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Shell itself took action to provide the police force with arms. In the period in which the setting up of OPAPCO and the expansion of Shell’s police force were under discussion SPDC’s security adviser Victor Oteri asked the regime for consent to import more than half a million dollars of arms. The order included: – 130 SMG Beretta 9 mm Calibre; – 200,000 Rounds of 9 mm bullets/ammunitions; – 40 Berretta Pistols (to replace unserviceable ones); – Pump Action Shotgun 12 GA, 6 shots including slings – 50,000 rounds cartridges for Pump Action Shot Guns – 20,000 rounds Shotgun rubber bullets; – 500 Smoke Hand Grenades

Shell and the Abacha regime operated in tandem

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

8.4.2 Shell provided vehicles and facilities

258. It was characteristic of the relationship between Shell and the regime that “for relationship rapport” Shell regularly honoured all kinds of requests from the police and the security service, ranging from the payment of boat repairs to the purchase of air conditioning and office furniture.343 Shell even offered logistical support of its own volition.344 It also regularly paid field allowances for MOPOL345 and – as previously discussed in section 8.2.3 – vehicles and buildings were made available. Shell not only arranged the transport for MOPOL, but it was also common to take care of transport in the situations in which Shell asked the regime for “assistance”, as in the examples referred to sections 8.2.3 and The Nigerian police also remained present in Ogoniland, which by then was already a no-go area for Shell, after 1993, with the aim of protecting Shell property.347 Among other things Shell paid the salaries and the meals of these officers.348 On request Shell provided operational maps to the Nigerian army, displaying all Shell’s activities.349

8.4.3 Shell itself took action to provide the police force with arms

259. In the period in which the setting up of OPAPCO and the expansion of Shell’s police force were under discussion SPDC’s security adviser Victor Oteri asked the regime for consent to import more than half a million dollars of arms.350 The order included:

– 130 SMG Beretta 9 mm Calibre

– 200,000 Rounds of 9 mm bullets/ammunitions

– 40 Berretta Pistols (to replace unserviceable ones)

– Pump Action Shotgun 12 GA, 6 shots including slings – 50,000 rounds cartridges for Pump Action Shot Guns – 20,000 rounds Shotgun rubber bullets

– 500 Smoke Hand Grenades351

260. Oteri’s first request was made on 31 March 1994 and a few further requests followed, in which Oteri referred to the above letter from Watts of 1 December 1993.352

261. The Nigerian police consented to the purchase, under the condition that the arms were primarily being acquired for the Nigerian police force and that the Shell police (which was part of it) would be allowed to use them:

“Approval is hereby given for the purchase of such semi automatic riffles [sic] to be decided upon by your representative and this office. The weapons would however be procured for the Nigeria Police Force.

The Force would take full custody and monitor the deployment of the weapons within your establishment.” 353

262. Shell also agreed to procurement of the arms from an arms dealer of the regime’s choice (“we will be prepared to pay the cost of acquisition by your nomitated dealer/supplier”).354 This dealer was Chief G.O. Akinluyi of Humanitex Nigeria Ltd. who represented the international arms company XM Federal Ltd.. On 1 and 18 August 1994 XM Federal Limited made a price proposal, both in excess of half a million dollars.355

263. On 8 September 1994 Akinluyi wrote to Shell to say that delivery was subject to some delay because it was only possible through the intervention of a third party on account of an arms embargo against Nigeria (more of which below), but that this hurdle had then been overcome (exhibit 149).356 However, four days later Shell allowed the deal with Akinluyi to collapse over the invoice-amount, as is evident from a letter from Brian Anderson to Alhaji Coomassie of 12 September 1994 (exhibit 150):

“In our letter of 1/12/93, we stipulated the number and type of arms which we wished to procure in order to improve our defensive capability in Lagos and in the Eastern and Western Divisions of SPDC. Recently, we received a quotation for the required arms from a chief G.O. Akinluyi of Humanitex Nigeria Limited whom we understand is the sole appointed agent for any transaction of this nature between the NPF and SPDC. We consider this quotation to be excessive, based upon own investigations from other sources of supply. Consequently, we may have to suspend all activity on arms procurement until further notice […]. [We] hope that at some time in the future, we can re-initiate this project.”

