Act.”.(TEMPO magazine May 30, 1996).

This remark in the Michael Birnbaum report “The Ogoni trials breach Nigerian and International law”, looks like an authoritative dismissal of that miscarriage of justice which Mr. Joseph Daudu has shamelessly defended. Shame, shame, shame, to this Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

Meanwhile, I am calling on the Nigerian Bar Association to consider de-robbing Mr.Joseph Daudu and all other lawyers -who offered themselves as accessories to the “ executive murders” of the Ogoni Nine, and bringing the Nigerian legal system into disrepute.

A school of thought believes that the Ogoni four were murdered so the Ogoni Nine could be hanged. In other words, the killing of the Ogoni four appears to have been plotted by the then ruling military junta which was becoming apprehensive about the Ogoni struggle, in order to round –up the MOSOP leadership and truncate the struggle. Consider for instance, that by May 21 1994, the day the Giokoo killings took place the whole of Ogoni was already under military occupation with greater concentration in the Gokana area. And how can one explain the fact that it took all of five hours for security forces to arrive on the scene of the killings even when the headquarters of the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force Kpor is less than three miles away ? Who would commit such a dastardly act and linger on the scene for five hours to get arrested?.

The suspicion that the Giokoo killings were masterminded by the military government finds accommodation with the leaked Rivers State government House secret memo of May 12, 1994, detailing massive military clamp down on Ogoni including, wasting operations against vocal Ogoni leaders at gatherings such as the Giokoo occasion.

It is on record that an Ogoni elder statesman Chief Kemte Giadom testified on the floor of the military tribunal that when he heard that some Ogoni leaders were feared dead in a riot at Giokoo he dashed to the headquarters of the Internal Security Task Force at Kpor to report the incident and requested that security operatives be sent to the scene to take care of the situation but he was ignored. Of course, the psychopathic Commander of the military Task Force Col. Paul Okuntmo is known to have boasted to some of his captives that the government was not interested in those who killed the Ogoni four but MOSOP leaders.

The Military Administrator of Rivers State Col. Daudu Komo did all in his power to implicate the MOSOP leadership in the Giokoo killings even as he publicly advertised his resolve to wipe out the organization. Col. Dauda Komo, the contour-faced Zuru soldier who looted the Rivers State oil money like no other before him, had it as a pet project to murder Ken Saro Wiwa ,one of the state’s brightest stars. Komo, it was, who in less than twenty-four hours ( May 22, 1994) after the Giokoo murders called a press conference and without any investigation declared MOSOP and its leadership guilty . He there and then swore to deal with Ken Saro Wiwa. And that was the beginning of the trial . Like I noted in one of my pieces during the trial captioned, WORKING TOWARDS KOMO’S ANSWER , the military tribunal was only building its case to arrive at the guilty verdict already declared by the Rivers State Military Administrator. And that explained the desperation in contracting and bribing false prosecution witnesses to implicate Ken Saro Wiwa so he could be convicted at all costs.

And the Rivers State government refused to produce the video tape of Col. Komo’s prejudicial press conference , a key material evidence demanded by the defense team.. Mr. Fidelis Agbiki the Press secretary to the Military Administrator most irresponsibly said: “ In government House, we do not retain video copies of press conference”. Yet, this obvious lie was left unchallenged by the tribunal. The video tape of the press conference was vital to the defense team in more ways than one. Apart from showing that the case was prejudicial as indicated in the declaration of guilt verdict by Col. Komo it would have also shown the inconsistencies in the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses.

On the role of Shell in the murder of the Ogoni Nine, Richard Akinnola Esq Wrote : “ While counsel of both prosecution and defense announced their appearances, surprisingly, Shell petroleum whom the Ogonis have consistently accused of causing ecological devastation in Ogoniland, entered appearance in the case through its counsel O.C.J. Okocha for “ watching brief”. The natural question was “what is Shell’s interest in the trial?. What interest was Shell watching and protecting?”. Shell did not lose men or property in the disturbance. But Shell paid N550,000 ( five hundred and fifty thousand Naira) as legal fees to Mr. O.C.J. Okocha for the “ watching brief”.( OGONI TRAILS AND TRAVAILS, a Civil Liberties Organization, Nigeria, 1996,publication) So who says Ken Saro Wiwa will not be convicted in any case that Shell has taken so much interest in?.

