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  • Shell involved in attacks on Nigerian villages

    Het materiaal uit dit artikel is als basis gebruikt voor de uitzending van VPRO Argos in December 2010.

    In the run up to the 15th Anniversary of the execution of Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, new evidence has emerged of Shell’s collusion with the Nigerian military which led to the deaths of scores of Ogoni in the early nineties.

    The evidence is contained in testimonies that were taken for the land-mark lawsuit Wiwa versus Shell which was due to be heard in a New York District Court last year (2009).

    But because the case was settled out of court, the testimonies were never made public.

    At the time of Saro-Wiwa’s death, Shell repeatedly told its shareholders and the press that it was not colluding or providing logistical support to the Nigerian military including the Niger Delta Internal Security Task Force. The company would later admit to having paid field allowances on only two occasions to the military.

    But compelling testimonies show that Shell provided logistical support to the military and Mobile Police, known locally as the Kill and Go, in a series of clashes between the Ogoni and their neighbours the Andoni. These clashes started in the summer of 1993, months after the Ogoni had stepped up their campaign against Shell earlier in the year.
    The military junta always said that this was purely an inter-ethnic clash, although this was widely disputed at the time. Professor Claude Ake, the respected Nigerian academic who investigated the clashes said: “I don’t think it was purely an ethnic clash, in fact there is really no reason why it should be an ethnic clash”.

    Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation all documented evidence of military involvement, including the use of heavy weaponry and witnesses seeing soldiers who had returned from peace-keeping duties in Liberia.

    In August, in one of the worst attacks, scores of Ogoni including children were killed in the village of Kaa. Amnesty International estimated at least 35 were killed. Other estimates are much higher with up to 124 people believed murdered. Hundreds of houses were destroyed including the main market and school. In all over 1,000 Ogoni were said to have been killed in the Andoni /Ogoni clashes.

    One person due to appear as a witness in the Wiwa case about the Andoni attacks was Eebu Jackson Nwiyon, an Ogoni who was a member of the Mobile Police Force. With his unit, Nwiyon was taken to the Shell Industrial Area, in Port Harcourt where he boarded a Shell helicopter at the helipad. He was heavily laden with weaponry, including carrying rifles, ammunition and grenades.
    Before he boarded he saw a Shell staff member give a bulging envelope to his superior officer.

    He was then flown in the helicopter to Andoni, where they landed near a primary school. He was given 2000 Naira from the same envelope he saw that his boss had been given by Shell. At the time, Nwiyon’s monthly wages were less than 500 Naira a month. During his deposition, he was asked by the lawyer “at that time what was your understanding of what that money was for?”
    Nwiyon replied: “my understanding was like this, I was being paid like a soldier being hired, kind of mercenary to go and fight, to go and attack the Ogonis, my own people.”
    To which the lawyer replied: “At that time did you have any understanding of who was paying you to be a mercenary?”
    He answered: “Yes, again it was very obvious it was Shell.”
    Nwiyon spoke to both military and Navy personnel who told him they went out at night to attack Ogoni villages as punishment for crticising Shell. So appalled at what was going on, he deserted the operation.
    One Ogoni witness who says he saw Shell helicopters flying to and from Kaa at the time of the attacks was Bishop Augustine John Miller, another witness due to be called at the trial. He argued that the Ogoni would see the Shell helicopters undertake surveillance. “Before any attack goes on in any village, that Shell helicopter would go to surveillance that place before the attack, maybe, that night or the next day.”
    Asked by the lawyer: “Which villages were attacked following the pattern that you have just described? He answered “It happened like that on, I think, at Kaa. Every place they have attacked, they have been on helicopter surveillance.”
    Miller’s testimony is backed up by Legbara Tony Idigima, an Ogoni studying at the University of Nebraska, who was a plaintiff in the parallel legal action against Shell. Idigima says Shell helicopters flew over Ogoni “daily” during the Andoni attacks. “The day Kaa was attacked” Idigima testified, “the community told us this is what has been happening, it has been a daily event.”
    Other witnesses also testified that Shell supplied arms to the Andonis and food to the soldiers that was transported by river in Shell boats.
    The message left by the soldiers was simple. After the attack on Kaa, an Ogoni Princewill Nathan Neebani testified that he saw “No to Ken Saro-Wiwa, yes to Shell,” written on the highway.
    Shell denied collusion. Precious Omuku, the Public Affairs Manager from Shell testified in the Wiwa case. He was asked if Shell had investigated the company’s complicity in the attacks at Kaa. “We issued a statement basically saying that it has no truth to that because there was no complicity”, he said.
    However, the environmental campaign group Platform, recently interviewed witnesses to the attack in a visit to the Delta this autumn. The Ogoni they spoke to recall seeing Shell helicopters and speedboats used in the attack on Kaa. One witness said, at the time of the attacks, “the helicopter that used to come in and out of that area is a Shell helicopter”, another said: “I saw the boat. With a lot of military, Nigerian military men, inside with full arms … The boat, the logo … when we were in Port Harcourt, we used to see the Shell motif for their company so it cannot be doubted when you see it on the sea too. This is the Shell boat.”
    VPRO Argos 18 december 2010- Shell in Nigeria
    VPRO Argos 29 januari 2011- Shell onder vuur