Ogoni: Shell’s crude reality

Perhaps Shell thought that it would get away with a murder. Everything that had happened in Ogoni for the past fifty years amounts to murder by Shell and the Nigerian government; a mass murder at that. When crude oil was first struck in Ogoni in 1958, little did the Ogonis know that that was going to be their pearl harbor. Oil anywhere is a blessing but of course ,only in Nigeria that oil is a curse. With the devastation and a glaring marginalization, Ken Saro Wiwa (the environmentalist, writer and a human rights crusader) organized his Ogoni people under the auspices of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, against the evil of Shell and the Nigerian government. The nightmare of Shell and the Nigerian government is that the consciousness of every Ogoni and the Niger Delta peoples had been seared; the awareness is great and runs deep in every person on the street. The Government seems to be oblivion of the plight of the Niger Delta people. Thankfully, all of their atrocities are now open before the public. Ken had rightly said that Shell’s day in court shall come and it is finally here for all to see.

When Ken Saro Wiwa said that the Ogoni people were facing extinction I did not understand what he meant. But as I came of age and became aware of my environment and felt the pains of environmental devastation, I understood what Ken was talking about. And now the findings in the UNEP report have vindicated Ken and MOSOP .

Thank GOD for the twin victories for the Ogoni people; the Bodo oil spill case and the UNEP findings which ultimately had incriminated shell and the Government of Nigeria and ultimately vindicated Ken and the Ogoni people. I had always said that the Ogoni have a case and for the past five decades we have not made our case known to the public. There are quite a lot of people who are in the dark as far as Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni case against Shell and Nigeria; many people did not know the magnitude of the devastation to our environment by oil exploitations. Ken Saro Wiwa and Mosop always drew a blank whenever the attention of the government was called to our plight. In the west, Shell does not go to court to challenge any litigation against it but in Nigeria they want to go to court because there is no law in Nigeria that could hold Shell responsible for it atrocities against our ancestral lands and environment. As long as the money keeps rolling in, the government of Nigeria does not have any qualm about what happens to the common man in the mangroves of Ekeremo or Oliobiri or in the village of Ogoni and Ikwere; bones could be broken and heads rolling , all these do not matter.

Now it’s the turn of the Ogoni people to cut their pound of flesh from shell and the Nigerian government. For well over fifty years that Shell started drilling oil in Ogoni the people had been denied royalties due them. Before the death of the Ogoni patriots, the royalty was calculated to the tune of $50 billion. Needless to say that was then. With each passing day and the interest that had accrued from the money by now would be another issue to discuss. Shell and the the Nigerian government had all conspired to silence our cry for help and our people had been subjected to some of the worst forms of human treatment under the sun. It is laughable that the Huffington post reported that the devastation in the Niger delta was pale in comparison to the Gulf of Mexico. Now the reports are in and even the oil spill in the Valdes pales in comparison to the Ogoni oil spill.

Shell did not have to go to court to fight any legal battle against the United States during the gulf oil spill but went to court against the Ogoni in the case of oil spill in Bodo. Not only that, it said that it would make the payment according to Nigerian Law. To an outsider this might seem like a genuine gesture, but to actors in the battle, shell is about to act another sequel to an old movie that the company is used to playing. Remember the Ijaw law suit? Shell is yet to pay for the damages done to the people after several years of litigation and court battles. This is my humble suggestion; let us as Ogonis put pressure on the lawyers handling the case of the Bodo people and advising them not to allow that to happen. In the event that happens we are doomed. Also, the UNEP finding did not go far enough because it did not say much about the damages to our roofs; imagine every poor Ogoni person changing his or her roof every other year or so because of acidic rains falling on our roofs. In K-Dere my home town there was a pipe line explosion that severed the leg of a young girl on her way to farm in the late 70s , and nothing had been done about that till date. In Ogoni pipe lines crisscross every where there is oil. And like in the case of K-Dere, encircles the entire community, hampering movement of locals to their farmlands.

In the wake of the UNEP reports, the Nigerian government set up a special task force to look into the report. My question is, what part of the report that they do not understand? The reports only reiterate what the Ogoni had said over and over again for the longest time but drew a blank. In the past shell admitted sponsoring or arming the Nigerian army against the hapless and defenseless ogoni people for demanding a fair share of the resources on their piece of land and to clean up the mess created by them in the process of oil activities. What the government should do now is to consult with the Ogoni leadership not pseudo leaders and start getting their hands dirty. Shell in corroboration with the Government decimated part of ogoni; Kpean, Kaa, Kono and some part of Ogoni were invaded by the Military with sponsorship from shell. This is a crude reality that Shell admitted to. Most people till date are rendered homeless in Ogoni due to destruction of their properties and homes. Ogoni people have been made to suffer multiple whammies; crops yield have been minimal due to carpets of crude oil stunting growth of crops, oil wells dried up due to gas flares twenty four seven for more than three decades. Our source of fishing had been polluted by incessant oil spills killing fishes, oyster and any sea food.

Before any oil resumption could commence in Ogoni land, there must be a thorough cleansing of the environment, reconstruction of the communities that were devastated by the twin evil of shell and the Nigerian government, fairly compensate all Ogoni villagers for psychological and physical damage done to them, extend electricity, pipe born water, hospitals, fire stations considering that ogoni has sensitive shell installations all over. Also, there will be a creation of a state for the Ogoni people. Katsina State was created not based on any contribution to the wealth of the nation so there is no justifiable reason for continuously denying the Ogonis, whose oil wealth sustains other states which produces nothing a state of their own . Until all these measures are taken , there will never be any oil drilled from the bottom of our soil again. Ogonis can no longer sit tight and fold their hands while others are benefiting from their wealth.

The PTF( Petroleum Trust Fund) was established to train people from the oil sectors in the areas of oil engineering and other oil related fields but no known Ogoni person has ever got any of such scholarships. A question that I think the Nigerian government should answer is how many Ogoni people have license to lift oil or has an oilfield? People whose lands are not touched by any oil spills are the people that are controlling the oil in Nigeria; this is skewed. Why?

As I write this piece, Ken Saro Wiwa is still a criminal in the books of the Nigerian government. And any call for his exoneration falls on deaf ears. Retired General Jermiah Useni had said that Ken Saro Wiwa was killed for the security of the State, and at another quarter he is a criminal for a conspiracy to murder; all that Ken Saro Wiwa was asking was a fair share of the resources from his homeland for his people. But we know the truth- the reason Ken was killed is his opposition to Shell’s mmediately he made a case for shell he was put on a death list. From then on he was a marked man, followed, harassed and until he was finally killed. The predicament that Ken Saro Wiwa and the other ogonis who died can’t be forgotten in a rush. And this is a case that the Nigerian Government must revisit sooner or later. William Faulkner said that the past is not dead.

Toate Ganago is a Pastor from Ogoni and lives in Tucson, AZ United States

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