It would be recalled that the coordinated campaigns embarked upon by the people of Ogoni and championed by the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) to draw global attention to the environmentally hazardous activities of the subsidiary of Shell in Nigeria namely Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) climaxed in the widely-condemned execution of internationally acclaimed indigenous rights advocate and environmental activist, Ken Saro Wiwa and other eight Ogoni compatriots on November 10, 1995.
It should therefore be of significant interest that 22 years after the hanging of Ogoni activists, Amnesty International is committed to unearthing circumstances which surrounded the crises in Ogoni. Based on its new report titled: A Criminal Enterprise?, the human rights group is alleging credible documents as well as verifiable evidences are available which substantially attest to the complicity of Shell in the human rights abuses typified by incidents of murder, rape and torture of civilian population in Ogoniland as well as the Niger Delta region.
The Director of Global Issues and Research at Amnesty International; Audrey Gaughran specifically alleged ‘massive cache of evidence’ that could be relevant in holding Shell to account for the alleged abuses in Ogoniland. The group has therefore called on Nigeria, as well as the United Kingdom and Netherlands where Shell is headquartered to ensure criminal investigation of the infractions allegedly perpetrated by the oil giant.
Although the recent allegations have been denied in a statement by SPDC as falsehood and lacking in merit; insisting “support for human rights in line with the legitimate role of business is fundamental to Shell’s core values of honesty, integrity and respect for people”, we are however strongly convinced that a thorough investigation as demanded by Amnesty International would go a long way in resolving the controversies that have lingered in spite of the seemingly tangible efforts aimed at bringing succour to affected individuals and groups in the communities.
In 2015, Shell announced payment of compensation in the sum of $55m to affected individuals and communities in Ogoni ostensibly to avoid stiffer penalties from a law suit against the oil company in a London High Court. Most recently, widows of four of the nine Ogoni activists executed in 1995 filed a writ against Shell in the Netherlands over the alleged complicity of Shell in the killings of their husbands.
It is imperative to note however that notwithstanding the payment of compensations for oil spillages in Ogoniland following favourable outcomes of litigations as well as the cleanup exercise necessitated by the report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), there has been consistent clamour for justice over the killings of defenceless civilians and in particular the questionable execution of Ogoni activists.
It should also be instructive that the clamour for justice has been unrelenting since civil rule was restored in Nigeria in 1999; culminating in series of legal proceedings as well as advocacy efforts within and outside the country.
It is therefore to this extent that emerging effort to beam the searchlights on the roles played by Shell in concert with authorities as well as individuals acting in private and corporate capacities should be seen as welcome development.
If pursued to a logical conclusion, the outcome may go a long way in validating the much cherished dictum to the effect that justice delayed is not justice denied. More importantly, the outcome may be relevant in setting enduring agenda that will make corporate organisations accountable to acceptable practices and responsibilities in host communities in Nigeria.
Credit: Daily Independent