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SHELL IN OGONILAND: TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT

Two Ogoni fishermen have described how they were arrested by members of the police unit seconded to guard Shell personnel and installations (known as the Supernumerary or SPY police) on 22 June 1994. In a letter faxed to journalists after their release
from prison in October 1998, Kagbara Bassee and Blessing Israel said that the police arrested them at Benson Beach, Akwa Ibon State. They said that the police officers, who were accompanied by Shell staff, beat them with batons, knocking Blessing Israel unconscious.

Extracts from pages 27, 28 & 29 of an Amnesty International document headed: “A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE? SHELL’S INVOLVEMENT IN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN NIGERIA IN THE 1990s”

In July 1994, the Dutch ambassador told Shell Nigeria’s then chairperson Brian Anderson that the army had killed some 800 Ogonis.

EXTRACT BEGINS

TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

During this time, numerous people – mostly from Ogoniland – were detained and held in military-run camps and subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Many were arbitrarily arrested and detained without charge for varying periods in 1994 and 1995 at either Bori Military Camp, in Port Harcourt, or the military detention centre set up in what used to be the police station in Kpor, in Ogoniland.102

Two environmentalists (Oronto Douglas and Nick Ashton-Jones) who went to visit Ledum Mitee, the MOSOP vice-president, in detention in the Bori Military Camp, on 26 June 1994, have described how they were detained, flogged and threatened with execution, on Paul Okuntimo’s orders.103 Nick Ashton-Jones described his experience:

“I was taken out and told to lie face down on the floor and given about 9 strokes across my lower back and buttocks: painful but not enough to break the skin. The whip was made of a double length of 10mm electrical cable and the man who used it was clearly as afraid of Major (now Lt. Col.) Okuntimo as we were.”104

In a verbal deposition recorded as part of the US legal action, Boniface Ejiogu, who was Paul Okuntimo’s orderly from May 1994, confirmed that the ISTF tortured Ogoni chiefs and youths, often beating them with horse whips (koboko):

“There were men with underwear and they would ask all of them to face the ground. They were handcuffed like this, handcuffed them like this. There is not enough handcuffs so our soldiers use this barbed wire, cut barbed wire with nails and handcuff them, tie them behind...All of them face the ground. Others receive koboko, mostly the chiefs they give them koboko. They will go to Okuntimo’s office, community chiefs.”105

A chief who was taken to Kpor on 21 May 1994, recounted to Human Rights Watch that when he refused to respond to Lieutenant-Colonel Okuntimo’s inquiries about the murders and MOSOP, he was ordered to strip and lie face down on the ground. He recalled:

“As I was lying there with my arms out at a 90 degree angle, Okuntimo ordered two soldiers standing on either side of me to whip me on the buttocks. The two men took turns hitting me, thirty lashes each, striking only when Okuntimo told them to do so. I couldn’t walk when they finished.”106

A man arrested in late June 1994 and taken to Kpor, told Human Rights Watch how he and four other villagers were forced to walk on their knees inside their cell for close to an hour while soldiers beat them with kobokos. Another man, who was also whipped at Kpor, was ordered to show other Ogonis his lash marks so they would not participate in MOSOP activities.107

The human rights violations continued in 1995. Victor Wifa, who provided a deposition in the US legal action, said he took part in peaceful protest marches against Shell in Ogoniland. The ISTF raided his home and arrested him in July 1995. He said he was also detained at the Kpor camp and subjected to beatings and torture. On the third day, he remembered being ordered to sign a piece of paper which he recalls involved agreeing to “never participate in any MOSOP activities and that I will not protest against Shell coming to Ogoni to operate anymore.” When he refused, soldiers ordered him to put his hands on the ground and then shot one of his fingers off.108 During his deposition in 2003, according to the transcript, Victor Wifa showed lawyers his missing finger.109 Ken Saro-Wiwa and other people arrested in connection with the murder of the four chiefs reported being subjected to torture or other ill-treatment while held at the Bori Military Camp and the Kpor detention centre, under the control of Paul Okuntimo.