The historic march of January 4, 1993, maiden Ogoni Day, which pulled out an estimated 300,000 , men, women and children, including the aged reputed to be the largest of such protest marches ever staged in Africa, shocked Shell to its very foundation. Recall, on that occasion Shell was officially declared persona non grata on Ogoni soil. And it was Ken Saro Wiwa as then MOSOP Spokesman who had the rare honour of making that declaration.

Commenting on the outcome of the declaration Ken Saro Wiwa himself wrote : “On January 4 , the alarm bells rang in the ears of Shell. I was to know no peace from then on . I became a regular quest of the security agencies. I was stopped and arrested at airports, seized from my office and questioned repeatedly”.( Africa Today, September/ October 1995) .

Yet, more evidence of Shell involvement: In two separate meetings in London and Amsterdam in March 1993, Shell resolved to monitor the movements of Ken Saro Wiwa and other key players in the Ogoni struggle, including Body Shop International which has been very involved in projecting MOSOP campaigns abroad, “ to avoid unpleasant surprises”.

The hanging on November 10, 1995, of Ken Saro Wiwa John Kpuinen, Dr. Barinem Kiobel, Paul Levura, Baribor Bera, Felix Nuate, Daniel Gbokoo, Nordu Eawo and Saturday Dobee is the culmination of the monitoring Shell was talking about.

Shell’s finger has always been spotted in every pie of the Ogoni crisis. Shell was mentioned as one of the sponsors of the Ogoni pacification project spelt out in the Government House secret memo. Shell was again implicated in the bribing of prosecution witnesses at the military tribunal that convicted the Ogoni Nine.

Even as the trial (in a kangaroo court), conviction and execution of the Ogoni Nine has been severally described as judicial murder, an authority in constitutional law, Professor Ben Nwabueze (SAN) has added another dimension to the controversy. According to the dean of Nigerian constitutional law , what happened in the case of the Ogoni Nine was executive murders. In a lecture he delivered in Port Harcourt to mark the 5th anniversary of the hangings in 2000, Prof. Nwabueze submitted that “the trial was not judicial, the conviction was not judicial, and the execution was not judicial”. In buttressing his argument, the eminent jurist explained that it is wrong to characterize the hanging of the Ogoni Nine as judicial murder because the tribunal that tried them is not a court so whatever it decides cannot be judicial. What is outside the hierarchy of the ordinary courts of the land is not a court. Whatever it decides cannot be judicial”.

Concerning the lame argument that the Auta tribunal cannot be called a military tribunal because it had two High Court judges sitting on it, Prof. Nwabueze replies: “Even if all the members of the tribunal are judges of the High court, Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court it would have made no difference because the final decision of the matter was not by the tribunal . Whatever the tribunal said had no legal effect until confirmed by the military government. The actual decider of the case was the military government. Members of the tribunal merely acted as accessories to the executive murders, the decision to convict was not that of the tribunal”

As for Mr Joseph Daudu, he is being haunted by the burden of guilt having offered himself for blood money to be an accessory to the murder of innocent men. And this nightmare will follow him to his grave. He cannot get it out of his system. However, I have an option for him: He can commit suicide. He should hang himself in shame that Ken Saro Wiwa whom he was paid to convict in a kangaroo court has been “discharged and acquitted “ by men of goodwill, the world over. What is more, he has acquired a larger than life image in death. The Joseph Daudus , Philip Umeadis, Ibrahim Autas, E.E Arikpos of this world are Nigeria’s eternal shame.

And for Shell , there is no escaping the wrath of the gods of Ogoni for slaying the anointed ones. No matter how long it takes, they must pay for the ocean of blood they have spilled in Ogoni and all of the Niger delta.