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The struggle of the Ogoni People and the murder of
nine Nigerian political dissidents including Ken Saro-Wiwa
Given that SHELL was #1 -- "top of the list" -- of the Multinational Monitor's Shameless: 1995's 10 Worst Corporations (12/95), we wanted to include a selection of the more exemplary information sources about the actual conditions of life for Nigeria's Ogoni people and the murder of nine Nigerian political dissidents on November 10, 1995 -- Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Barinem Kiobel, Paul Levura, Nordu Eawo, Felix Nuate, Daniel Gbokoo, John Kpuinen and Baribor Bera -- by the military government supported by Shell.
A playwright and environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa was the President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), a volunteer-based democratic organization. MOSOP was organized as a response to the environmental devastation which has occurred in Ogoni as a result of 38 years of oil exploitation. Ogoni demands include an end to the pollution caused primarily by the oil spills and gas flares of Royal/Dutch Shell. The Ogoni are also demanding a share of the oil revenues from their land.
Since Shell is a subordinate legal fiction, and thus incapable of ANY ethical or moral basis, it hides behind the facade of such newspeak as, "Shell Oil Company, the U.S. operating company in the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies, has no operations, employees or investments in Nigeria". On the one hand Shell is the "the U.S. operating company in the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies" -- in other words, `we are part of Royal Dutch/Shell'. On the other hand `we don't have any operations, employees or investments in Nigeria'. George Orwell's Big Brother would be proud of Shell.
Another common tactic Shell Nigeria employed is to paint things as being so complex that, for you and i, it is virtually impossible to understand: "Nigeria is a vast and complex society. The problems it faces are difficult and enormously complicated. Effective solutions will be neither simple nor straightforward." "Solutions" certainly won't be straightforward as long as corpses such as Shell continue to exist -- corpses whose only purpose is to line the wallets of its managers and keep the stockholders profitably happy.
One of the most damning sources revealing Shell's bald-faced lies and supreme treachery is the secret Nigerian government memo, dated May 12, 1994 (see http://www.sierraclub.org/human-rights/Nigeria/background/memo.asp ) cited and included below in Stephen Mills' testimony -- which the accompanying Note by MOSOP describes in the following manner:This secret govt. memo, obtained two days ago, forms the basis of the present military operation in Ogoni. It vindicates MOSOP's position that the Ogoni crisis is contrived by the govt. and Shell to provide an opportunity for the military crackdown to enable Shell to resume operations in Ogoni as well as act as a deterrent to other oil-producing communities.This memo was written by the Chairman of the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force to "His Excellency The Military Administrator Rivers State" (RSIS) on the subject of "RSIS OPERATIONS: LAW AND ORDER IN OGONI, ETC"OBSERVATIONS:
- POLICE IN OGONI REMAIN INEFFECTIVE SINCE 1993.
- SHELL OPERATIONS STILL IMPOSSIBLE UNLESS RUTHLESS MILITARY OPERATIONS ARE UNDERTAKEN FOR SMOOTH ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES TO COMMENCE.
- WA IBOM AND OPOBO BORDERS INADVISABLE BECAUSE OF INACCESSIBILITY. ADDED TO DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN OPOBO/ANDONI MAKING COOPERATION BY THE FORMER UNREALISABLE.
- DIVISION BETWEEN THE ELITIST OGONI LEADERSHIP EXISTS.
- EITHER BLOC LEADERSHIP LACKS ADEQUATE INFLUENCE TO DEFY NYCOP DECISIVE RESISTANCE TO OIL PRODUCTION UNLESS REPARATION OF 400 MILLION DOLLARS PAID WITH ARREARS OF INTEREST TO MOSOP AND KEN SARO-WIWA.
FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS (ESTIMATES/FUNDING):
- INTRA-COMMUNAL/KINGDOM FORMULAE ALTERNATIVE AS DISCUSSED TO APPLY.
- WASTING OPERATIONS DURING MOSOP AND OTHER GATERINGS MAKING CONSTANT MILITARY PRESENCE JUSTIFIABLE.
- WASTING TARGETS CUTTING ACROSS COMMUNITIES AND LEADERSHIP CADRES ESPECIALLY VOCAL INDIVIDUALS IN VARIOUS GROUPS.
- DEPLOYMENT OF 400 MILITARY PERSONNEL (OFFICERS AND MEN).
- NEW CHECKPOINTS SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT FROM OPERATION ORDER NO. 4/94 DATED 21/4/94 BY COMMISSIONER OF POLICE RIVERS STATE COMMAND.
- DIRECT DAILY REPORT TO MILAD.
- WASTING OPERATIONS COUPLED WITH PSYCHOLOGICAL TACTICS OF DISPLACEMENT/WASTING AS NOTED ABOVE.
- PRESS MONITOR AND LOBBY.
