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Kiobel Writ: Shell and the murderous Abacha regime operated in tandem

Shell paid and maintained part of the Nigerian police force; Shell was prepared to purchase arms for the regime; Shell had puppets in place up to the highest level of the Nigerian government as a result of its revolving door policy, under which former employees of Shell work for the regime and vice versa; Shell maintained a network of informants in Ogoniland in conjunction with the regime. Shell was itself… a direct and active part of (all ranks of) the government apparatus that had to maintain ‘order’ in Ogoniland and to this end violated human rights on a wide scale. Shell’s police force in 1994 numbered more than 1,200 officers… Shell also had 41 marines and 128 MOPOL members… … in total the Shell-operated joint venture employed around 2,470 security staff…

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 Begin

8.4 Shell and the regime operated in tandem

246. Not only did Shell stand at the cradle of the aforementioned excesses by requesting the intervention of MOPOL or the RSISTF again and again, it also factually enabled the regime to do this by providing it with arms, personnel and money. As such, Shell facilitated the excessive actions by the regime, but also fulfilled typical government tasks itself.247. The strong entanglement of Shell and the regime is evident inter alia from the following facts and circumstances, some of which have previously been discussed above:

Shell paid and maintained part of the Nigerian police force.

Shell was prepared to purchase arms for the regime.

Shell provided the regime with crucial information about community disturbances, such as the locations of demonstrations, and requested intervention.

Shell facilitated Operation Restore Order in Ogoniland.

Shell had puppets in place up to the highest level of the Nigerian government as a result of its revolving door policy, under which former employees of Shell work for the regime and vice versa.

Shell maintained a network of informants in Ogoniland in conjunction with the regime.

Shell fed the distrust of the regime towards Saro Wiwa and MOSOP and in this way increased the urgency of intervening in Ogoniland.

248. As will be substantiated in detail below, Shell cannot therefore actually be seen as being separate from the regime in the period 1990-1995.

8.4.1 Shell paid police officers, MOPOL officers and marines

249. Shell’s police force in 1994 numbered more than 1,200 officers (known as supernumerary police, SPY Police of Shell Police). They were officers who officially belonged to the Nigerian police force, but who were fully paid by Shell (exhibit 88: Briefing Notes on a meeting between Brian Anderson (Managing Director SPDC) and the Inspector General of Police, 17 March 1994). A report of a visit by SPDC’s Managing Director Brian Anderson to the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police Force on 17 March 1994 shows that in addition to these police officers Shell also had 41 marines and 128 MOPOL members – from whom it was supposed to keep its distance following the Umuechem incident in 1990 – on its payroll for Special Duty.330 According to the report there was “a strong competition amongst the rank and file of the NPF to be selected for SPDC service”, because Shell officers were paid twice as much as ordinary NPF members.331

250. Brian Anderson himself said in a keynote address in 1994 that in total the Shell-operated joint venture employed around 2,470 security staff.332 This meant that it employed one security guard for every two SPDC employees. These security measures cost nearly 18 million dollars.333

251. Shell was itself therefore a direct and active part of (all ranks of) the government apparatus that had to maintain ‘order’ in Ogoniland and to this end violated human rights on a wide scale. This de facto situation is inconsistent with Shell’s argument that it had nothing to do with the actions of the regime and that it followed a non-political course.

252. As the unrest in Ogoniland increased, Shell increasingly needed the regime’s support. This is evident from an internal memo from Philip B. Watts, the Managing Director of Shell in Nigeria at the time, who offered Shell vice-president Shonekan logistical support for the police.334 Likewise when Watts made the importance of a greater police presence known to the Inspector-General of the police, he advised that Shell would offer logistical support.335

253. Shell also asked the regime to expand its own police force and said that the Beretta pistols that the force had at its disposal had to be supplemented with semi-automatic weapons.336 On 1 December 1993 Watts wrote a letter to this effect to the Nigerian Police Inspector General Alhaji Coomassie, in which he stressed that Shell’s interests coincided with those of Nigeria:

