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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CASTIGATES SHELL

The manager of Shell’s eastern division, J.R. Udofia, faxed the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State specifically requesting the intervention of the Mobile Police (also known as MOPOL), a paramilitary unit. According to a subsequent judicial enquiry, the villagers had not in fact attacked Shell installations, but conducted a peaceful protest demanding that the oil company compensate them for damage caused by pollution from oil spills. Over the course of the next two days, the Mobile Police attacked the village, “like an invading army that had vowed to take the last drop of the enemy’s blood”, the inquiry found. The Mobile Police, using guns and grenades, killed 80 people, throwing many corpses into a nearby river, the survivors testified.

Extracts from pages 19 to 23 of an Amnesty International document headed: “A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE? SHELL’S INVOLVEMENT IN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN NIGERIA IN THE 1990s”

EXTRACT BEGINS

LOCAL PROTESTS AND MILITARY CRACKDOWN

In November 1990, just over two years before the Ogoni protests gathered pace, a violent crackdown by armed police in Umuechem community (some 30km from Ogoniland), showed how high the stakes were for anyone protesting in the oil-producing region. Following demonstrations by villagers, Shell warned the government of an “impending attack.”32 The manager of Shell’s eastern division, J.R. Udofia, faxed the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State specifically requesting the intervention of the Mobile Police (also known as MOPOL), a paramilitary unit.33

According to a subsequent judicial enquiry, the villagers had not in fact attacked Shell installations, but conducted a peaceful protest demanding that the oil company compensate them for damage caused by pollution from oil spills. Over the course of the next two days, the Mobile Police attacked the village, “like an invading army that had vowed to take the last drop of the enemy’s blood”, the inquiry found.34 The Mobile Police, using guns and grenades, killed 80 people, throwing many corpses into a nearby river, the survivors testified.35

They also torched 595 houses.36 Although the government established a commission to investigate the incident, it took no steps to subsequently prosecute or otherwise hold to account the Mobile Police officers who carried out these killings.

In July 1992, violence broke out at a different Shell facility, the Bonny Island export terminal, which was also close to Ogoniland. According to an internal Shell report on the incident, drawn up over a year later, a group of approximately 50 young men forced their way into the facility, damaging and stealing property and injuring at least two members of staff.37 The following morning, Shell airlifted 51 members of a government “Rapid Intervention Force” from Port Harcourt (the capital city of Rivers State where Shell’s Nigeria operations were based) to Bonny Island. According to this report, “one Bonny resident was apparently shot dead,” and eight other men were injured in the ensuring clash. The report does not say that the men were armed, nor does the report clarify whether the government force had any cause to open fire on them.

Another account of these events was provided in the African Concord newspaper, from August 1992.38 According to interviews with some of the injured men, the protest started in a dispute over jobs, and the lack of opportunities offered to locals. The men said they had approached Shell’s terminal and had thrown stones at the security post but not gone inside. The next day, the security force, comprised of Mobile Police officers, which Shell had helicoptered to Bonny overnight, clashed with protestors. According to this article, the police officers, thinking that some of their colleagues had been taken hostage, attacked the unarmed protestors, shooting dead 21-year old student Owusa Brown. According to the newspaper’s account of the incident: “(They) swooped on the town, met the youths at Ikugba square and opened fire, spraying tear gas and live bullets. By the time the coast was cleared three hours later, Brown was dead. 30 people shot and wounded and 150 others beaten and injured.”

Undeterred by these events, MOSOP stepped up its campaign. In November 1992, it made its first direct demands of the oil company. MOSOP issued Shell with a 30-day ultimatum, demanding it pay the Ogonis $6 billion in royalties that it claimed was the value of oil pumped from the area since 1958, and $4 billion in compensation for pollution caused by oil spills.39 Shell refused, and produced figures that showed it had earned only a fraction of this amount.40

In response, on 3 January 1993, MOSOP organized the peaceful “Ogoni Day” protest march, involving an estimated 300,000 people – some three-fifths of the population.41 It declared Shell to be “persona non grata” – no longer welcome – in Ogoniland.42 Later that month, Shell announced it was pulling out of the area, citing security concerns. It said it had faced “intimidation and attacks from communities that included physical beatings, theft and destruction.”43 Shell reported that some people had “ambushed” a member of staff who was driving into Ogoniland, and set his car on fire.44

