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Nigerian Ogonis say Shell threatens peace move

Reuters: Nigerian Ogonis say Shell threatens peace move

Friday 24 June 2005

LAGOS, June 23 (Reuters) – An ethnic Ogoni group from Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta accused Shell on Thursday of undermining a new government initiative to reconcile Ogoni communities with the oil multinational.

The local unit of Royal Dutch/Shellwas forced out of Ogoniland in 1993 by protests and attacks against installations over Ogoni demands for a bigger share of oil profits and anger at environmental damage.

Earlier this month President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed a Catholic priest as a mediator to try to bring about a reconciliation. Shell says it will only resume production in the Ogoni area if the communities agree.

But the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) accused Shell on Thursday of carrying out a “divide and rule” strategy in Ogoni areas by sending representatives to tour community projects it is developing in some of the region at an inappropriate time.

MOSOP described the long-standing projects as “bait” to encourage villages that benefit from them to invite Shell back into their lands.

Its statement said Shell’s presence in the area was divisive at a time when a peace initiative has just been launched.

In addition, MOSOP said people acting on Shell’s behalf were trying to persuade Ogoni youths to sign declarations encouraging Shell to resume oil operations in Ogoniland.

A spokesman for Shell rejected MOSOP’s accusations.

“The allegations are untrue and we are committed to the reconciliation process,” the spokesman said.

Resentment towards villages which receive funding from oil companies because they are located close to facilities, is one of the causes of tension in the Niger Delta.

“If Shell wants to be taken seriously on its stated commitment to reconciliation it must desist from activities such as these that clearly undermine the peace initiative,” the MOSOP statement said.

“We want to make it very clear that the devastation that has been inflicted on the Ogoni people by Shell remains an open wound,” it said.

The military government that was running Nigeria in the early 1990s cracked down hard on Ogonis. MOSOP campaigner and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists were hanged in 1995, triggering European Union sanctions on Nigeria and exclusion from the Commonwealth for three years.

Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999, but though the Ogoni dispute has quietened down, the Niger Delta has continued to be plagued by violence.

Many delta communities feel cheated of the oil wealth that is extracted from their lands but yields little benefit to them. Attacks on oil infrastructure and kidnappings of oil workers are frequent, and thousands have died in inter-ethnic clashes. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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