The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, also known as (MOSOP), is a mass‐based social movement organization of the indigenous Ogoni people of Central Niger Delta. MOSOP is the umbrella organization of currently 11 member groups representing more than 700,000 indigenous Ogoni in campaigning for social, economic and environmental justice in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. MOSOP's mandated use of non-violent methods to promote democratic principles assist Ogoni people pursue rights of self-determination in environmental issues in the Niger Delta, cultural rights and practices for Ogoni people.
Founded in 1990 by Ken Saro-Wiwa, Ogoni Chiefs of MOSOP initiated efforts with the Ogoni Bill of Rights. Saro-Wiwa led its submission to the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in Geneva.
The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People began as a struggle against the exploitation of natural resources of Ogoniland by Shell Oil Company, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, when in 1957 its Nigerian operations, Shell Nigeria, known as Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), struck oil in the Niger River Delta.
Environmental Impact on the Niger River Delta Region
Communities of the Niger River Delta which had sustained their economy on farming and fishing, saw the takeover of their land by multinational oil companies was causing devastating environmental degradation. Saro-Wiwa called it an 'ecological war'.
The Ogoni country has been completely destroyed by the search for oil.... Oil blowouts, spillages, oil slicks, and general pollution accompany the search for oil.... Oil companies have flared gas in Nigeria for the past thirty three years causing acid rain.... What used to be the bread basket of the delta has now become totally infertile. All one sees and feels around is death. Environmental degradation has been a lethal weapon in the war against the indigenous Ogoni people.
—Ken Saro-Wiwa, Interview on Channel 4 (U.K.) on November 15, 1995
Bronwen Manby, then researcher in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, documented in July 1997 that "according to the official estimates of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), based on the quantities reported by the operating companies, approximately 2,300 cubic meters of oil are spilled in 300 separate incidents annually. It can be safely assumed that, due to under-reporting, the real figure is substantially higher: conservative estimates place it at up to ten times higher. Statistics from the Department of Petroleum Resources indicate that between 1976 and 1996 a total of 4,835 incidents resulted in the spillage of at least 2,446,322 barrels (102.7 million U.S. gallons), of which an estimated 1,896,930 barrels (79.7 million U.S. gallons; 77 percent) were lost to the environment. Another calculation, based on oil industry sources, estimates that more than 1.07 million barrels (45 million U.S. gallons) of oil were spilled in Nigeria from 1960 to 1997. Nigeria's largest spill was an offshore well blowout (well drilling) in January 1980, when at least 200,000 barrels of oil (8.4 million U.S. gallons), according to oil industry sources, spewed into the Atlantic Ocean from a Texaco facility and destroyed 340 hectares of mangroves. DPR estimates were that more than 400,000 barrels (16.8 million U.S. gallons) were spilled in this incident."
Ogoni has suffered and continues to suffer the degrading effects of oil exploration and exploitation: lands, streams and creeks are totally and continually polluted; the atmosphere is for ever charged with hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide; many villages experience the infernal quaking of the wrath of gas flares which have been burning 24 hours a day for 33 years; acid rain, oil spillages and blowouts are common. The result of such unchecked environmental pollution and degradation are that (i) The Ogoni can no longer farm successfully. Once the food basket of the eastern Niger Delta, the Ogoni now buy food (when they can't afford it); (ii) Fish, once a common source of protein, is now rare. Owing to the constant and continual pollution of our streams and creeks, fish can only be caught in deeper and offshore waters for which the Ogoni are not equipped. (iii) All wildlife is dead. (iv) The ecology is changing fast. The mangrove tree, the aerial roots of which normally provide a natural and welcome habitat for many a sea food – crabs, periwinkles, mudskippers, cockles, mussels, shrimps and all – is now being gradually replaced by unknown and otherwise useless plants. (v) The health hazards generated by an atmosphere charged with hydrocarbon vapour, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are innumerable.
