Shell in Nigeria
Project Underground, 1998
"This is it -- they are going to arrest us all and execute
us all for Shell". - Ken Saro-Wiwa, 2 weeks before he was
arrested, May, 1994.
On November 10, 1995, after 17 months in custody, and a trial
that was universally condemned as being a sham, Ken Saro-Wiwa
and eight other Ogoni activists were hanged in Port Harcourt,
Nigeria. Their only crime was their success in exposing the Shell
Petroleum Company's role in destroying their land, their society,
and their people.
In his final statement to the military tribunal, Ken Saro-Wiwa
said, "I and my colleagues are not the only ones on trial.
Shell is here on trial...The Company has, indeed, ducked this
particular trial, but its day will surely come...for there is
no doubt in my mind that the ecological war that the Company has
waged in the Delta will be called to question sooner than later
and the crimes of that war be duly punished. The crime of the
Company's dirty wars against the Ogoni people will also be punished."
The Ogoni have not fared well over the past four years. Since
forcing Shell to withdraw most of their operations from their
404 square mile homeland, the Ogoni have become the frontline
in Nigeria's struggle for democracy and the global movement for
corporate accountability. The numbers are staggerring - the World
Council of Churches estimates that over 3,000 Ogoni have died,
while 30,000 have been internally displaced. Another 1,000 have
fled Nigeria to camps in neighboring countries, only to be forced
to live in grusome conditions. Many have fled Africa altogether,
and today the leaders of MOSOP are scattered throughout Europe
and North America.
In the year since Saro-Wiwa's execution made global headlines,
Shell and Nigeria have moved in for the kill. While both entities
have been spending millions retaining public relations firms,
conditions have gotten even worse in Ogoni. According to MOSOP,
over the last year 36 people were judicially executed, 286 detained,
and the military conducted fatal raids on 19 communities. The
Rivers State Internal Security Task Force, a special military
unit that was created in response to MOSOP, is more active than
ever and today Ogoni is an occupied land. Ogoni families awoke
on New Year's Day 1997 to 1,000 more troops stationed in their
communities, meant to prevent any observance of Ogoni Day. Dusk
to dawn curfews have been in place since before the first anniversary
of Saro-Wiwa's death.
In Nigeria, power does not flow from the people - it comes
from Shell. Fully 90% of Nigeria's export earnings are from oil.
Oil also makes up 80% of the Nigerian government's revenues. Half
of Nigerian oil is produced by Shell. The revenues from the sale
of that oil are used by the brutal Nigerian military dictator,
General Sani Abacha, to suppress the freedom of all Nigerians.
Shell, of course, maintains that they have no involvement in the
political situation, and that their role is "a purely commercial
The origins of this struggle lie in the geology beneath Ogoni.
Since 1958, Shell and other oil companies have been drilling in
this region - the Niger river delta - known as "Nigeria's
Kuwait". The local environment has been devastated by the
drilling and production activities, and 6 years ago the Ogoni
organized the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)
to demand their environmental and social rights. Their non-violent
campaign has been met with force, resulting in repeated massacres
of people and arrests of leaders.
Ken Saro-Wiwa and MOSOP repeatedly alleged that Shell is behind
the ongoing violence in their homeland. They were right. Over
the past year, an enormous amount of information has emerged on
the situation which implicates Shell in past and ongoing environmental
and human rights abuses in Nigeria.
When someone asks you why you are boycotting Shell, tell them
Shell has devastated the environment of the Niger delta Shell
has imported arms for the Nigerian military Shell has paid the
Nigerian military to conduct operations in Ogoni Shell has provided
logistical support to armed units of the Nigerian police and military
Shell bribed witnesses at Ken Saro-Wiwa's trial Shell continues
to be the single largest source of income for the brutal Nigerian
regime. Shell is threatening the survival of indigenous peoples
This boycott will continue until:
1.Shell withdraws from and ceases efforts to reenter areas
of the Niger Delta that are under miltary rule; 2.Shell actively
seeks the release of the Ogoni 19 -- who are still awaiting "trial"
on the same false charges for which Saro-Wiwa was executed;
3.Shell stops its practice of "double standards",
and supports an independent environmental assessment of the Niger
Delta; 4.Shell cancels its plans to drill inside the Nahua
and Kugapakori Reserve in Peru.