by Leburah Ganago
The payment by Shell, of $15.5 million dollars out of court settlement in the case of the Wiwa family and others vs Shell firmly established the oil company’s culpability in the November 10, 1995 hangings and other extra judicial executions which took place in Ogoni at the height of our struggle in the 1990s. However, what is important to the larger Ogoni community and the rest of the Niger Delta is not the peanut “compensation” which is barely enough to pay for the cost of litigation spanning 13 years, but the vindication of our long held position that Shell is the central figure in our ordeal.
However, Shell executives from Nigeria to Europe in their foolish pride have decided to insult the Ogoni people rather than being sober after being caught red-handed by the law. Shell officials are now saying that the payout is done on “humanitarian” ground. That is to say, Shell is not accepting liability, even after a settlement deal initiated by it. It is not as if we are unfamiliar with this Shell gimmick. Those of us who knew Shell prior to the existence of MOSOP are ever too familiar with its foolish pride. Each time the company is compelled to pay those peanut compensations for oil spills, Shell has always branded those “compensations” ex gratia (a favor), not merit. So Shell has a long tradition of insulting the Ogoni people upon injuring us. But this insult has to stop in our generation.
I do not have to tell us this: despite of all we have gone through and the global vindication we have gotten from the Shell settlement , the company has shown no remorse for its atrocities. This means there is no basis for negotiation/reconciliation talk between Shell and the Ogoni. Those who have already indicated interest in negotiating with Shell should take note.
In any dispute situation the precondition for negotiation is for the parties to the dispute to come clean. However, in the Ogoni situation Shell, the obvious aggressor has refused to come clean. In fact, Shell has not even observed a cease fire. As you read this piece Shell is conducting what the London Guardian of June 9, 2009, aptly dubbed “terror campaigns” in Ogoni, recruiting and arming some misguided youths in the area who routinely engage in an orgy of blood letting, attempting to cow our resistance, so the oil company can walk in to resume oil production.
If Shell has refused to change its dubious business practices in Ogoni for all of 41 years, there is no reason to believe that corporate criminal will ever change. Again, there is no basis for negotiation with Shell by any Ogoni in his right frame of mind.
What this payment settlement (actually admission of culpability by Shell) has done is to affirm our legitimate claims against an implacable enemy. This is not the time to let down our guard. This victory should invigorate us to fight on. Let the flood gate of lawsuits against Shell open. And let me not hear anyone out there inviting Shell for negotiation.