264. On 6 February 1995 Shell issued its own tender.357 At that time Operation Restore Order in Ogoniland, with its violent excesses, was at a peak and the Ogoni 9 trial had just begun.358

265. It is worth noting that the international community announced sanctions against Nigeria starting from Abacha’s coup in November 1993. The European Union for instance announced various sanctions against Nigeria in December 1993, with the aim of suspending all support for the military regime and restricting the arms trade:

“In the statement on Nigeria published on 19 November 1993, in which the European Union condemned the fact that the democratic process in Nigeria had been interrupted through the resumption of power by a military dictatorship, the European Union decided to examine without delay the consequences of the setback to the democratic process in Nigeria. In a press release published on 7 December 1993, the Presidency announced […] that the member States of the European Union, inter alia, would make a case-by-case examination, with a presumption of refusal, of all new export licences for defence equipment. The member States of the Union agreed that this measure on defence equipment would apply to all categories of arms, ammunition and military equipment, i.e. weapons designed to kill and ammunition for them, weapon platforms, non-weapon platforms and auxiliary equipment.”359

266. These arms trade restrictions did not therefore prevent Shell from taking steps itself to provide the military regime with arms. It is reported that in March 1995 Shell made a choice from the tender it had issued, but in the end there was no actual procurement of arms.360 On 20 November 1995 the EU announced a total arms embargo against Nigeria.361

Extracts end


343 Public Deposition George Akpan Ukpong, vol. I, 23 October 2003 (exhibit 57), p. 149-152; Public Deposition George Akpan Ukpong, vol. II, 24 March 2004 (exhibit 58), pp. 288-290, 297. “SSS is seeking our assistance in the provision of some items in support of their operations”, e.g. “boat repairs, photocopier, five air conditioners, fifteen office tables, thirty office chairs and eighty tyres”; Also, the Assistant Commissioner of Police wrote to Ukpong: “it is being strongly suggested that your organisation should think of the possibility of necessary assistance in the area of logistic support and general welfare”, Public Deposition George Akpan Ukpong (exhibit 57), p. 170.

344 See section, at 201.

345 See for example at 182, 206 and 215.

346 E.g. Eric Nickson, Head Media Relations at Shell International, “On a number of occasions Shell has requested additional protection from the police where its own security measures were thought not to be adequate against criminal activities. SPDC has provided transport for the police on such occasions”, Letter from Eric Nickson to Paul Brown and Andy Rowell, 6 November 1996 (exhibit 156), p. 3.

347 Public Deposition George Akpan Ukpong, vol. II, 24 March 2004 (exhibit 58), p. 237-238, 294-295.

348 Ibid., pp. 238, 246.

349 Ibid., pp. 227, 229.

350 Letter V. Oteri to Inspector General of Police, 31 May 1994 (exhibit 140); Letter V. Oteri to Inspector General of Police, 18 April 1994 (exhibit 141); Letter V. Oteri to The Inspector General of Police, 24 June 1994 (exhibit 144); Letter V. Oteri to The Inspector General of Police, 17 August 1994 (exhibit 147)

351 Letter V. Oteri to the Inspector General of Police, 17 August 1994 (exhibit 147).

352 Letter Phil Watts to Alhaji Coomassie (Inspector General Of Police, Nigerian Police Force), 1 December 1993 (exhibit Fout! Verwijzingsbron niet gevonden.), see section 8.4.1.

353 Letter The Inspector General of Police to Anderson, 27 July 1994 (exhibit 145). See also letter from The Inpsector General of Police to Akinluyi, 17 August 1994 (exhibit 262); letter from The Inspector General of Police to V.A. Oteri, 18 August 1994 (exhibit 148).

354 Letter V. Oteri to Inspector General of Police, 18 April 1994 (exhibit 141).

355 Price Quotation XM Federal Limited, 1 August 1994 (exhibit 268); Price Quotation XM Federal Limited, 18 August 1994 (exhibit 269).

356 Letter Chief G.O. Akinluyi to Shell, 8 September 1994 (exhibit 149).

357 Letter W.J.C. Dick to Humanitex (Nig) Ltd., 6 February 1995 (exhibit 152).

358 See also Polly Ghazi and Cameron Duodu, “How Shell tried to buy Berettas for Nigerians”, 11 February 1996 (exhibit 258): “The request was issued at the height of worldwide protests against the military regime’s brutal suppression of the Ogoni minority people.”

359 Written question No. 3578/95 by Edith Müller, Wilfried Telkämper to the Council. EU arms embargo against Nigeria, OJ C 280, 25 September 1996 (exhibit 232), p. 3 (emphasis added). Other measures announced by the EU: – suspension of military cooperation, – visa restrictions for members of the military or the security forces, and their families, – suspension of visits of members of the military, – restriction of movement of all military personnel of Nigerian diplomatic missions, – cancellation of training courses for all Nigerian military personnel, – suspension of all high-level visits that are not indispensable to and from Nigeria, suspension of any further cooperation aid, see European Political Documentation Bulletin, 93/305, Statement on Nigeria, 13 juli 1993 (exhibit 230), p. 364.

360 See Jedrzej Georg Frynas, Oil in Nigeria: Conflict and Litigation between Oil Companies and Village Communities (exhibit 244), p. 55: “Following revelations in the British press on Shell’s arm dealings in 1996, a Shell International spokesman later admitted that one of three bids for arms purchases had been ‘selected’ by Shell in March 1995, although the arms deal had not gone ahead.”.

361 EU Common Position on Nigeria, 95/515/CFSP, 20 November 1995 (exhibit 231).

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. 


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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