Evidence of torture and other ill-treatment of the detainees emerged during their subsequent trial (details below). According to an affidavit, which was read out on the second day of the trial, Ken Saro-Wiwa said he was regularly beaten, held in manacles in a cell containing 30 other Ogoni prisoners, and denied food and medical care while in detention.110 Baribor Bera, a member of the MOSOP youth organization, NYCOP, told the court that after his arrest he had been brutally tortured, forced to sign a confession and implicate other defendants.111 On 23 February 1995 he showed the tribunal scars from beatings he said he had received at the Kpor detention centre: he said that he was stripped naked, tied to a pillar, flogged with a koboko and made to swallow teeth knocked out as a result of being beaten.112 On 27 June 1995, Paul Levula told the tribunal that he had been strung up by his hands for a long period on two occasions by the police in Port Harcourt following his arrest.113 Nordu Eawo, another NYCOP member, said that a leading prosecution witness had initially detained him and taken to the witness’ house, where he was beaten and cut on the genitals and head with a sharp stick by other prosecution witnesses.114 Nordu Eawo said that a tape-recording made at the time of this assault was later used by the police to prepare a statement, which he was forced to mark with his thumbprint. Another of the accused, Daniel Gbokoo, also claimed he was badly beaten during questioning by the police.115

Two Ogoni fishermen have described how they were arrested by members of the police unit seconded to guard Shell personnel and installations (known as the Supernumerary or SPY police) on 22 June 1994. In a letter faxed to journalists after their release
from prison in October 1998, Kagbara Bassee and Blessing Israel said that the police arrested them at Benson Beach, Akwa Ibon State. They said that the police officers, who were accompanied by Shell staff, beat them with batons, knocking Blessing Israel unconscious. After five days in the police’s detention, they were collected by the ISTF and transferred to Kpor, where the ill-treatment continued.

“We were all beaten half-dead and they told us that it is said that we the youths are the ones who destabilize the effort of government and stopped Shell of their operation.”116

The two men were held along with 19 other men on the same charges as Ken Saro-Wiwa and the “Ogoni Nine.”117 Shell denied that its staff were involved in their arrest.118 In August 1995 Clement Tusima, one of this group of detainees, died in detention as a result of malnutrition, poor prison conditions and medical neglect, Amnesty International reported at the time.119

Footnotes

102. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria.
103. Excerpt of letter from Nicholas Ashton-Jones to Michael Birnbaum QC, 8 April 1995, reprinted in Michael Birnbaum QC, Nigerian Fundamental Rights Denied, Appendix 5A, p. 12.
104. Excerpt of letter from Nicholas Ashton-Jones to Michael Birnbaum, QC, April 8, 1995; reprinted in Michael Birnbaum, QC, Nigeria: Fundamental Rights Denied (London: Article 19, June 1995), Appendix 5A, p. 12.
105. Deposition of Boniface Ejiogu, Part I, 22 May 2004, p. 54.
106. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria.
107. Human Rights Watch, Nigeria: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria.
108. Deposition of Victor B. Wifa, 2 April 2002, p. 133-5.
109. Deposition of Victor B. Wifa, 2 April 2002, p. 133
110. Transcript of the Ogoni Civil Disturbances Tribunal, Day 2, 21 February 1995, p. 33-37.
111. Transcript of the Ogoni Civil Disturbances Tribunal, Day 4, 23 February 1995, p. 41-5.
112. Transcript of the Ogoni Civil Disturbances Tribunal, Day 4, 23 February 1995, p. 45.
113. Amnesty International, Nigeria: The Ogoni Trials and Detentions (Index: AFR 44/020/1995), p. 9.
114. Amnesty International, Nigeria: The Ogoni Trials and Detentions (Index: AFR 44/020/1995).
115. Statement by Dabiel Gbokoo, 9 July 1994.
116. Letter from Kagbara Bassee and Blessing Israel, 27 October 1998.
117. The Nigerian government eventually set the men free unconditionally in 1998, following General Abacha’s death. Ian Black, Nigeria frees 20 Ogonis
jailed with Saro-Wiwa, The Guardian (UK), 9 September 1998, https://www.theguardian.com/world/1998/sep/09/ianblack
118. Associated Press, UK: Shell Oil Company Deny Allegations Of Torture In Nigeria Update, 11 August 1998, http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you-tube/8e86477a83e7771c27a29a40ab37f857
119. Amnesty International, Urgent Action, 19 August 1997 (AI Index: AFR 44/17/97), available at file://intsec.amnesty.org/data/users/mark.dummett/Downloads/afr440171997en.pdf

