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 one".

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 its because:

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 in Peru

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.

Index of Website

Home Page