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Testimony of Dr. Owens Wiwa

Before the Joint Briefing of the
United States Congressional Human Rights Caucus
and Congressional Black Caucus

January 30, 1996

Honorable Members of Congress, Members of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, thank you very allowing me to speak to you today. The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) wishes to thank you for offering it the opportunity to address all of you.

MOSOP speaks on behalf of the Ogoni people, it's environment and dignity. MOSOP is a democratic, non-violent, grassroots movement committed to the environmental, economic and cultural rights of the Ogoni.

On January 4, 1993, Ken Saro-Wiwa led 300,000 Ogoni people in peaceful protest for environmental justice, and for the dignity of the Ogoni people. The non-violent nature of the march signified the quality of leadership of Ken Saro-Wiwa and MOSOP. On February 16, 1993, Shell International in their offices in London and the Hague made a decision on Ken Saro-Wiwa, to "effectively monitor his movements, what he says and to whom, to avoid unpleasant surprises that would adversely affect the reputation of the [Shell] group as a whole."

I will first tell you of my personal experiences with Shell. In April of 1995, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Lord Mansfield, arranged a meeting, at my request, between Mr. Brian Anderson, Chairman and Managing Director of Shell Nigeria, and myself. I asked Mr. Anderson if he would use his influence to stop the trial of my brother, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and his eight colleagues, and free Ken so that negotiations could start between Shell and the Ogoni people.

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. I said how can I do that? Do you mean that I should tell the world that what we have been saying since 1990 is a lie?

Nevertheless, I wrote to communicate this to Ken and the others. They too rejected this request. Their fate was sealed because they would not stray from the path of truth.

On November 10, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other colleagues were hanged for a crime committed by agent provocateurs of the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force: a task force funded by Shell. Three days after the executions, Shell rewarded the Abacha regime by recommitting themselves to the $4 billion gas project which international protests had forced the World Bank to drop its funding for.

The only crime which Ken and our colleagues had committed was to demand good environmental practice, and to ask for compensation for the environmental devastation of Ogoni territories.

The 500,000 Ogoni live on their own land: 404 square miles in the North East of the Niger Delta.

In 1958 Shell discovered oil in Ogoni. Since then an estimated 900 million barrels of oil and a very large amount of gas has been extracted from Ogoni territory. In return, the Ogoni people have received a devastated environment and death for those who challenge this injustice.

The root of the Ogoni cause lies in the devastation of the Ogoni environment. In this small area there are eight oil fields, and over one hundred oil wells, a mass of oil pipe lines, and four flow stations. Large areas of land have been permanently destroyed as a result of oil blowouts, and contamination by spillage.

Over 35 years, the effects of seismic surveys using explosives, and of gas flaring in very close proximity to human habitation, has destroyed our homes and seriously impaired the health of our people. High pressure pipe lines cris-cross the surface of our farmland and cut through our villages. The danger from these pipes, often corroded and under great pressure, is immense. Pipe lines regularly explode.

Shell has turned Ogoni into a wasteland. It is not just the land which is affected: our water supply, our creeks and our streams are continually polluted. The very air we breathe has been poisoned -- the atmosphere is charged with Hydro-Carbon vapors, Methane, Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxides, Sulphurous Oxides and Soot, emitted by gas which has been flared 24 hours a day for 35 years.

Because the Ogoni have dared to stand up, complain and fight against this nightmare in their lands, they have been subjected to systematic human-rights abuses, including judicial and extra-judicial murder of Ogoni men, women and children. Over 2000 people have been killed; 27 villages destroyed; and our people are suffering rape, torture, and detention at the hand of the security forces. Educated, articulate and talented Ogonis are in exile, and our activists are pursued, and our people persecuted. In all this the illegal military dictatorship has the active support of Shell.

For years MOSOP has known that Shell has been supplying arms to the Nigerian security forces. Now we have proof. Two days ago Shell admitted to the London Observer that they have indeed purchased weapons for the Nigerian security agents. Over 2,000 of our Ogoni people have died since we began our protests against the environmental devastation wreaked on our land by Shell. Agents of the Nigerian security forces repeatedly attacked our villages. Now, we know that Shell itself has supplied arms to, and paid, these murderers.

Moreover, Shell has been, and is still involved in influencing and supporting the outcome of an illegal military tribunal which hanged my brother Ken and eight other Ogonis under false murder charges. Two witnesses at my brother's fraudulent trial have signed sworn affidavits that they were bribed by officials of the military and Shell to give false testimony to incriminate my brother.

More frightening is the fact that the same tribunal is about to begin trying 19 more Ogoni activists for the same crime, using the same judge, and the same witness that hanged my brother. This trial must be stopped.

The Ogoni are not giving up. On January 4 of this year, more than 100,000 Ogoni gathered peacefully to mourn the passing of our leaders, and to show our resolve in the face of the evil alliance between Shell and the Nigerian military. All the people were wearing black. In response, the military killed 6 people and injured many more.

Ogoni, and all of Nigeria needs your help. Shell produces half the oil in Nigeria, and oil money is the only thing that keeps the military in power. Americans are the largest consumer of Nigerian oil, but Nigerian oil represents just 3.5 percent of America's total oil consumption. It is both economically possible and morally imperative that America respond to the persecution by instituting an embargo on Nigeria's oil. This is important not only for Ogoni, but for all Nigerians who are suffering under the brutal regime of General Sani Abacha

The decisions which you make today after this briefing may change the double standards of one of the world's biggest multinational corporations, and divert them from their path of environmental devastation, a path which has led them to support corrupt practices, military dictatorship, the suppression of human rights, the flouting of the rule of law, murder and finally the genocide of the Ogoni people. You would vigorously oppose such practices in America: I am asking for your help to put an end to these practices in Ogoni, in Nigeria, my homeland in Africa.

In conclusion, the Ogoni people respectfully request the following of Representatives of the people of the United States of America, to:

Thank you very much for your time. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Biography of Dr. Owens Wiwa

Dr. Owens Wiwa is the brother of the late Nigerian writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). Saro-Wiwa was executed by the Nigerian military government on November 10, 1995. Owens Wiwa, a medical doctor and a human rights activist, escaped from Nigeria a few days after his brother's execution. In his medical practice, Dr. Wiwa has been a resident in hospitals in Port Harcourt, in Rivers State, and Bori and Taaban, in Ogoni. In 1990 he established two private rural health centers in Ogoni to care for the needs of the Ogoni People. In so doing he treated hundreds of Ogoni men, women and children injured as a result of the ongoing military repression in Ogoni.

As a political activist, Dr. Wiwa has documented human rights abuses perpetrated upon the Ogoni by the Nigerian Army, as well as environmentally-related diseases among the Ogoni. He is a member of the Steering Committee of MOSOP and has held other posts in the Ogoni movement, including the chairmanships of the Ogoni Health and Social Welfare Committee and the Ogoni Relief and Rehabilitation Committee.

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