—Dr. G. B. Leton, President of MOSOP, addendum statement in the Ogoni Bill of Rights
Mangrove forest is particularly vulnerable to oil spills, because the soil soaks up the oil like a sponge and re-releases it every rainy season.
Water contamination of local water supply resulted in fish kills and ruinous effects on farmland.
A Human Rights Watch interview with Uche Onyeagocha, staff attorney, Civil Liberties Organisation (Port Harcourt), Washington, D.C., May 12, 1995, documented that members of minority groups in the Niger Delta, whose land is the source of over 90% of Nigeria's oil, especially opposed the prevailing revenue allocation formula, under which the federal, state, and local governments had almost complete discretion over the distribution of oil proceeds. 80% of Nigeria's federal government revenue comes from this resource rich region. The World Bank estimates this accrues to only 1% of the general population.
The Ogoni people will make representation to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the effect that giving loans and credit to the Nigerian Government on the understanding that oil money will be used to repay such loans is to encourage the Nigerian government to continue to dehumanise the Ogoni people and to devastate the environment and ecology of the Ogoni and other delta minorities among whom oil is found. The Ogoni people will inform the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity that the Nigerian Constitution and the actions of the power elite in Nigeria flagrantly violate the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights; and that Nigeria in 1992 is no different from Apartheid South Africa. The Ogoni people will ask that Nigeria be duly chastised by both organizations for its inhuman actions and uncivilized behaviour. And if Nigeria persists in its perversity, then it should be expelled from both organizations.
—Ogoni Bill of Rights
Former World Bank Vice-President for Africa, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, gave an estimation of $400 billion of Nigeria's oil revenue that was stolen or misspent from 1960 to 1999. Around 70% of the oil revenues were estimated by a Nigerian anti-corruption agency to have been wasted or lost to corruption. The Nuhu Ribadu led Task Force on Oil Revenue, produced a 146-page study covering 2002–2011. The report validated that "Nigeria lost out on tens of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues over that decade from cut price deals struck between multinational oil companies and government officials cut-price gas, while Nigerian oil ministers handed out licenses at their own discretion. The report alleges international oil traders sometimes buy crude without any formal contracts, and the state oil firm had short-changed the Nigerian treasury billions over the last 10 years by selling crude oil and gas to itself below market rates." The Ribadu report also noted in a ten-year span: "The estimated cumulative of the deficit between value obtainable on the international market and what is currently being obtained from NLNG, over the 10 year period, amounts to approximately $29 billion."
Shell Oil's Greenwashing efforts prompted Friends of the Earth Europe, on May 8, 2007, to file simultaneous complaints in three European countries to the national advertising standards authorities of Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK about Shell's advertisements that depicted the outline of an oil refinery emitting flowers rather than smoke and claimed that it uses its "waste CO2 to grow flowers and [its] waste sulphur to make concrete".
Shell Oil has maintained that the issues of pollution of the Niger Delta is brought about by illegal refining of crude oil, sabotage and theft of oil field infrastructure. Research by Amnesty International, CEHRD and Friends of the Earth provide examples of cases where Shell claimed the cause of a spill was sabotage, but this claim was subsequently called into question by other investigations or the courts. This evidence, which includes video footage of an oil spill investigation where the cause of the spill was changed, by Shell, from "equipment failure" to "sabotage, following the field investigation, has been shared with Shell.
Under Nigerian law the operating company is responsible for cleaning up oil spills from its facilities, even if the spill is the result of third-party action. Therefore, the human and environmental impact of Shell's failure to properly clean up pollution cannot be defended by reference to illegal activity that, allegedly, caused the oil spills.
Because of the oil-related suffering of the Ogoni people, governmental neglect, lack of social services, and political marginalization, these concerns were placed in the context of Ogonis as "a separate and distinct ethnic nationality". On this basis they sought autonomy, environmental protection, control of a fair share of the revenues from their resources, and cultural rights (such as the use of their local languages).
