On 4 January 1993, some 300,000 Ogoni peacefully protested against Shell’s activities in the Niger Delta and the environmental destruction of Ogoniland. To this day, this marks the largest demonstration against an oil company ever. The Nigerian military government brutally cracked down on the movement after oil conglomerate Shell had called in government troops in response to the Ogoni demonstrations. Scores of protesters were arbitrarily arrested, wounded or extra-judicially killed. Two years later the movement’s leader – Nigerian author, environmental and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa – was sentenced to death and executed. The Ogoni’s grievances date back to when oil conglomerates Shell and BP started producing oil in the Niger Delta in the 1960s. Within only a few years, their operations and devastating oil spills had severely impacted the environment and livelihood of local communities. Peaceful protests and civil resistance against these practices, however, were brutally cracked down upon by successive military governments in Nigeria. This affected in particular members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), a nonviolent organisation which had been formed in 1990.
To this day, civil society organizations continuously voice their growing fear over the extent of damage reckless oil extraction has done to the livelihood systems of local communities and decry the delay of a large-scale clean-up project for the Niger Delta region. The Nigerian government had officially launched the project in June 2016 and had promised to thereby fully implementing recommendations made by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), but the process stalled and not many improvements have been made. Rather, the Nigerian government apparently seeks to expand oil exploration in the region. Not surprisingly, living conditions in Ogoniland thus continue to be a “nightmare”, according to local activists. Time and again, the Nigerian military or security forces affiliated with oil companies raid local communities and harass the local population. Most recently, Nigerian energy company RoboMichael and the Nigerian army forcefully occupied the MOSOP Secretariat in what constitutes another act of aggression against peaceful civil resistance against repression and environmental destruction.
UNPO strongly condemns ongoing military aggressions and repression in Ogoniland and urges the Nigerian government to fully implement the action plan for a large-scale and sustainable clean-up of the Niger Delta region. The European Union, the United States and other actors involved in oil extraction in Nigeria should make the plight of the Ogoni people one of their primary concerns and pressure the Nigerian government to conform to international laws.