Nigeria: Sierra Club on Saro-Wiwa, 11/8/96

Nigeria: Sierra Club on Saro-Wiwa, 11/8/96

Nigeria: Sierra Club on Saro-Wiwa
Date Distributed (ymd): 961108

Note: In a previous posting distributed citing Internet sources on Zaire (961105), we erroneously reported that the French version of Info-Zaire is available by e-mail. Please note that this is currently only available on the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) networks, in the and conferences.

This posting contains: (1) Press Release from Sierra Club; (2) Ken Saro-Wiwa's statement to the court prior to his sentence and execution on November 10, 1995.


FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephen Mills, Human Rights and Environment Campaign Director, Sierra Club, 408 C St., NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; tel: 202- 675-6691; e-mail:;


Washington, D.C. -- The Sierra Club today released a letter it sent to President Clinton that calls on the President to help the Ogoni people of Nigeria in their struggle against pollution caused by Shell's oil exploitation. The letter also calls on the President to again push American allies to adopt a series of Nigerian sanctions.

The letter was signed by Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope and by Dr. Owens Wiwa, brother of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, the writer and environmentalist whom the Nigerian government hanged last year along with eight other Ogoni leaders. Environmentalists believe that Saro-Wiwa was executed because of his effective grassroots organizing directed at the devastation from Shell's oil exploitation in the Ogoni region.

"Today, another 19 Ogoni prisoners are being held on a politically-motivated murder charge for wanting social and environmental justice for the Ogoni people" said Pope. "They could also face a military appointed tribunal, an unfair trial and the same hangman's noose unless the Clinton administration and Shell intercede."

In January of this year Shell admitted that it had imported firearms for the Nigerian police force. Last week the Managing Director of Shell Nigeria announced the company's sponsorship of a hospital in the Ogoni area of Nigeria. Dr. Wiwa noted the irony of Shell's influence in the Ogoni region. "What a cynical gesture," said Dr. Wiwa, "they open a hospital to treat the people wounded by their own guns. Shell's weapons were used against any Ogoni who dared speak out against the company's pollution."

"Rather than restore the environment in Ogoni or pay reparations to the communities the company polluted, Shell has hired public relations firms to counter our calls for environmental justice," said Stephen Mills, Director of the Sierra Club's Human Rights and Environment Campaign. "No amount of advertising can cover up the fact that Shell operated in Nigeria for some 38 years, made billions of dollars, and left the Ogoni with polluted farms and rivers and without electricity, running water, schools or hospitals," Mills continued.

Tensions are high in the Ogoni region of Nigeria on this, the one year anniversary of the executions. A ban on all public meetings, rallies and other events remains in effect, and the military has increased their presence in the area, attempting to crush any attempt by the Ogoni to memorialize their leader.

Nine days after the Ogoni were executed, the Sierra Club Board of Directors voted to support an embargo of Nigerian oil and a consumer boycott of Shell products until such time as the company has cleaned up the pollution it has caused in Nigeria, agreed to conform to U.S. standards while operating in Nigeria, and paid compensation to the peoples adversely affected by their activities.

Since endorsing the boycott, local affiliates of the grassroots environmental group have held pickets, rallies and demonstrations. The Sierra Club has also distributed thousands of "Boycott Shell" bumper stickers via its internet web page.

"Shell must be worried," said Mills. "Why else would the company have recently dispatched its top public relations chiefs from Houston and London to discourage some of our members in St. Louis from working on this campaign. They were sent packing though, and told they must first negotiate with the environmental organization which was led by Ken Saro-Wiwa."

Saro-Wiwa was the leader of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP. Most of the group's leaders are now living in exile outside Nigeria for fear of reprisal from the Nigerian military.

Nov. 6, 1996

President William Jefferson Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

One year ago this Sunday, writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists were hanged in a Nigerian jail because of their vocal -- and effective -- efforts directed at cleaning up the devastation from Shell's oil exploitation in the Ogoni region. We are writing to urge you to help the Ogoni in their struggle against Shell for a clean and healthy environment, and to urge you to take further, significant actions to punish Nigeria's generals.

Specifically, we call on you to again press American allies to prohibit new investment in Nigeria, freeze the overseas assets of Nigeria's rulers and, most importantly, impose an oil embargo against the country. Nigeria derives 90% of it's foreign revenue from oil. Because of this dependence, oil sanctions would quickly and effectively remove the funding General Abacha's despotic regime uses to silence environmentalists.

We also call on you to send a message to Shell, and other multinational corporations, that you expect companies that do business in the United States to abide by the same environmental and human rights standards abroad as they are held to in this country. The Sierra Club and many other organizations are urging Shell to begin the environmental restoration of Ogoni, to pay reparations to the communities it polluted, and to use its extraordinary influence in Nigeria to see that 19 Ogoni currently being held in jail are released.