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2014)
In 1970, Ogoni Chiefs and Elders of the Ogoni Divisional Commission ( W. Nzidee, F. Yowika, N. Ndegwe, E. Kobani, O. Nalelo, Chief A. Ngei and O. Ngofa), submitted a petition to the local Military Governor as a formal complaint against Shell, then operating a joint venture with BP. It brought notice that the company was "seriously threatening the well-being, and even the very lives" of the Ogoni.
Shell's response was that the petition was an attempt to place development and other responsibilities on the company and that the "contentions ... bear little relation to what is actually taking place".
In July, there was a major blow-out at the Bomu oilfield in Ogoni, which continued for three weeks, causing widespread pollution and outrage. P. Badom, of the Dere Youths Association, issued a letter of protest citing:
"Our rivers, rivulets and creeks are all covered with crude oil" wrote the Dere Youths Association, "We no longer breathe the natural oxygen, rather we inhale lethal and ghastly gases. Our water can no longer be drunk unless one wants to test the effect of crude oil on the body. We no longer use vegetables, they are all polluted."
The Iko people wrote to Shell in 1980 demanding "compensation and restitution of our rights to clean air, water and a viable environment where we can source for our means of livelihood".
In 1987, when the Iko once again held a peaceful demonstration against Shell, the notorious Mobile Police Force (MPF), locally known as "kill-and-go" was called, and 40 houses were destroyed, with 350 people made homeless by the MPF's attack.
In August 1990, the Ogoni elders signed the Ogoni Bill of Rights, which rang for "political control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people, control and use of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development, adequate and direct representation as of right for Ogoni people in all Nigerian national institutions, and the right to protect the Ogoni environment and ecology from further degradation".
MOSOP was the outgrowth of these protest demonstrations in the Delta. Goodluck Diigbo, a journalist, was the National President of the National Youth Council of Ogoni People, NYCOP. Saro-Wiwa had charged him with the responsibility of establishing seven of the ten affiliates that made up MOSOP. Before the affiliates came into being, Ken Saro-Wiwa who initiated the idea of MOSOP had attracted a mix of educated Ogoni elites and chiefs, including its first president Dr. Garrick Barile Leton. Chief E. N. Kobani became vice president of MOSOP.
MOSOP succeeded in organizing its first efforts with the 1990 Ogoni Bill of Rights addressed to the Government of the Federal Republic and the People of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida, the former military president of Nigeria and members of the Armed Forces Ruling Council, but received no reply to its demands for autonomy. The Ogoni lists their concerns: political autonomy to participate in the affairs of the Republic as a distinct and separate unit (by whatever name called), provided that this autonomy guarantees political control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people; the right to control and use a fair proportion of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development; adequate representations, as of right, in all Nigerian national institutions, and the right to protect the Ogoni environment and ecology from further degradation.
The Niger Delta was brought to international attention with the protest at Shell's facility in the Umuechem community of Etche, east of Port Harcourt, Rivers State on October 30 and 31, 1990. Shell specifically requested the presence of the MPF. This incident saw approximately 80 unarmed demonstrators killed and the destruction and severe damage of 495 houses by the Nigerian Mobile Police.
Early 1990s and The Ogoni Crises
- July 1992 – Saro-Wiwa addresses the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in Geneva.
- Early December 1992 – The conflict escalated to a level of greater seriousness and intensity on both sides. It was in this phase of the conflict that overt violence was applied on the large scale by the Nigerian government. In December 1992, MOSOP sent its demands to SPDC, Chevron, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, along with an ultimatum to pay back royalties and compensation within thirty days or quit Ogoniland. The collision course between the two parties was set with an ultimatum to the oil companies (Shell, Chevron, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company), which demanded some $10 billion in accumulated royalties, damages and compensation, and "immediate stoppage of environmental degradation", and negotiations for mutual agreement on all future drilling. If the companies failed to comply, the Ogonis threatened to embark on mass action to disrupt their operations. By this act, the Ogonis shifted the focus of their actions from an unresponsive federal government to oil companies actively engaged in their own region. The bases for this assignment of responsibility were the vast profits accrued by the oil companies from extracting the natural wealth of the Ogoni homeland, none of which were trickling down to the Ogoni.
