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Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights, and Oil in the Niger Delta [1 ed.]
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VULTURES

NIGER DELTA

IKE

OKONTA AND ORONTO DOUGLAS

$24.00

(CANADA:

$36.00)

THE WORLD WAS SHOCKED

IN 1995

by the news of the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa writer,

political

Delta's

Movement

People

(MOSOP). Yet

and leader of the Niger

activist,

for the his

Ogoni

Survival of the

summary execution by

Nigeria's brutal military junta

was only the

human

horrific event in a centuries-old pattern of

rights abuse

and environmental exploitation.

was formed out of

MOSOP

need to protest the

a final, desperate

destruction of a people's land and culture

and

a series of corrupt

governments. In

this

by two

Royal Dutch

forces: a giant multinational corporation,

Shell,

latest

and repressive Nigerian

important book, Ike Okonta and

Oronto Douglas present

a devastating case against

both Shell and Nigeria's military regime of the 1990s. Since Shell reserves of

oil

first

began to plunder Nigeria's

and gas

rich

the 1950s, the environment

in

and economy of the country have been

steady

in

decline, while Shell's profits have continued to rise.

Irresponsible practices

— including

gas flaring (the

ignition of gas in the atmosphere), laying dangerous

high-pressure

oil

ing water sources this

pipelines aboveground,

—have degraded

once-rich delta and

and

pollut-

agricultural land in

left local

people destitute,

often lacking such basic amenities as piped water and sanitation facilities.

Although

try to present a rosier

ence

in

Shell's "spin doctors"

image of the corporation's pres-

the Niger Delta,

Okonta and Douglas

offer

persuasive evidence to support charges of environ-

mental degradation.

Compelling and angry, Where draw new attention to the Niger Delta

ecosystems be heard.

in

—one

a

grave injustice.

of the

the world

Vultures Feast will



is

The

story of

most endangered human a story that

demands

to

^Where Vultures Feast

Digitized by the Internet Archive in

2012

http://www.archive.org/details/wherevulturesfeaOOokon

Where Vultures Feast SHELL,

HUMAN

RIGHTS,

Ike

AND

OIL IN THE NIGER DELTA

Okonta

Oronto Douglas

SIERRA CLUB BOOKS

San

Francisco

Authors' note. In an effort to present as cials

fair

and balanced an account as possible,

of Shell Nigeria, requesting an interview to afford

saw

side of the story as they

them an opportunity

we wrote

but our letter was unanswered. We, however, did not

it,

to offi-

to tell us their let this

own deter

Royal/Dutch Shell and

its Nigerian subsidiary, in the course of responding to charges and allegahad played a role in the exacerbation of the Ogoni crisis, have, since 1993, published briefing papers, memos, and official booklets explaining their position. We relied on these documents to offer the reader as balanced an account as the documents available to us would allow

us.

tions that they

The

founded in 1892 by John Muir, has devoted itself to the study and protection of the and ecological resources mountains, wetlands, woodlands, wild shores and rivers, deserts and plains. The publishing program of the Sierra Club offers books to the public as a nonSierra Club,



Earth's scenic

hope that they may enlarge the publics understanding of the The point of view expressed in each book, however, does not necessarily represent that of the Club. The Sierra Club has some sixty chapters coast to coast, in Canada, Hawaii, and Alaska. For information about how you may participate in its programs to preserve profit educational service in the

Club's basic concerns.

wilderness and the quality of life, please address inquiries to Sierra Club, 85 Second Street, San Francisco,

CA 94105.

www.Sierra.org/books Copyright

©

2001 by Ike Okonta and Oronto Douglas

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form

or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by

any information storage and

retrieval system,

without permission in writing from the

publisher.

Published by Sierra Club Books in conjunction with York.

Crown Publishers, New York, New

Member of the Crown Publishing Group.

Random House, Inc. New York, Toronto, London, Sydney, Auckland www. randomhouse com .

SIERRA CLUB, SIERRA CLUB BOOKS, and marks of the Sierra Club. Design by Leonard W.

Sierra

Club design logos are registered trade-

Henderson

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Okonta,

1949-

Ike,

Where

vultures feast

:

Shell,

human

rights,

and

oil in

the Niger Delta / Ike Okonta

and Oronto Douglas. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1.

Petroleum industry and trade— Corrupt practices— Nigeria— Niger River Environmental aspects Nigeria Niger 2 Petroleum industry and trade

Delta

.

II.

3- Shell

International Petroleum

Company,

Ltd.

I.



Douglas, Oronto.

Title.

N54 966.942— dc21 HD9577.N53

ISBN 1-57805-046-4 10





.

River Delta.

2001

987654321

First Edition

00-047078

To Nnah Uabari (aged nineteen),

who was murdered on October 25, near Shell Flow Station No.

5,

1993,

Korokoro, Ogoni, Nigeria

CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS FOREWORD

/xi

INTRODUCTION

ONE

A

TWO

/ ix

/

1

People and Their Environment / 5

Soldiers, Gangsters,

THREE

Oil / 21

Colossus on the Niger / 43

FOUR FIVE

and

A Dying Land /

Where

6l

Vultures Feast / 96

X

Ambush

in the Night / 1 16

SEVEN

A Game

for Spin Doctors / 157

S

I

EIGHT

Healing the

EPILOGUE

APPENDIX

Justice

Wound /

/

190

Trial /

211

207

on

NOTES AND REFERENCES/ INDEX

/ 261

229

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

When

we

out to

set

we

early 1996,

tell

evidence and putting

know now that telling the the world

is

the story of Shell in the Niger Delta in

thought it

it

would be

together in a book in a few months. We

story of the biggest multinational

like traversing the

world

itself,

months" stretching into three years of asking questions.

We

It

was

a

oil

company in

an adventure that saw "a few

traveling, researching, "snooping,"

humbling experience.

thank Nick Ashton-Jones and

edge of the

a matter of gathering the

human ecosystem of the

Nnimmo

Bassey,

whose deep knowl-

Niger Delta and whose abiding love of

we set out on our journey. We who would come down from his lodgings in Trinity Col-

the people proved an invaluable compass as

thank Ike Achebe,

Cambridge, read the manuscript in progress, and urge us on:

lege,

more facts!" We thank Andrew Rowell, Bronwen Mamby, Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, drafts of the

Awa

"Facts,

Sheila Braithwaite,

Dabo, and Jedrzeg George Frynas,

who

read

manuscript in 1997 and 1998 and offered very useful sugges-

We thank Owens Wiwa and Ken Wiwa, Jr. for putting aside their grief moment to offer us useful advice that made the telling of this story eas-

tions.

for a

ier going.

Mary Isioma

Arinze, Sarah

Shah, Nick Jukes,

Glen

Ellis,

Modebe, Chichi Iwedinwa,

Ritje Grit,

Mark Brown, Claudia Lehmkhul, Shlomi

Urmi

Segal, Nir Eyal,

Kay Bishop, George Monbiot, Nana Yaa Mensah, Ebele Obumselu,

Robert Beckford, Daphne Wysham, and Danny Moses, our very patient tor at Sierra

Club Books, San Francisco, were there

when

it

edi-

most mattered.

Chima Ubani, Ogaga Ifowodo,Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, Danbala Danju, Biyi Bandele, Makin Soyinka, AlabaYusuf, Kayode Fayemi, and Andrew Chandler of the George Bell Institute took a personal interest in this project and

encouraged us to see

it

through.

ERA

people, in Nigeria and

all

over the

world, were, of course, the rock without whose solid support the project

Acknowledgments would have floundered. We thank for constantly reminding us, as

we

Brixton,

its

people and

struggled to put this

cold London bed-sit, that in the final analysis

it is

warm

ambience,

book together

people that

in a

really matter.

We are grateful to Trocaire, the Catholic Agency for World Development, Dublin, for providing the financial assistance that

writing of this

made the

researching and

book possible.

Ike

Okonto and Oronto Douglas

Niger Delta, Nigeria, July

1

999

FOREWORD

Dutch/Shell more than a colonial force in Nigeria. A colonial Royal power exhibits some measure of concern for the territory over is

which crude

oil in

it

not the case with this mogul, which goes for

lords. This is

the most crude

Four decades of

oil

manner possible.

production has led to major dislocations in the

lives

of the people of the oil-producing communities of Nigeria's Niger Delta.

Violence done to their environment has translated into direct violence against the people.

Ken Saro-Wiwa and

have been hanged on way: not

trees,

Shell's oil rig.

the eight Ogoni patriots

Nothing

is

may

allowed to stand in

well

Shell's

not swamps, not beast, not man. The people of the Niger

Delta have been forced to live with a highly polluted environment: the result of practices that

would not be permitted

in

Europe or the United

States.

Peace was banished the Shell

workers in Oloibiri

moment

the

dynamite was exploded by

first

village in search of

oil.

The

situation

precarious by the day, and the Niger Delta

was the only

where

up by the

in

a special military occupation force, set

1994 and which had

people,

We

killing,

Shell's

is

at

part of Nigeria

federal

government

the time, took over the

lives

of the

maiming, and raping thousands.

must pause and think

Niger Delta

support

became more

again. If the experience of the

anything to go by, the entire crude

wrongheaded. There

is

oil

business

not one stage of oil production that

is

people of the is

completely

sustainable or

environmentally friendly. None. In Curacao, Shell, after operating a refinery for seventy years,

packed

its

bags and

left.

Two

asphalt lakes beside the

refinery have turned pristine wetland in the area into wasteland. Clearly,

there

is

worse

to

human ecosystem.

come

in the Niger Delta, the world's

most threatened

Foreword This

book unravels the

true face of Shell and the hidden pains of a peo-

ple mauled by Big Business and military dictatorship. Okonta and Douglas

have given us an invaluable warning. Have you been warned?

Nnimmo Director,

Bassey

Environmental Rights Action Benin

City,

Nigeria

The wailing

is

for the fields of men:

For the barren wedded ones; For perishing children The wailing

is for

.

.

.

the Great River:

Her pot-bellied watchers Despoil her.

.

.

.

Christopher Okigbo

"Lament of the Drums"

Where Vultures Feast

NTRODUCTION

On

February 22, 1895, a British naval force under the

Admiral the

Ijo

Sir

people of

fighting, the city

mostly

women

command

of

Frederick Bedford laid siege on Brass, the chief city of

Nembe

was razed

in Nigeria's Niger Delta. After severe

Over two thousand people,

to the ground.

and children, perished

in that attack

launched in the name

of Queen Victoria.

