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Kiobel Writ: Shell and the Abacha regime operated a joint intelligence service

The extent of Shell’s infiltration of Nigerian politics later became clear from the messages from the American embassy in Nigeria published by WikiLeaks. In them Executive Vice President of Shell in Africa at the time, Ann Pickard, boasted to the American ambassador that the Nigerian government had forgotten that Shell had seconded people to every ministry in the Nigerian government and was therefore aware of everything happening there

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. As can be seen in the footnotes, the allegations are supported by volumous evidence.

Shell and the Abacha regime operated in tandem

Extracts begin:

8.4.4 Shell and the regime operated a joint intelligence service

267. Together with the State Security Service (“SSS”, the national intelligence and security service) Shell maintained its own network of informants. According to George Ukpong, Shell had daily contact with the commissioner of police of Rivers State and the director of the SSS in this period.362 The SSS, according to Upkong, “is one of the security agencies rendering valuable assistance in support of SPDC security operations in the state”; the SSS “has provided assistance in meeting some of our staff training needs” and “has been of particular assistance to [Shell] in the area of crime intelligence acquisition”.

268. Shell and the SSS exchanged information about the situation in Ogoniland and elsewhere, in order for Shell to remain informed about potential unrest and potential risks to its assets.363 Information was obtained from informants among the Ogoni who worked for the SSS or for Shell.364 Shell also regularly sent Shell police into Ogoniland to gather information incognito365 and tasked the SSS to gather such information at Shell’s expense.366 The statements of four former members of Shell Police that they received money from Shell to gather information in Ogoniland and if necessary to bribe villagers was in line with this approach.367

8.4.5 Shell had puppets in place in crucial positions within the regime (and vice versa)

  1. The intensive alliance between Shell and the regime is also evident from the so-called “revolving door policy” they employed. Nigerian government officials – usually those responsible for national energy policy – and Shell personnel were systematically rotated, to guarantee and prolong the cooperation.
  2. Various government officials who were involved in the repression of the Ogoni had worked for Shell. Chief Ernest Shonekan was for some years a Shell board member of SPDC.368 He relinquished this position in the period between May 1992 and May 1993369 and on 4 January 1993 was appointed chairman of the Civilian Transitional Council of the Nigerian regime. Shonekan then managed “the day-to-day affairs of government”.370 On 26 August 1993 Shonekan was officially installed as leader of the interim government, following Babangida’s resignation.371 Even then he was seen as an Abacha puppet, who at that point was minister of defence.372 When Abacha launched a coup after three months and became Head of State, Shonekan continued to act as his number two.373 Former Shell board member Shonekan was an ideal access point to Abacha for Shell374 and a fixed point of contact with the Nigerian regime.375
  1. Chief Rufus Ada George, the Governor of Rivers State, had also previously worked for Shell in Port Harcourt,376 Osazee Osunde had worked at the National Electoral Commission before he started at Shell,377 and Godwin Omene, the subsequent chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission, was a former Deputy Managing Director of Shell in Nigeria.378 Shell’s dedicated lawyer O.C.J. Okocha, who also looked after its interests during the Ogoni 9 trial and was present at the bribery of witnesses, was also for some time Attorney General of Rivers State.379
  2. As a result of this interdepence the mutual solidarity and influence was unmistakeable. Additionally, in this way Shell kept itself informed about what went on in the government.
  3. Shell facilitated informal contact between the highest echelons of the regime and the company, for example through its own senior staff club in Port Harcourt, with a swimming pool, football, hockey and rugby pitches, tennis and squash courts, a bar and a restaurant. Membership of this club was open not only to Shell employees, but also to highly placed government officials. Egbert Imomoh, General Manager East and board member of Shell Nigeria, said the following about this:

    “[M]embers of Port Harcourt military police also had membership of the club. […] [W]e used to extend membership to people like the Governor, the Chief Justice, and a few others, what I call senior people in society, so that we extend that courtesy to those senior people in Government in Rivers State”380

  4. According to Olisa Agbakoba, one of the defense lawyers in the Ogoni 9 Trial, the lawyers visited Shell’s club for relaxation after court days of the Civil Disturbances Tribunal.381
  5. The extent of Shell’s infiltration of Nigerian politics later became clear from the messages from the American embassy in Nigeria published by WikiLeaks. In them Executive Vice President of Shell in Africa at the time, Ann Pickard, boasted to the American ambassador that the Nigerian government had forgotten that Shell had seconded people to every ministry in the Nigerian government and was therefore aware of everything happening there:

    “Pickard said Shell had good sources to show that their data had been sent to both China and Russia. She said the GON had forgotten that Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries.” 382

  6. Shell was therefore not actually independent from the regime; it had branched out to all its ranks. As such, Shell not only effectively cooperated with the Nigerian regime’s agenda, it was also aware of the excesses committed in its name in Ogoniland.