- January 4 – The national government responded by banning public gatherings and declaring that disturbances of oil production were acts of treason. In spite of the ban, MOSOP went ahead with a massive public mobilization on January 4, 1993. The event, called the first Ogoni Day, attracted about 300,000 people in massive festivities. Over the next month as the mobilization continued, one Shell employee (out of thousands) was beaten by an Ogoni mob. As a security measure, Shell Petroleum Development Company withdrew its employees from Ogoniland. This action had very mixed consequences. Oil extraction from the territory has slowed to a trickle of 10,000 barrels per day (1,600 m3/d) (.5% of the national total). However, because the withdrawal was a temporary security measure, it provided the government with a compelling reason to "restore order": resume the flows of oil from Ogoniland and of oil money to national coffers.
- February 15–16, 18 – Shell International advisors meet with the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in London and the Hague to consider strategies for countering the "possibility that internationally organized protest could develop" over Shell's activities in Ogoni.
- April 18 – Ken Saro-Wiwa, chairman of the resistance group "Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)", is held by the Nigerian State Security Service at Port Harcourt Airport for 16 hours without charges, is released, but then arrested 5 days later.
- April 30 – Construction work on Shell's Rumuekpe-Bomu Pipeline destroys freshly planted Ogoni farmland sparking a peaceful demonstration of approximately 10,000 Ogoni villagers. Nigerian Federal government soldiers open fire on the crowd of demonstrators, wounding at least 10.
- May 1 – Mass demonstrations along Bori Road against the pipeline construction continue. Shell decides to withdraw American workers and equipment.
- May 3 – Agbarator Otu is shot and killed by members of the Nigerian military while protesting work on the pipeline at Nonwa.
- May 16 – Saro-Wiwa has his passport seized while trying to leave for London.
- May 18 – Amnesty International issues an Urgent Action concerning the extra judicial killing of Otu and the Nigerian government's use of force against peaceful Ogoni protests.
- May 24 – Saro-Wiwa begins a European tour and succeeds in drawing attention to the struggle of the Ogoni people. Shell responds to the international attention and is "happy to discuss these matters further...."
- June 12 – Presidential elections are boycotted by the Ogoni. A ruptured pipeline begins to spray oil in Bunu Tai, Ogoni land. Forty days later, the flow is yet to be stopped. Saro-Wiwa is prevented from traveling to the UN conference in Vienna by Nigerian SSS, and his passport is seized.
- June 21 – Saro-Wiwa and other MOSOP officials are arrested.
- June 22 – Ogoni people march in Bori, in protest against MOSOP arrests. In reaction, Federal government soldiers are moved from Port Harcourt and stationed in Bori. Indiscriminate beatings and arrests of Ogoni people by "heavy[ily] armed and unfriendly Nigerian soldiers and police" are frequent.
- June 30 – Amnesty International issues a Fast Action concerning Saro-Wiwa.
- July 9 – At least 60 Ogoni people are killed, allegedly by Andoni, when arriving back from the Cameroon Republic by boat. This "incident" marks the beginning of Ogoni-Andoni violence.
- Mid-July – Saro-Wiwa is moved to a hospital and later released on bail, but charges still stand.
- August 5 – Kaa is the first village attacked in the Andoni-Ogoni conflict, resulting in 33 deaths and 8,000 refugees. Over the coming months, similar incidents occur in over 20 other villages. MOSOP accuses Shell of being behind the Andoni-Ogoni violence.
- August 31 – MOSOP leaders are summoned to Abuja for a meeting with the Interim government, installed by former head of state Babangida after the annulment of the June 12 election results. This is the first time that the Nigerian government officially discussed the situation in Ogoniland with MOSOP.
- Beginning September – Saro-Wiwa, Senator Birabi, and representatives of the Rivers State Security Council visit the destroyed village of Kaa and urge Governor Ada George to take measures to curb Andoni-Ogoni violence. Meetings are arranged between Andoni and Ogoni leaders and government representatives. This leads to the creation of a Peace Committee, headed by Professor Claude Ake.
