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 cited and included below in Stephen Mills’
testimony, taken from “Testimony of Stephen Mills,
Sierra Club Human Rights and Environment Campaign Director,”
pages 45-54, before the
“House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on
Africa,” July 17, 1996. See PDF
copy of this complete Hearing.
The Note by MOSOP describes the following:
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 resume
operation in Ogoni as well as act as a deterrent to other
The memo appears on pages 55-56, Ibid.
RIVERS STATE INTERNAL SECURITY TASK FORCE, GOVERNMENT HOUSE, PM.
M E M O
TO: HIS EXCELLENCY THE MILITARY ADMINISTRATOR RIVERS STATE
FROM: CHAIRMAN OF THE RIVERS STATE INTERNAL SECURITY (RSIS)
SUBJECT: RSIS OPERATIONS: LAW AND ORDER IN OGONI, ETC
- POLICE IN OGONI REMAIN INEFFECTIVE SINCE 1993.
- SHELL OPERATIONS STILL IMPOSSIBLE UNLESS RUTHLESS
MILITARY OPERATIONS ARE UNDERTAKEN FOR SMOOTH
ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES TO COMMENCE.
- ANWA IBOM AND OPOBO BORDERS INADVISABLE BECAUSE OF
INACCESSIBILITY. ADDED TO DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN
OPOBO/ANDONI MAKING COOPERATION BY THE FORMER
- 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.
- 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
- 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).
FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS (ESTIMATES/FUNDING):
- 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
- OMPADEC STANDS BY AS ARRANGED.
- THE IKWERRE-IJAW-AHOADA (OBAGI) AGENDA FOR SKELETAL
OPERATIONS UNTIL FULL ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES COMMENCE
- SURVEILLANCE ON OGONI LEADERS CONSIDERED AS SECURITY
- PRESENT SSG OBVIOUSLY SENSITIVE (OGBAKOR/IKWERRE
- 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
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
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.
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.
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
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
- 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
Drilling Fields, Multinational
- 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
- Testimony Of Dr. Owens Wiwa Before The
Joint Briefing Of The Congressional Human Rights Caucus And Congressional
- 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 follow:
. . . 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
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
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.
- A full transcript of "The Drilling Fields",
"the 1994 movie that originally blew the lid off the situation in Ogoniland."
- 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
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.