- RESTRICTION OF UNAUTHORISED VISITORS ESPECIALLY THOSE FROM EUROPE TO THE OGONI.
- MONTHLY PRESS PRIEFING BY CHAIRMAN, RIVERS STATE INTERNAL SECURITY (RSIS).
- INITIAL DISBURSEMENT OF 50 MILLION NAIRA AS ADVANCED ALLOWANCES TO OFFICERS AND MEN AND FOR LOGISTICS TO COMMENCE OPERATIONS WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT AS AGREED.
- ECOMOG ALLOWANCE RATES APPLICABLE AS EARLIER DISCUSSED.
- PRESSURE ON OIL COMPANIES FOR PROMPT REGULAR IMPUTS AS DISCUSSED.
- OMPADEC STANDS BY AS ARRANGED.
- THE IKWERRE-IJAW-AHOADA (OBAGI) AGENDA FOR SKELETAL OPERATIONS UNTIL FULL ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES COMMENCE IN OGONI.
- SURVEILLANCE ON OGONI LEADERS CONSIDERED AS SECURITY RISKS/MOSOP PROPELLERS.
- PRESENT SSG OBVIOUSLY SENSITIVE (OGBAKOR/IKWERRE CONNECTION).
- MOSIEND AND MORETO IN IJAWS TERRITORY AS TARGETS FOR CLAMP DOWN.
- MODIFICATIONS OF PROGRAMME CONTINUOUSLY.
- RUTHLESS OPERATIONS AND HIGH LEVEL AUTHORITY FOR THE TASK FORCE EFFECTIVENESS.
- DIRECT SUPERVISION BY MILAD TO AVOID UNRULY INTERFERENCE BY OTHER SUPERIOR OFFICERS.
- RSIS INDEPENDENCE NECESSARY DESPITE SOME MOPOL INPUTS.So according to the Chairman of the RSIS Task Force, Shell operations are impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth economic activities to commence. Here we have a corpse arming a government to brutally repress and terrorize its people so the corpse can extract whatever raw materials it wants from the land. As Professor Claude Ake has written on this subject (link to "Shelling Nigeria Ablaze" below):
It is indicative of Shell's privatisation of the state and its prerogatives that it buys substantial quantities of firearms through open tender for its own use. This day of Friday, December 22, 1995 reports a case before a Lagos High Court in which an arms dealer, Humanitex Nigeria Limited, sued Shell Nigeria for N100 million (?) for a breach of contract in seeking to open again for bidding an arms supply contract which Shell awarded in 1993. In a 17-paragraph affidavit sworn by the chief executive of the company, Gabriel Akinluyi, the company says that Shell was making the purchase to update the firearms of its security forces across the country. We see here the bizarre and frightening novelty of accumulation of terror. I call for an independent inquiry into the acquisition and use of firearms by Shell.Professor Ake also includes the January 28, 1996 article from the The London Observer where it was reported that "Multinational oil giant Shell has admitted importing weapons into Nigeria to help arm the police". Shell's claims that "the problems [Nigeria] faces are difficult and enormously complicated" are only true as far as the violence Shell promotes, supports, and, profits by are concerned. If such a catalyst for violence did not exist in Nigeria, its "problems" would have a much more human scale to them.
These tendencies have been replayed in Ogoniland on an extended scale with more tragic consequences. By all indications, there is worse to come. Shell remains unrepentant and belligerent. At the same time, consciousness and resentment [grow ?] in the oil-producing communities as the events of January 4, 1996 [Ogoni Day] showed. Ogoniland is unbowed. Unless something gives there will be more strife and they will be far more catastrophic.
What is at issue is nothing less than the viability of Nigeria, as oil is the real power and the stuff of politics in Nigeria as well as what holds the country in a fragile dialectical unity of self-seeking. It is time to call Shell to order and to account.
Ken Wiwa, Ken Saro-Wiwa's son, spoke at Amnesty International's Press Awards 1996 ceremony (6/19/96). Speaking with One World News Service, Ken made the following observation of his own:There are glaring incosistencies in Shell's public statements and private actions. . . . This is the most obvious case of a multinational exploiting resources against the wishes of indigenous peoples. For that reason people feel that if we lose this one it would be a setback to campaigns against multinationals all over the world. For this reason Shell mustn't be allowed to get away with it.Wanda Ballentine writes about the authoritarian, hierarchical nature of corspses in What about the corporate "good guys?":Corporations are dictatorships. There is nothing democratic about them -- people don't learn about living in a democratic society in a corporation. All orders go from the top down. No employee has any legal standing or role in decision-making. The top officials have no accountability to employees, consumers, or communities, and even the stockholders are losing ground.It is essential to keep this fact in mind, whether one is actively involved in spreading the word about the Shell boycott or engaged in any other endeavor to "remove obstacles to citizen control of the corporation" as well as to "reinstate provisions such as those (enumerated in REHW #488) once governing corporations, and add others that are particularly suited to our times." (Jane Anne Morris writing in REHW #489)
As an information resource, we include below a selection of links relevant to Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni People, and their struggle. May their struggle and ours be joined with an ever-renewed vigor and creativity to reclaim the structures of governance so that around our planet we all participate, in our own locales, as we the people, in voluntary association, come together to form a government to govern ourselves.
