Nigeria: Shell Protests, 5/15/97

Nigeria: Shell Protests, 5/15/97

Nigeria: Shell Protests, 1
Date distributed (ymd): 970515
Document reposted by APIC

On May 14, date of the annual shareholder meeting of Shell Oil in London, protests against the company for human rights and environmental abuses took place outside the meeting and around the world. A resolution sponsored by the Pensions and Investment Research Consultants and the Ecumencial Council for Corporate Responsibility won 41 million of the total 357 million shares (more than 10%). Demonstrations took place in a number of cities in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.

This posting includes excerpts from press releases from several groups involved in the protests. The next posting contains a special issue on Shell of Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly.

Other web sites with information on Shell, Nigeria and ongoing protests include:

(1) the Free Nigeria Movement (

(2) Project Underground (

(3) The Body Shop (

Shell's defense of its involvement is at:

For more general background information on Nigeria, see the Africa Policy web site ( Use the search function to identify documents from 1995 to the present. For an overview, including pointers to other sources, consult the Nigeria: Country Profile at

Nigeria: Country Profile is also available in print, attractively printed in two colors in an 8- page 8 1/2" x 11" format, at $2 each, $1.60 each for 20 or more. Add 15% for postage and handling. Send your order with check or money order to APIC at the address below. It is an ideal source for continued public education on the issue.



May 13, 1997 Press Contact: Mark Westlund -

or Project Underground, 1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94703; phone: 510-705-8981; fax: 510-705-8983; e-mail:



LONDON - The Royal Dutch/Shell Group, the world's largest international oil company, came under attack today from environmental and human rights activists for its activities in Peru and Nigeria, at the same time as the company prepares to fend off a shareholder resolution critical of its policies at its annual meeting tomorrow. In the United States, there will be demonstrations in at least eight cities demanding that Shell improve its human rights perfomance.

Coinciding with Shell's annual general meeting and the release of the company's first worldwide environmental report, Rainforest Action Network and Project Underground, released their own independent annual report that reveals Shell's destructive environmental practices in Peru and Nigeria. The report, with a blood-spattered Shell logo on the cover, criticizes the company's approach to gas development in Peru, and accuses Shell of making only cosmetic changes to its operations in Nigeria. Two representatives from Peru and Nigeria, Ledum Mites, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People and Wrays Perez, secretary of AIDESEP, Peru's largest indigenous federation, will also attend the meeting.


Since 1958, Shell has extracted billions worth of oil and natural gas from the Niger River delta area of Nigeria, home to the Ogoni people. As a result, the Ogoni's traditional fishing and farming life has been devastated by oil pollution, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, the land has become a "ravaged environment." The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development has declared the Niger's mouth as the most endangered river delta in the world - a direct result of nearly four decades of oil exploitation.

Desiring profits from Shell and other major oil companies, the Nigerian government has been silencing the voices of protest in Ogoniland, to the point of executing human rights activist, poet, and 1995 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight fellow activists. The report reveals new information about the destruction of the delta environment.



Group Stages Protest Outside Company Headquarters

May 14, 1997

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. -- Amid demonstrators chanting, "No Blood for Oil", outside Shell Oil's Washington, D.C. lobbying headquarters, members of the Sierra Club pledged today that the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization will continue its boycott of Shell Oil until the company's rhetoric matches its actions.

"Since the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Shell has spent millions on public relations and advertising to respond to the public outcry for environmental justice in Ogoni," said Stephen Mills, Director of the Sierra Club's Human Rights and the Environment Campaign. "But they have yet to admit responsibility for their actions, to pay adequate compensation to villagers whose farms were destroyed, or to clean up their environmental mess in Ogoni. Our boycott campaign will continue until Shell's deeds match their words."

