[A Personal report from a Workers Solidarity Movement members who spent time last year in Nigeria, these reports are posted to the Ainriail list when first written]
Over the last year sharia, or islamic law, has been introduced to many states in Northern Nigeria. This harsh code has brought about fierce attacks on the rights of women and other marginalised groups who are legally banned from participating in society and face brutal punishments for minor infringements. For example, a woman who rides a bicycle can earn a flogging. Many places where sharia has been introduced have large non-muslim populations, especially christians, and these have been the victims of widespread violence as ethnic militias, organised by the state governments, have attacked their homes and businesses using the excuse of rooting out the evils of alcohol and prostitution. At least 1,500 people were killed in the city of Kaduna alone following sharia, and its introduction has everywhere been followed by waves of refugees fleeing the North.
The oil-rich Niger delta region, in Southern Nigeria, is another repression hotspot. The extraction of oil by multinationals like Shell and Exxon has not benefitted the local inhabitants at all. The revenues, which make up 90% of Nigeria's export earnings, have been swallowed by corrupt governments while the locals' lands have been devestated by oil spills and pipeline explosions. In recent years local people have been fighting back against the oil companies and demanding environmental responsibility and a share of the revenues. Their resistance has earned them vicious repression. The former military regime infamously executed Ken Saro Wiwa and 13 other Ogoni activists for daring to stand up to Shell.
The military government may have gone, but the repression remains. One of the first acts of the civilian government last year was to deploy the military against the town of Odi which had taken up arms against the oil companies. The army razed the entire town to the ground and indiscriminately raped and killed the inhabitants. The message was clear: "oppose the oil companies at your peril". The scale of the violence in the region is enormous: a single clash involving the security forces in November 1999 saw more than 3,000 deaths.
Since the return to democracy, in 1999, there has been an upsurge in ethnic violence and repression. Many Nigerians attribute much of the blame to senior military officers who are plotting to destabilise civilian rule. Oppurtunistic politicians have formed militias to whip up ethnic divisions and secure their grip on power. In Lagos the Yoruba OPC has launched several pogroms against traders from other parts of the country, causing many deaths. In other areas of the country similar racist groups have been created such as the IPC, APC and the 'dreaded' Bakassi boys.
Huge numbers of ordinary Nigerians are clearly the victims of violence and persecution. To deny this is a cruel and cynical lie. To deport refugees back to Nigeria is a terrible crime.
STOP THE DEPORTATIONS!
see also Nigeria, bubblin