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Shell’s complicity in human rights abuses in the Niger Delta


By John Donovan

As we approach the start of 2017, Shell’s conduct in Nigeria is coming under intense scrutiny by prosecution authorities and is also the subject of civil litigation, both current and pending.

The charges include corruption, environmental contamination, and gross human rights abuses, including cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. 

Shell senior management cannot say that it was not warned. The following is an extract from a letter sent in February 2012 to Shell executives in London, Nigeria and Den Haag.

If you play with fire, you are likely to get burned.


Shell’s complicity in recent human rights abuses in the Niger Delta:

Independent investigations by Shell security consultants WAC Global (2003), the Financial Times (2006), Amnesty International (2005) and Platform (2011) have all highlighted that Shell has exacerbated conflict by awarding contracts to groups responsible for or linked to human rights abuses in the Niger Delta.

Platform’s report details several examples of how Shell’s conduct has exacerbated armed recent conflicts in the eastern Delta region, in particular the town of Rumuekpe, where it is estimated at least 60 people were killed. Across the Delta, corporate practices similar to those Shell used in Rumuekpe have led to “the killing and displacement of thousands of local people” in ethnic and communal conflicts.

Similarly, Shell’s over-reliance on government forces has contributed to systematic violations of human rights, widely documented by Amnesty International, CEHRD and Platform.

Shell routinely pays substantial amounts of money to the Nigerian army, navy and Mobile Police Force and provides transportation and accommodation for soldiers notorious for their track record of abuses.

Platform’s report identifies a number of communities in the eastern Delta region where Shell’s operations and those of its contractors have led to military and police repression in the Ogoni region and communities such as Otuasega, Oru Sangama, Ogu and Elelenwo.

This is the thin end of the wedge. Many further cases of human rights abuse are associated with Shell’s operations in the western, central and outer Delta regions.

As the militarisation of the Delta continues, further human rights violations are likely, as is Shell’s involvement in them.


Ben Amunwa, Platform (UK)

Nnimmo Bassey, Environmental Rights Action / Friends of the Earth Nigeria

Emem J. Okon, Kebetkatche Women’s Development and Resources Centre (Nigeria)

Asume Osuoka, Social Action (Nigeria)

Andy Rowell, Spin Watch (UK)

Stakeholder Democracy Network (UK & Nigeria)


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