- September 15 – General Sani Abacha promises Saro-Wiwa that Federal troops will be sent to Ogoniland to help curb Andoni-Ogoni violence.
- October 6 – A Peace Agreement is signed concerning the Ogoni-Andoni troubles, but without the signature of Saro-Wiwa, or the "consultation of the communities involved".
- October 17 – An oil spill at Korokoro oil fields in Ogoni, operated by Shell. Baritonle Kpormon is shot dead at a checkpoint in Bori by a Federal soldier who has been sent to ensure peace at the Ogoni-Andoni border; however Bori is not at the border. A MOSOP Steering Committee meeting accepts the Peace Agreement but for two paragraphs, and calls for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to be installed by the Federal government.
- October 19 – Professor Ake, chairman of the Peace Conference, send a letter to Governor Ada George, stating that he does not agree with the Peace Agreement. According to him, it was drafted in haste and without proper consultation of the communities involved.
- October 23 – Two fire trucks from SPDC are seized at Korokoro by local inhabitants.
- October 25 – Three Ogoni men are shot at Korokoro oil fields by Federal government soldiers accompanying Shell workers who went back to retrieve the fire trucks. One man dies (Uebari Nna), and two are wounded (Pal Sunday and Mboo Ndike).
- November 17 – The interim government resigns. General Abacha becomes the new Nigerian head of state.
- December 13 – Governor Ada George is replaced by Lt. Col. Dauda Komo. Violent clashes between Ogoni and Okirika over crowded land at waterfronts, Port Harcourt. Over 90 people are reported dead, many more wounded.
- December 28 – Probably to prevent the start of the Ogoni Week, MOSOP leaders Dr. Owen Wiwa and Ledum Mitee, a lawyer, are arrested without being charged. The Ogoni Assembly is dispersed by Nigerian soldiers. Lt. Col. Komo states that Ogoni Week was aborted because MOSOP did not apply for a permit.
- January 2 – Saro-Wiwa is placed under house arrest.
- January 4 – Owen Wiwa and Ledum are released and Saro-Wiwa's house arrest is lifted.
- January 11 – A seven-member Commission of Inquiry is installed by the Rivers State government to investigate Ogoni-Okirika clashes, and starts public sittings in Port Harcourt.
- January 20 – A three-member ministerial team starts a two-day tour of Rivers State to investigate the hostilities between the communities there, as part of a general inquiry of community clashes. The Nigerian government is especially worried about troubles in oil-producing areas.
- January 21 – A $500 million contract is signed in Port Harcourt between Shell Nigeria and ABB Global Engineering UK, allowing the latter to collect gas from 10 flow stations in Rivers State.
- January 24 – The three major oil companies in Port Harcourt estimate to have lost over $200 million during 1993, due to "unfavorable conditions in their areas of operation", and call for urgent measures to combat the situation.
- April – A memo was sent from Komo to Okuntimo, entitled "Restoration of Law and Order in Ogoniland" It gave details for an extensive military presence in Ogoni, drawing resources from the army, air force, navy, and police, including both the Mobile Police Force and conventional units. In a move meant to facilitate the reopening of oil installations, one of the missions of this operation was to ensure that those "carrying out business ventures ... within Ogoniland are not molested". Saro-Wiwa, commenting on the memo above, said: "This is it – they are going to arrest us all and execute us. All for Shell." The following month Okuntimo sent a "restricted" memo back to Komo remarking, "Shell operations still impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth economic activities to commence." To counter this, Okuntimo recommended: "Wasting operations during MOSOP and other gatherings making constant military presence justifiable."
- Beginning April – A small conflict between Ogoni and Okoloma leads to serious clashes; Lt. Col. Komo is reported to have said that soldiers have been directed to deal with aggressive communities, and if necessary shoot trouble makers. Fifteen Ogoni people are arrested without being charged, including Dr. Wiwa.