"If anything, the situation in Nigeria has worsened," said Mills. "The Ogoni region is now a military zone and MOSOP has been forced underground." MOSOP stands for the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, the environmental and human rights organization led by writer Ken Saro-Wiwa before he was hanged in November of 1995. "Teachers are arrested if they mention Ken Saro-Wiwa in the classroom, preachers are arrested if they mention Ken in church," said Mills.

"We have new reports that local security forces in Nigeria's main oil-producing region has forced people, often at gunpoint, to sign statements inviting Shell to return to Ogoniland," said Mills. "The fact is, Shell cannot return to Ogoni until they negotiate with MOSOP, and that will be impossible as long as MOSOP members are forbidden to assemble."

At its annual general meeting today in London Shell will be under pressure from church pension funds and Pirc, the U.K. investment advisory service which holds 12 percent of Shell's stock, to clarify its commitment to environmental protection and human rights. Among the key points in the Pirc shareholder resolution: make someone on the committee of managing directors personally responsible for seeing that Shell honors its commitments to the environment and human rights; establish an effective auditing process to guarantee that words and actions match; and publish a progress report to shareholders, specifically in relation to Shell's operations in Nigeria, by the end of 1997.

Shell's Board of Directors advice to shareholders to reject Pirc's resolution has only given environmental and human rights organizations more reason to doubt the company's recently issued business principles that call for a respect for human rights.

"Shell has made a great effort in recent weeks to praise its contributions to hospitals in Nigeria. What they won't tell you is that the Ogoni won't go near the hospitals because of their profound fear of the company," Mills added. "This is nothing more than an attempt to disguise the fact that Shell has yet to adequately address the Ogoni environmental demands that started this whole campaign."

Shell first found oil in Nigeria's Ogoniland in 1958. Since that time the company has extracted some $35 billion in oil from the lands of the Ogoni people. While royalties from these sales fill the coffers of the Nigerian military dictatorship, the rich farmland and rivers of Ogoniland have been poisoned by oil spills and the venting of toxic gases. Meanwhile most Ogoni today still lack running water , electricity, adequate schools or health care.

"Nineteen Ogoni men are now awaiting trial for the same murders for which Ken Saro-Wiwa was wrongly tried and hanged," said Mills, "some are suffering in detention from blindness, disease and torture. We are demanding that Shell use their considerable influence to see that the Ogoni 19 are released."

Environmental and human rights advocates believe Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed because of the international campaign he led against the pollution in his homeland caused by Shell, one of the largest revenue producers for the military junta that rules Nigeria. The Nigerian military government, an international pariah, has refused to release the body of Saro-Wiwa and eight others it executed, to the families. The regime maintains a strong presence in Ogoniland, beating and jailing any Ogoni who dares speak Saro-Wiwa's name or attempts to organize others to protect the environment.

The Nigeria Country Report on Human Rights, released in January by the U.S. Department of State, noted that "General Abacha's Government relied regularly on arbitrary detention and harassment to silence its many critics." That report is available on the internet at /nigeria.html.

At the protest the group distributed specially designed postcards for citizens to sign and send to Shell and President Clinton.

Also available today for comment: Dr. Owens Wiwa, brother of Ken Saro-Wiwa, (416) 657-6180.

For more information, please visit the Sierra Club website,


Nigeria: Shell Protests, 2
Date distributed (ymd): 970515
Document reposted by APIC

On May 14, date of the annual shareholder meeting of Shell Oil in London, protests against the company for human rights and environmental abuses took place outside the meeting and around the world. A resolution sponsored by the Pensions and Investment Research Consultants and the Ecumencial Council for Corporate Responsibility won 41 million of the total 357 million shares (more than 10%). Demonstrations took place in a number of cities in the US, Canada and elsewhere.

This posting contains a special issue on Shell of Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly. The previous posting includes excerpts from press releases from several groups involved in the protests, as well as notes on other sources.


RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY #546 (Electronic Edition) May 15, 1997

Environmental Research Foundation, P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403; Fax (410) 263-8944; Internet:

Back issues available by E-mail; to get instructions, send E-mail to with the single word HELP in the message; back issues also available via ftp from and from and from Subscribe: send E-mail to with the single word SUBSCRIBE in the message. It's free.


The Shell oil corporation has blood on its hands, and a worldwide boycott of Shell products is under way. Two recent reports[1,2] on the Shell subsidiary in Nigeria, Africa, have documented massive environmental destruction in the Niger River delta region, where Shell has spilled some 56 million gallons of oil onto farmlands and into community water supplies.[1,pg.45] The destroyed land and water formerly provided sustenance for an indigenous people, the Ogoni. A recent video confirms these reports of Shell's environmental abuse and mismanagement in Ogoniland.[3]

But Shell's crimes are deeper still. When Ogoni activists organized to demand that Shell clean up spilled oil, and share oil profits more equitably with the Ogoni people, the Nigerian military dictatorship --with financial assistance, logistical support, and guns provided by Shell[1,pgs.23,43,91-92] --conducted a campaign of terror in which at least 1800 Ogoni people were murdered, some of them tortured to death.[1,pg.95]

The Ogoni peoples' struggle against Shell burst into headlines November 10, 1995, when the Nigerian dictatorship executed 9 Ogoni environmental activists, including Ken Saro-Wiwa. Saro-Wiwa had received the Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa April 17, 1995 in recognition of his environmental work on behalf of the Ogoni people. Saro-Wiwa had also received the Right Livelihood Award December 9, 1994.[1,pg.95] Both awards are said to carry prestige equivalent to the Nobel peace prize. In addition to being an environmentalist and community leader, Saro-Wiwa was well-known in his homeland, and internationally, as a poet and essayist.[4] His last words, just as he was executed by hanging, were, "Lord, take my soul but the struggle continues!"

Within weeks of the executions, Shell contracted with the Nigerian dictatorship to build a large liquefied natural gas plant, thus sending a signal that it was business as usual for Shell and that Shell was continuing to support the military dictatorship.[2,pg.10]

According to the World Council of Churches, key witnesses for the prosecution at Ken Saro-Wiwa's trial have signed sworn affidavits saying they were bribed by Shell to testify against Saro-Wiwa.[1,pg.43]

Since late 1995, the dictatorship has been holding 19 more Ogoni environmental activists, charged with the same crime for which the Ogoni 9 were executed. The World Council of Churches reported in late 1996 that, " a result of the inhuman treatment, torture, denial of medical care, starvation and poor sanitary conditions, most of the detainees are in very poor health."[1,pg.75]

The Ogoni people --500,000 of them[1,pg.8] --inhabit a 404-square-mile-area called the Rivers State in Nigeria in west Africa. They represent 0.05% of the Nigerian population, so they are a tiny minority. Ken Saro-Wiwa compared the Ogoni to other indigenous people around the world: the Aborigines of Australia, the Maori of New Zealand, and the native people of North and South America. "Their common history is of the usurpation of their land and resources, the destruction of their culture, and the eventual decimation of the people," he wrote.[1,pg.19] Since 1958, $30 billion worth of oil has been taken from beneath the land of the Ogoni, yet essentially zero benefits have accrued to the Ogoni themselves. When the World Council of Churches sent observers to Ogoniland in 1995, they found no piped water supplies, no good roads, no electricity, no telephones, and no proper health care facilities.[1,pg.24] Further, they reported that, in oil-rich Ogoniland, gasoline is hand-pumped from a cement holding tank into large plastic containers, then poured into a smaller can with a long neck, from which the gasoline is finally poured into a vehicle's gas tank. Such is the state of modernization made possible by Shell's post-modern colonial venture.

