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Kiobel Writ: Shell rewarded notorious Lt Col Paul Okuntimo following excess of violence

In the village of Korokoro the visit by Shell and the troops on 25 October 1993 led to a violent confrontation with the local population.

By John Donovan

The numbered paragraphs below are extracted from the 138 page Esther Kiobel Writ served on multiple Royal Dutch Shell companies on 28 June 2017. More information about the latest litigation, this time in the Dutch Courts, is provided after the extracts.

EXTRACTS FROM ESTHER KIOBEL JUNE 2017 WRIT 

8.2.6 Shell rewarded Okuntimo following excess of violence at Korokoro

209. At the beginning of October 1993 the Rivers State authorities started peace negotiations between the Ogoni and Andoni. Shell and MOSOP were also invited to them, even though Shell was not a party to the agreement.264 Others present were “OMPADEC, the Military, the S.S.S. (State Security Service), the warring parties and Police representatives”.265 To the surprise of Owens Wiwa, who was present on behalf of MOSOP, Paul Okuntimo also joined the talks:

“to our surprise, the surprise of Ken and I, we saw Okuntimo walking with two Shell staff and they sat together at one edge of the table”266

210. The result of the negotiations was a draft peace agreement that included a provision that the economic activities in Ogoniland would resume with immediate effect.267 This controversial passage was one of the reasons why Ken Saro-Wiwa did not initially sign the agreement on behalf of MOSOP. In protest the president of the negotiations, Professor Claude Ake, did not attend the signing either and said of the agreement: “I am amazed that the Peace Agreement was signed without prior consultation with the communities and ratification by them”.268 Eventually Ken Saro Wiwa signed the agreement with the proviso that immediate resumption of the economic activities was non-negotiable for MOSOP and the Ogoni.269

211. A report by Egbert Imomoh, SPDC’s General Manager East (GME), to Philip Watts among others, shows that immediately after the signing of the agreement the Rivers State Government asked SPDC to resume its activities in Ogoniland.270 In part at the request of the regime a meeting then took place with representatives of MOSOP, representatives of the regime and SPDC. At this meeting it was put to MOSOP that SPDC wanted to enter Ogoniland to ensure that its installations were properly sealed and that there were no oil leaks. MOSOP consented to a visit to Ogoniland by Shell for this purpose.271

212. Between 20 and 26 October 1993 Shell then undertook an inspection mission in Ogoniland, under the protection of 26 soldiers led by Paul Okuntimo.272 The real objective of this Joint Patrol by SPDC and the Armed Forces personnel however was not only to monitor the flow stations, but, it follows from an internal SPDC report also to “inspect SPDC oil installation [sic] in Ogoni area”, ”ascertain the type and mode of security needed for SPDC to commence operations”, and “ascertain the possibility of SPDC commencing operations in the area”.273 In short, Shell wants to ascertain if the time is right to return to Ogoniland.

213. The arrangement was a new breach of Shell’s “commitment not to operate with military support, but only with community cooperation and backing”.274 In various places the mission therefore encountered resistance.

214. In the village of Korokoro the visit by Shell and the troops on 25 October 1993 led to a violent confrontation with the local population.275 One villager, Uebari N-Nah, is shot and two villagers were seriously injured.276 James N-Nah, the brother of one of the victims who died, testified in the American proceedings that Okuntimo entered the village aggressively and returned to Korokoro the day after the murder to arrest and detain him and other villagers.277 The documentary The Drilling Fields (exhibit 249) shows footage of the funeral of N-Nah and interviews with victims.278

215. An internal Shell memo entitled “Honourarium for Armed Forces Personnel on Special Assignment” shows that some months after the incident, on 25 February 1994, Okuntimo’s team was paid an additional allowance for its action “as a show of gratitude and motivation for a sustained favourable disposition towards SPDC in future assignments”.279 This payment was made by Osazee Osunde, who was present on behalf of Shell during the visit to Korokoro, and authorised by George Ukpong.280 According to Shell, the decision to pay was made “after repeated harassment from Major Okuntimo”.281 According to his own statement, Osunde took the money personally to Bori Camp, Okuntimo’s army camp.282 The persons concerned were also treated to lunch, as can be seen from the memo:

“arrange to prepare advance on company business from entertaining 26 armed forces personnel for lunch at the restaurant of their choice for the cost of 20,000 naira only. Also prepare normal special duty allowance for 26 men for 5 days work at the rate of 80 naira only per day”.283

216. Although Shell has admitted that the payment was made to Okuntimo, it has always denied that villagers were killed or wounded during the incident in Korokoro. According to Shell and Okuntimo, thanks to decisive action by Okuntimo and his men there were no fatalities on either side. Osunde however subsequently stated in the American Kiobel case that the troops were first attacked by the young people fromKorokoro and that three of Okuntimo’s men were killed in the process.284 Following intimidation by Okuntimo he would not however have included these murders in his report of the incident.285

217. To wit, no independent investigation into the incident has been conducted. The fact is that Shell’s (pecuniary) allowance was granted to all 26 soldiers involved in the Korokoro incident.286 There appears to be no mention therefore of the death of three of the soldiers mentioned by Osunde. What is clear is that Shell wanted to ensure itself of the support of Okuntimo’s military unit, a unit that would play a major role in Operation Restore Order in Ogoniland, in the future as well.