On May 21, 1994, four Ogoni chiefs (all on the conservative side of a schism within MOSOP over strategy) were murdered. Saro-Wiwa, head of the opposing faction, had been denied entry to Ogoniland on the day of the murders, but was then detained in connection with the killings. Rivers State Military Administrator Lt. Col. Dauda Komo did not wait for a judicial investigation to blame the killings on "irresponsible and reckless thuggery of the MOSOP element".
Led by Major Paul Okuntimo of Rivers State Internal Security, who claimed to be "searching for those directly responsible for the killings of the four Ogonis", witnesses say that they engaged in terror operations against the general Ogoni population. Amnesty International characterized the policy as deliberate terrorism. By mid-June, 30 villages had been completely destroyed, 600 people had been detained, and at least 40 had been killed. An eventual total of around 100,000 internal refugees and an estimated 2,000 civilian deaths was recorded.
Mid 1990s and the Execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni Nine
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2014)
Ken Saro-Wiwa, N. G. Dube and Kobari Nwilewas were arrested in Port Harcourt in Rivers State in eastern Nigeria on June 21, 1993. Following their arrest, Ken Saro-Wiwa, N. G. Dube and Kobari Nwile were first transferred to Lagos, then to Owerri in Imo State and finally to Port Harcourt where they are currently in prison. The three were charged on 13 July 1993 under the Criminal Code of Eastern Nigeria in connection with their activities on behalf of the Ogoni community. Charges on six counts relating to unlawful assembly, seditious intention and seditious publication. Bail was not set and all three remanded in custody until September 20. On June 11, Saro-Wiwa's passport was confiscated at Lagos airport, preventing him from traveling to Vienna to represent MOSOP at the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights.
On November 10, 1995, nine activists from the movement, Barinem Kiobel, John Kpunien, Baribor Bera, Saturday Dobee, Felix Nwate, Nordu Eawo, Paul Levura, and Daniel Gbokoo along with playwright and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hanged 10 days after being convicted by the Nigerian government on charges of "incitement to murder" of the four Ogoni leaders. In the final address to the military-appointed tribunal, Saro-Wiwa concludes the responsibility of Shell Corporation and its actions as war crimes against the Ogoni People:
I repeat that we all stand before history. I and my colleagues are not the only ones on trial. Shell is here on trial and it is as well that it is represented by counsel said to be holding a watching brief. The Company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come and the lessons learnt here may prove useful to it for there is no doubt in my mind that the ecological war that the Company has waged in the Delta will be called to question sooner than later and the crimes of that war be duly punished. The crime of the Company's dirty wars against the Ogoni people will also be punished.
Excerpt from: Trial Speech of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Wikisource.
His death provoked international outrage and the immediate suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth of Nations as well as the calling back of many foreign diplomats for consultation. According to the Nigerian Medical Association's President, these were the fastest executions in the West African nation's history. Nigerian human rights activists and opposition groups had longed urged the Commonwealth and the United States to impose economic sanctions on the Nigerian government. This they argued was the opportune time to "turn the screws on" Nigeria's military government by boycotting its oil. The United States, which buys half of Nigeria's oil, declined through a press statement.
Compelling new evidence suggests the Nigerian military killed four Ogoni elders whose murders led to the execution of the playwright and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995. The evidence also reveals that the notorious military commander Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Okuntimo, whose troops were implicated in other crimes, was in the pay of Shell at the time of the killings and was driven around in a Shell vehicle.
On January 4, 1998, Ogoni national day, the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force (RVISTF), arrests dozens of activists and raided several villages.
Saro-Wiwa vs. Shell
On November 10, 2014, MOSOP President Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, at the 19th anniversary commemoration of the "Ogoni Martyrs" held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, called on the federal government to clear the late activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and the other nine Ogoni people executed by General Sani Abacha's government for murder. Pyagbara recalled that the UN, which monitored the trial of Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni Nine, observed that the returned verdict did not follow any known local or international standard.
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