The 1895 massacre was

the behest of a British company, the Royal

at

Niger Company, for which George charter in 1886, giving

it

a

Taubman Goldie had obtained trade

on the Niger

moved

right

from the onset to displace

anxious to maximize his profits,

merchants of Brass and the other surrounding communities as

middlemen between the palm

pean traders on the

coast.

He

oil

entreaties to the British Consul General

of Brass took matters into their

own

military expedition in

was

— thereby

land. After their several

were met with

silence, the

hands and pulled

trading post in Akassa.

safeguard their source of livelihood

in his "territory"

own

down

Taubman Goldie and

torate government's response to this attempt

1895— a

who had acted

parceled off a vast area of land and imposed

banning Brass traders from trading in their

Company

River. Goldie,

farmers in the hinterland and the Euro-

heavy duties on whoever might want to trade

Niger

a royal

monopoly of

people

the Royal

the protec-

by the people of Nembe

to

the horrendous attack of February

which the population of

Brass and the

nearby towns of Twon and Fishtown were almost wiped out.

One hundred

years

later, in

February 1995, the people of

locked in a grim, death-and-life struggle with Royal Dutch

Nembe were

Shell,

another

British firm, again to safeguard their source of livelihood: their environ-

ment, which the multinational activities

ments

had despoiled.

in Nigeria, has

oil

company's exploration and production

Shell, in collaboration

been

with successive govern-

extracting billions of dollars'

worth of

oil

and

Where Vultures Feast Nembe and other communities in the Niger Delta since 1956 withmuch in return. The plunder of the Niger Delta has turned

gas from

out giving them full cycle.

Crude

same

are the

has taken the place of palm

oil

—a

life

juice out of the richly

people struggling valiantly against

company of

the operating

Shell,

accounts for some 50 percent of all of

it

in the Niger Delta.

as the

but the dramatis personae

powerful European multinational company intent on

extracting the last less

oil,

number-one

endowed Niger Delta, and a hap-

this juggernaut.

the largest joint venture in Nigeria,

oil

production in the country, the bulk

The oil-producing communities

culprit in the

therefore see Shell

economic and ecological war currently

being waged against them. Slowly but activities as gas flaring, oil spillage,

such

relentlessly,

oil

production

^discriminate construction of canals,

and waste dumping have brought the human ecosystem of the Niger Delta and

also degrades private

activities,

and pays the affected

to the point of near collapse. Shell acquires land

property in the course of its

communities fair

production

or no compensation. Nor do the communities receive a

little

share of the

oil

oil royalties

— the

bulk of which

Nigerian government, Shell, and the other a vicious

is

shared between the

companies. Trapped between

oil

and morally bankrupt government and an unscrupulous multina-

tional, these

communities have

what

in a bid to protect

little

now taken to the path of nonviolent protest

remains of their endangered environment and

source of livelihood. Where Vultures Feast

is

the story of their encounter

with one of the most powerful multinational companies in the world.

We

begin our

tale

with a brief excursion to the

past.

Chapter One

attempts to put the people of the Niger Delta and their environment in torical perspective list

and demonstrate that

Shell

is

his-

only the latest in the long

of robber barons that have plundered their land, beginning with the

slave trade in the sixteenth century. This

inhuman

trade sucked the people

of the Niger Delta into the orbit of international finance capital and, indeed, laid the basis for the exploitation

dred years ingly

later the pattern is

of their resources by outsiders. Five hun-

unchanged

— but Shell has added a frighten-

new dimension to this scenario: ecological warfare.

The gradual decay of Nigeria's political economy in the hands of an inept military

and

political elite

— so preoccupied with plundering the

of the Niger Delta that they do not realize the country ject of

Chapter Two. Royal Dutch Shell

nies in the world.

l

is

is

one of the most

oil

wealth

dying— is

the sub-

profitable

compa-

A substantial part of this profit comes from the plum oil

— Introduction concessions

it

has garnered in the Niger Delta. The historical origins of the

multinational and the

manner by which

lucrative oil fields in the Niger Delta

Chapter Three. Profit

is

returns, rules have to

of what

theirs

by

acquires and holds

and other countries

The

to these

and economic war against the

successive Nigerian regimes to suppress them,

and

on

chronicled in

be ignored and hapless "natives" deprived

right. Shell's ecological

oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta, and

Four, Five,

is

the engine that drives Royal Dutch Shell, and to

maximize is

it

is

its

collaboration with

the focus of Chapters

Six.

multinational also employs an

army of public

relations experts

image or a benevolent and environmentally friendly Big

to maintain the

Brother in the Niger Delta, and this cynical game, played in the main by Shell spin doctors,

is

the subject of Chapter Seven.

The

alliance

between

the Nigerian military junta and the multinational to ignore and abuse laws

and regulations guiding

oil

examined

in detail in the

do we heal the wound

that Shell has

industry operations

is

Appendix. Ultimately, the question inflicted,

is:

and continues to

How

on the Niger

inflict,

Delta,

one of the most

endangered human ecosystems in the world? What must the international community, the people of the Niger Delta, and Nigerians this

at large

do

to stop

juggernaut from further damaging the area, threatening a people and

their

way of life?

Following the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa

— the author, environmentalist,

and leader of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and eight of political

his compatriots

by the

military junta in

November

1995, the

equation has changed. Nigeria's ethnic minorities are speaking out

in a brave

new

voice and demanding that their wishes and aspirations be

factored into the Nigerian project.

The oil-producing communities

the boil, and they have struck out for self-determination, insisting

on

are

on

new

a

Nigeria informed by true federalism, equity, justice, and negotiated cooperation.

They

are also insisting that Shell

be called to account and compelled to

pay reparations for despoiling their environment and taking away

their

mineral resources these past forty years, without paying them the royalties that are their just due. In the Niger Delta today, the struggle

is

for social

and

ecological justice.

This

is

a struggle that simply does not allow for "neutral" spectators. All

must choose whose side they are

on— Shell

and the Nigerian government

Where Vultures Feast intent

on holding the oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta down,

who are struggling nonviolently to put an end to this tyranny.

or the victims

The its

struggle in the Niger Delta

future.

The

late

is

also a struggle for the soul of Nigeria

Nigerian scholar Professor Claude Ake

made

and

this clear in

these words: "MOSOP and Ogoniland must survive and flourish for the sake of us

all.

For better or worse,

this country.

They have

MOSOP and Ogoniland are the conscience of

risen above our slave culture of silence.

found courage to be free and they have evolved a

which denies power

to rogues, hypocrites, fools,

political

and

to realize our

promise and to restore our

dignity. If

it

consciousness

bullies.

worse, Ogoniland carries our hopes. Battered and bleeding, falters,

They have

For better for

it

struggles

we die."

2

on

ONE A

People and Their Environment

And finally, on

the

were racial hatreds,

immense

scale of humanity, there

slavery, exploitation,

the bloodless genocide

and above all

which consisted in the

setting

aside offifteen thousand millions men. Frantz Fanon

The Wretched of the Earth

The

Niger has the third-largest drainage area of Africa's

huge f loodplain

in southeastern Nige-

down from the Niger

and the Benue try's total

which

rivers

it

drains

is

a

and covering 25,640 square kilometers of the coun-

land area. This f loodplain

is

home

to

some seven

grouped into several nations and ethnic groups: the

Ijo,

million people,

Urhobo,

Itsekiri,

Isoko, Efik, Etche, Ibibio, Igbo, Andoni, Ikwere, Ogoni, Isoko, Edo,

Kwale-Igbo. their

Some

1

now modern Nigeria, Ijo peoples, who lived in small

Before the arrival of European traders in what the Niger Delta

was inhabited mainly by the

creekside fishing villages ranging from inhabitants.

The head of the

village

is

two hundred

to about a thousand

was the Amanyanabo

(or Amakasowei),

turn was elected by the heads of the various wards or

With the advent of the

slave trade, however, there

was

a rapid

the population of the Delta. The hitherto small and idyllic

grew

and

of the ethnic groups are further divided into clans with

own distinctive languages.

who in

The

consisting of sedimentary deposits flowing

delta into ria

rivers.

into powerful

trading states like

Okrika, and Brass (Nembe),

Bonny,

some of whose

patrilineages.

expansion of

Ijo fishing villages

Owome (New

Calabar),

origins can be traced to the

— Where Vultures Feast early sixteenth century. The Efik trading state of Old Calabar at the entrance

of the Cross River, and the Itsekiri kingdom of Warri in the western Delta, also

emerged

The

at this time.

2

slave trade brought

with

it

great social

and economic upheavals

the Niger Delta. 3 Before the arrival of the European slave traders, the

Ijo

in

and

the other peoples of the Delta traded with the peoples of the hinterland

mainly the Igbo and Ibibio. The former exported dried fish and neighbors in exchange for

an abrupt stop to

utensils.

salt,

dried

fish,

tools.

The

them, the

Ijo

salt to their

trade in slaves brought

commerce, however. The

slave traders

new consumer goods

such as cloth

and

The consumer goods were often cheap and not neces-

well made, but since the slave traders also brought

sarily

salt,

and iron

this flourishing

brought with them

and metal

fruit

salt

along with

and the other inhabitants of the Delta gave up the trade

in fish,

and iron tools with the Igbo and Ibibio altogether and concentrated on

the lucrative slave trade. generally

is

It

assumed

that the exploitation of the peoples of the

when

Niger Delta and the devastation of their environment began oil

was discovered

in the area

by Royal Dutch

that Europe's plunder of the Delta,

much

when

further back, to 1444,

Shell in 1956.

and indeed the

The

crude

truth

is

entire continent, dates

the Portuguese adventurer and former

tax collector, Lancarote de Freitas, sailed to the West African coast and

235

stole trip

was

men and women whom he

later sold as slaves.

to trigger the Atlantic slave trade, which, before

by the trade

in

young men and

palm

oil in

women

it

4

De

Freitas's

was displaced

the 1840s, saw several million able-bodied

taken from the Delta and

its

hinterland and

shipped to the plantations of North America, South America, and the

West

Indies.