- Complete Ken Saro-Wiwa Statement To Ogoni Civil Disturbances Tribunal, 9/25/95
- Excerpts from a statement Ken Saro-Wiwa was prevented from reading out in court towards the end of his trial before the Military Tribunal that sentenced him to death on October 31, 1995
- Letter from Ken Saro-Wiwa's jail cell:
The men who ordain and supervise this show of shame, this tragic charade, are frightened by the Word, the power of ideas, the power of the pen; by the demands of social justice and the rights of man. Nor do they have a sense of history. They are so scared of the power of the Word that they do not read. And that is their funeral.
- Ken Saro-Wiwa: 1995 Goldman Environmental Prize Recipient
- Nigeria's Drilling Fields, Multinational Monitor, January/February 1995
- Nigerians working for environmental justice and corporate accountability:
- ALL FOR SHELL - The Ogoni Struggle
A Project Underground Report Researched and written by Andrew Rowell and Stephen Kretzmann Initial Research by Lowenstein Nigeria Project, Yale Law School. First Edition November 1, 1996, Last updated March 4, 1997
- Sierra Club--Ken Saro-Wiwa: a few links and some excerpts
- Testimony Of Dr. Owens Wiwa Before The Joint Briefing Of The Congressional Human Rights Caucus And Congressional Black Caucus
- Shell ignored Nigeria pollution, ex-manager says
- Testimony of Stephen Mills, Sierra Club Human Rights and Environment Campaign Director, before the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, July 17, 1996. Excerpts are included below.
". . . The Sierra Club has come to believe that a boycott of Shell Oil and an embargo of Nigerian oil exports are the best way to stop the environmental and human rights abuses in Nigeria. The participation in, and endorsement of, boycotts is a rarity for the Sierra Club. But despite repeated meetings, letters and pleas, Shell International continues to deny any complicity in the persecution of the Ogoni people. Though their pollution and poisoning of Ogoni is well documented, Shell continues to refuse to accept responsibility. . . .
Since 1958, Royal/Dutch Shell has extracted some $30 billion worth of oil from the lands of the Ogoni people. While royalties from these sales fill the coffers of the Nigerian military, the rich farmland of Ogoni has been laid waste by oil spills and the venting of toxic gases. Meanwhile, the Ogoni lack running water, electricity, adequate schools or healthcare.
Even though Nigeria accounts for some 14 percent of Shell's production, between 1982 and 1992, nearly 40 percent of the company's oil spills have occurred there. Shell's high-pressure pipelines were constructed above ground through villages and crisscross over land that was once used for agricultural purposes, rendering it economically useless. Many pipelines pass within a few feet of Ogoni homes. In one case a Shell subcontractor destroyed a village hospital to make way for pipelines. Six years later all that remains is the framework of a new hospital the community was promised.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature in the U.K., 76 percent of the natural gas pumped up with crude in Nigeria is burned off, compared with .6 percent in the United States. A World Wildlife Fund study also revealed that gas flares in Nigeria emit 34 million tons of carbon dioxide and 12 million tons of methane, making petroleum operations in Nigeria one of the world's largest contributors to global warming. Gas flaring in Ogoni villages has destroyed wildlife, plant life, poisoned the air and water, and left residents half-deaf and prone to respiratory diseases. According to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the nearly four decades of oil extraction in the Niger Delta, home to coastal rain forest and mangrove habitat -- has left it the most endangered river delta in the world.
In May, many of the claims of environmentalists against Shell were vindicated. Bopp van Dessel, Shell's former head of environmental studies revealed in a British television interview that the company broke its own rules and international standards and failed to respond to his warnings. "Wherever I went I could see that Shell were not operating their facilities properly," Van Dessel said. "They were not meeting their own standards, they were not meeting international standards. Any Shell site that I saw was polluted. Any terminal that I saw was polluted."
It was in response to this exploitation, that in 1990 Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders formed the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. On January 4, 1993, Saro-Wiwa drew international attention to their cause by leading a peaceful protest march of 300,000 people through Ogoniland. Again, that was 300,000 people in a community of 500,000. Their resistance has been met with repression. In May 1994, the Nigerian Internal Security Task Force attacked, and virtually destroyed, over 30 Ogoni villages, killing more than 100 people and arresting hundreds more. In the years since MOSOP was founded, more than 1000 Ogoni have been killed during clashes with the Nigerian military police. The Ogoni are a peaceful people. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no protest-related deaths of any person associated with Shell or the Nigerian military.
