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KIOBEL DUTCH WRIT: THE OGONI 9 SHOW TRIAL

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.

THE OGONI 9 SHOW TRIAL

4.1 Introduction

62. In 1994 a large-scale military operation known as “Operation Restore Order in Ogoniland” took place in Ogoniland.62 The aim of this operation was to restore order by breaking the resistance of MOSOP. The regime set up a special paramilitary unit for this that took charge of the military operation, which would last for months and during which crimes against humanity were committed on a large scale. The paramilitary unit, the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force (RSISTF), came under the leadership of Paul Okuntimo, a lieutenant colonel with a notorious reputation and ties to Shell.63

63. As part of “Operation Restore Order in Ogoniland”, 15 Ogoni leaders were arrested in the months following May 1994, including Barinem Kiobel, Baribor Bera, Nordu Eawo and Paul Levula. The arrests followed the murder of four traditional Ogoni leaders at a meeting in Giokoo, a village in Ogoniland. From the outset the regime was clear that it suspected these men of involvement in the murders. More than 18 months later, on 10 November 1995, nine of the fifteen who were arrested, Barinem Kiobel, Ken Saro- Wiwa, Baribor Bera, John Kpuinen, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levula and Felix Nuate, were executed following a trial that came to be known as the Ogoni 9 trial. In the absence of any evidence against the suspects and because of the clearly corrupt nature of the judicial process the international community condemned the executions as judicial murder

64. It soon became clear that multiple human rights had been violated during the trial and the executions that followed it.64 This was later confirmed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which determined that Nigeria violated art. 1, 4 through 7, 9 through 11, 16 and 26 of the African Charter (exhibit 217: African Commission on Human and Peoples rights, Nigeria: International Pen and Others (on behalf of Saro- Wiwa) v Nigeria (2000)).

4.2 Arrests

4.2.1 Kiobel

65. On 19 May 1994 Kiobel was invited by the traditional leader of Giokoo, Gbenemene J.P. Bagia, to attend a meeting at the palace of the Gbenemene in Giokoo on 21 May 1994 as a speaker. Kiobel had at that time just been appointed Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Rivers State, having previously spent a long time living in the United Kingdom. In his early months as Commissioner he repeatedly expressed criticism of the actions of the regime and Shell towards the Ogoni population.

66. When Kiobel arrived in Giokoo at 10.00am on 21 May 1994, the meeting proved not to have started yet, so he returned home. Later that day he sent a motorcyclist to Giokoo to see whether the meeting had started. The motorcyclist told him that he had been unable to reach the palace because the area around it was full of angry young protesters. There was a rumour that Saro-Wiwa had been arrested by the army.

67. Kiobel immediately set off for Giokoo in an effort to calm things down, but the crowd of young people wanted nothing to do with him; stones were thrown at him and he was beaten. He decided to report the incident to the authorities, where he is asked to return to the palace to calm the young people down. Kiobel returned to Giokoo, where he was briefly able to talk to Bagia, but was soon sent away by the young people because he was a “Komo and Abacha agent”. He was forced to take flight. He did not know at this point that four traditional Ogoni leaders – Edward Kobani, Albert Badey, Samuel Orage and Theophilus Orage – had been murdered at the meeting where he was supposed to speak.65

68. The reason for the murders was said to be a schism within MOSOP. From the spring of 1993 disagreement had arisen between Garrick Leton (at that time president of MOSOP) and Saro-Wiwa, including whether they should negotiate with Shell and the regime and whether the forthcoming national elections should be boycotted. Saro-Wiwa had set up new organisations under the umbrella of MOSOP, including the youth movement National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP). According to Leton, Saro-Wiwa was doing this to take over control within MOSOP; he and Edward Kobani then stepped down from the presidency and vice-presidency.66 They were succeeded by Saro-Wiwa and Ledum Mitee, as a result of which a rift emerged in MOSOP between the Leton faction on the one hand and the Saro-Wiwa faction on the other. While it has never been established who committed the murders, the regime responded to the emerging split, in so far as it cannot be held accountable for creating it.67 It was said to be NYCOP members who wanted to settle with their opponents (called ‘vultures’)68 for good on 21 May 1994, urged on by Saro-Wiwa and Kiobel.