The wealth.

slave plantations of the

The Barclay

West Indies were the

basis of

much

British

brothers, David and Alexander, actively engaged in the

slave trade in the 1750s

and

later

used the proceeds to

set

up

Barclays'

Bank. William Gladstone's political career was funded by family wealth generated by his father's Liverpool trade and West Indies sugar plantations. In

1833, John Gladstone's assets included £296,000 (£15 million today) and

£40,000 (£2 million)— or about $24 million and $3 million today— in

Demerara and Jamaica

respectively. William Gladstone's first

House of Commons on June tion

Bill,

3,

1834, was

speech

in the

in opposition to the Slavery Aboli-

speaking as a West Indian representative. The staggering economic

A People and Their Environment cost aside, slavery abruptly and catastrophically disrupted

Delta and

its

hinterland, triggered interethnic wars,

life

in the Niger

and led to the displace-

ment of whole communities. With the abolition of slavery tury, there

was

in the first

decades of the nineteenth cen-

a switch to the so-called "legitimate" trade in

the pattern of trade remained unchanged

and back. Europe was

at

the height of

and the demand for palm

oil,

its

oil.

But

— from the Niger Delta to Europe industrial revolution at this time,

which was used

to lubricate the

the factories and as raw material for soap and margarine, Delta traders played the role of

palm

machines of

was

high.

The

middlemen between Liverpool merchants

who anchored their ships on the coast and the cultivators of the palm oil in the hinterland.

At

first this

arrangement was satisfactory to

all

parties. Trade

boomed. By

which

1850, British trading interests were concentrated mainly in Lagos,

provided access to the wealth of the forests ofYorubaland, farther west, and the Delta ports,

Palm

oil

which were the gateway

was now the

to the interior of eastern Nigeria.

chief export, as the European traders

no longer found

the trade in slaves profitable following the advent of the industrial revolu-

Bonny, an

tion.

Ijo

town

strategically located

into the richest port in the Niger Delta,

land

on the

coast, gradually

and by 1856 the port and

was exporting over 25,000 tons of palm

oil

its

grew

hinter-

a year, over half of the total

quantity exported from Africa. 5

Consuls and Gunboats While the European slave merchants were content to ply their ignominious trade mainly from their ships using the kings and chiefs

betweens, the Liverpool palm politics of the

oil

on the coast

as go-

barons began to actively interfere in the

Niger Delta, beginning in 1850, with the sole purpose of dis-

middlemen and appropriating the enormous profits for themselves. The argument of the Liverpool traders was that the middlemen of Bonny, New Calabar, Brass, and Old Calabar, the main Delta ports at the

placing the local

time,

were not hardworking enough, and

hinterland

were not being exploited

that the rich

to the

maximum

palm

oil

farms of the

as a result.

They

also

complained about the high prices of the middlemen and increasingly began to urge the British

government

to intervene.

6

Where Vultures Feast Yet, as several chroniclers of trade

time have shown,

it

was

and

politics in the Niger Delta at the

actually the Liverpool

merchants

who were

ping off the coastal middlemen. They had a monopoly of the palm

rip-

oil trade,

and since there was not a standardized medium of exchange on the

coast,

they sold second-rate and sometimes worthless goods to the Africans. The historian K. O. Dike described trade practices at the time: "White supercar-

goes had managed to convince Africans that articles of clothing such as old soldiers' jackets

were

a fair

and cocked hats bought

exchange

merchants were in rels

of palm

It

was

oil

for their

raw

reality ruffians

fined,

materials."

1854 run by a

and coastal middlemen under

oil to

trade and

actually seize bar-

committee of the

joint

British

were

who refused to pay up were cut off from the palm oil trade king's directives, refused to sell

them. The Court of Equity brought order to the hitherto chaotic

was so

British

The palm

successful that

it

was introduced

oil

in

such other places as

Opobo.

merchants (or supercargoes) were, however, not

trade

was becoming even more

trialization accelerated in

lucrative as the

pace of indus-

workers

to manufacture soap

who

flocked to the

They began by using the

oil to

and margarine for the cities.

mil-

The supercargoes

a direct access to the hinterland so they could get the

tually for free.

satisfied.

Europe, requiring greater quantities of palm

machine parts and

lions of industrial

wanted

Moreover, some of the British

his supervision. Erring traders

Akassa, Benin River (Itsekiri), Brass, and later

lubricate

Street,

to curb the activities of these rogue traders that the king of Bonny

and those

The

Monmouth

and thieves and would

by the Delta middlemen, who, obeying the

palm

7

from the Delta middlemen without payment.

instituted a Court of Equity in

traders

at little cost at

palm

oil vir-

on

British-appointed local consuls

the coast to force unfavorable terms of trade on the Delta middlemen.

Indeed, the activities of the British consuls between 1850 and 1856 lead to the

breakdown of the monopoly of coastal

trade held

was

by the super-

cargoes and the African middlemen between them. This, in turn, led to a sis in

Niger Delta

John Beecroft,

cri-

politics.

who was appointed Her Brittanic

Majesty's Consul for the

Bights of Benin and Biafra in 1849, laid the foundation of British

Nigeria and initiated the politics that in Nigerian history.

8

was to

power

in

characterize the consular period

Beecroft saw himself not as an administrator but as a

pathfinder of sorts, expanding British trade in the Niger Delta. tive that the

to

It is

instruc-

new consul's first intervention in the politics of the Delta was in

A People and Their Environment palm-oil-rich Bonny, against

goes

bitterly resented

King William Dappa Pepple, whom the supercar-

because they saw him as the main obstacle to their

designs to get at the palm

oil fields in

the hinterland.

King Dappa Pepple had signed a treaty with Consul Beecroft 1850, regulating conditions of trade

on the

October

in

coast. In return, the British gov-

ernment had promised to pay the king an annual subsidy to enable him to develop the palm

trade even further. But an increasingly powerful and

oil

ambitious Beecroft ignored the treaty to which he himself was a signatory,

and even refused to pay the king the promised subsidy. 9 In 1851, Beecroft took the decisive

first

step

— in what was to become his open intervention

in Niger Delta politics— when

he deposed Kosoko, the king of Lagos, and

installed Akitoye in his place. Beecroft 's trader, a practice the British

however, ample evidence

at that

time to

financed by a well-known slave trader,

have indulged in slave trading were for

him

to

do

so.

who would help

What British

excuse was that Kosoko was a slave

government had decreed

it

show

Domingo

illegal.

that Akitoye

Jose,

There was,

was himself

and certainly would

economically and politically expedient

Beecroft really wanted

was

a friendly king in Lagos

merchants get a secure foothold

in the area,

and he

conveniently used the "slave trader" tag to get rid of the independent-minded

Kosoko. 10 Beecroft employed similar tactics to do away with King

Bonny.

He accused

traders

on the

Dappa Pepple of

the king of sponsoring attacks on the ships of British

New

Calabar River, and, cleverly exploiting a trade dispute

between Dappa Pepple and one of the

royal lineages in Bonny, used the

Court of Equity to deport him to Fernando Po in 1852. 11 After the removal of King

Dappa Pepple, the

British traders, in concert

with the local consuls,

middlemen

accelerated the displacement of the Delta

in the

palm

oil trade.

some freed slaves from Sierra Leone who had converted to Chrisand settled in Calabar tried to help the local middlemen ship their

In 1855 tianity

palm

oil directly to

England, pointing out that the prices they got from the

British supercargoes

were

ridiculous.

The

however, stopping the King, Eyo Honesty,

ment

directly to Liverpool.

The

consul, Hutchinson, intervened,

when he

tried to export a ship-

consul claimed that the king

owed £18,000

(about $30,000) to an English firm and so could not trade directly with the Liverpool commercial houses until he had paid

A Commission

of Inquiry later set

up

it

off.

by the Foreign Office in London

discovered that Hutchinson was corruptly enriching himself at the expense

Where Vultures Feast of the Niger Delta middlemen, and that he

was

in fact a

commission agent

employ of the English firm Hearn and Cuthbertson,

in the

claimed the king of Calabar

owed money. But

this

was

to

which he

after Hutchinson's

predecessor, Consul Lynslager, had ransacked and destroyed the

Old Calabar, claiming

Church of Scotland missionaries stationed

sacrifice.

in the

town

dicted Lynslager, pointing out that the consul destroyed the

behest of British traders

The enormous

by force sul to

their

if

lent

riches to be derived from the Niger Delta and the other

itself,

annex Lagos, is ." .

.

highway

interior.

the

British traders and, subsequently, of

to the possibilities of taking over the area entirely,

necessary. Thus, in 1861, the Foreign Office instructed the con-

town

ing tribes

at

with Liverpool. 12

towns opened the eyes of the

the government

town

contra-

who wanted to teach the local middlemen a lesson

for daring to trade directly

coastal

town of

he did so because the people practiced human

that

"to protect

and develop the important trade of which

the seat; and to exercise an influence on the surround13

Trade was growing by the day. The Niger provided an excel-

for the British traders,

They saw

virgin forests

who began

brimming with

by greed, they sent urgent dispatches

to

to penetrate into the

agricultural produce. Fired

London. The Foreign Office,

ensuring that the area would not prove a financial

liability to

after

the govern-

ment, but indeed the opposite, proclaimed the Niger Delta and

its

hinter-

land a British Protectorate in 1865, thus laying the foundations of what

turned out to be modern Nigeria.

King Jaja and the Robber Barons

The

story of King Jaja of

Opobo and

his epic struggle against the British

merchants in the closing decades of the nineteenth century best

illustrates

the long-standing struggle of the peoples of the Niger Delta to protect their

environment and

its

European mercantilists and

Amsterdam. Jaja,

from the grasping hands of

natural resources their patrons in

London,

Paris,

Hamburg, and

14

who dominated

the politics of the Niger Delta for twenty years,

was

an Igbo ex-slave in Bonny. Through hard work and a display of business acu-

men, he rapidly rose through the ranks and became head of the Anna Pepple royal house. Following a kingship tussle

10

in the

town, which escalated

A People and Their Environment

war in 1869, Jaja and his followers

into civil

the hinterland,

named

retreated into Andoni country in

new town Opobo, and

their

declared

of the rulers of Bonny. Opobo, strategically located near the the hinterland, quickly

grew

European traders from wealth and

The

political

Jaja.

traders

oil

had a

oil

markets of

into the chief port in the Niger Delta, attracting

over the coast and even surpassing Bonny in

all

on the coast were, however, not happy with King

clear

it

from the onset

that

he would not allow them

Opobo hinterland and that they could

direct access to the oil markets in the

buy palm

independent

importance.

British traders

He had made

it

only from his agents. Jaja explained that since the British virtual

monopoly over

trade with the Liverpool commercial

houses, he and his people should control the trade with the producers of the palm

oil in

favored King

steamers

In 1852 the British

Jaja.

owned by Macgregor

regular service

government had subsidized merchant

Laird, a

who began

between Liverpool and West Africa. This

to the great Liverpool houses trade.