Despite the claim that it was ceasing operations there, Shell in fact continued certain activities within Ogoniland. It still pumped oil until May 1993,45 and its contractors continued to work in the area, laying a new pipeline. On 30 April 1993, Nigerian army troops guarding contract workers laying this pipeline opened fire on protestors, injuring 11 unarmed villagers. Four days later, troops clashed with villagers again, shooting dead a protestor.46

Meanwhile the government took steps to suppress the MOSOP campaign, which by this time had gained widespread international attention from environmental and human rights groups.47 Nigeria’s security agency, the State Security Service (SSS), arrested Ken Saro-Wiwa on three separate occasions from April to June 1993. On the first two occasions he was released after 24 hours, without having been charged. On the third occasion, he was charged in connection with his campaigning activities along with two other men.48 Ken Saro-Wiwa twice collapsed in jail due to a heart condition. Amnesty International publicly campaigned for the men’s release, considering them to be prisoners of conscience who were detained because of their political activities and who neither used nor advocated violence. The men were released on bail more than a month after they were originally detained.49

Then from July 1993, there were a series of armed attacks on Ogonis. The government claimed that these attacks were perpetrated by neighbouring communities and were the result of communal disputes over land and fishing rights.50 Although the Niger Delta has a history of inter-communal violence, evidence recorded by both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch at the time exposed the involvement of the Nigerian armed forces in the attacks on Ogoniland.51 According to newspaper reports, some Ogoni youths subsequently launched revenge attacks on Andoni villages.52

According to MOSOP, the first of the attacks on the Ogoni occurred on 23 July 1993, when uniformed men wielding automatic weapons attacked people returning by boat from Cameroon on the Andoni river.53 The local community reported that 136 Ogoni women, men and children were missing, but according to the police no-one had died.54 Another attack took place on 4 August. Amnesty International reported that at least 35 people in the Ogoni town of Kaa, on the banks of the Andoni river were “extra judicially executed by armed men, some of whom are believed to have been in navy and police uniforms.”55 According to Karl Maier, the Nigeria correspondent of The Independent newspaper (of London) who visited Kaa soon after the attack, the scale of the damage “betrayed a military operation rather than an ethnic tussle.”56 Claude Ake, an independent academic who was appointed by the government to investigate the violence, also concluded that the army was involved, stating:

“It had to be the military, or at least elements of the security forces. Andonis are fishermen, and fishermen don’t usually have such weapons as hand grenades and mortars. There was no real dispute between the Ogonis and the Andoni over fishing rights, territory or the like.”57

Human Rights Watch later interviewed two Nigerian soldiers who described their participation in these secret military raids on Ogoniland in 1993, which were designed to appear like intercommunal clashes.58 According to one soldier, a force of 150 soldiers entered a village and shot indiscriminately. After the shooting they burned and looted homes. The second soldier, interviewed separately, told Human Rights Watch that he was told he was deployed to repel an invasion from Cameroon. He said: “they told us to shoot everyone who crossed our path”, but then he realized he was shooting at Nigerian civilians. Resi- dents of Kaa told Human Rights Watch that they had seen soldiers attacking their village in August 1993. When Human Rights Watch sought comment from a Nigerian intelligence official, they were told that the men were ex-soldiers.

Further evidence of the involvement of the Nigerian security forces in the raids on the Ogoni villages emerged in the context of the US legal action against Shell. A former member of the Mobile Police, Eebu Jackson Nwiyon, gave a deposition in which he described a mission to Andoni, on the border with Ogoniland, in 1993. He testified that he was flown there in a Shell-operated helicopter.59 After arriving in Andoni, Nwiyon said he discussed operations with a soldier and a navy officer. The two men described to him how they had attacked villages in neighbouring Ogoniland. One explained to him that the Ogoni were being punished for defying Shell.60 Several people living in Ogoniland at that time also gave depositions in which they described hearing or seeing helicopters, which they believed belonged to Shell, at the time of the attacks.61 Shell has denied that its helicopters were involved.62

The attacks on Ogoni villages lasted until November 1993. An official report, published in 2002, did not state whether the army was involved, but reported that the attacks resulted in the death of about 1,000 Ogonis, destroyed 10 villages, and made 30,000 people homeless.63 During this time, the government did not provide any medical or humanitarian assistance to the affected people, even though many were critically injured and others needed food and shelter.64 Troops stationed in the region did not intervene to restore peace. A government spokesman said that these troops had “no mandate to interfere in the fighting.”65

Following the attacks, the authorities invited representatives of the Ogoni and Andoni communities to attend a “peace” conference on 6 October 1993. A Shell employee also attended the meeting. When asked by Ken Saro-Wiwa why he was there, this employee explained that although the company had not been involved in the conflict, it wanted to defend itself against accusations that it had been. Ken Saro- Wiwa walked out of the meeting after he was asked to sign a “peace agreement” that called for the “immediate resumption of all full economic and social activities” within Ogoniland, as this would have allowed Shell’s return.66 The inclusion of this clause cast further doubt on the government’s claims that the clashes were genuinely caused by inter-communal rivalry.

