Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Day Of Reckoning For The Shell In Nigeria

I am very happy to read that after long years of battle, the Royal Dutch Shell is now facing an American court to answer some questions regarding the hanging of a renowned Nigerian playwright, Ken Saro-Wiwa 13 years ago by the Junta of the late Nigeria head of state, General Sani Abacha.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, an environmentalist who opposed the degradation of the lands in Niger Delta of Nigeria by the Royal Dutch Shell was tried and condemned by a Military Tribunal set up by then Head of State, Sani Abacha after being denied a proper legal representation and appeal and subsequently hanged In November 1995. Ever since his execution, there has been a rumour that Shell knew one or two things about the hanging since being one of the main source of Nigerian income, they had the financial power and should have stopped the execution.

Shell could have stopped the execution by threatening to quit from Nigeria if the government go on with it but it remained mysteriously silent apparently because of what they stand to gain from this execution. It was actually alleged that the Royal Dutch Shell helped in drafting the trumped up charges of murder that led to the execution of Saro-Wiwa and eight others and even helped to fund the military operation of the then Abacha junta which on many occasions brutally suppressed the peaceful protests of the local community.

That was a very serious miscalculation for the execution actually opened many avenues for the present difficulty the company and other petroleum companies are facing in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. Kidnapping has become the order of the day while oil drilling is virtually brought to a halt and for Nigeria, things are really not working well for that has translated into being a drain in the pocket of the nation.

I am particularly interested in this case because it is likely to end up as a landmark case on weather companies or businesses that also operate in the United State could be held liable for a crime committed elsewhere. Shell though a Dutch company also operates in America and therefore what this case may establish at the end of the day is that since they have presence in the America they could be charged for sins committed in any country outside the States, in this case Nigeria.

The case is brought together by all the parties that suffered any form of injury, torture, persecution, dehumanisation, imprisonment or any other violence as a direct result of the conflict and is christened Wiwa vs. Shell. Also amongst the plaintiff are the sons of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Ken and Owen.

This is certainly not good news for the Royal Dutch Shell and the fact that they have spent a lot of money bribing people here and there and yonder to suppress the scandal is not going to help the case either. Shell really deserve to bury their head in shame for the level of impunity and lackadaisical attitude they have shown all these while towards the plight of their host, the Niger Delta people and the Ogonis in particular. They turned their source of water into oil and rendered their farmland useless. The people are simply poor and frustrated because agriculture and fishing which is their major source of income have been dealt a blow by the Royal Dutch.

Frankly speaking, Shell has not for all these while discharged their social responsibilities well towards their host. Schools, hospitals, houses and other infrastructures they grudgingly put up for their host communities are simply below the standard and they can never even think of it much less of building them in the first place anywhere in Europe or America, yet they took their Nigerian hosts as idiots and think they will get away with it. Even the Shell Scholarship put in place to support the local people have been tainted by bribery and corruption that majority of those who qualify for them are not actually from the oil producing areas but often sons and daughters of high ranking government officials who have a stake in their future and who actually come from non-oil producing areas of the nation. A case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Bearing this in mind then, one could understand perfectly the ongoing anger of the local people and may explain the reason behind the incessant kidnapping and armed robbery in the region. This could have been averted from the outset if Shell had played their role well and responsibly. However that does not justify in any form the ongoing violence in the region. Dialogue and court action like this one should have been the first option.

The story of Shell in Nigeria makes me sick. The fact that The Royal Dutch Shell is a foreign and European company should have been a good reason for them to know the meaning of corporate social responsibility, transparency and respect for the local people. Somebody should have taught Shell a lesson on symbiotic relationship.

Therefore this case is a very welcomed development that would see The Royal Dutch charged with collaboration with the Nigerian government in the execution of Ken-Saro Wiwa and eight others on a trumped up charges and their inability to do anything even in form of protest to stop the execution. Shell is also accused of collaborating with the government and military to violently suppress peaceful protests by the local people.

Niger Delta is the main source of the oil and revenue for Nigeria yet majority of its people live below poverty level. The gains of millions of dollars being generated daily from the proceeds of the oil has not tickled down to the people. Their farmland is all turned into a wasteland, their water coated by oil while gas flaring which has been banned for long is still in use by the Royal Dutch. It was these notorious acts that Ken Saro-Wiwa was strongly against.

Prior to his hanging, Ken Saro-Wiwa had predicted that the evils being perpetrated by The Royal Dutch Shell would come back to haunt them. As the trial goes on in New York, the region is rehearsing another Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan combined with bombing, shooting, kidnapping and likes of them becoming the other of the day.

The peaceful protests against the company strongly encouraged by Saro-Wiwa is now turned into a violent hell leading Shell to be recording annual looses of unprecedented type since their arrival in Nigeria in 1958. A clear case of had we known, we would have listen to Ken.

1 comment:

  1. Breaking news!!! Below is an excerpt from the rebelreports.com, "Today the parties in Wiwa v. Shell agreed to settle human rights claims charging the Royal Dutch/Shell company, its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC or Shell Nigeria), and the former head of its Nigerian operation, Brian Anderson, with complicity in the torture, killing and other abuses of Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and other non-violent Nigerian activists in the mid-1990s in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta. The settlement, whose terms are public, provides a total of $15.5 million. These funds will compensate the 10 plaintiffs, who include family members of the deceased victims; establish a Trust intended to benefit the Ogoni people; and cover a portion of plaintiffs’ legal fees and costs. The settlement is only on behalf of the individual plaintiffs for their individual claims. It does not resolve outstanding issues between Shell and the Ogoni people, and the plaintiffs did not negotiate on behalf of the Ogoni people".

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