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Prime Minister John Major’s two-faced approach to Ogoni 9 crisis?

Extracts from an article by published 15 January 2020

Newly released files under the UK’s declassification rules reveal that John Major’s Conservative Government rejected Mandela’s personal appeal to impose oil sanctions on Nigeria as it wanted to protect Shell and the UK’s wider commercial interests.

In 1995, Nigeria’s military regime executed nine environmental activists who had led a non-violent protest against pollution by Anglo-Dutch company Shell and other energy firms in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

The so-called ‘Ogoni 9’ were executed on 10 November 1995, following a military tribunal that was internationally condemned – particularly by South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela.

Newly released files under the UK’s declassification rules reveal that John Major’s Conservative Government rejected Mandela’s personal appeal to impose oil sanctions on Nigeria as it wanted to protect Shell and the UK’s wider commercial interests.

After Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other members of Nigeria’s Ogoni community were hanged, UK officials discussed whether the UK could argue against sanctions on Nigerian oil by using the same argument with which it opposed a trade boycott of South Africa’s apartheid Government – that it would “hit hardest the poor people least able to cope”.

Publicly, Major described the executions as “sad day for Nigeria” and called for a “fundamental and lasting change” in how the country was governed. However, behind the scenes, his Government worked to prevent sanctions being imposed on Nigeria’s oil industry and protect UK interests in the country. 

A day before the executions, British officials compiled a summary of UK investments in Nigeria worth between £3 and £5 billion. Shell topped a list of “major UK investors” that also included BP, British Airways and Guinness.

Shell was responsible for half of the country’s daily oil output and was also interested in Nigeria’s “entirely unexploited” gas reserves. It described the Shell-led Nigeria LNG project as “the largest industrial project in Nigeria this century”.

In June 2017, Esther Kiobel and three other women launched a civil case against Shell in the Netherlands. In May last year, a Dutch court said it has jurisdiction to hear the case and ruled that Shell should hand over confidential internal documents to the claimants.

The widows claim that the company was complicit in the 1995 killings of their husbands, although Shell has denied any involvement in their executions.

FULL EXTENSIVE ARTICLE WITH DOCUMENT IMAGES

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