New developments on the coast also

the Delta hinterland. 15

and

their

The Liverpool merchants began

a fleet of

to operate a

dealt a death

blow

monopoly of the Niger Delta

to face increasing competition,

by 1856 there were over two hundred European firms operating

oil

and

in the

Niger Delta. Consul Lynslager's destruction of Old Calabar was a last-ditch

attempt to prevent the local people from joining their European counterparts in turning this

new development

directly to Europe, using

Macgregor

Laird's steamers.

King

Jaja,

oil

expectedly,

in the forefront.

This did not go

down well with the British supercargoes, and they began

to plot Jaja's downfall

palm

ume

commercial advan-

However, a few brave African middlemen began to export their

tage.

was

in shipping to

oil directly

and to

also devise

from the hinterland.

means

to evade his agents

Jaja retaliated

and buy

by increasing the

vol-

of his shipments to England. Following a series of skirmishes with the

supercargoes on the coast, King Jaja signed a treaty with the local consul in

1884 that effectively placed his town under

made

sure that a clause

that his

was

inserted in the agreement

people would control the

tention being that the supercargoes

shipments to England and took in

Europe

at this time,

ingly impatient

with

oil

he

that explicitly stated

markets in the hinterland, his con-

on the coast

still

controlled the bulk of

all the profits. Oil prices had,

and the

Jaja.

British protection. But

British supercargoes

There were enormous

however, risen

were getting

profits to

increas-

be made

in the

11

Where Vultures Feast hinterland,

and Jaja was

ston, to intervene,

When

and

They urged the

in the way.

in

1887 King

Jaja

local consul, H. H. John-

was deported

he was eventually allowed to return to Opobo

to the

West

Indies.

he died on

in 1891,

the way, a lonely, broken man. 16

A similar fate was to befall Nana Olomu, a merchant prince and leader of the Itsekiri, who controlled the oil trade on the Benin River in the western Delta. Although

Nana had signed

ing the Benin River, Warri, and

a treaty with Consul

some

Hewett

in 1884, plac-

parts of western Ijo under British pro-

tection, he rebuffed attempts by the British to extend the powers of the

new Oil

Rivers Protectorate,

country.

Nana

which had been proclaimed

saw the new protectorate

correctly

for

in 1887, over his

what

it

really

was: an

attempt by the British traders on the coast to edge him out and take over the

markets in his territory for themselves. But the supercargoes would

oil

brook no opposition.

British

coast, the Niger River,

command

and

gunboats were its tributaries.

now in absolute

control of the

September 1894, under the

In

of the acting consul, General Ralph Moor, they

bombarded

Nana's headquarters in Ebrohimie, ransacked the town, and carted away his goods. 17 Nana gave himself up a few months

later.

Thus was the

last

formi-

dable obstacle to British imperialist designs in the Niger Delta removed.

Afterward,

it

was open season

for the British merchants,

most notably

18

The scramble

George Goldie Taubman, the "founder of modern for Africa Delta.

was going

that the only

way

basin for Britain

one another

to

steam

when

set their eyes

Goldie

Taubman

on the

area,

arrived in the Niger

and Taubman decided

keep them out and secure the rich lands of the Niger

was

to wield the several British firms

in the Delta into a

over the palm

was

full

The French had

Nigeria."

oil trade.

called the Niger

competing against

powerful trading bloc with

The new firm

that

Company Taubman

By 1884 he had obtained

demurred,

like Brass, Patani,

monopoly

emerged from the merger

followed this up with a spate

of "treaties" with the coastal kings, which he obtained point.

total

literally at

thirty-seven such "treaties."

and Asaba, farther

inland,

Towns

gunthat

were bombarded

into submission. 19

When

the conference of the European powers to divide Africa

among

themselves opened in Berlin in 1885, Taubman was the British government's his

London was so pleased with

his

performance that

new company was granted a Royal Charter. In addition to the monopoly

of the

12

official delegate.

oil

trade in the Niger districts that

it

already enjoyed, the

company

A People and Their Environment

was given

political authority

Niger Company,

The

it

up

set

its

over the area as well. Rechristened the Royal

headquarters in Asaba.

Birth of Nigeria

There

is

no doubt

that

George Goldie Taubman and the Royal Niger Com-

pany which he founded played a key

role in bringing together the other-

wise disparate nations and ethnic groups in the Niger Basin into what

now known

as Nigeria.

It

must be pointed

man s career as a monopoly trader in marked by munities.

looting, murder,

20

He was more

out,

is

however, that Goldie Taub-

the Niger Delta and

its

hinterland

was

and the mass sacking of whole towns and com-

a soldier than a trader

— he

came

to the Niger

Delta as a conqueror.

The palm

oil

wealth of the area provided Taubman the financial muscle

with which the company navigating the Niger ters

on

its

now began

banks. Taubman, however,

the Delta of

its

that cut off the

to

push forward

into the hinterland,

up to Bussa in the north and opening

natural resources.

new trading cen-

was not content with merely draining

He

embarked on trading practices

also

once flourishing Delta ports from the outside world, which

plunged the populace into unprecedented penury from which

been able

to recover. Indeed,

opment of the Niger

it

has never

can be said that the basis of the underdevel-

Delta, following the forcible integration of the area

into the

world of international finance

was

by Goldie Taubman and the Royal Niger Company

laid

it

capital in the nineteenth century, in the 1890s.

21

Following the granting of a Royal Charter to the company in 1886, Taub-

man decreed

that

such towns as Brass, the chief port of the

which were outside the Royal Niger Company's

The people of Brass were therefore forced

pay

importance, and Taubman imposed

commodity.

In the 1880s this

was

its

monopoly

from shipping their palm

each comin

to

had

also

who desired to trade

in the

a lot of money. Perhaps the people of

Brass might have endured this hardship in silence

pany had not taken

for

grown

about $8,000 today) tax on any Brass merchant 22

were "foreigners."

hundred pounds (equivalent

station they traded in. Trade in alcoholic spirits

an extra

Ijo,

pounds (about eighty

fifty

and another ten pounds

dollars) a year for a trading license

pany

to

territory,

Nembe

if

the Royal Niger

practices further

oil directly to

Com-

by preventing them

England, insisting that

all

such

13

Where Vultures Feast company

exports be routed through Akassa, the company's port. The

also

undercut the Brass traders by journeying into the hinterland to buy palm directly

oil

from the producers.

Faced with increasing poverty and hardship, the Brassmen revolted. In

1895 they attacked the company's port hostage, insisting that they

them access

at

Akassa and took sixty-seven

would not be released

until the

to their old markets in the hinterland.

The Consul General of

Nembe

the newly established Niger Coast Protectorate sent a naval force to Creek, attacked the town, and razed

unarmed people, mostly women and kingdom of Benin British rule

farther

two years

it

to the ground. 23

children,

men

company gave

Two

thousand

were murdered. The ancient

west was to be subdued and brought under

later.

In 1894, Captain Frederick Lugard, a veteran of the East African cam-

paign, arrived to help extend the British empire ating the

on the Niger coast,

pace of the "pacification" of the peoples of the Niger

acceler-

basin.

The

French were pushing aggressively from the Borgu area north of the Benue River,

grabbing whatever territory they could lay hands on. In April 1898,

London was protect

all

sufficiently

worried to ask Lugard to

set

up an armed

unit to

the territory then under the control of the Royal Niger Company.

Thus was born the West African Frontier Force, a

battalion of soldiers that

Frederick Lugard used to bring the vast Sokoto Caliphate under British control a

few years

In 1898,

and

up

set

later.

London withdrew the charter from the Royal Niger Company structures to administer direct imperial control

domain. The palm Britain

basin

24

oil

trade alone

was worth almost £3.4

(£175 million today, or $280 million), and

was too valuable

to

be

left

to a

it

was

felt

states

hundred

and kingdoms, which had been

years,

under

that the Niger

commercial firm to manage. West of

the Niger, Sir Gilbert Carter, the governor of Lagos, had by

Yoruba

on her new

million a year to

British suzerainty.

at

now brought the

war with one another for a

During his trek of 1893, Carter had

used a mix of diplomatic cunning and force of arms to subdue the

states

and kingdoms.

On January

1,

1900, Britain's

new domain was

restructured under three

administrative zones: the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria; the Lagos

chosen for it. this

14

It

was

left

name

"Nigeria"

was

to Lugard to bring the Sokoto Caliphate to heel,

and

Colony; and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. The

he achieved between 1900 and 1906. The Aro, the only remaining

A People and Their Environment obstacle to British colonialism in the Igbo heartland in the east,

quered in 1901, but entire area

it

took a

little

longer— well

into the

was "pacified" and brought under British rule.

was con-

1920s— before

the

In 1914 the south-

ern and northern protectorates were amalgamated under a single administrative unit

new country was born. 25

and a

One Country, Many Nations Nigeria,

it

must be remembered, began

life

as a loose collection of nations,

ethnic groups, clans, antf villages brought together under one roof by British force of arms.

was

who

[the British]

and warring

As the

villages,

late politician

Obafemi Awolowo put

it,

"It

created Nigeria out of a welter of independent

towns, and communities, and imbued the various

Nigerian national groups with an overriding desire for the unity of the entire Federation."

26

Before the 1914 amalgamation, Nigeria consisted of two distinct colonial separately ruled

territories,

and administered. The Sokoto Caliphate,

founded by the Islamic warrior and scholar Uthman Dan Fodio a theocratic state

outlined

by

its

tians

and

its

was

administered along lines

founder in his book Kitab al-Farq. The Caliphate was more

closely linked to

than with

— at least in theory — and was

in 1817,

North Africa and Saudi Arabia,

culturally

neighbors west and east of the Niger,

traditional religion practitioners

and commercially,

who were mainly Chris-

and had had contact with Europe

dating back to the fifteenth century.

The

interests of British trade

were paramount, however, and the

dictates

of commerce, coupled with the financial difficulties of administering the various nations and ethnic groups as separate entities, compelled the colonial administrators,

from Frederick Lugard onward, to

single unit, using a

system of "indirect rule" in the North and

the South. While the northern emirs their subjects

were allowed

who

treat the

country as a

"direct rule" in

held unchallenged sway over

to administer their territories with minimal

interference from the colonial residents, Lugard discovered that this system

more

egalitarian south,

a large

number of checks

of indirect administration could not apply in the

where the

ruler's authority

was circumscribed by

and balances. The South was therefore ruled "warrant" system

whereby

directly

certain individuals

were

through courts and a raised to positions of

15

Where Vultures Feast authority specifically to dispense justice and collect taxes as the emirs did in the North.

as

27

The

two separate

British were,

however, determined to rule the country

employing the infamous

political units,

keep the various indigenous

and-rule that they had perfected in India to

groups constantly

The 1922 General, Sir

members

at

each others throats.