EXTRACTS END

Footnotes

264 Exhibit 83: Shell Inter-office Memorandum from E.U. Imonoh, 8 November 1993.

265 Shell Inter-office Memorandum from E.U. Imonoh, 8 November 1993 (exhibit 83).

266 Exhibit 63: Public Deposition Owens Wiwa, Vol. II, 24 May 2004, p. 388. One of the two Shell employees according to Wiwa was Precious Omuku.

267 Richard Boele/UNPO, Report of the UNPO Mission to Investigate the Situation of the Ogoni of Nigeria, 1995 (exhibit 228), p. 25: “immediate resumption of all full economic and social activities within Ogoni and Andoni areas”.

268 Ibid., p. 25. Ake wrote this in a letter to Rufus Ada George, the Governor of Rivers State, see also the footage of the sittings of the Oputa Panel where Ledum Mitee read from this letter (exhibit 253), Oputa Panel Video 2, Ogoni Speech, van 44:10 – 51:54.

269 Richard Boele/UNPO, Report of the UNPO Mission to Investigate the Situation of the Ogoni of Nigeria, 1995, (exhibit 228), p. 25.

270 Exhibit 78: Report from Imomoh to Philip Watts, 26 October 1993; exhibit 79: Shell Communication about Korokoro, 25 December 1995; exhibit 30: Public Deposition Egbert Imomoh, Vol. I, 17 June 2003, p. 69. In his writing to Philip Watts, 26 oktober 1993 (exhibit 78) Imomoh stated: “In response to the Rivers State Government’s call for SPDC to resume oil operations in the Ogoni fields, a joint inspection team comprising representatives of law inforcement agencies (24 armed personnel) and SPDC was set up”, The Shell communication about Korokoro states: “The civilian Governor of River State asked Shell to resume operations in Ogoniland October 1993, following the signing of the Ogoni/Andoni accord after ethnic clashes that left many dead and many more homeless.”

271 Public Deposition Osazee Osunde, 22 October 2003 (exhibit 53), p. 57-59: “the assurances we were able to get that day was that SPDC could go back to closing, to shut the stations down properly”.

272 Exhibit 86: Inter Office Memo from Osazee Osunde, 25 February 1994.

273 Exhibit 80: SPDC Report on the Joint Location Visit by SPDC and Armed Forces Personnel to Ogoni Area Oil Fields.

274 Shell, Nigeria Brief: Ogoni and the Niger Delta, 1996 (exhibit 166), p. 10.

275 Shell said that the reason for the visit was the confiscation of two fire engines by the local population, following a false fire alarm two days before. This version was contradicted in the American Kiobel case by the plaintiffs. According to them the visit would have been unannounced.

276 Public Deposition James B. N-Nah, 16 October 2003 (exhibit 44), pp. 37-56, 57-61, 67-69, 89. Documentary The Drilling Fields (exhibit 249), 40:00 – 40:40. Paul Sunday, who was seriously wounded, was interviewed in this documentary (39:30-39:50). According to N-Nah a second villager later died of his injuries.

277 Public Deposition James B. N-Nah, (exhibit 44), pp. 18-19, 40-41, 46-47, 92.

278 Documentary The Drilling Fields (exhibit Fout! Verwijzingsbron niet gevonden.), 39:30-41:00.

279 Inter Office Memo from Osazee Osunde, 25 February 1994 (exhibit 86). See also Public Deposition Osazee Osunde, 22 October 2003 (exhibit 53), pp. 164-167.

280 Public Deposition Osazee Osunde, (exhibit 53), p. 164-166; Public Deposition George Akpan Ukpong (exhibt 57), p. 84..

281 Exhibit 31: Public Deposition Egbert Imomoh, vol. II, 2 February 2004, p. 302; See also Shell Communication about Korokoro, 25 December 1995 (exhibit 79).

282 Public Deposition Osazee Osunde, 22 October 2003 (exhibit 53), pp. 164-166.

283 Inter Office Memo from Osazee Osunde, 25 February 1994 (exhibit 86); at the time of the abuses in Ogoniland the average salary in Nigeria was 700 naira per month and the exchange rate with the dollar 22-1, Human Rights Watch 1995 (exhibit 222), pp. 11-13, footnote 66.

284 Public Deposition Osazee Osunde, 22 October 2003 (exhibit 53), pp. 98-101.

285 Public Deposition Osazee Osunde, 22 October 2003 (exhibit 53), pp. 109-113.

286 Inter-office Memo Osazee Osunde (exhibit Fout! Verwijzingsbron niet gevonden.), 25 February 1994.

Footnotes end

At the time of all of these horrific events in Nigeria, orchestrated by Shell to a large degree, Shell claimed that it was operating within its core business principles, including honesty, integrity, openness and respect for people. 

FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THE WRIT

The numbered paragraphs above 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.

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. (*See Writ of Summons in English and Dutch served on Shell 28 June 2017 – copy obtained from US Pacer public electronic court records)

Shell blanket denial: Shell’s blanket denial of any responsibility for the ‘Ogoni Nine’ executions and related events/allegations can be read here. The denial does not explain why Shell settled for $15.5 million in June 2009 a case legally and substantively the same.

The Guardian: Shell pays out $15.5m over Saro-Wiwa killing: 9 June 2009

Shell to Pay $15.5 Million to Settle Nigerian Case: The New York Times: 8 June 2009

Shell, Nigerian families settle suit for $15.5 million: Reuters: 8 June 2009

Shell to pay $15.5 million to settle Nigeria claims: CNN: 8 June 2009

Shell Settles Human Rights Suit for $15.5 Million: Fox News/AssociatedPress: 8 June 2009

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