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Human right groups ask Shell to leave Nigeria

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By Allwell Okpi

November 11, 2009 01:08AMT

Two human right groups staged a peaceful protest rally yesterday in remembrance of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni people who were killed on November 10, 1995. The members of the Ogoni Solidarity Forum and the United Action for Democracy protested in front of the Shell headquarters in Marina, Lagos.

The groups accused Shell of degrading the Niger Delta environment, and conniving with the military government of the late Sani Abacha to kill thousands of Ogoni people.

The protest started with a walk of several kilometres from the Nigeria Labour Congress Secretariat, Yaba, to the venue of the rally in Lagos Island. Over 100 protesters, mostly human right activists, chanted as they walked the distance carrying placards with inscriptions like: “Shell is liable for crime against humanity in Ogoniland”, “Shell must account for 35 years of oil theft” and “Shell leave Ogoni oil underground”.

The National Coordinator of the Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Celestine Akpobari, and other speakers at the rally spoke with the aid of a megaphone to an audience comprising over 30 police officers and scores of Shell staff who were watching from the other side of the gate.

Case against Shell

“We are here to announce to Shell that Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight Ogonis that they murdered 14 years ago are still alive. We are saying that Shell should pay for over 3000 Ogoni people who were murdered by soldiers paid by Shell,” Mr. Akpobari said.

“As far as we are concerned Shell has murdered sleep, so they cannot sleep. We have not started. Shell will leave Nigeria. We are asking them to take responsibility for the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others. We will give them time to do something, if they don’t, we know what to do. We have an agenda and we are following it”.

On the $15.5 million compensation paid by Shell to the Saro-Wiwa family and the families of the other eight, Mr. Akpobari said the money is not even enough for the families not to talk of the other 3000 who lost their lives in the Ogoni genocide of 1993 to 1995.

According to Taiwo Otitolaye, the Convener of the United Action for Democracy, one of their demands is that Shell should pay for the degradation of the Niger Delta environment.

“We also demand for an environmental audit of the Niger Delta and other parts of Nigeria where mining activities have resulted in environmental degradation,” Mr. Otitolaye said.

Debo Adeniran, the Chairman of the People Action for Democracy, who spoke on an emotional note, said the amnesty programme of the Federal Government is a fraud and a tactics of distraction from the issues. He said until the infrastructural decay and environmental degradation of Niger Delta is solved, the region will not have lasting peace.

“We are calling on all Nigerians to stand up and fight this cause because today it is Niger Delta, tomorrow it could be South West or South East or the North,” Mr. Adeniran said.

“We are also asking the Federal Government to quash the judgment against Ken Saro-Wiwa and others so that we can bury him in peace with all the honour he deserves.”

The groups’ demand

The demands which were read out by Mr. Akpobari include: the implementation of the Ogoni Bill of Rights, that the Nigerian government should accept responsibility for the atrocities committed in Ogoni land and apologise for same. Shell must be made to pay for 35 years of oil theft in Ogoni land and take responsibility to clean up the polluted environment; all those who took part in the genocide against unarmed Ogonis be brought to book, and if dead, their bones be exhumed to face trial and; the Nigerian government must leave Ogoni oil under the ground.

Mr. Akpobari said a document containing these demands was submitted to the officials of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) but when contacted in a phone call, the spokesperson of the oil company, Precious Okolobo, said the protesters did not make any official demands to them.

“They did not speak to us,” he said.

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