By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Central and Western Africa
NIGER DELTA, Nigeria- A U.S. aid worker, Judith Asuni, and two German film makers, Florian Alexander Opitz and Andy Lehmann, have been arrested in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta on charges of “espionage and terrorism.” The German nationals without a government clearance have been filming masked youths from the Ijaw region in the Niger Delta. The Germans were preparing a possible TV documentary about the string of violence in the oil rich region. The Germans were detained last week by the State Security Service.
Judith Asuni has lived in the Niger Delta for 36 years. The United States embassy has released the following statement, “All we know is that Judith Asuni is a peace worker who got funding from academics and international donor agencies to work for peace in Nigeria.” Asuni is in charge of an organization called Academic Associate Peace Work as organization that conducts mediations between the government and militant groups and encourages disarmament In the past, she has organized workshops with the Nigerian police on conflict management.
Asuni was arrested for giving assistance to the German filmmakers. Now all three suspects face accusations of carrying out an act of terrorism against the Nigerian government. Addo Mwazu stated, “The lady is suspected of espionage by exploiting the situation in the Niger Delta.” Other people believe that the arrests were a result of the Nigeria’s fear of the embarrassment following the worldwide release of the documentary.
While members of the government may be uncomfortable with the German filmmaker’s work, Port Harcourt journalist Ibiba Don Pedro believes that these filmmakers “are playing a crucial role in getting information out about the region’s problems.”
The U.S. embassy is presently in touch with Nigerian officials. Meanwhile, Germany’s ambassador to Nigeria has rejected the charges that the Germans are spies and terrorists. German officials insist that the two filmmakers are only journalists.
For more information, please see:
BBC – Nigeria arrests foreign ‘spies’ – 28 September 2007
VOA – American Peace Worker, 2 Germans Detained as ‘Spies’ in Nigeria’s Niger Delta – 29 September 2007
Afriquenligne – Germans arrested in Nigeria are not spies’ – 29 September 2007