Shell on Earth!

Afristoricals hopes you found the previous articles enlightening – enlightening enough for those African leaders among us to take heed. Sadly, it is almost impossible to write on Africa without exposing the political skulduggery that is rife in the Continent today. Once the full facts are in front of us, only then will we be empowered to confidently challenge those that seek to gag and destroy African people. Only then will we become strong enough to fight the likes of Shell on Earth for a lifetime – if that’s what it takes – in the name of truth, rights and justice for Africans.

Shell have been producing oil in the Niger Delta since 1958 – 51 YEARS!!! The first major blow-out took place 1970 at the Bomu oilfield in Ogoni and continued for 3 weeks. This and other issues directly relating to Shell’s operations in Ogoniland resulted in the Ogoni Chiefs petitioning the local Military Government complaining of Shell’s operations to no avail.

Following years of pollution, turbulence and turmoil in the Niger Delta region, the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) was founded in 1990, to unite all the Ogoni people. Nigerian writer and poet Ken Saro-Wiwa was the first president of MOSOP until he was brutally executed by the Federal Government on 10 November 1995.

In July 1992, Ken Saro-Wiwa addressed the UN Working Group on Indigenous People in Geneva saying, “I speak on behalf of the Ogoni people. You will forgive me if I am somewhat emotional about this matter. I am Ogoni… Petroleum was discovered in Ogoni in 1958 and since then an estimated $100 billion worth of oil and gas has been carted away from Ogoniland. In return for this the Ogoni people have received nothing.”

It is when you look at this perspective it is clear what is meant by true reparations – land ownership for the people (not the government or selected individuals) and strict operating controls for multi-national companies. Repatriate African land and economy, only then will multi-national companies show some respect as they operate in Africa.

Greatness evolves from selflessness and Ken Saro-Wiwa sacrificed his life for the betterment of the Ogoni community. Saro-Wiwa understood the very virtues that shape the Ogoni people.

How sad and shameful a day it was on 9th June 2009, when the Ogoni 10 decided enough was enough, that 13 years of battle with the Anglo-Dutch oil giants, Shell, and the prospect of a further “5 years of appeals” would be too much to bear.

We do not know all the facts behind the stunning submission by Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr. and the 9 Ogoni claimants. The world we live in today is full of allusions – the allusions of wealth, the allusions of equality, the allusions of justice. The mere sum of $15.5million (£9.4m) is small change to Shell and will not dent their profits, their conscience or realise their claims to clean up the environmental disaster they have caused in Ogoniland. Yes, the settlement can change the life of a few, but only for a generation or two.

Ogoniland consists of six kingdoms: Babbe, Eleme, Gokana, Ken-Khana, Nyo-Khana, and Tai. All of these communities have been detrimentally affected by these multi-national companies, including the Omudiogo, the Ogbia, the Igbide, the Izon, the Irri and the Uzure peoples. Shell is not the only multi-national company operating in the Niger Delta region, Chevron Corp are also implicated in this debacle and their standards are not too far behind that of Shell.

The Ogoni are an agricultural and fishing society who live in an area of about 100,000 km², east of Port Harcourt in Rivers State, Nigeria. The true origins of the Ogoni people are not very well-known. One theory is that they migrated into the area from across the Imo River. A second theory is that the Ogoni came in boats from Ghana and settled in the southern part of the area. Believers in this theory point to the name by which most of the Ogoni peoples call themselves (Khana) as a pointer to the Ghana origins of the Ogoni people. This is a clear example, even if relatively recent one, of Africans living in different parts of Africa, but with one common origin.

As with most African peoples, the indigenous Ogoni culture and religion survives today. Ogoniland and its surrounding rivers are very important to Ogoni people. They not only provided enough food, they are also believed to be a god and are worshiped as such. The Ogoni people believe that the soul of every human being has the ability to leave its human form and enter into that of an animal, taking on the shape of that animal. These characteristics show that nature is very important for the Ogoni people.

The settlement may have given the Kiisi Trust Fund some $8.5 million (£5.2m) before legal fees and $700,000 (£400,000) to each plaintiff, but what it certainly has failed to do is ensure the very issues that gave rise to the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa senior, which in turn gave rise to this 13-year long battle against Shell, are redressed, corrected and enforced. Shell will no doubt go back to business as usual.

To watch the son of the great freedom fighter, Ken Saro-Wiwa who was brutally executed in 1995 by the Nigerian military government, state on CNN that “we sought relief as private individuals and not for the Ogoni as a community”, may fill your hearts with dismay and leave feelings of deep offence. Even the reporter seemed to shift uncomfortably, seemingly mystified by this mentality.

If not the son of the brave Ken Saro-Wiwa, then who will pick up the baton and continue the fight against Shell until true justice is served to the Ogoni people? Are future claimants to follow Ken Saro-Wiwa’s son and settle, so Shell can carry on as usual?

This is colonial mentality at its reprehensible best. African mentality recognises the importance of community and how the actions of one individual can affect the community as a whole. This mentality gave birth to the Council of Elders, Age Groups and Family Councils in Africa. This particular decision to settle with Shell may enrich a few in the short term, but will have serious long term repercussions for the Ogoni and surrounding peoples.

The Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR) outlines the demands of the Ogoni people for environmental, social and economic justice. The OBR opposes the revenue allocation formula under which the federal, state and local governments have almost complete power over the distribution of oil revenues. The Ogoni people feel they were not adequately compensated for the take-over of their land by the oil companies and the environmental damages they suffered.

