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Stream of Ogoni Refugees Fleeing Nigeria, UNHCR Says

March 26, 1996 GMT

GENEVA (AP) _ A growing stream of men, thought to be followers of the executed Ogoni activist and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, are fleeing Nigeria, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday.

About 800 people, mostly adult men, have left for neighboring Benin since December, the refugee agency said.

``The numbers are not large but the increase has been,″ said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond.

Figures rose from nine in December to 24 in January, 125 at the end of February and now total about 800, Redmond said.

Saro-Wiwa, an opponent of Nigerian military leader Gen. Sani Abacha, headed a group fighting for the rights of the Ogoni minority, which lives in one of Nigeria’s oil-producing areas.

The group has accused oil companies of wrecking Ogoni land and water.

Saro-Wiwa and eight associates were hanged in November for murdering four political opponents. There were widespread claims they were framed because of their challenges to the lucrative oil industry.

Since Gen. Abacha took power in a 1993 coup, opposition groups have been silenced and scores of dissidents have been jailed.