An internal memo obtained by MOSOP later revealed that the military government had in fact decided to escalate its efforts against the community. A May 5 memo written by Major Paul Okuntimo, head of the regional arm of the military, the Rivers State Internal Security Force, warned of what was to come:
Shell operations still impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth economic activities to commence... Recommendations: Wasting operations during MOSOP and other gatherings making constant military presence justifiable. Wasting targets cutting across communities and leadership cadres especially vocal individuals of various groups.
The full text of the memo is attached to my testimony.
Shell's general manager in Nigeria Nnaemeeka Achebe, told Harper's magazine in June that "[f]or a commercial company trying to make investments, you need a stable environment. Dictatorships can give you that."
The Sierra Club believes that Shell should feel considerable responsibility for the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni activists. Shell's massive pollution, repeated denial of responsibility for it, its refusal to clean up the Ogoni territory, and its appeals to the Nigerian military to silence the protestors is what incited the civil unrest.
More than ninety percent of Nigeria's foreign revenue comes from oil exports. Nearly 50% of this oil is exported to the U.S.. Americans are the largest consumers of Nigerian oil. Yet, Nigerian oil represents only 3.5 percent of America's total oil consumption. It is both economically possible and morally imperative that we stop our consumption of the oil that fuels the current regime. Shell makes approximately $200 million a year in profits from Nigeria and has begun work on a $4 billion natural gas joint venture with the military regime. An international embargo on Nigerian oil would hurt the country's generals -- who pocket most of the country's $10 billion oil revenue. A boycott would hold Shell accountable for its environmental abuses and tolerance of injustice.
On January 30th of this year, Dr. Owens Wiwa, brother of Ken Saro-Wiwa, testified before a joint briefing of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus. Dr. Wiwa told of an April 1995 meeting with Brian Anderson, Chairman and Managing Director of Shell Nigeria. Dr. Wiwa asked Mr. Anderson if he would use his influence to stop the trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight colleagues, and free Ken so that negotiations could start between Shell and the Ogoni people.
According to Dr. Wiwa, Mr. Anderson replied that this would be "difficult but not impossible". However, in return for Shell's help, he would require a press release from MOSOP saying that there was no environmental devastation as a result of Shell's activities in Ogoniland. The Ogoni rejected this offer.
Nine days after the Ogoni were executed, the Sierra Club Board of Directors voted to support an embargo of Nigerian oil and a consumer boycott of Shell products until such time as the company has cleaned up the pollution it has caused in Nigeria, agreed to conform to U.S. standards while operating in Nigeria, and paid compensation to the peoples adversely affected by their activities. The Sierra Club is calling on the United States government and all other governments around the world to impose economic sanctions against the military government of Nigeria.
We believe that sanctions should be taken against Nigeria and that these sanctions should remain in force until such time as the Abacha government resigns, steps are taken to restore democratic government to Nigeria, and the bodies of the nine Ogoni victims who were executed November 10, 1995, are returned to their families for burial.
- OneWorld News Service - Nigeria: with many of news reports, articles and personal views on the current situation, the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the practices of oil companies:
- A full transcript of "The Drilling Fields", "the 1994 movie that originally blew the lid off the situation in Ogoniland."
- Nigeria - Murder of jailed leader's wife may have been political, 6/7/96:
if the Nigerian government doesn't carry out a through, prompt and impartial investigation of the assassination of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, senior wife of prisoner of conscience Moshood Abiola this will reinforce suspicions the government has been involved in killing its opponents unlawfully. --Amnesty International
- Shelling Nigeria Ablaze, 1/29/96:
"Multinational oil giant Shell has admitted importing weapons into Nigeria to help arm the police. . . . Respected academic Professor Claude Ake has called on the Nigerian government to institute an official inquiry into the matter, while Dr Owens Wiwa, brother of executed human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa has asked the European Commission to help end the practice." --The Ogoni Community Association - UK
- Factsheet on the Ogoni Struggle contains a great deal of information including an incisive section on the contradictions in Shell's response to criticism.
- DELTA News and Background on Ogoni, Shell and Nigeria, Newsletter #2 November 1996
- Greenpeace: 10th November 1996: 1st Anniversary of the Death of Ken Saro-Wiwa
- Violation of human rights in Nigeria
A Poem by Ken Saro-Wiwa,
written after his arrest
in Port Harcourt prison:
Ogoni is the land
The people, Ogoni
The agony of trees dying
In ancestral farmlands
Streams polluted weeping
Filth into murky rivers
It is the poisoned air
Coursing the luckless lungs
Of dying children
Ogoni is the dream
Breaking the looping chain
Around the drooping neck of a shell-shocked land.