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1 Comment on “SHELL IN OGONILAND: TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT”

  1. #1 Zik Gbemre
    on Jul 11th, 2018 at 16:40

    ON REPS DIRECTIVE TO SHELL (SPDC) TO RELOCATE ITS WESTERN HQ TO WARRI – THE NEED FOR THE LAWMAKERS TO EQUALLY DIRECT THE NNPC TO RELOCATE ITS RELEVANT NNPC REGULATORY SUBSIDIARIES HQs TO THE NIGER DELTA
    With reports that the House of Representatives, recently directed Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), to relocate its Western Operational Headquarters to Warri in Delta State with immediate effect, we cannot help but ask: what about the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its relevant regulatory subsidiaries like NAPIMS and the DPR, that are still located in Lagos and Abuja? We strongly believe that the Lawmakers, including the Federal Government, cannot be talking about the International Oil Companies (IOCs) relocating their Head Offices/Headquarters to Delta State/Niger Delta region, when the NNPC, which is the National ‘Chief Operator’ with the lion share of the Joint Venture (JV) business of the nation’s oil and gas industry, is still located in Lagos and Abuja with their respective subsidiaries that are also regulating the oil and gas business.
    According to the said reports, the two lawmakers, Lovette Idisi (Representing Ethiope West and Ethiope East of Delta State), and Daniel Reyenieju (Representing the Warri Federal Constituency), that raised and spoke on the motion respectively; had urged “the National Assembly to use its legislative power to compel Shell (SPDC) to relocate its Western Operational Headquarters and offices back to Warri which it (SPDC) left as a result of the Warri crises of 2003/2004. The lawmaker explained that the fundamental causal factor resulting from the aforementioned crises that engulfed Warri and environs which necessitated Shell (SPDC) to relocate its Western Operational Headquarters and Offices from Warri had long been peacefully resolved with the hitherto warring groups leaving peacefully among themselves; and were unanimous in appealing to the Federal government of Nigeria to prevail on Shell (SPDC) to without delay return back to Warri.”
    While we would not want to go into the other ‘political factors’ that greatly contributed to Shell (SPDC) relocation from its Western Headquarters in Warri, the issue of concern here, to us, is the fact that the Lawmakers are only focusing on the IOCs relocation to the Niger Delta region whereas, the NNPC and its vital subsidiaries in the oil and gas industry are left to remain in Lagos and Abuja, which are not core oil producing States. This again brings to mind the back-and-forth bickering and complaints concerning the gross failure of Oil Multinational companies, operating in the Niger Delta to return their Head Headquarters to the region despite several directives from the Federal Government of Nigeria. In which we have noted and responded that, that the Federal Government and its NNPC are the ones ‘playing politics with this issue’. In other words, this is not about the IOCs flouting the Federal Government’s directive to relocate their Head Offices/headquarters to the Niger Delta region, but it is about the Federal Government/NNPC not doing what is expected of them to address this issue.