Constitution, introduced

Hugh

tactics of divide-

Clifford,

by Lugard's successor

provided for the

in a legislative council.

first

as

Governor

time for elected African

The 1930s and

early 1940s witnessed

rapid social and political changes in colonial Nigeria.

The Eastern and West-

ern regions were created out of the old Southern Nigeria by administrative fiat in

and

1939, while the Northern Region

articulate indigenous elite

saw Nigerian

was left intact. A small but educated

had emerged. The Second World War

soldiers serving alongside their

European counterparts on an

equal footing, and this further accelerated political consciousness the population. Led by Western-educated

began to try.

journalists

and

among

politicians,

they

agitate for greater participation in the administration of the coun-

The Richards

was the

also

Constitution,

which became

colonial government's attempt to

effective in January 1947,

accommodate the demands of

the nationalists by attempting "to secure greater participation by Africans in the discussion of their

own

tion united the northern

affairs."

28

Governor Arthur Richards's

and southern parts of the country

legislature for the first time. Richards, though,

councils, thus ensuring that the

down upon

in

one

central

provisions for regional

North enjoyed a degree of autonomy and

was not "contaminated" by the southern generally looked

made

constitu-

as

politicians,

whom the colonialists

upstarts and political agitators.

The

Richards Constitution thus helped lay the foundation of tribalism in Nigerian politics

and proved a most

effective counterfoil to the nationalistic,

pan-Nigerian outlook of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons,

which

Dr.

Nnamdi Azikiwe founded in August

the colonialists from the country.

1944, with the aim of driving

29

Arthur Richards also established the basis for an unequal and unwieldy federation, with the northern region twice the size of the East

and West.

Like his predecessors, Richards refused to listen to wise counsel from C.

L.

Temple, Lugard's lieutenant governor of the North, and restructure the country into seven or eight provinces, generally corresponding with the geographical space occupied by the various ethnic nationalities. 30

16

A People and Their Environment Richards had hoped that his constitution would

was not

this

As soon

to be.

as a

new

last for

nine years. But

governor, Sir John Macpherson,

was

appointed in April 1948, he announced that he would give the country a

new constitution that would in the political process.

further

widen the

The Macpherson

participation of the people

Constitution,

which replaced

Richards's in January 1952, put in place a federation with a central legisla-

and executive, but

ture

at

the same time the regional assemblies were

enlarged and given legislative and financial powers. Perhaps this

Macpherson 's attempt

to

widen the democratic space

at

was

the regional level.

The North, however, was given half of the seats in the central legislature of 148 members, ensuring

it^

politics. It is instructive that

the Action

ties as

near total dominance of the nascent country's

such regional and ethnic-inspired

political par-

Group and Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) emerged

in

the West and North respectively, at this time.

The

series of constitutional conferences that

independence

for the country

ernment were attempts by constitution that

monious tion."

31

on October

1,

were

I960, under an NPC-led gov-

Nigeria's political leaders to fashion a federal

would work smoothly "to promote

relations

culminate in

later to

efficiency

in,

and

and unity among, the constituent parts of the Federa-

This laudable goal proved difficult to achieve, however, partly due

to the lopsided nature of the federation the British left behind,

and partly

due to corruption, intolerance, and abuse of office on the part of the cians.

The breakdown of law and order

orchestrated by the

in the Western

NPC— which wanted

Region in

late

politi-

1965,

to crush the Action Group, the

— triggered a chain of events culminating in a mili-

party of the opposition tary

har-

coup led by Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu,

1966. Several politicians and military officers

a

young major,

were

killed,

in January

among them

the

Prime Minister, Alhaji AbubakarTafawa Balewa.

new military Head of State, General Johnson AguiyiIronsi, to introduce a new unitary constitution in May 1966 sparked a mutiny by young Hausa-Fulani military officers, who claimed that the JanuAttempts by the

ary

coup was an attempt by the Igbo

the country. Ironsi

was

killed in a

to take over the political leadership of

countercoup

in July,

and the

killing

of

northern towns and

cities.

There was a

massive exodus of the latter to the Eastern Region, and

when

Ironsi s suc-

Igbos and other easterners began in

cessor, Colonel Yakubu

Gowon, proved incapable of stopping

the genocide

17

Where Vultures Feast in the North, the military

Ojukwu,

on

called

return home. A

governor of the

East,

Colonel Emeka

his fellow easterners in other parts of the

new constitutional

eration of the three regions

try

On May

autonomy.

war and the

reneged on

sub-

this agree-

Aburi Accord effectively gave the Eastern

after realizing that the political

by the two

for the country

Gowon

sequent disintegration of the country. But

Region

country to

arrangement making for a loose confed-

was worked out

sides in Aburi, Ghana, as a last-ditch effort to stave off civil

ment

Odumegwu-

would henceforth be divided

27, 1967,

he announced that the coun-

into twelve states.

Ojukwu saw

this as

an

attempt to bury the Aburi Accord, and he responded three days later by proclaiming the former Eastern Region as the sovereign Republic of Biafra. The federal

government declared war on

Biafra

on July

6, a

bloody carnage that

did not stop until Nigerian troops forcibly brought the East back into the federation in January 1970.

them Biafran

An

estimated two million people, the bulk of

children, lost their lives in this conflagration.

People of the Niger Delta Today The bulk of the day Nigeria

inhabitants of the Niger Delta live in three states in present-

— Rivers, Delta, and the newly created Bayelsa. These states take

up about 80 percent of the

area.

The

rest are scattered in

such other

states

Akwa Ibom, Imo, and Ondo.

as Cross Rivers,

The years of

slavery,

palm

oil trade,

and subsequent colonial conquest

brought with them massive migrations and intermingling of ethnic groups in the Delta.

The

rapid growth of Port Harcourt, the area's biggest

city,

decades leading to independence also encouraged intermarriage and

ment of whole communities. As

a result, today the Niger Delta

collage of ethnic nationalities, clans, tively distinct, nevertheless

The Niger Delta has

and language groups

have many cultural

substantial oil

that,

is

in the

resettle-

a fascinating

while

still

rela-

similarities.

and gas reserves. Oil mined

in the area

accounts for 95 percent of the country's foreign exchange earnings and

about one-fourth of Gross Domestic Product. The bulk of Nigeria's proven oil

reserves, currently estimated at

area,

although exploration

the Lake

Chad

is

also

twenty

Basin. Rivers, Bayelsa,

in the state of

and Delta

duce three-fourths of the country's crude

18

billion barrels, is located in the

going on

oil.

Bauchi and

states alone currently pro-

32

Besides

its

great mineral

— A People and Their Environment wealth, the Niger Delta also has fertile agricultural land, forests, rivers, creeks,

and coastal waters teeming with

Clearly, the ria's

Niger Delta

is,

at least for

the

and sundry water creatures.

fish

moment, the goose

that lays Nige-

golden egg.

Yet, in spite of

its

considerable natural resources, the area

is

one of the

poorest and most underdeveloped parts of the country. Seventy percent of the inhabitants

live a rural, subsistent

still

absence of such basic

existence characterized by a total

pipe-borne water, hospitals,

facilities as electricity,

proper housing, and motorable roads. They are weighed

down by debilitat-

ing poverty, malnutrition, and disease. While decades of corruption and mis-

management in the echelons of power have plunged the country's GNP per capita to an all-time far

low of $280, annual incomes

below the national

average.

tion densities in the world,

mated

at

The

area also has

growth

pressure on cultivable land, a good part of all

major towns

literally

is

year.

still

one of the highest popula-

and annual population growth

3 percent. Rapid population

flooding almost

in the Niger Delta are

is

which

is

is

currently

esti-

increasingly exerting in

any case prone to

The population of Port Harcourt and the other exploding.

The ensuing scenario

— urbanization

without the economic growth that would ordinarily generate more jobs has resulted in the

human ecologist's ultimate nightmare: a growing popula-

tion that, in a bid to survive,

guarantee

its

destroying the very ecosystem that should

survival.

Historically, the

people of the Niger Delta have always been

of greedy outsiders

them anything civil

is

who

in return,

war, however,

was

at the

mercy

plunder their natural resources without giving

from the days of slavery to the present

day.

The

a watershed in the political and economic develop-

ment of the peoples of the Niger

Delta.

It

created the conditions for the

accelerated exploitation of their resources and the devastation of their envi-

ronment. Following the takeover of the Shell Biafran troops, the

Gowon

oil

terminal in

Bonny from

regime enacted the Petroleum Act in 1969,

which transferred all oil revenue to the Federal Military Government, which in turn

was expected

to disburse the

money to

the various states, partly on

the basis of need. This decree and the subsequent legislation enacted by the military

government

in

Lagos was to transform Nigeria from a genuine fed-

eration to a de facto unitary state.

But the unitary state that General inet

Gowon and his military-dominated cab-

imposed on Nigerians did not have room

for the peculiar

needs of the

19

Where Vultures Feast minority people of the Niger Delta, even though they produced

The revenue went

straight to the coffers of the Federal Military

ment, the bulk of which was spent to finance the expensive indolent and unproductive

elite.

dered brought great wealth to ria

Oil revenue

this parasitic

economic

million barrels of crude a day Federal revenue

class.

in full swing, it

and members

Govern-

it

of the

engen-

in the world, exporting

had risen to a staggering

and economic

elite

oil

boom was

began to

up, acquiring an unrivaled taste for imported Western luxuries.

20

oil.

By 1976, Nige-

$5 billion per annum, compared to $590 million in 1965. The of the political

the

lifestyle

and the corruption

had become the seventh-largest producer of oil

two

all

live

TWO Soldiers, Gangsters

It

can

and

,

be the massive corruption, though

't

Oil

scale

its

and

pervasiveness are truly intolerable;

it

servience to foreign manipulation,

degrading as

is

.

.

.