The 19 Ogoni prisoners are being held on similar politically-motivated murder charges for advocating social and environmental justice for the Ogoni people. They could also face a military appointed tribunal, an unfair trial and the same hangman's noose. Efforts to get the "Ogoni 19" a fair trial have been postponed indefinitely by government officials and local courts. Lawyers acting on the defendants' behalf were detained by the State Intelligence and Investigation Bureau. Outrage and condemnation from citizens and world leaders alike, followed the Ogoni executions. British Prime Minister John Major called it "judicial murder." While the international community contemplated tough sanctions, none were taken.

Unelected General Sani Abacha remains in power, swiftly imprisoning anyone who speaks against him, including those Ogoni who dare to seek environmental justice. A ban on all public meetings, rallies and other events remains in effect in Nigeria's Ogoni region. The military has increased their presence in the area, attempting to crush any attempt by the Ogoni to memorialize their leader.

We were optimistic that your administration would lead world efforts to sanction Nigeria's brutal military dictatorship. However, no substantial sanctions have been imposed against the generals by the U.S. Incredibly, the U.S. appears to be moving in the opposite direction. Two weeks ago at the meeting of the World Conservation Union in Montreal, the U.S. actually led the efforts against a resolution condemning Nigeria's human rights and environmental offenses. This appears to directly contradict the commendable efforts of your Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, John Shattuck.

The U.S. did take some steps after the executions. Unfortunately, these actions had little effect on the oil-dependent military junta. Mr. President, we appreciate the your administration's condemnation of the executions last year. We appreciate the temporary recall of U.S. Ambassador Walter Carrington, a ban on the sale of military goods and services, a ban on military visas, and a U.S.-sponsored U.N. resolution. We must conclude, however, that tougher sanctions are required in order to successfully end this dictatorship's brutality.

In April of this year Secretary of State Warren Christopher in a speech at Stanford University announced his intention to place environmental issues in the mainstream of American foreign policy. He noted that "addressing natural resource issues is frequently critical to achieving political and economic stability, and pursuing our strategic goals around the world." The case of Nigeria offers you the perfect opportunity to make this new policy a reality.

We commend Secretary Christopher for announcing these new environmental initiatives and we look forward to assisting in their implementation. We urge, however, that the State Department's new initiatives extend additionally to individual citizens in their right to protect the environment, and their right to clean water and clean air. Mr. President, we believe that environmental rights are directly linked to human rights. We believe that everyone has a right to a clean and healthy environment, be they American or Nigerian.

We look forward to your response.


Carl Pope, Executive Director, Sierra Club Owens Wiwa, M.D., Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People



Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria

My lord,

We all stand before history. I am a man of peace, of ideas. Appalled by the denigrating poverty of my people who live on a richly endowed land, distressed by their political marginalization and economic strangulation, angered by the devastation of their land, their ultimate heritage, anxious to preserve their right to life and to a decent living, and determined to usher to this country as a whole a fair and just democratic system which protects everyone and every ethnic group and gives us all a valid claim to human civilization, I have devoted my intellectual and material resources, my very life to a cause in which I have total belief and from which I cannot be blackmailed or intimidated. I have no doubt at all about the ultimate success of my cause, no matter the trials and tribulations which I and those who believe with me may encounter on our journey. Nor imprisonment nor death can stop our ultimate victory.

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 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.

On trial also is the Nigerian nation, its present rulers and those who assist them. Any nation which can do to the weak and disadvantaged what the Nigerian nation has done to the Ogoni, loses a claim to independence and to freedom from outside influence. I am not one of those who shy away from protesting injustice and oppression, arguing that they are expected in a military regime. The military do not act alone. They are supported by a gaggle of politicians, lawyers, judges, academics and businessmen, all of them hiding under the claim that they are only doing their duty, men and women too afraid to wash their pants of urine. We all stand on trial, my lord, for by our actions we have denigrated our Country and jeopardised the future of our children. As we subscribe to the sub-normal and accept double standards, as we lie and cheat openly, as we protect injustice and oppression, we empty our classrooms, denigrate our hospitals, fill our stomachs with hunger and elect to make ourselves the slaves of those who ascribe to higher standards, pursue the truth, and honour justice, freedom, and hard work. I predict that the scene here will be played and replayed by generations yet unborn. Some have already cast themselves in the role of villains, some are tragic victims, some still have a chance to redeem themselves. The choice is for each individual.

I predict that the denoument of the riddle of the Niger delta will soon come. The agenda is being set at this trial. Whether the peaceful ways I have favoured will prevail depends on what the oppressor decides, what signals it sends out to the waiting public.

In my innocence of the false charges I face here, in my utter conviction, I call upon the Ogoni people, the peoples of the Niger delta, and the oppressed ethnic minorities of Nigeria to stand up now and fight fearlessly and peacefully for their rights. History is on their side. God is on their side. For the Holy Quran says in Sura 42, verse 41:"All those that fight when oppressed incur no guilt, but Allah shall punish the oppressor." Come the day.


Message-Id: <> From: Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 22:14:24 -0500 Subject: Nigeria: Sierra Club on Saro-Wiwa

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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