Despite MOSOP’s refusal to sign this document, a Shell inspection team subsequently travelled with an armed forces escort under the command of Major Paul Okuntimo, to inspect facilities in Ogoniland to see if it could resume activities there.67 The plan was abandoned following a clash between Okuntimo’s men and protesters at Korokoro village during which troops fatally shot one man and injured several others. There are conflicting accounts of what happened in Korokoro, with the government reporting that armed protestors had attacked their soldiers unprovoked, injuring several of them.68

Meanwhile, a split had developed within the leadership of MOSOP. Several important traditional rulers and politicians had grown unhappy with Ken Saro-Wiwa’s leadership of the movement.69 Following a dispute over whether or not to boycott national elections in June 1993, five senior MOSOP officials resigned from its Steering Committee.70 From then on, these former leaders became vocal opponents of MOSOP and Ken Saro-Wiwa.

At the same time, within Ogoniland, MOSOP struggled to contain gangs of men who called themselves “vigilantes.” These gangs became involved in illegal activity, such as the setting up of roadblocks, extortion and murder.71 The government and those leaders who had resigned from MOSOP’s leadership accused the vigilantes of being members of the youth organization that Ken Saro-Wiwa had founded, the National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP). MOSOP denied this and took steps to tackle the problem. In November 1993, it issued an appeal for peace, and condemned the activities of the so-called vigilantes.72 On one occasion, Ken Saro-Wiwa even asked the military to arrest three gang members, and on another, MOSOP dismissed one of its own co-ordinators for running a vigilante gang.73