It is

the failure of

our

the sub-

isn't

it

rulers to reestablish vital

and dispossessed of this country.

links with the poor

Chinua Achebe Anthills

"To

Oil

Keep Nigeria One

is

of the Savannah

Is

1

a Task That

Must Be Done"

the stuff of contemporary Nigerian politics, and the Niger

Delta

is

the field

spinner

is

on which the vicious battle

waged. The

civil

to control this

money

war that raged between the breakaway

Eastern Region and the rest of the country from July 1967 to January 1970

was not so much

a

war

(fought with such catchy slogans as "To

Must Be Done") back the

as a desperate gambit

oil fields

and

to maintain the unity

Keep

by the

federal

officers in the

Kaduna Nzeogwu-led coup of January from the

Is

country

a Task That

government

army was

desire to avenge the northern political leaders

to lay the

One

to

win

of the Niger Delta from Biafra. The July 29, 1966, counter-

coup led by young northern

meant

integrity of the

Nigeria

groundwork

rest of the country.

was ethnic-motivated. 2

who

15, 1966, but

driven,

by

a

died in the Major

more important, was

for the secession of the then

These officers claimed

first,

Northern region

that the

Nzeogwu coup

In order to facilitate the secession of the North from

down and killed the Head of State, General Igbo who had taken over the reins of government

the federation, they hunted

Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, an after the First

Republic collapsed.

21

Where Vultures Feast The

coupists, however,

up. Lieutenant Colonel

became Head of State

changed

their tune

Yakubu Go won,

after

the matter of

who

oil

came

effectively

General Ironsi's death, was alerted to the danger

of letting the Eastern Region go, with

no longer prepared

when

a northerner

its

rich oil reserves; suddenly

he was

to listen to the suggestion of eastern leaders, after thou-

sands of their people had been slaughtered in northern towns in the of the July countercoup, that a confederal arrangement be the country to allow tempers to cool

on both

wake

worked out

for

As Sarah Khan, the

sides.

petroleum economist, has written, "The renunciation of the [Aburi] agree-

ment was

related mainly to the issue of oil revenue distribution.

that the Eastern

Region would, in

fact,

The

fear

benefit greatly from partial auton-

omy and therefore greater control over its substantial oil wealth, gave momentum to the degeneration of affairs into civil war." 3 It is instructive that the first legislation the new Head of State passed as soon as the Bonny terminal and the other "liberated"

ring itary

all oil

from

Biafra

oil fields

of the Niger Delta were

was the Petroleum Decree No. 51 of 1969,

transfer-

mineral rights and revenue accruing therefrom to the Federal Mil-

Government. The eastern part of the country, and particularly the

Niger Delta and

its

inhabitants, have

been treated

ever since. The poet and playwright Wole Soyinka his play

conquered

as

made

territory

reference to this in

Opera Wonyosi:

"Secession" cried one; the other "One Nation"

For

oil is sweet,

awoofno get bone

The task was done, the nation

is

one

We know who won and who got undone No thought of keeping his body one It's

Shell

scattered from Bendel to

had teamed up with

British Petroleum, partly

government, to open up the Nigerian oil in Oloibiri village in

begun

to

Bonny Town. 4

oil fields.

Following the discovery of

the eastern Delta in 1956, the joint venture had

in July 1967.

5

The problem

for senior Shell officials

the rights and wrongs of the Biafran cause, but

22

the British

produce some 367,000 barrels of oil per day by the time the

war broke out

eral

owned by

how to

government, which enjoyed the support of the

civil

was not

ensure that the fed-

British

government,

Soldiers, Gangsters, and Oil

now part owner of the industry,

which

it

won

company,

federal victory could guarantee

its

the war.

The way

saw

Shell

it,

only a

continued position in the Nigerian

completely dominated

the time.

at

On

its

own

oil

part, the

Harold Wilson government chose to ignore the moral issues raised by Biafra's

quest for self-determination following the slaughter of easterners in

the former Northern Region, and supplied the Gowon-led federal govern-

ment the arms and

logistics

with which

Biafra's secession bid

As one Commonwealth Office briefing document

made

papers released in London in December 1997 ate British interest

is

to bring the [Nigerian]

in

was

defeated.

some of the Cabinet

clear, "the sole

immedi-

economy back to a condition in

which our substantial trade and investment can be further developed." 6 Britain's interest in Nigeria's oil dates

try itself.

The Colonial Mineral Ordinance, enacted by Frederick Lugard

shortly after

the

back to the foundation of the coun-

he amalgamated Northern and Southern Nigeria the country.

first oil-related legislation in

prospecting in the

in 1914,

The 1937 Colonial Mineral Ordinance gave

Shell

and prospecting rights

in the country,

at

the time) exclusive exploration

and the Colonial Office followed

a year later with a grant of an Oil Exploration License to the

covering the entire country. After Shell began Oloibiri well in 1958, the colonial

Tax Ordinance, putting

oil

I960.

was

this

company

production from

its

government enacted the 1959 Petroleum

in place a fifty-fifty profit-sharing arrange-

ment between the Nigerian government and foreign tively, this

oil

rights

D'Arcy (Shell's operating name in Nigeria

Profits

was

The 1914 ordinance made

new country a British monopoly with ownership

vested in the crown.

up

7

shortly before Nigeria gained

oil

companies. Instruc-

independence

in

October

Gowon's Petroleum Act of 1969, however, not only annulled the 1937

ordinance by transferring ownership of oil mineral rights to the federal gov-

ernment,

it

also overturned the country's

wherein the three regions had a favor of the central

three regions

The

civil

government

by decree

war was

a

in 1967.

fifty-fifty

revenue allocation formula,

revenue-sharing agreement, in

in Lagos, following the dissolution of the

8

watershed in the

opment of the peoples of the Niger

political

and economic devel-

Delta, creating the conditions for ac-

celerated exploitation of their resources and the devastation of their

environment. Although Shell had begun to produce a substantial amount of

oil in

the Niger Delta by the early 1960s,

its

contribution to national

23

Where Vultures Feast revenue was

independence

negligible. At

still

self-sufficient in food,

and

in I960, Nigeria

was

virtually

accounted for 97 percent

agricultural products

of export revenue. Things were to take a dramatic turn in the 1970s, however, as international oil prices

began to

rise.

From a modest $295

million in

1965, federal revenue surged to $2.5 billion a mere ten years

new wealth.

accounted for 82 percent of this

was now in the Very

little

Delta from

9

Nigeria had joined

Oil

later.

OPEC and

front rank of oil-producing nations.

of this wealth found

whose

land the

war, revenue allocation

was

oil

way

its

communities of the Niger

to the

extracted, however. Prior to the civil

was based on the

principle of derivation and largely

devolved on the various regions, which were required by Section 134(1) of the I960 constitution to give 50 percent of royalties and mining rents to the federal government.

The Republican Constitution of 1963, under Section

10 140(1), retained these provisions. The civil

all this.

The

leaders of the

new military government were

been trained and had pursued trolled administration. eral

autonomous

were

also

war and its aftermath changed

their careers in a unified

They therefore found the

units,

each with

its

soldiers

who had

and centrally con-

federal system with

its

sev-

respective powers, irksome. There

more compelling reasons why Gowon and his team jettisoned the

old revenue allocation formula.

Although two of the civil

now

war

new states, Rivers and South Eastern, had been carved out

defunct Eastern Region a few days before the outbreak of the

in July 1967, ostensibly for the benefit of the

Delta, the inhabitants

saw

little

people of the Niger

of the country's newfound

needs to be stressed, however, that long before

oil

oil

wealth.

was discovered

It

in the

area in 1956, the ethnic groups that inhabit the Delta and other parts of

southeastern Nigeria had regularly expressed fears of ethnic domination

and discrimination

in jobs

and development

assistance. Indeed, in

attempt to remedy the situation, political leaders of the area began to tate for a

new

state to

be carved out

for

areas in the then Eastern Region in the

them

fifties.

distinct

an agi-

from the core Igbo

The Willink Commission,

set

up by the 1957 constitutional conference, toured the minority areas of the country, and while itants

it

accepted that the grievances of the Niger Delta inhab-

were genuine, declined

to

recommend

stitution in

which fundamental human

be entrenched.

24

11

new state for new federal con-

the creation of a

them, insisting that their interests would be protected in a

rights for minority peoples

would

Soldiers, Gangsters, and Oil

With the new 1969 Petroleum Decree enacted by the victorious

government firmly

new

and

in place

military leaders

found

expedient

it

on the

prices increasingly

oil

federal

the

rise,

— for obvious reasons — to discard

the revenue allocation formula agreed to by the three regions in 1954, dividing mining revenue equally

between the regions and the

ernment. The government began to disburse

money

to the states partly

based on need and partly on derivation. In theory, Nigeria was republic, but in day-to-day administration

by

a

Supreme

it

was

still

de facto unitary

a

a federal

run

state,

Military Council, with military governors in the twelve

"provinces" accountable tq

it

in every material particular.

exports in the various states declined and

oil

As agricultural

production soared, putting

became even more powerful, spending the

oil

money

regarded as part of "conquered

still

The 1996 Greenpeace report on

social

as

bil-

Government

lions of dollars into federal coffers, the Federal Military

Niger Delta,

federal gov-

wished. The

it

was

Biafra,"

ignored.

and environmental conditions

in the

Niger Delta described the situation thus: "For years Nigeria's oil-rich southeast has elite.

been considered

Those

oil

a colony

revenues that the

by the Nigerian

elite

and military

political

did not use to acquire luxury goods

and top up foreign bank accounts, were spent exclusively

in the north or

southwest." 12

took Decree 6 of 1975, which increased the federal government's

It

share of the

oil

proceeds from 50 to 80 percent, leaving the

states

with

only 20 percent, to formalize this blatant injustice that had been going on since

Gowon passed the Petroleum Decree in

nities of the

Niger Delta that were dispersed in three states

Rivers, Midwest,

While the

1969. Even then, the

and South Eastern

elite in

the cities lived

it

— saw very

little

at

commu-

the

time—

of this "20 percent."

up during the heady

oil

boom

years,

peasants in the Niger Delta were facing starvation as a result of the drought of 1972-74,

boom and

which

drastically

reduced agricultural production. The

the salary increases in the Federal Public Service in April 1974

had triggered an inflationary

spiral in the country,

but there was not a cor-

responding increase in the price of such export crops as palm ber,

to

oil

on which the inhabitants depended

whom they could turn to for help.

for extra

In any

oil

and rub-

income. There was no one

case,

one of General Gowon

s

senior permanent secretaries had cynically remarked in a public lecture that the

people of the Niger Delta were most unlikely

threat to the regime's continued exploitation of their

to

oil

pose any

real

wealth, as they

25

Where Vultures Feast were

relatively

this is exactly

mid-eighties

few

in population

and thus could

easily

be subdued. 13 And

what the Nigerian military junta has done, beginning from the

when the people

of the Niger Delta began to raise their voices

in protest.