Shell, a Dutch company, is the 10th largest corporation in the world, and No. 1 in profitability.[2,pg.4] Shell has 96 oil production wells in Ogoniland, 5 flow stations (large pumping stations), and numerous gas flares which have operated continuously for 35 years.[1,pg.31] In addition, Shell maintains many high-pressure oil pipelines criss-crossing Ogoniland, carrying oil from other parts of Nigeria to the shipping terminal at Bonny.[1,pg.32] In response to growing pressure for reform in Ogoniland in 1993, Shell ceased oil production there, but retained its network of pipelines carrying oil produced elsewhere in Nigeria. (The World Council of Churches finds evidence that Shell has not in fact ceased oil production in Ogoniland,[1,pgs.31-33] but Shell insists its production wells are idle.)

Between 1976 and 1980, Shell operations caused 784 separate oil spills in Nigeria.[1,pg.45]. From 1982 to 1992, 27 additional spills were recorded. Since Shell "ceased oil production" in Ogoniland in 1993, Shell admits another 24 oil spills have occurred there.[1,pg.33]

Shell operates in 100 countries, but 40% of all its oil spills have occurred in Nigeria.[1,pg.28] Shell says the spills result from "sabotage" but the World Council of Churches reports "there has not been one single piece of evidence produced by Shell to back up its claims that oil spills in Ogoniland were caused by sabotage."[1,pg.39]

Shell controls at least 60% of all the oil reserves in Nigeria and oil accounts for 80% of Nigeria's total revenues and 90% of its foreign exchange earnings.[1,pg.44] As a result, Shell is an extremely powerful political force in Nigeria. The World Council of Churches has described a revolving door --Shell executives becoming Nigerian political officials, and Nigerian political officials becoming Shell employees.[1,pg.44] However, Shell maintains that it has no political influence and cannot affect the fate of political prisoners in Nigeria.

Shell admits to 3000 polluted sites affected by oil operations on Ogoni soil. According to the World Council of Churches, Shell also admits to flaring 1.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day for 35 years, causing acid rain in the Niger delta during about 10% of the days each year.[1,pg.41] Furthermore, the flares produce a rain of fine particles, a cancer-causing soot that permeates everything --land water, homes, lungs.

Shell's environmental abuses in Ogoniland came as a shock to observers sent by the World Council of Churches. They wrote, "Having followed all the events in Ogoniland, reading all the reports and seeing the videos such as DRILLING FIELDS and DELTA FORCE3, did not prepare us for the devastation we saw at the numerous spill sites we visited," they wrote.[1,pg.24]

Observers from the World Council of Churches describe a site where Shell had spilled oil in 1969: "Even though this spill occurred 26 years ago, its devastating impact is still very apparent," they wrote.[1,pg.34] "The soil and oil are caked together into a thick black crust which covers the area. Liquid crude oil is still present in deep crevices (2 to 3 feet deep), formed in spots where trees once stood.... The air remains polluted by the vapour from the spilled crude oil; this becomes particularly noticeable when the south-west wind blows. The oil spill seems to have polluted the creek nearby. The oil flowed into the body of water and we were told that it can still be seen floating on the surface of the creek water that people still drink. We were unable to move near the creek as the earth was dangerously soggy with a combination of soil, oil, and water.... It is amazing that so much devastation exists after 26 years."[1,pg.34]

Since the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, his brother, Dr. Owens Wiwa, has been touring the world describing the Ogoni peoples' struggle against the combined forces of Shell and the military dictators of Nigeria. Dr. Wiwa, an articulate, soft-spoken physician, was himself held prisoner (without charges) by Nigerian authorities on more than one occasion.[1,pg.93] He is now a political exile living in Toronto, Canada, though most of his time is spent on the road, urging people to boycott Shell products.