“It is recognised that in these current troubled times, it may be easy to release the number of resources required to adequately protect SPDC’s facilities. However, we must emphasise that SPDC produces more than 50% of Nigeria’s oil, which has consequential major impact on the country’s economy. To secure a continuation of operations at the present level requires the provision of maximum protection. We request therefore that you give consideration of providing such resources as are available at this time and to bring these up full strength when a relative calm prevails.”337

254. The same letter referred to the plan of the oil and gas companies in Nigeria to set up their own 2,000-strong police unit, the Oil Production Area Police Command (OPAPCO).338 The plan for OPAPCO stated the following:

“In a recent move dictated by the increase in tension amongst the communities in the Oil Producing Regions, SPDC plans to deploy Out of State Police (OPAPCO) to protect oil production facilities in the Niger Delta oil province. This force will provide protection for SPDC through provision of arm mobile patrols and some static guard duties.”339

255. In his letter, Watts emphasized that Shell is prepared to organise OPAPCO’s establishment and is willing to pay for its costs:

“SPDC has given a commitment to provide complete logistics, accoutrement and welfare support to the OPAPCO police force which will be assigned to SPDC’s operations. You stated that the provision of the OPAPCO force would require Federal approval. In this repect, we would be pleased to assist in preparing any papers which describe the deployment, operating and welfare philosophy as well as the relationship between OPAPCO and SPDC.”

“SPDC will fully support the cost of setting up and maintaining the contingents.”340

256. In March 1994 Watts’ successor Brian Anderson wrote that SPDC was prepared to contribute 7.20 million dollars per year to OPAPCO.341

257. On 30 March 1995 Brian Anderson announced that there would be no OPAPCO, because the OPTS (the Oil Producers Trade Section, an umbrella organisation of the oil and gas companies in Nigeria) was unwilling to fund the plan.342

Extracts end

Footnotes

330 Briefing Notes on a meeting between Brian Anderson (Managing Director SPDC) and the Inspector General of Police, 17 March 1994 (exhibit 88)

331 Ibid.

332 This means the security of the entire joint venture, not just SPDC.

333 Exhibit 91: Nigeria Update 25 april 1994, Annex: Highlights of keynote address on “Major issues and challenges of energy investments in Nigeria” by mr. B.R.H. Anderson, Chairman and managing director of SPDC at the International energy Investment Seminar, Sheraton hotel and towers, Lagos, 19 April 1994, appended to Nigeria Update of 25 April 1994: “The Shell operated JV has some 2470 security staff. This implies a ratio of 2 security man for every 2 SPDC employees. All this costs a great deal of money (US$17.8m)”.

334 Urgent Telex from Watts to SIPC London and SIPM The Hague, 11 May 1993 (exhibit 70): “We informed [Shonekan]a bout our efforts to work with the police, providing logistic support for their protection of key locations.” See also chapter 8.2.4, at 201.

335 Ibid.

336 Letter Phil Watts to Alhaji Coomassie (Inspector General Of Police, Nigerian Police Force), 1 December 1993 (exhibit 137).

337 Ibid.

338 Ibid.; the number of 2,000 is given in Briefing Notes on a meeting between Brian Anderson (Managing Director SPDC) and the Inspector General of Police, 17 March 1994 (exhibit 88).

339 Exhibit 50: Public Deposition Dosee Okonkwo, 19 June 2003, pp. 59, 68-69. The plan for OPAPOCO is included in the “five year corporate security development plan 1993 to 1998”, dated 9 November 1993.

340 Letter of Phil Watts to Alhaji Coomassie (Inspector General Of Police, Nigerian Police Force) 1 december 1993 (exhibit Fout! Verwijzingsbron niet gevonden.).

341 Briefing Notes on a meeting between Brian Anderson (Managing Director SPDC) and the Inspector General of Police (exhibit 88), 17 March 1994.

342 Exhibit 154: Letter Brian Anderson to OMPADEC, 30 March 1995.

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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