Securing the Booty Despite these assurances, there was the military and civilian springing

up

elite.

still

a certain

amount of unease among

Their worst nightmare was another Biafra

in the Niger Delta,

whose

oil fields

were

time account-

at this

ing for 82 percent of national revenue. In 1978, one year before the military

government handed over power to the gari,

civilian

regime of Alhaji Shehu Sha-

the soldiers passed the Land Use Act (originally Land Use Decree), vest-

ing ownership and control of

all

land in the military governors of the

various states as representatives of the Federal Military Government. 14 Prior to this decree, land rulers, clan heads,

tomary law insofar

ond Republic

was communally owned and the various

traditional

and community leaders had the power to determine cusas this affected land tenure

constitution,

whose

drafting

and land

The new

use.

Sec-

was supervised by the outgoing

military government, also ensured that the people of the Niger Delta could

not challenge the expropriation of their natural resources by the central

government

in Lagos in a court of law. Section 40(3) of the

tion vested control of minerals, mineral

upon any land

oil,

in Nigeria in the federal

upon the National Assembly the power allocation.

October 1979, twelve years oil fields

the ruling

in,

under, and

government, and also conferred to

make laws

regarding revenue

15

Thus, by the time the soldiers handed

the

and natural gas

1979 constitu-

power back

after the first bullets

were

to the politicians in fired in the battle for

of the Niger Delta, the area had been secured and

elite,

made

safe for

who had come to regard the billions of dollars' worth of oil

extracted every year as theirs by right.

The only notable law the

politicians

of the short-lived Second Republic, under the leadership of President Shehu Shagari, passed with regard to sharing the oil revenue

Revenue Act No.l of 1982, amended by the

Muhammadu

military regime of General

Buhari two years later through Decree 36 of 1984. This act

granted 55 percent of the

26

was the Allocation of

oil

revenue to the federal government (down

Soldiers, Gangsters, and Oil

from 80 percent local

in 1975), 32.5

governments.

ter relief,

percent to the

One percent

and another

1.5

of the

oil

states,

and 10 percent to the

proceeds was

set aside for disas-

percent was established as a special fund for the

oil-producing areas. 16 It

must be pointed

out, however, that

whose checkered, corrupt-ridden

all

through the Second Republic—

was abruptly terminated

life

1983 by General Buhari and other senior military officers incompetence, corruption, and interparty

rivalry

in

December

— administrative

ensured that the special

fund set aside for the communities of the Niger Delta was not translated into concrete social and economic benefits for the inhabitants. With the return of the military to

power in

1983, the country reverted to a de facto unitary sys-

tem of government once

again,

and whatever hopes the people of the Niger

Delta harbored of pressing for an increase in the special fund allocated to

them, and for a

new

law putting these monies under their direct control,

evaporated. General Ibrahim Babangida, Buhari's Chief of Army his boss in a

palace coup on August

Staff,

27, 1985, and beginning

ousted

in

1986

unleashed a vicious and debilitating economic war on the populace with the collaboration of the International Monetary

"This Second-Class,

As

we

Hand-Me-Down

Fund (IMF). 17

Capitalism" 18

argued in Chapter One, Nigeria was created by British merchants

and soldiers of fortune primarily to serve the mother country's

interests as

nineteenth-century capitalism entered the stage of imperialism, and desired

even more sources of cheap raw material and ucts. Thus,

also

new markets for its prod-

lugard and his successors were not interested

place an integrated and balanced

economy

that

would

in putting in

benefit the people

of Nigeria, but rather a rudimentary system of administration that facilitate

would

the extraction of surplus from local producers. As William Graf has

rightly observed,

"Each region, according to

its

natural factor

endowments

and convertibility to colonial purposes, produced crops or minerals of greater or lesser exploitative value."

a

19

The people of the Northern Region were "encouraged" to produce groundnuts, cotton, and tin; the East produced palm oil, and the West cocoa. These were exported raw to Britain to be processed and turned into ished products,

which were

in turn

fin-

brought back to Nigeria to be sold to

27

Where Vultures Feast the local people at exorbitant cost. Nigerians, right from the onset, were

coerced through a variety of colonial policies to produce what they did not

consume and consume what they did not produce. This fundamental ticulation in the national

of the "oil crisis

boom" in the

economy was

seventies,

to

disar-

be exacerbated with the advent

and subsequently triggered the economic

of the early eighties, which gave the IMF and other Western multilat-

opportunity to impose the Structural Adjustment

eral financial agencies the

Program (read debt peonage) on Nigeria

in 1986.

The major feature of Nigeria's political economy from the 1970s production and marketing.

oil, its

earned $101

menced, and 1983.

20

It

This

is

when

production com-

no mean sum. The country's postcolonial

who had taken over from the

is

has been estimated that the country

revenue between 1958,

billion in oil

to date

elite,

departing British through a gentleman's agree-

ment whereby the inherited dependent, peripheral-capitalist

structure of the

economy was left intact, was unable to transform itself into a truly self-reliant national bourgeoisie, however,

pean counterparts economy. Rather,

and play

its

this

successor

elite

— like their Euro— and create a truly national

historical role

in the nineteenth century

chose to become commission agents of

the big commercial houses and mining companies that the departing British still it

as

controlled, while also

moving

to capture political

power in order to use

an instrument to secure more economic benefits for themselves.

Thus, the enormous

oil

revenue was not only squandered by this

elite class

that lacked any historical raison d'etre; the agricultural sector

— which

between I960 and 1974 contributed more than 50 percent of the revenue of the three defunct regions

between the sharp

— was

rise in oil

neglected. There

is

a positive correlation

revenues beginning from the early seventies and

the slump in agricultural production. 21 Indeed, between 1970 and 1982, yearly production of the

main Nigerian cash crops

in I960), rubber, cotton,

— cocoa (the world leader

and groundnuts— fell by 43,

29, 65,

and 64 per-

cent respectively. The country's rate of food production also dropped

between 1975 the

oil

to 1983. But the elite

were not merely content with cornering

revenue. Like their colonial predecessors, they also extracted the sur-

plus of the peasantry through the agency of state-controlled marketing boards,

which bought the latter 's produce

cheaply, exported

it

diverted the proceeds to private bank accounts. Investments in the

and

fisheries.

The government began

to rely

and

were not made

key Renewable Natural Resources sector of the economy

forestry,

28

to Europe,

— agriculture,

more and more on

oil

— Soldiers, Gangsters, and Oil revenue and foreign borrowing to finance

its

imports.

The Dutch Disease

in Nigeria's case the sharp decline in the tradable agricultural set in.

sector— had

22

Terisa Turner has applied

Ruth

Nigeria's post-civil-war political

sustained not by what

it

First's

concept of the "Rentier

economy, pointing out that the country

produces, but on "rent" on production: here, the

are completely

dominated by multinational corporations

taxes and royalties to the state.

commodity for rent

Thus the

which

entire state apparatus

oil

pay

becomes

a

by

middlemen, and foreign sup-

This group cannot thrive outside the state political economy,

partly explains the dizzying succession of military

toral frauds the

power

that simply

to the highest bidder, a bizarre bazaar presided over

a "commercial triangle" of state officials, local pliers.

is

where investments, production, marketing, and sundry expertise

industry,

23

State" to

is

coups and

elec-

country has been afflicted with since independence. State

everything, and to be without

power

is

to

be condemned to

unremitting poverty.

made

General Gowon's military governors their favorite pastime, while the Military

diers salaries eight times

more than the

High

looting the national treasury

Command in turn awarded sol-

national average. 24

The

military gov-

ernment's halfhearted attempt to indigenize important sectors of the

economy

in

1972 and again in 1977 was, as Claude Ake has explained, sub-

verted by a clique of senior military officers, "super" permanent secretaries,

and commission agents

whose

stranglehold

who acted as fronts for the multinational companies

on the

national

economy

the Nigerian Enterprises Pro-

motion Decree of 1977 was supposed to break. 25 By the time the soldiers

handed power back

to the civilian

government of Shehu Shagari

1979, the fundamental problems of Nigeria's political tion,

oil

be tackled. Nigeria was

industry that generated

effectively

October

economy— disarticula-

dependence on foreign imports including food, and

yet to

in

inequality,

were

an enclave economy, relying on an

few jobs and had

no

virtually

sustaining linkages with the other sectors of the economy,

structural self-

which

in

any case

had lapsed into the doldrums. Gavin Williams graphically described the ease that afflicted the

The

state has

country's political economy in

promoted the development of

domestic, by shifting tive

the

oil

dis-

boom years:

capitalism, foreign

resources from more competitive to

less

and

competi-

producers, from craft to factory production, from agriculture to

29

— Where Vultures Feast industry,

from

rural to

urban

Nigerians to foreigners.

It

areas,

from the poor to the

and from

rich,

has hardly given free rein to the ability of the

people to produce goods.

has promoted the "wealth of the nation"

It

but only by the impoverishment of the people. 26

The

politicians of the

soldiers they took over

reached an

Second Republic did not

high of $24.9 billion in 1980,

all-time

omy, dependent on

fare

from in October 1979. Although

oil

receipts for

it

was

96 percent of

its

any better than the oil

export revenues

clear that the econ-

external revenue

even though the sector accounted for a mere 27 percent of GDP saddled with an external indebtedness that had ballooned to $9

heading for trouble. The

oil

boom was

ment's attempt to rein in imports

effectively over.

The

— and also

billion,

was

Shagari govern-

and restructure the economy along

of self-reliance with a series of "austerity" measures in 1981

was

lines

largely

ignored by a political class that was busy looting the treasury. Although

revenues between 1979, ber 1983,

was

when he was

realized

when

ital

flight

wanted

were about $800 million more than what

between I960 and 1979, his government

behind a foreign debt of $ 16

from Nigeria

first

billion.

27

still

ernment

£22

managed to

leave

Tom Forrest has pointed out that cap-

peaked during Shagari 's tenure. 28 Everybody

a piece of the action, not least British Aerospace,

a controversial

Decem-

President Shagari took office, and

ousted,

oil

which concluded

million ($35 million) kickback deal with Nigerian gov-

officials in

order to secure a contract for the supply of eighteen

Jaguar ground-attack fighters worth £300 million ($480 million). 29 fact the "Jaguar deal" that finally

pushed junior

military officers to

was

It

in

demand

an end to the Second Republic and subsequently brought General Muham-

madu Buhari to power after a military coup in December 1983The economy that Buhari took over was leaking like a sieve. Twenty percent of the nation's itors

were baying

at

the government to

oil

was being smuggled out of the

country. Western cred-

the gate and, through the IMF, were exerting pressure

ram through

a package of economic measures that

enable the country to pay back what they claimed the Johnson Mathey Bank affair

was

it

would

owed them. However, as

later to reveal, a substantial portion of

these "debts" was bogus, as British banks, Asian merchants, and Nigerian cials

had colluded to defraud the country of

enue. 30

30

An

on

billions

of pounds of

offi-

oil rev-

increasingly desperate Buhari appealed to Margaret Thatcher's

Soldiers, Gangsters, and Oil to help his regime recover the equivalent of over

government

corrupt Nigerian government dentally, this

officials

had

away

salted

$8

billion that

in British banks. Inci-

was the amount Western banks claimed Nigeria owed them. But

Thatcher replied by threatening to publish the names of

had accounts

in U.K. banks.

