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Kiobel Writ: Ecological warfare by Shell

“The Ogoni took stock of their condition and found that in spite of the stupendous oil and gas wealth of their land, they were extremely poor, had no social amenities, that unemployment was running at over 70 percent, and that they were powerless, as an ethnic community in a country of 100 million people, to do anything to alleviate their condition. Worse, their environment was completely devastated by three decades of reckless oil exploitation or ecological warfare by Shell.”

Kiobel Writ: MOSOP: Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People

By John Donovan

The numbered paragraphs below are extracted from the English translation of a 138 page Writ of Summons served on Royal Dutch Shell companies on 28 June 2017 by Dutch Human Rights law firm Prakken d’Oliveira. They represent four widows including Esther Kiobel who hold Shell liable for the murder of their husbands, individual Ogoni leaders now known collectively as the ‘Ogoni Nine‘. MOSOP Chairman Ken Saro-Wiwa was one of the group. For the purpose of this online publication, the footnotes are indicated in red text.

3.3.2 MOSOP

  1. The dissatisfaction with the serious pollution and the exploitation of Ogoniland without the Ogoni sharing the benefit of it led in 1990 to the setting up of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). MOSOP sought (and continues to seek) social, legal and financial justice for the Ogoni population through peaceful protest against the regime and the oil companies, Shell in particular.
  2. The MOSOP manifesto is set out in the Ogoni Bill of Rights and focuses in particular on greater political autonomy, fair compensation for the use of their land and raw materials by Shell and the regime, and restoration of the damage that has occurred through oil exploitation. MOSOP founder and leader Kenule (“Ken”) Beeson Saro- Wiwa56 set out the reasons for setting up the movement as follows:

    “The Ogoni took stock of their condition and found that in spite of the stupendous oil and gas wealth of their land, they were extremely poor, had no social amenities, that unemployment was running at over 70 percent, and that they were powerless, as an ethnic community in a country of 100 million people, to do anything to alleviate their condition. Worse, their environment was completely devastated by three decades of reckless oil exploitation or ecological warfare by Shell”.57

  3. A highlight of the resistance was a protest march against Shell and the regime organised by MOSOP on 4 January 1993, the day that, as of that moment, comes to be known as Ogoni Day, and is celebrated yearly by the Ogoni. Almost 300,000 Ogoni took part in the march, around 60% of the population of Ogoniland at the time.58 Saro-Wiwa was travelling the world at this point, to draw attention to the fate of the Ogoni, and was embraced by the international community as an environmental and human rights activist.
  4. Despite the international pressure, Shell has never recognised MOSOP as a legitimate representative of the Ogoni. Following the protest in 1993 Shell did decide to suspend its activities in Ogoniland until further notice (although it did return on several occasions thereafter without the consent of the population).59 Shell refused to negotiate with MOSOP about damages and royalties. On the contrary, Shell complained about MOSOP to the military regime,60 publically criticised MOSOP and shielded the regime when the resistance in 1994 and 1995 was put down harshly, in part also at Shells instigation and with its help. Even when the whole world was watching the MOSOP leadership being cleansed by Abacha, Shells support for his regime was unwavering.61 Chapter 8 considers Shell’s role in these developments in greater detail.

Footnotes

56 Saro-Wiwa was initially spokesman and from June 1993 chairman of MOSOP.

57  I. Okonta and O. Douglas, Where vultures feast: Shell, Human Rights and Oil, Sierra Club Books, 2003 (exhibit 242), pp. 116-117.

58 Exhibit 225: M. Birnbaum, Nigeria Fundamental Rights Denied, Report of the trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Others, June 1995, para. 3.4.

59 See chapters 8.2.4, 8.2.5 and 8.2.6.

60 See chapter 8.

61 See chapters 8.3 and 8.4.

Footnotes end

Disclosure: The lead claimant Esther Kiobel, Channa Samkalden of the Dutch human rights law firm Prakken d’Oliveira representing the widows, and the acclaimed human rights organisation Amnesty International, have all acknowledged the involvement of John Donovan in bringing this case.

Shell blanket denial: Shell’s blanket denial of any responsibility for the ‘Ogoni Nine’ executions and related events/allegations can be read here

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