Several years after the Odi and Zaki Biam invasion by soldiers, the two communities in Bayelsa and Benue states respectively have dragged the immediate past president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, to court over the episode.
The two communities are also asking for N500m as compensation from the Federal Government and a public apology by the Nigerian Army.
The invasion of Odi in Bayelsa State in 1999 during which the entire town was allegedly leveled, killing many people in the process and the Zaki Biam episode in Benue State in 2001 all occurred during the first term of Obasanjo in office.
Leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), Mujahid Asari Dokubo, and Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, instituted the case at the Federal High Court, Abuja on behalf of the two communities.
The plaintiffs asked the court for an order directing the Inspector- General of Police or the State Security Service (SS) to conduct “a thorough, unbiased and non-political investigation into the complaint of culpable homicide punishable with death under Section 221 of the Penal Code against Chief Obasanjo.”
The plaintiffs claimed that the people of Odi and Zaki Biam towns were murdered in cold blood and that justice would not be done if the perpetrator of the crime was not brought to book.
In the motion on notice, the plaintiffs sought for “An order directing the Inspector-General of Police and/or the Director-General of the State Security Services (SSS) to conduct a thorough, unbiased and non-political investigation into the complaint of culpable homicide punishable with death under Section 221 of the Penal Code against Chief Obasanjo, ex-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (the Accused) in respect of all the persons mentioned in the Schedule A hereunder who were murdered in cold blood in Odi Town, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State on the 20th of November, 1999 and in the Tiv nation on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of October, 2001, under the order, direction or command of the accused person as the then Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and more succinctly stated in the complaint attached to this motion and report back with their findings to this court.”
In the complaints attached to the motion, the plaintiffs claimed that it was Obasanjo who ordered the killing of innocent and harmless citizens of the two communities.
They averred that during the said period, he was also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces which means no deployment of soldiers to any part of the country could take place and no action by the soldiers could be carried out without his consent, directive or command.
They claimed that on or about the 20th of November, 1999, Obasanjo directed Federal troops to invade Odi Town in Kolokuma- I Opokuma, L.G.A of Bayelsa State, and also directed them to kill innocent persons in the town.
The names of some of the victims attached to the motion on notice are; Ikati I. Dekumo, Inumo Teimo, Immanuel Bobo, Iweidila Kumo, Miyebi Kumo, Mieye Abide, Rachael Ebi, Diekumo Edike, Opelengi Gesi and Kirini Diesi Ebi.
Others are; Dierikiko Afangba, Solomon Wari, Kennedy Andy, Ibuondi Sounimi, Harold Bibomo, Tonbra Ebikobowel and Solomon Sonumugha among others.
They stated that the Federal troops, acting under the authority and command of the accused, murdered 88 persons.
In the affidavit deposed to by Keyamo, the radical lawyer said on or about the 20th of November, 1999, Chief Obasanjo directed Federal troops to invade Odi Town in Kolokuma- I Opokuma, L.G.A of Bayelsa State and also directed them to kill innocent persons in the town.
He also averred that “Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on or about the21st October 2001 sent soldiers to the Tiv nation, in particular the towns of Ukum, Zaki-Biam LGA, Katsina-Ala L.G.A and Abako Town in Benue State.
“That the soldiers again murdered innocent and defenseless Nigerians and the fact that it took place for three (3) days showed that it was premeditated.” Attached as Exhibit B is a memorandum submitted by the former Chief of Army Staff, General Victor Malu, CFR, an indigene of the area as to what really happened on those days.
Also in the affidavit, Keyamo averred that, “Due to the immunity then enjoyed by the accused person, Chief Obasanjo, he could not be brought to justice. Since May 29, 2007, he ceased to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and has since lost his immunity from criminal prosecution.
Keyamo held that no Nigerian was above the law and the persons who were murdered in cold blood were free citizens of the country and did not deserve to die anyhow.
“Their blood is crying for justice and only an intervention by the courts can answer their cries. That it will be in the interest of justice to bring the accused to book,” he said.
A letter of complaint written by Lt. Gen. Victor Malu (rtd) in respect of the Zaki Biam massacre was also attached to the motion.