In late March of this year, U.S. environmental justice activists met in Atlanta, Georgia to discuss environmental justice struggles across the U.S. and abroad. Dr. Wiwa gave the keynote address. "Our people are dying at the hands of our government and Shell Oil," Dr. Wiwa told the assembled activists in Atlanta. Dr. Robert D. Bullard, a well-known environmental justice leader and author of CONFRONTING ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM: VOICES FROM THE GRASSROOTS, told the Atlanta meeting, "the quest for healthy and sustainable communities and environmental justice does not stop at U.S. borders... we have a moral and ethical obligation to direct our collective action and purchasing power to respond to Dr. Wiwa and the Ogoni's struggle in Nigeria, just as we responded to the oppression of apartheid in South Africa."

Asked recently what Americans could do to help the Ogoni people, Dr. Wiwa gave four recommendations:

1. Boycott Shell. Do not buy ANY Shell products.

2. Encourage selective purchasing contracts, such as the one now in force in Oakland, California. Last fall the Oakland City Council passed a city-wide ordinance prohib-iting the city from doing business with Nigeria. Dr. Wiwa is urging all city councils to adopt selective purchasing laws to prevent their city from investing in or trading with Nigeria OR ANY COMPANIES CARRYING OUT BUSINESS IN NIGERIA.

3. Pressure Congress to impose sanctions against Nigeria, just as the U.S. has recently done against Burma for human rights abuses.

4. Contact the president of Shell's U.S. subsidiary: Philip J. Carroll, Shell Oil Company, P.O. Box 2463, Houston, TX 77252; (800) 248-4257; fax (713) 241-4044.

Mr. Carroll may respond that Shell's U.S. subsidiary has nothing to do with what's happening in Nigeria. But 10% of Shell's profits come from its U.S. operations, so the U.S. subsidiary has major clout with its Dutch parent corporation. Refusal to exercise that clout is a moral failure. Up to now, Mr. Carroll himself has blood on his hands, in our view.

Even if Mr. Carroll cannot understand the moral argument, you could tell him you will be boycotting Shell's products until they clean up their environmental mess in Nigeria and fully compensate the Ogoni people for past damages and injustices. Mr. Carroll will certainly understand the meaning of "boycott."

To get breaking news about the campaign to end Shell's environmental and human rights abuses in Ogoniland, you could join the internet discussion group, Shell-Nigeria-action. To subscribe to the list, send email to with the message: subscribe shell-nigeria-action <your email address>. To post information to the list, address your message to:

For further information, contact:

1) Dr. Owens Wiwa:

2) Stephen Mills at Sierra Club in Washington, D.C. Telephone (202) 675-6691. Mr. Mills has organized a petition campaign that could use more volunteers.

3) Ann Leonard, Essential Action, P.O. Box 19405, Washington, DC 20036. Telephone (202) 387-8030. An important source of information.

What is the top priority? BOYCOTT SHELL.

--Peter Montague (National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)

[1] Deborah Robinson and others, OGONI, THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES (Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches, December, 1996). Available from World Council of Churches, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland; telephone (+41) 22 791-6111; fax: (+41) 22 791-0361. [In the US, also available from the Washington Office on Africa ( or the Africa Fund (]

[2] PEN Center USA West, FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS, SHELL AND NIGERIA (Los Angeles, California: PEN Center USA West, March, 1997). Available from: PEN Center USA West, 672 South Lafayette Park Place #41, Los Angeles, California 90057; telephone (213) 365-8500. PEN is a worldwide association of professional writers.

[3] The most recent video, DELTA FORCE, is available for $10 from Ann Leonard, Essential Action, P.O. Box 19405, Washington, DC 20036. Telephone (202) 387-8030.

[4] Ken Saro-Wiwa, A MONTH AND A DAY: A DETENTION DIARY (London: Penguin Books, 1995). Ken Saro-Wiwa, ON A DARKLING PLAIN (Port Harcourt, Nigeria: Saros International Publishers, 1989). Ken Saro-Wiwa, OGONI MOMENT OF TRUTH (Lagos, Nigeria: Saros International Publishers, 1994).


From: Message-Id: <> Date: Thu, 15 May 1997 09:52:25 -0500 Subject: Nigeria: Shell Protests, 1/2

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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