    Let us recall that in 2013, a similar motion like the reported recent one above, was moved by Reyenieju calling on Shell (SPDC) to relocate to Warri, which was successfully passed by the Federal House of Representatives but has so far yielded no positive result. So, what makes the Lawmakers think now that their recent directive will make any difference or change anything?
    Like we reiterated severally, we do not think the IOCs would readily flout a Federal Government directive, as well as that from the Lawmakers, on this issue, if the window and situation for them to flout and neglect such a directive, was not created or there in the first place. in our view, we think that if the Lawmakers/Federal Government/NNPC are truly sincere and honest in seeing their ‘various directives’ obeyed, then they should lead by example. In other words, if the Lawmakers/Federal Government should, first order the relocation of the NNPC Head Offices/Headquarters and its subsidiaries, particularly the Head Offices of National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), and others to the Niger Delta, we are certain that the IOCs, as well as indigenous oil and gas companies and oil servicing/contracting companies will promptly relocate to the Niger Delta region, specifically to Warri and environs which is ‘centrally located’ in the region, and not to remain in Lagos and Abuja.
    In our view, the problem here is not really with the IOCs (that are privately-owned), but with the Nigerian Lawmakers/Federal Government and the NNPC. The problem is with the present location of the Headquarters/Head Offices of NNPC, especially NAPIMS and DPR, which are the bodies that are respectively regulating the commercial aspect of IOCs and operational aspect of the oil business for IOCs and Indigenous companies – both of which are still based in Lagos and Abuja. Hence, we see all these big oil and gas services contracting firms having their Head Offices based in Lagos and Abuja as well, where “the corporate action in the industry is very active” – leaving the Niger Delta region States like Delta State with the oil city of Warri and environs, without any corporate action in the industry. Once the Federal Government/NNPC can address this anomaly, we believe the IOCs will not have any excuse not to relocate their Head Offices/Headquarters to places like the oil city of Warri and environs. As we write this, almost all the former Shell (SPDC) Housing Estate at Edjeba-Warri, including the former Shell (SPDC) Main Office opposite Federal Government College Warri, Shell (SPDC) Industrial Area (IA) and Residential Area (RA) in Ogunu-Warri, are all empty, dilapidating-away and have been taken over by rats, rodents and lizards. These Housing Estates, Office Blocks and Accommodation are more than enough to accommodate all the NNPC group and its Subsidiaries if the right thing is done as regards their relocation.
    All ‘major contracts’ in the industry are being awarded through NAPIMS, which is based in Lagos. And as such, every oil and gas company and servicing/contracting company wants their businesses to stay close to those who regulate and manage the industry on behalf of the Federal Government. Same with the DPR Headquarters that is also located in Lagos. So, if the Federal Government is really serious about this ‘relocation of oil firms’ directive’ to the Niger Delta area, they know exactly what to do.
    Even the few NNPC subsidiaries operating in the Niger Delta like the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), all have their Managing Directors (MDs) Offices in the NNPC Headquarters Office in Abuja, and they work from there in most cases. That means, all major decisions concerning the industry and the operations of the NNPC subsidiaries are taken in the said NNPC Headquarters Office in Abuja. We believe if the Federal Government is sincere in addressing this issue, then the Head Offices of the Group Managing Director (GMD), Group Executive Directors (GEDs) and MDs of the NNPC Subsidiaries/group of companies, should be relocated to the Niger Delta region. The oil and gas are daily explored and produced in the region, and then exported through the Shell (SPDC) Forcados Integrated Terminal. Chevron also has a Tank Farm and export Terminal in Escrvos, all in Delta State. All the other oil and gas companies pass through the Shell (SPDC) Terminals to export their raw products. In other words, these are where all the ‘real actions’ in the extractive industry are taking place. So, what exactly are the NNPC Group and its subsidiaries doing in Lagos and Abuja?

    If the Lawmakers and the Federal Government are serious and really want IOCs to relocate to the Niger Delta region, they know exactly what to do with the NNPC and all its subsidiaries, which includes NAPIMS and the DPR, as advised above – they should all have their Headquarters/Head Offices to be relocated to the Niger Delta region. The Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources could be left to remain in Abuja. But the NNPC Group and all its subsidiaries should relocate to Warri, which is centrally located in the Niger Delta region. If the Niger Delta region is good and available to be explored to produce oil and gas for export to make money for the Nigerian Government and to fund the 36 States plus the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, then the Niger Delta region should also be good enough to have the Head Offices/Headquarters of the NNPC Group and its subsidiaries located in the region. President Buhari should right this wrong by directing NNPC and its subsidiaries to relocate their Headquarters/Head Offices to the Niger Delta region.

    Zik Gbemre

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