Elizabeth Bast, the international programme director for Friends of the Earth in US said Shell “will be dragged from the boardroom to the courthouse, time and again, until the company addresses the injustices at the root of the Niger Delta crisis and put an end to its environmental devastation”, which sounds good in theory, but when you look at the reality, Shell’s £25,378,000,000 (that’s £25.378 billion!) post-tax profit last year makes the £9.4m settlement look like a drop in the ocean of Shell’s vast financial reserves.

Malcolm Brinded, the head of Shell’s exploration and production unit, must be breathing a huge sigh of relief, preferring to settle rather than have senior Shell executives exposed in court alongside their corrupt government counterparts.

A pattern of regression for Africans in the long term is obvious here. United we stand, divided we fall – each individually divided claim will surely fail in any attempt to change Shell’s operating practices in Africa, as Shell comfortably settles one claim after the other. United together, where claimants do believe they are not just fighting for themselves, but also for their community, would ensure Shell and those military and government officials stand trial in the Supreme Court, resulting in Orders of the Courts being issued to ensure Shell operate ethically and correctly. No settlement can guarantee this.

Shell maintains the allegations that the company played a part in the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa are false and that they are prepared to go to court to clear their name. What a day that would be! Let’s see how Shell shape up.

Since 1990, Shell have used the notorious Mobile Police Force (MPF), known locally as “kill-and-go”, as their personal bodyguards. The MPF raided the Iko people’s protest against Shell destroying 40 homes and displacing 350 people. The Etche at Umuechem suffered up to 80 dead and 500 homes destroyed. Numerous anti-Shell protests took place by the Omudiogo, Ogbia, Igbide, Izon, Irri, Uzure and Ijaw peoples – all sustaining casualties. These tragic events have been repeated time and time again.

Shell departments in London and Nigeria were told to “keep each other more closely informed to ensure the movements of key players, what they say and to whom is more effectively monitored to avoid unpleasant surprises…” in a leaked minutes of meetings – Shell were, in effect, spying on local people.

Shell allegedly paid soldiers from the 2nd Amphibious Brigade, under the control of Major Okuntimo, in October 1993, to “dialogue” with the community. Two Ogoni were wounded and one killed by those soldiers and Shell raised “doubts as to whether any member of the community was shot or wounded”, however Saro-Wiwa’s brother, Owens, who is a doctor, carried out the autopsy.

Amnesty International reported that the Internal Security Task Force, led by Major Okuntimo, were “deliberately terrorising the whole community, assaulting and beating indiscriminately”, in the space of a few short months hundreds of Ogoni were arrested, beaten, intimidated and killed. Both young and old women, even pregnant women, were raped. Thousands fled in terror into the bush as Okuntimo’s soldiers looted hundreds of villages destroying houses in a systematic campaign of terror to “sanitize Ogoni”. According to a detained British environmentalist, Okuntimo told him “he was doing it for Shell… But he was not happy because the last time he had asked Shell to pay his men their out-station allowances he had been refused which was not usual procedure”.

Saro-Wiwa was routinely tortured in prison, put in leg-irons and denied access to family, friends, a lawyer and medication. In January 1995, Saro-Wiwa and four other Ogoni were charged with the murder of four Ogoni leaders, some eight months after being arrested. An affidavit signed by, Charles Danwi, one of two chief prosecution witnesses to the trial, alleged he had been bribed by Shell and others to testify against Saro-Wiwa. The affidavit read “He was told that he would be given a house, a contract from Shell and Ompadec and some money… He was given 30,000 Naira… At a later meeting security agents, government officials and… representatives of Shell and Ompadec were all present”. Shell denied bribing the prosecution witnesses.

On 10 November 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others were executed in defiance of international appeals for leniency.

Just days after the murder, Shell announced it would press ahead with a $3.8 billion liquid natural gas project in Nigeria. Then Brian Anderson, the managing director of Shell Nigeria admitted to the Sunday Times that a “black hole of corruption” existed in Shell’s Nigerian operations. The interview reaffirmed the claim that Major Okuntimo admitted being paid by Shell and that Shell provided vehicles for military operations.

Since 1995, Ogoniland has seen no peace. A report published by Christian Aid stated “Shell claims that it has turned over a new leaf in Nigeria…it still fails to quickly clean up oil spills that ruin villages and runs ‘community development’ projects that are frequently ineffective and which sometimes divide communities living around oilfields… Just as in 1995 and before, Shell presides over a situation in which the violence in the communities around the oilfields, exacerbated by cash payments made by the company, is spiralling out of control.”

Shell on Earth really has a history that truly lives up to its new acronym.

Somehow, Afristoricals believes Saro-Wiwa senior would have wanted Saro-Wiwa junior’s case to go ahead in court.

Nevertheless – such is the situation, one thing we can all do is BOYCOTT SHELL FOREVER!!!

In the trial of 1995, Saro-Wiwa’s closing testimony stated, “I and my colleag

ues are not the only ones on trial. Shell is here on trial and it is as well that it is represented by counsel said to be holding a watching brief. The Company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come and the lessons learnt here may prove useful to it for there is no doubt in my mind that the ecological war that the Company has waged in the Delta will be called to question sooner than later and the crimes of that war be duly punished. The crime of the Company’s dirty wars against the Ogoni people will also be punished.”

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