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Q & A with Esther Kiobel, currently lead plaintiff in Dutch lawsuit against Shell

Q & A with Esther Kiobel, currently the lead plaintiff in the above Dutch lawsuit against Shell

Q: Who are the Ogoni People?

The Ogoni people are mainly fishermen and farmers who live on the coastal plains in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. With a population now over a million, going by recent estimates, Ogoni people are mainly lovers of peace, lovers of their guests, especially the guests that bring development. However, in recent past, the peaceful disposition of the Ogoni has been abused and pockets of violence deliberately orchestrated by Shell has further rendered the people worse than poor.

Ogonis produce the richest harvest that feeds not just Rivers State, but also parts of Nigeria. This explains why the Ogoni economic mainstay remains farming (agriculture) and fishing. Only a handful of Ogonis are government employees such as academics and other forms of civil service. Others are traders.

Ogonis are also religious people. Prior to the advent of Christianity, Ogonis were mainly traditional religion practitioners. Today, a good percentage of Ogonis are Christians while a minor fraction falls into Islam and traditional religious practice.

The people have a rich cultural heritage although a lot of those cultures have been jettisoned following the introduction of Christianity.

Generally, Ogonis are nice people.

Esther Kiobel

Q: What have been (and still are) the environmental impact of Shell’s oil extraction in the Ogoniland region and in people’s daily life?

Hmmm! This is a very important question. It is touching! The reason is that the summary of the Ogoni people’s afflictions is Shell and its activities in Ogoniland. The only thing Ogonis have reaped from Shell’s oil extraction over the years have been abject poverty and the gruesome murder of prominent Ogonis and other innocent people. Of course my husband, Dr Barinem Nubari Kiobel was their victim too, just as Ken Saro-Wiwa and many others.

Another blight on Ogonis from Shell’s oil extraction on their soil has been a heavily polluted environment where the people are no longer able to farm or fish and where people inhale pollutants and die of deadly diseases almost on a daily basis while Shell is busy denying the evil done to its victims right in the full view of everyone.

Today, Shell-induced poverty has made the youths resort to arms bearing to earn a living. Hence, you hear of crisis here and there in Ogoniland. Most are caused by Shell.

Q: Can oil extraction bring real economic benefits to the Nigerian population?

A: Sure! It can. The problem is the shorted-sighted leadership in Nigeria and the terrible greed Shell has rapidly caused across the land, especially in their areas of operation in Nigeria. If the resources from oil extraction are properly invested, Nigeria will be a second heaven and investors’ envy. So, if the government and Shell in Nigeria get sincere with global best practices, and their extractive activities, the Nigeria economy will be an amazing wonder!

Q: In your opinion, are there people who leave/have left Nigeria because of problems related to environmental exploitation/degradation?

A: Oh yes! If you visit Ogoniland for instance, toxic degradation is legendary! But for the fact that a lot of people don’t have the means to relocate, I am sure every Ogoni would like to leave. Remember that this same issue of environmental degradation is what my husband supported that led to his murder by the same Shell using the organs of government. The environment is so polluted that a well-groomed dog in America won’t live in some of the devastations that a lot of Ogonis live in today. So, the exodus out of Ogoni because of these environmental issues is endless.

Q: Together with Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula, you are at the centre of a long-running legal battle against Shell. What are the latest updates available?

A: In February,  we were in the Netherlands with a view to bringing Shell to justice for their countless atrocities and injustices against our husbands. We are still on it.

Q: In late February there were elections in Nigeria and Muhammadu Buhari has been re-elected. Does this impact on your struggle?

A: Well, the struggle is beyond the reelected Nigerian president. Available records do not give him credit for respect for human, women’s, people’s and environmental rights. However, his reelection has raised a lot of dust as to the credibility of the election process.  I do not intend to have the matter heard in Nigeria. Moreover, with that same reelection, Nigeria is as good as being in a military dictatorship, which is a sad reminder of the injustice dished out to my husband.

Esther Kiobel file photo.


The views, information, allegations or opinions expressed above are those of the author/originator of the article and may not represent the publishers’ views.

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