Extracts end

Footnotes

362 Public Deposition George Akpan Ukpong, vol. II, 24 March 2004 (exhibit 58), p. 279.

363 Ibid., p. 279.

364 Ibid., pp. 292-296, 477-478; Public Deposition George Akpan Ukpong, vol. I, 23 October 2003 (exhibit 57), p. 175 (Public depos, 15); Public Deposition of Egbert Imomoh, 17 June 2003 (exhibit 30), p. 72.

365 Public Deposition George Akpan Ukpong, vol. II, 24 March 2004 (exhibit 58), pp. 506-507.

366 Public Deposition George Akpan Ukpong, vol. I, 23 October 2003 (exhibit 57), pp. 175-176: request “[to] task your operatives to move into the area to enable us to get relevant and up-to-date intelligence on the general security situation”. It is also worth noting that Shell requested intelligence from the British Secret Service, see Nigeria Update of Anderson (exhibit 97), 27 June 1994: “I am in touch with the British Secret Service representative in Lagos. He has agreed to keep me informed on any developments that might be of interest to Shell”.

367 I. Okonta and O. Douglas, Where vultures feast: Shell, Human Rights and Oil, Sierra Club Books, 2003 (exhibit 242), pp. 59-60, referring to Project Underground: “to gather intelligence and bribe and befriend villagers wherever there was an oil spill. These villagers would then instigate conflict in the village over competing claims for money, a situation Shell would subsequently exploit, claiming that it would not pay any compensation since the community was divided on the issue of who would get what”.

368 Exhibit 60: Public Deposition Philip Beverly Watts, vol. II, 17 April 2004 , pp. 155-158; see also Public Deposition Brian Anderson, 13 February 2003 (exhibit 17), pp. 56-57; exhibit 65: Minutes of the meeting of the Board of Directors of SPDC, 5 September 1991.

369 Corporate Accounts Shell Nigeria 1992 (exhibit 157), pp. 3, 19

370 Issue paper Nigeria, Chronology of events January 1992 – February 1995, Immigration and refugee board of Canada (exhibit 266), p. 8

371 Ibid., p. 11

372 Issue paper Nigeria, Chronology of events January 1992 – February 1995, Immigration and refugee board of Canada (exhibit 266), p. 11; See also the New York Times article on 18 November 1993: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/11/18/world/nigerian-military-leader-ousts-interim-president.html <last visited on 16 April 2017)>.

373 Nigeria Update Brian Anderson, 23 July 1995 (exhibit 116), pp. 8-9: “Shonekan is very close to him”.

374 Public deposition Brian Anderson (exhibit 17), p. 140.

375 Nigeria Update Brian Anderson, 23 July 1995 (exhibit 116), p. 8.

376 To whom the request for “the usual assistance” was sent, letter J.R. Udofia (GME SPDC) to Rufus Ada George, 4 May 1993 (exhibit 136). The fact that he worked for Shell appears in Public Deposition George Akpan Ukpong, vol. II, 24 March 2004 (exhibit 58), pp. 281-282.

377 Public Deposition Osazee Osunde, 23 October 2003 (exhibit 53), p. 8

378 Nigeria Update from Omene (SPDC Lagos) to SIPC London and SIPM The Hague, 10 July 1995 (exhibit 115); Letter from G.E. Omene (Deputy Managing Director, SPDC) to A.J. Oyekan (Director, Department of Petroleum Resources), 16 December 1993 (exhibit 139); Public deposition Dosee Okonkwo, 19 June 2003 (exhibit 50), p. 16.

379 Declaration O.C.J. Okocha, 8 December 2003 (exhibit 49), para. 3: “From 1990 to 1992 I served as the Attorney General of Rivers State” and para. 7: “I have served as an external solicitor to [Shell Nigeria] since 1987”. See also chapter 8.2 on ‘Umuechem’.

380 Public Deposition Egbert Imomoh, vol. I, 17 June 2003 (exhibit 30), pp. 24-26.

381 See Chapter 8.7.2 and in the same chapter also the declaration of laywer Onyeagucha, who states that the lawyer’s were accomodated at Shell’s residential area.

382 Embassy Cable no. 09ABUJA1907_a, Shell MD discusses the Status of the Proposed Petroleum Industry Bill”, 20 October 2009 (exhibit 265).

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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