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SHELL SPONSORED MILITARY RULE AND DEEPENING VIOLENCE IN OGONILAND

“Shell operations still impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth economic activities to commence.” Security forces led by Okuntimo shot at thousands of people who were peacefully demonstrating outside Shell’s main compound at Rumuobiakani in Port Harcourt. One eyewitness told Human Rights Watch that he heard Major Paul Okuntimo order his soldiers, “Shoot at anyone you see.” According to Human Rights Watch: “The troops began throwing canisters of tear gas, shooting indiscriminately…”

Extracts from pages 23 & 24 of an Amnesty International document headed: “A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE? SHELL’S INVOLVEMENT IN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN NIGERIA IN THE 1990s”

EXTRACT BEGINS

MILITARY RULE AND DEEPENING VIOLENCE IN OGONILAND

In November 1993, General Sani Abacha, a man intolerant of dissent who was prepared to use violence to suppress opposition, seized power in a coup.74 Abacha banned all political activity, replacing civilian governors with military administrators, and jailing and executing opponents.75 By early the next year, the military administrator of Rivers state

Lieutenant-Colonel Musa Dauda Komo had put in place a new plan to deal with MOSOP, creating the Internal Security Task Force (ISTF), under Major Paul Okuntimo.76 Almost immediately the ISTF engaged in excessive use of force and other human rights violations in response to community protests in the Niger Delta. For example, on 21 February 1994, security forces led by Okuntimo shot at thousands of people who were peacefully demonstrating outside Shell’s main compound at Rumuobiakani in Port Harcourt. One eyewitness told Human Rights Watch that he heard Major Paul Okuntimo order his soldiers, “Shoot at anyone you see.”77 According to Human Rights Watch: “The troops began throwing canisters of tear gas, shooting indiscriminately, beating demonstrators with the butts of their guns, and making arrests. P, a community elder, still has a scar on his head from the brutal beating to which he was subjected. Five people were shot, and more than ten people were arrested.”78

On 21 April 1994, Lieutenant-Colonel Komo, the Rivers State military administrator, ordered this force, which was made up of army, navy, State Security Service and Mobile Police personnel, to “restore and maintain law and order in Ogoniland.” The memo did not name Shell, but stated that a key goal of the force was to ensure that all businesses in the region be allowed to resume. It read:

“The purpose of this operation order is to ensure that ordinary law abiding citizens of the area, non-indigenous residents, of carrying out business ventures…within Ogoniland are not molested.”79

MOSOP later claimed to have obtained a confidential memo, dated 12 May 1994, in which Major Okuntimo appears to have replied to Lieutenant-Colonel Komo, and outlined his plans. The memo stated that:

“Shell operations still impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth economic activities to commence.”80

According to the memo, Okuntimo was recommending that the government deploy 400 soldiers to the region. They should conduct: “Wasting operations during MOSOP and other gatherings making constant military presence justifiable…wasting operations coupled with psychological tactics of displacement/wasting.”

Under the heading “Financial Implications (Estimates/Funding)”, the memo states that the government wanted the oil companies to pay for the campaign: “Pressure on oil companies for prompt regular inputs as discussed.”

Amnesty International has not been able to verify the authorship of the memo, and Shell has questioned whether it was genuine.81

Days after the memo was released, the crisis in Ogoniland worsened.

RELATED FOOTNOTES (IN BOLD)

  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.
  9. According to an official commission set up after Abacha’s death, “a virtual state of terror prevailed in the country” during his time in power. The Oputa

    Panel, Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission, Volume II, 2.28, 2002.

  10. Amnesty International, Nigeria: Military Government Clampdown on Opposition (Index: AFR 44/013/1994), available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr44/013/1994/en/
  1. Amnesty International has not been able to find any official sources detailing the creation of this unit. Human Rights Watch reported that it was formed in January, 1994, (Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria, p14). This was also reported by Ike Okonto and Oronto Douglas (Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights and Oil in the Niger Delta, p. 128). In a newspaper interview in 2001, Lt Colonel Dauda Komo said that the decision to deploy the army to Ogoniland was in fact taken by his civilian predecessor Chief Ada George in 1993, (The News (Lagos), Nigeria: Why Saro-Wiwa Was Killed, 21 May 2001, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/200105230193.html.)
  2. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria, p36
  3. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria, p36.
  4. Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Restoration of Law and Order in Ogoniland, Operation Order No 4/94, 21 April 1994, cited in Andy Rowell, Steve

    Kretzmann, A Project Underground Report, the Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic at Yale University, All for Shell: The Ogoni Struggle, 2006.

  5. Major P. Okuntimo, RSIS Operations: Law and Order in Ogoni, Etc, 12 May 1994, published in: Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Report of the UNPO Mission to Investigate the Situation of the Ogoni of Nigeria, February 17-26, 1995, p. 44, available at http://unpo.org/images/reports/ogoni1995report.pdf
  6. “The government has asserted that the document is a fake. Even if it is genuine, it does not describe an action taken by Shell. It refers only to ‘pressure or inputs’ from oil companies. [Shell] was never asked to input, nor would we have supplied any if asked. The company is opposed to violence and the government is well aware of our commitment not to operate with military support but only with community co-operation and backing.” Shell Nigeria, Nigeria Brief: Ogoni and the Niger Delta, 1996, p. 12. However, according to a newspaper’s account of Paul Okuntimo’s testimony at a public hearing in 2001, the former commander of the ISTF, “acknowledged writing a memo dated May 12, 1994, to the then military administrator making some requests for his men’s welfare.” See Ahamefula Ogbu and Chuks Akunna, Nigeria: Saro-Wiwa Invited Soldiers To Ogoniland – Komo, This Day, 21 January 2001, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/200101240266.html. Amnesty International has not been able to corroborate this account and the transcript has not been made public.
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