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Nigeria government ordered to pay US$240 million for 1999 local massacre

The Nigerian federal government this week was ordered to pay nearly US$240 million to the community of Odi, which was raided by the military in 1999. Justice Lambo Akanbi of the Federal High Court [official website] ruled against the government [UPI report], describing the army's invasion as genocidal and as a violation of the residents' human rights. In November 1999 former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo [BBC profile] ordered the invasion that left hundreds dead in the 15,000-resident town after a group in the community had kidnapped six police officers. The judge dismissed claims about the troops' mission made earlier by counsel to current Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan [BBC profile], stating that the president recently acknowledged publicly that the victims were not militants, but innocent members of the community. The government was represented in the trial by Nigeria's attorney general Nkolika Awa, who stated afterward that he was not overly concerned with the verdict, probably because it implicates not the government but that of ex-president Obasanjo, who has been an outspoken critic of President Jonathan. The government has 21 days to comply with the court's order.

Nigerian citizens are still confronted with threats of violence over a decade after the military raid of Odi. In November 2012 the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) [official website] of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [JURIST backgrounder] accused a group of Islamist radicals [JURIST report] of committing crimes against humanity in Nigeria. Boko Haram, which means "Western education is a sin," has publicly claimed responsibility for several attacks, including church bombings [AFP report] on December 25 that killed approximately 40 people in 2011. In January UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged Nigerian leaders from all sectors of society to make a concerted effort to stop the sectarian violence [JURIST report]. Additionally, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] has previously expressed concern [JURIST report] over acts of ethnic violence by Boko Haram. Specifically the OHCHR described the group's bombing of a UN building in Nigeria [VOA report] in August 2011 as "cowardly." At least 18 people were killed in the attack.

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