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My name is Esher Kiobel. I would like to tell you about my epic fight with the Goliath oil company Royal Dutch Shell, whose army of lawyers have battled since 2001 to prevent my case against the evil company from being heard in court. I hold Shell responsible for crimes against my family, including the execution of my distinguished husband Dr. Barinem Kiobel who was hanged along with fellow Ogoni, collectively known as the Ogoni 9. Ken Saro-Wiwa, a winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, was also one of the Ogoni 9.

I guess I should be grateful that Shell has not yet had me murdered as it did my beloved husband. It does seem prepared to do anything to prevent the truth coming out about its toxic history in the land of my birth. My litigation against Shell has been underway in the US courts, spread over more than 15 years and has included a landmark decision by the US Supreme Court on a territorial issue. This set-back followed interventions by the British and Dutch governments after Shell sought and obtained their support. Shell, an Anglo-Dutch company, has huge influence in both countries. It comes down, as always, to MONEY. So basically, it has been me and my supporters on one side, up against one of the worlds biggest, most ruthless multinational giants, Royal Dutch Shell Plc aided and abetted by two national governments sympathetic to Shell and its money.

Despite this unequal state of affairs, a US Federal judge more recently ruled that Shell’s US lawyers should hand over to me more than 100,000 Shell internal documents gathered in the USA for the discovery stage in the original US litigation. It is needed for substitute litigation of the basic case that I brought against Shell in the Dutch courts five months ago with three other Ogoni 9 widows. Astonishingly, all these years of litigation have been about legal technicality issues, not the merits of my basic claim. Shell has appealed against the decision to handover the potentially incriminating discovery evidence.

Shell has already had to endure an avalanche of bad publicity arising from my litigation, but will apparently do whatever it takes to stop the truth coming out.

I have read numerous articles over many years about Shell continuing to evade responsibility for the dire consequences arising from its oil and gas exploration and production activities in Nigeria.

Shell has played an active role in what was then still British Colonial Nigeria since 1936, where it was involved in the search for oil fields and the first oil extraction in the Niger Delta from the 1940s.

Since then, Shell has operated in Nigeria without appreciable control or environmental regulation to guide their activities.

  • Oil pollution raises concerns about food safety in an area where many people depend on fish as a main source of protein. Some academic studies have shown elevated levels of dangerous chemicals in fish exposed to oil pollution. When oil is pumped out of the ground, the gas produced is separated and in Nigeria, most of it is burned as waste in massive flares. This practice has been going on for decades and the burning of the gas has long been acknowledged as extremely wasteful and environmentally damaging. Concern has been raised about the impact of gas flaring on human health. 
  • Since 1984, Nigeria has supposedly prohibited gas flaring unless ministerial consent has been obtained. The government has announced various target dates for the cessation of flaring. Each deadline passes and the flaring continues. When communities rise the issue, Shell uses the government and military to suppress the complaints. 
  • The Niger Delta has suffered for decades from oil spills, which occur both on land and off shore. Oil spills on land destroy crops and damage the quality and productivity on soil that communities use for farming. Oil in water damages fish and contaminates water we use for drinking and other domestic purposes.
  • In 1993 MOSOP (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni people) led by Ken Saro-Wiwa told Shell to stop the destruction of our lands in the Niger Delta. The government was upset of his actions and developed a hatred against Ken Sara-Wiwa and his supporters.  
  • My late husband Dr. Barinem Kiobel was a Commissioner of Commerce and Tourism under Governor Dauda Komo and the late president Abacha. SPCD (SHELL PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT COMPANY) and OMPADEC (OIL MINERAL PRODUCING AREA DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION) had a series of meeting with my late hubby and thought he could be cajoled into fending off the gathering MOSOP protests led by Ken Saro-Wiwa.
  • My late husband was taken by SHELL helicopter from the presidential hotel to the SHELL flow station at OYIGBO, for a meeting at SHELL’s office. It was made plain that the intention was to hold MOSOP and its leaders responsible for legitimate campaigning activities against Shell in the Niger Delta. 
  • On May 22, my late husband was deceived by the governor to go to a naval base for safety. The governor claimed that Ogoni youth intended to kill my husband. Then to our surprise when a case was filled in what can fairly be described as a Kangaroo court, my late husbands name was included because Abacha and Komo was afraid that my late husband would expose all their evil plans of getting rid of Ken Saro-Wiwa.
  • In fact, my late husband refused to have any involvement in such misdeeds. At the prison cell he was denied medical care, or being able to see his family or his lawyer. He was also denied food most of the time.
  • I myself was tortured, abused and was humiliated (naked), suffered attempted rape and was locked up twice without committing a crime. I always cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for my husband and that was not welcome by Lt. Okutimo who at that time was the security officer Shell and the government used to kill and torture people from local communities. 
  • SHELL SPDC admitted liability in British court of two oil spills in 2008 at Bodo that affected the lives of more than 69,000 people. Brian Anderson (director of Shell Nigeria) concealed that SHELL Petroleum had paid the military on two occasions. SHELL Petroleum routinely worked with the army to suppress resistance to Shell’s activities. 
  • SHELL PETROLEUM lawyers were in the Kangaroo tribunal holding brief for SHELL Petroleum. A vast amount of evidence (video tapes, recording, documents and live witnesses) currently living in the United States and Abroad that will expose SHELL PETROLEUM evil deeds. The lawyers and family members were also tortured by the evil SHELL Petroleum in collaboration with the then government and their military. SHEL PETROLEUM knows all this about me and that is why they are fighting really hard against the case ever being heard in court. 
  • SHELL PETROLEUM has also been accused of fuelling violence in Nigeria by paying militant gangs to do Shell’s dirty work. 


Please note the references to King GBENEMENE OF GOKANA in some of the  featured correspondence below. The King, now regretfully deceased, gave testimony under oath during the trial in support of my husband and his absolute innocence of the trumped up charges brought against him. King Gbenemene was present at a religious shrine when rioting was in progress outside. He testified that the only thing that saved my husband from attack by the rioters was because he ran into the holy shrine, and on entering, was protected by sanctuary convention.

Plea dated 8 February 1994 from senior representatives of the Kpor Community to the Chairmen of the Oil Mineral Pricing Area Commission (OMPAC).

Letter dated 18 April 1994 from Dr. Barinem Kiobel to General Sani Abacha, then President of Nigeria. Dr. Kiobel was unaware that President Abacha was an enemy of progress and thoroughly corrupt. 

Memorandum dated 2 June 1994 from Dr. Barinem Kiobel to the Chairman of Rivers State Council of Chiefs. 

Letter dated 23 August 1994 from Dr. Barinem Kiobel to General Sani Abacha. 

Correspondence ends.


Esther, lawyer and supporters outside the US Supreme Court in Washington DC

Disclosure by the author of this article: The lead claimant Esther Kiobel, her lawyer 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)

This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

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