Related Footnotes

  1. J.R. Udofia to The Commissioner of Police, 29 October 1990 (Exhibit 20. C004465).
  2. J.R. Udofia to The Commissioner of Police, 29 October 1990 (Exhibit 20. C004465).
  3. Rivers State of Nigeria, Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Umuechem Disturbances, January 1991, p. 23, on file with Amnesty International.
  4. Rivers State of Nigeria, Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Umuechem Disturbances, January 1991, p. 9.
  1. Rivers State of Nigeria, Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Umuechem Disturbances, January 1991, p. 23.
  2. Fax from SPDC to SIPC, Community Disturbances, 12 May 1993 (ex e).
  3. African Concord, On the War Path, 24 August 1994.
  4. See Annex (Exhibit 95. C002151-2153).
  5. Shell said that since 1958, it had pumped oil from Ogoniland worth $5.8 billion, before costs. Of this amount, 15% covered costs and investment, 79% was paid to the Nigerian government, and only 6% went to Shell and other foreign joint venture partners. Shell Nigeria, Nigeria Brief: Ogoni and the Niger Delta, 1996, p. 2 (wiwa 2/51).
  6. There are numerous contemporary news reports describing the peaceful nature of the demonstration, as well as their large scale, e.g. Abdulfatai Oladeinde, Ogonis Demonstrate, National Concorde, 7 January 1993; Cyril Bakwuye, Ogonis protest over oil revenue, Daily Sunray, 6 January 1993.
  7. Ike Okonto and Oronto Douglas, Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights and Oil in the Niger Delta, p. 119.
  8. Shell said it finally stopped all oil production in Ogoniland by mid-1993. Shell Nigeria, Nigeria Brief: The Ogoni Issue, 1995, p. 2 (ex cc).
  9. Deposition of George Ukpong, 23 October 2003, p. 44.
  1. Shell said it finally stopped all oil production in Ogoniland by mid-1993. Shell Nigeria, Nigeria Brief: The Ogoni Issue, 1995, p. 2 (ex cc).
  2. Amnesty International, UA 163/93 – Nigeria: Possible Extrajudicial Execution / Legal Concern: Agbarator Otu, Killed, and 11 Injured Including Karalolo Korgbara; One Other Detained Without Charge or Trial (Index: AFR 44/04/93), 18 May 1993, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr44/004/1993/en/
  3. Initially Greenpeace and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO). See Karl Maier, This House has Fallen, 2000, p 92-93
  4. They were charged on six counts relating to unlawful assembly, seditious intention and seditious publication. Amnesty International, UA 238/93 – Nigeria: Health Concern / Legal Concern: Ken Saro-Wiwa, N.G. Dube, Kobari Nwile, 19 July 1993 (Index: AFR 44/007/1993), available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr44/007/1993/en/
  5. Amnesty International, Further Information on UA 238/93, (Index: AFR 44/07/93), 20 July; and Follow-Up (Index: AFR 44/12/93), 16 August – Nigeria: Health Concern / Legal Concern: Ken Saro-Wiwa, N.G. Dube, Kobari Nwile, 31 August 1993 (Index: AFR 44/013/1993), available at https://www. amnesty.org/en/documents/afr44/013/1993/en/
  6. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria.
  7. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria.
  8. Sam Olukoya, Wasteland, Newswatch 1 November 1993.
  9. Ike Okonto and Oronto Douglas, Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights and Oil in the Niger Delta, Verso, 2003, p124.
  10. J. Timothy Hunt, The Politics of Bones: Dr Owens Wiwa and the Struggle for Nigeria’s Oil, p. 94.
  1. Amnesty International, 9 August 1993, UA 268/93 – Nigeria: Extrajudicial Executions: At Least 35 Members of the Ogoni Ethnic Group from the Town of Kaa in Rivers State, Including Mr Nwiku and Three Young Children, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr44/011/1993/en/
  2. Karl Maier, This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis, p. 100-01.
  3. Karl Maier, This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis, p. 101.
  4. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria.
  5. Deposition of Eebu Jackson Nwiyon, 24 May 2004, p. 17.
  6. Deposition of Eebu Jackson Nwiyon, 24 May 2004, p. 27.
  7. Deposition of Benson Ikari, vol. I, 28 July 2003, pp. 171-180; Deposition of Lete Allens Gbarale, 27 May 2004, pp. 7-15; Deposition of Princewill Nathan Neebani, 13 May 2004, pp. 152-157; Deposition of Lebara Tony Idigima, vol. I, 24 July 2003, pp. 37-47; Deposition of Israel Nwidor, 24 September 2003, pp. 106-118; Deposition of Victor Barima Wifa, 2 April 2004, pp. 262-270.
  8. Shell Nigeria, Nigeria Brief: The Ogoni Issue, 1995, p. 3 (ex cc).
  9. The Oputa Panel, Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission, Volume III, 6.44, 2002.
  10. Chris McGreal, Town pays in blood for seeking share of oil riches, The Guardian (UK), 9 August 1993; Sam Olukoya, Wasteland, Newswatch 1 November 1993; J. Timothy Hunt, The Politics of Bones: Dr Owens Wiwa and the Struggle for Nigeria’s Oil, p. 132-3.
  11. Sam Olukoya, Wasteland, Newswatch 1 November 1993.
  1. J. Timothy Hunt, The Politics of Bones: Dr Owens Wiwa and the Struggle for Nigeria’s Oil, p. 139.
  2. Shell Nigeria, Report of the Joint Location Visit by SPDC and Armed Forces Personnel to Ogoni Area Oil Fields, 26 October 1993 (Exhibit 5. C003607-16).
  3. Ike Okonto and Oronto Douglas, Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights and Oil in the Niger Delta, p. 127.
  4. J. Timothy Hunt, The Politics of Bones: Dr Owens Wiwa and the Struggle for Nigeria’s Oil, p. 100-04
  5. Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Report of the UNPO Mission to Investigate the Situation of the Ogoni of Nigeria, February 17-26,

    1995, p. 13-14, available at http://unpo.org/images/reports/ogoni1995report.pdf

  6. Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Report of the UNPO Mission to Investigate the Situation of the Ogoni of Nigeria, February 17-26, 1995, p. 15, available at http://unpo.org/images/reports/ogoni1995report.pdf
  7. MOSOP, Public Notice, 10 November 1993, in Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Report of the UNPO Mission to Investigate the Situation of the Ogoni of Nigeria, February 17-26, 1995, Appendix 2, available at http://unpo.org/images/reports/ogoni1995report.pdf
  8. Karl Maier, This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis, p. 104-05.
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