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Shell Kills Ogoni

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Even after his arrest, Kiobel bravely campaigned to improve conditions in his home area, writing to Komo to appeal for a military withdrawal from Gokana (in Ogoniland) because of “indiscriminate shootings, killing of innocent persons.” 

Extracts from pages 35 & 36 of an Amnesty International document entitled: “A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE? SHELL’S INVOLVEMENT IN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN NIGERIA IN THE 1990s”

Ken Saro-Wiwa: Before launching MOSOP, Ken Saro-Wiwa, from Bane in Ogoniland, was a successful writer. From 1985-90, some 30 million Nigerians tuned in every week to Basi and Company, a comedy-drama he wrote for Nigerian TV.152 Several of his books won international acclaim, including Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English, and On a Darkling Plain.153 The prosecution accused Ken Saro-Wiwa of inciting his supporters to kill the four chiefs meeting at Giokoo. It claimed that shortly before the attacks, he told a group of supporters “to deal with the “vultures.”154 The only witnesses to allege this, Charles Danwi and Nayone Akpa, subsequently signed alleging that the government and Shell had bribed them to make false statements (see above.)155 Ken Saro-Wiwa denied the accusation.156

Dr Kiobel was from Kpor in Ogoniland. Between January and July 1994 he was a senior official in the Rivers State government. His post was Commissioner of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.157 He was arrested on 22 May 1994, and later charged with encouraging the murders of the four Ogoni chiefs. Kiobel protested his innocence, saying that he sought to prevent rather than encourage the violence. Michael Birnbaum QC, who observed the trial, found that the prosecution’s summary of the evidence against Kiobel was unfair, and that the evidence “appears consistent with the claim that [Kiobel] was trying to stop the violence.”158

Kiobel was unusual among the Ogoni Nine not only because he held a government post, but because he was not a member of MOSOP. The military later claimed that Kiobel was a leading member of MOSOP, something which both Kiobel and Ken Saro-Wiwa denied.159

It remains uncertain why Kiobel was targeted alongside Saro-Wiwa and his supporters. His wife, Esther Kiobel, believes it was because he had been critical of the government’s operations in Ogoniland, and had refused to collaborate with the government against Saro-Wiwa.160 His private correspondence show that in the months prior to his arrest, Kiobel had helped communicate concerns about the human rights situation in Ogoniland to Lieutenant-Colonel Komo, the military administrator of Rivers State.161 Even after his arrest, Kiobel bravely campaigned to improve conditions in his home area, writing to Komo to appeal for a military withdrawal from Gokana (in Ogoniland) because of “indiscriminate shootings, killing of innocent persons.”162

Baribor Bera, from Bera, Ogoniland, was a member of NYCOP, the MOSOP youth organization. The prosecution accused him of leading the mob that actually carried out the murders.163 He denied this, and said that in fact he had tried to prevent the violence.164 Baribor Bera told the court that after his arrest he had been brutally tortured, forced to sign a confession and implicate other defendants.165

Saturday Dobee worked as a security guard at a bank in Bori, Ogoniland. He denied being a MOSOP member, but said he knew Ken Saro-Wiwa “in person.”166

Nordu Eawo was a member of NYCOP, from Nwe-ol, Ogoniland.167 On 7 July 1995 he told the tribunal that he had been arrested by a leading prosecution witness and taken to his house, where he was beaten and cut on the genitals and head with a sharp stick by other key prosecution witnesses.168

Daniel Gbokoo was an electrician and farmer in Bera, Ogoniland. He denied being a member of MOSOP, but said his brother might have signed him up as a member of NYCOP without his knowledge while he was in hospital.169

John Kpuinen, from Bera, Ogoniland, was the deputy president of NYCOP. He denied accusations that he both instigated and took part in the murders, saying he was not present.170

Paul Levula was an active member of MOSOP, and worked as a clerical officer at a health clinic at Bomu in Ogoniland.171 He denied the charges.172

Felix Nuate was a trader and farmer from Loko, Ogoniland, who was an “ordinary member” of MOSOP, according to his widow, Friday Nuate.173

Others
Ledum Mitee was the deputy president of MOSOP. Like Ken Saro-Wiwa and Barinem Kiobel, he was accused of inciting the killings. He was acquitted after the prosecution submitted that there was a lack of evidence against him. Yet as trial observer Michael Birnbaum noted, this submission undermined the convictions of all the others. His assessment was that Mitee was acquitted because, “at least one verdict of not guilty was necessary in order to maintain a pretence of fairness.”174

  1. J. Timothy Hunt, The Politics of Bones: Dr Owens Wiwa and the Struggle for Nigeria’s Oil, p. 54.
  2. J. Timothy Hunt, The Politics of Bones, Dr Owens Wiwa and the Struggle for Nigeria’s Oil, p. 53-4.
  3. Michael Birnbaum QC, Nigeria: Fundamental Rights Denied: Report on the Trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Others, p. 71.
  4. Michael Birnbaum QC, Nigeria: Fundamental Rights Denied: Report on the Trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Others, p. 36.
  5. Michael Birnbaum QC, Nigeria: Fundamental Rights Denied: Report on the Trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Others, p. 72.
  6. Letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Dauda Musa Komo (Military Administrator, Rivers State) to Barinem Kiobel, 29 July 1994.
  7. Michael Birnbaum QC, Nigeria: Fundamental Rights Denied: Report on the Trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Others, 10.7 and 23.15.
  8. Ken Saro-Wiwa’s statement to the tribunal, cited in Civil Liberties Organization, Ogoni: Trials and Travails, 1996.
  9. Amnesty International Interview with Esther Kiobel, Amsterdam, 6 December 2016. In 2003 Esther stated that her husband had publicly disagreedwith Lieutenant-Colonel Komo on the subject of Ken Saro-Wiwa.
  10. In April 1994, Kiobel facilitated a group of Ogoni chiefs to meet with Lieutenant-Colonel Komo, the military Administrator of Rivers State, and raise their concerns about the situation in Ogoniland. In May 1994, just prior to his arrest, Kiobel forwarded to Komo a letter by a US Congressional Committee that criticized human rights violations in Ogoniland.
  11. Letter from Kiobel to Komo, 3 June 1994.
  12. Michael Birnbaum QC, Nigeria: Fundamental Rights Denied: Report on the Trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Others, p. 75.
  13. Michael Birnbaum QC, Nigeria: Fundamental Rights Denied: Report on the Trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Others, p. 76.
  14. Transcript of the Ogoni Civil Disturbances Tribunal, Day 4, 23 February 1995, p. 41-5.
  15. Statement by Saturday Dobee (undated).

167. Transcript of interview with Blessing Eawo, 8 February 2017.

168. Amnesty International, Nigeria: The Ogoni Trials And Detentions, Index number: AFR 44/020/1995

169. Statement by Daniel Gboko, 9 July 1994.

170. Michael Birnbaum QC, A Travesty of Law and Justice: An Analysis of the Judgement in the Case of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Others, p. 17-18. 171. Layers interview with Charity Levula, 2 February 2017.

172. Statement by Paul Levula, undated.

173. Deposition by Friday Nuate, 18 October 2003, p. 68.

174. Michael Birnbaum QC, A Travesty of Law and Justice: An Analysis of the Judgement in the Case of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Others, p. 19.

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