69. One day after the murders the Military Administrator of Rivers State, Lt. Col. Dauda Musa Komo, gave a press conference, which was broadcast live on television, to report that the parties guilty of the murder of the four Ogoni leaders were being arrested at that moment. He opened the press conference with a fierce anti-MOSOP speech, in which for example he said the following:

“Ogoni is bleeding and not by federal troops […], but by irresponsible and reckless thuggery of the MOSOP elements which as I’ve said must stop immediately and I therefore call on you to report accurately these events and to stop you being used as propaganda tools conveniently for some dictators like Ken Saro Wiwa”.69

70. Then it was the turn of Alhaji Mohammed Kobani, the brother of the murdered Edward Kobani, to speak. He revealed his injuries and Komo gave him every opportunity to refer to the part that Kiobel was supposed to have played:

“But before the arrival of these people, the commissioner [Kiobel] who were making the arrangements to receive came, you know, and viewed the environment there and left without a word. […] Dr. Barinem Kiobel came back the second time and I […] saw him addressing NYCOP group, there was a shout: “o shobey, hee!” twice like that, then he left.”70

71. Kobani said that there was no intention that Kiobel would be present at the meeting: “So I keep wondering why the commissioner came their twice. I know he is a staunch member of NYCOP. He is a leader of NYCOP”.71 In response to the question from one of the journalists that it seemed on the basis of Kobani’s testimony that “one of your commissioners may have played a leading role in this incident”, Komo said: “I think I’ve made it clear that if anybody is involved, whether he’s a commissioner or not, we’ll arrest him”.72

72. Kiobel was arrested shortly after and was eventually locked up at Bori Camp, the headquarters of Okuntimo’s RSISTF, together with the others under arrest.

73. On 3 June 1994 Kiobel wrote a letter to Komo in which he pleaded his innocence and begged him to order his release. He also asked Komo to withdraw the army from Gokana: “This appeal is made because of indiscriminate shootings, killing of innocent persons including small children, old men and women thus making Gokana desolate.”73 Komo ignored Kiobel’s plea and on 29 July 1994 advised him that he had been relieved of his position as Commissioner.74

EXTRACTS END


Footnotes

65 Exhibit 8: Memorandum Barinem Kiobel, 2 June 1994; exhibit 173: Affidavit Barinem Kiobel in support of motion, application for bail, undated, para. 13.

66 M. Birnbaum, Nigeria Fundamental Rights Denied, Report of the trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Others, June 1995 (exhibit 225), paras. 3.5-3.7..

67 In any event, Shell regards the role of the regime in this light, see exhibit 70: Telex Philip Watts to SIPCand SIPM, 11 May 1993, in which he states: “Politically, it would appear that the government has succeeded in creating a split in the Ogoni solidarity […]. This is yet to be proven”.

68 This term would have an important part to play during the Ogoni 9 trial. It refers to individuals who were under the influence of Shell and the regime. According to MOSOP, most of the witnesses in the Ogoni 9 trial for example were under the influence of Shell and the regime, see chapter 8.6.1.

69 Exhibit 5: Written transcript press conference, 22 May 1994, p. 3 (the file consists of ten pages, numbered: pp. 1-7 and pp. 1-3. This appears on the first page 1); Exhibit 254: Video Press conference 22 May 1994, 5:38 to 6:19.

70 Written transcript press conference, 22 May 1994 (exhibit 5), pp. 5-6; Video Press conference 22 May 1994 (exhibit 254), 10:57 to 11:16, 12:57 to 13:16.

71 Written transcript press conference, 22 May 1994 (exhibit 5), p. 1 (the file consists of ten pages, numbered: pp. 1-7 and pp. 1-3. This appears on the second page 1); Video Press conference 22 May 1994 (exhibit 254), 17:02 to 17:30.

72 Written transcript press conference, 22 May 1994 (exhibit 5), p. 3 (the file consists of ten pages, numbered: pp. 1-7 and pp. 1-3. This appears on the second page 3). Video press conference 22 May 1994 (exhibit 254), 20:45 to 21:02.

73 Exhibit 9: Memorandum Barinem Kiobel, 3 June 1994, p. 2.

74 Exhibit 13: Termination of Appointment, D.M. Komo to Barinem Kiobel, 29 July 1994.

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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