The new

military

all

Nigerians

who

government quietly dropped

the request. 31

By mid-1985, 44 percent of Nigeria's entire export earnings was going the servicing of these debts.

They wanted the government almost $5

billion,

Still,

into

the Western creditors were not satisfied.

to take an

IMF bridging loan

that

amounted

to

along with a set of harsh conditionalities that would throw

Nigeria's monocultural

economy even more wide open

and further impoverish the people.

When

to

Western imports

Buhari resisted this and instead

embarked on a countertrade program, exchanging Nigerian

oil for vital

imports from selected countries in a bid to escape the financial stranglehold

on the

the Western creditor-nations had imposed

and international

and banking

oil

country, a coalition of local

interests eased

him out of power

August 1985, put General Ibrahim Babangida, a trusted

ally,

and, in

in his place.

Rounding the Circle

If

Lugard and Goldie Taubman represented the crude imperialist stage of

Western capitalism

in Nigeria, the

Babangida represented colonial phase.

duced

in

The

its

urbane and

politically astute

sophisticated but infinitely

naira,

General

vicious neo-

Program that Babangida

intro-

removed subsidies on key

social

Structural Adjustment

October 1986 devalued the

more

services, and also set in motion the privatization of government-owned

companies and agencies. SAP

omy

of an underdeveloped country and

thought out and even more its

as a policy instrument to deregulate the econ-

leader

were noted

make

it

more

efficient

was poorly

shoddily implemented. Besides, the regime and

for corruption

and

financial indiscipline,

only a matter of time before stagflation set in

and

it

was

and the bottom dropped out

of the national economy. Companies and other employers of labor, caught in a vicious cycle of drastically.

and shops.

low productivity and

rising costs,

began to retrench

Food and other consumer goods disappeared from the markets

When

they were available, they were simply out of reach of

31

Where Vultures Feast the urban poor and millions in the rural areas

who

bore the brunt of

Babangida's harebrained economic policies. Starvation and disease swept

through the urban ghettos and the countryside, reaping a grim harvest. The nation had never had

it

so bad.

By the beginning of 1989, four years

into Babangida's dictatorship, anger

There were sporadic

and resentment had begun to

rise.

work stoppages.

crowds led by university students poured

In September,

street riots

and

out into the streets to protest against the government's structural adjust-

ment

policies

and the mass suffering and poverty

it

had engendered. These

demonstrations were brutally suppressed by an obdurate military junta that

had long ago

lost

touch with the mass of the people. Meanwhile, the

oil-

producing communities of the Niger Delta, long oppressed and denied the oil

revenue that was rightfully theirs, were smoldering. Already impoverished

and deprived of the basic necessities of life by successive governments, they felt

the adverse effects of Babangida's disastrous policies particularly keenly

The people of

Iko,

an oil-producing community, had organized a peaceful

demonstration in 1987 to protest the exploitation of their the federal government. This inhabitants of streets,

was

brutally suppressed. In

Umuechem, another

and armed troops, called

oil

by

Shell

and

October 1990 the

oil-producing community, took to the

in after Shell's request for "security protec-

tion," killed

and maimed them into submission. Then the Ogoni launched the

Movement

for the Survival of the

this

Ogoni People (MOSOP), to put a stop to

regime of ecological devastation and economic exploitation.

chicken was coming

Finally,

the

home to roost.

OMPADEC and the Cult of Corruption Pressed by Shell officials the

oil-producing

who

correctly divined that a storm

was brewing

in

communities, General Babangida responded to the

Umuechem massacre and other "disturbances "in the Niger Delta with the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission lished

(OMPADEC),

by Decree 23 of 1992. The decree increased the

proceeds allocated to the oil-producing communities to 3 percent, and ferred the fund to the

OMPADEC was areas

32

new commission

to administer

estab-

1.5 percent of

on

oil

trans-

their behalf. 32

conceived as a development agency for the oil-producing

and was charged with the responsibility of monitoring and managing

Soldiers, Gangsters, and Oil ecological problems associated with the production and exploration activities

of the

oil

companies.

It

was

also

expected to act as mediator between

them and the communities when problems While these are obviously laudable

arose.

goals, the

manner through which the

commission came into existence and the hidden motives of

were such

as to stymie

opment agency

from the outset

its

its

promoters

evolution into a genuine devel-

The government was

for the oil-producing communities.

determined to ensure that the commission was

just

another lame public

agency and that the actual funds that would eventually reach the communities

would be

just

enough

to

keep them

quiet. 33

It is

instructive that Albert

K. Horsfall, appointed executive chairman of OMPADEC in July 1993,

was

a

senior operative of the State Security Service (the notorious SSS) before

he was "redeployed" to establish the commission's headquarters

was

Harcourt. Horsfall

Babangida. Although

Head of

to report directly to the

in Port

General

State,

OMPADEC had a budget of approximately $95

million

1993— at least on paper— money was disbursed to it at the Head of State's whim and so haphazardly as to make proper project planning sim-

in

ply impossible.

A government report

stated that for his part, Horsfall oper-

ated as a law unto himself, and considered the oil-producing communities as a private

Since

fief.

OMPADEC was

presidency,

which

in

under no supervisory authority other than the

any case had "weightier" matters of state to engage

attention, inefficiency

and

financial

World Bank team that studied

its

role as a

set in.

The

OMPADEC s activities in the Niger Delta com-

munities in 1995 concluded that effectively fulfill

mismanagement quickly

its

it

would be

difficult for the

development agency because

commission to

(1) there

was no

emphasis on environmentally sustainable development; (2) the commission did not have the requisite personnel to enable date; (3) there

was an absence of long-term

it

to

meet

its

ecological man-

planning; (4) there

no project assessment, and where projects were

initiated,

was

little

or

maintenance

requirements were not built into them; and (5) there was no integrated

approach to development planning, which should have involved the

local

communities and other government agencies in the area. 34 Several

community

as another

them into

leaders in the Niger Delta also dismissed

OMPADEC

white elephant project established by the government to lure

a false sense of contentment, believing that at long last something

was being done

to redress past wrongs. Claude Ake, a

development expert.

Where Vultures Feast criticized

OMPADEC for being too overcentralized and predicted that noth-

good would come out of

ing

come

mission had

it.

Ken Saro-Wiwa

also argued that the

too late in the day, and wanted to

know how OMPADEC

intended to address the case of such areas as Ogoni, whose nally

produced 300,000 barrels

we

percent of what are the

oil dries

up?"

getting?"

it

was put

OMPADEC soon

as

it

tion as a

Even

to

by

Shell

when

Saro-Wiwa asked. "What happens

OMPADEC s

greatest shortcoming

and government

The

officials alike.

was the

latter

saw

avenue for corrupt self-enrichment. Indeed,

as yet another

was

oil fields origi-

now down to 30,000. "Three

were

35

But perhaps what proved use

daily but

com-

established in 1993,

OMPADEC

as

quickly developed a reputa-

government agency where favors were sought and sold

for cash.

who are probably no saints where such matters are conmoney given to OMPADEC was not properly A senior Shell official who spoke to Human Rights Watch

Shell officials,

cerned, complained that the

accounted

for.

investigators in Lagos in

March 1995

said,

"We pay

a lot of

money

to

OMPADEC and there is no return." 36 Following loud complaints from leaders of the oil-producing communities,

who

accused

OMPADEC

officials

of "neglect, ineptitude, insensitivity,

high-handedness, corrupt practices, and autocratic style of leadership," the

government

federal

set

up

a four-man investigative panel

Opia, a politician and confidant of General Sani Abacha,

chairman of the commission

The

after Horsfall

was sacked

panel, charged with inspecting, assessing,

headed by

who

took over as

in February 1996.

and reporting on the projects

and finances of the commission, undertook a tour of the various report,

projects. Its

when it was finally submitted to the government in December

opened

a veritable

all

on

its

findings:

the various interest groups complained that projects

did not necessarily represent

them and

that

1996,

can of worms. Said Mike Akpan, a journalist who studied

the voluminous report and wrote a magazine article based "Virtually

Eric

even most of the projects were

that the panel's "findings during the tour

mind-boggling. Indeed

it

was

which

what they wanted most were imposed on left

uncompleted." He added

were not only revealing but

also

a reflection of financial recklessness in the

award of contracts." 37

Abandoned and poorly implemented development dot the Niger Delta, courtesy of

projects presently

OMPADEC. One example

is

the Eleme Gas

Turbine Project in Port Harcourt, which was awarded to Marshland and Proj-

34

Soldiers, Gangsters, and Oil ect Nigeria Limited, an engineering company, in June 1993 for the contract

sum

of $20.7 million. As originally conceived, the gas turbine project

designed to supply electricity to thirty

communities

all

in the three local

four years after the plant

parts of Rivers State, including

One

of the

first

contracts Albert Horsfall awarded

chairman of

OMPADEC

Project, contracted out to

was

for

million

was

started, ostensibly to enable

total contract less

sum

than $3

sure, the

company

company's

to divert

who it was discovOMPADEC funds to other

of the commission. Fearing expo-

officials

officials quickly indicated their willingness to

dialogue and settle out of court. However,

recover the

money

projects

it is

unlikely that

that Horsfall paid out to ICER. 38

be traced. When Eric Opia, head of the panel

was

OMPADEC

when he was

in

first

quarter of

it

out for projects "completed" was to contractors

Horsfall,

By the

engage

OMPADEC will

commenced operations, OMPADEC had committed worth $530 million. Interestingly, the bulk of money paid

1996, three years after itself to

ICER to mobilize men and mate-

work. Following the sacking of Albert Horsfall,

ICER was taken to court by

to loot

when he assumed

$4 million. Curiously, though, the contractor was paid

for the

probe

electricity.

June 1993 was the Port Harcourt Water

ICER Nigeria Limited. The

ered had connived with the uses,

in Octo-

— representing 70 percent of the total contract sum — even before

the project rial

in

some

government areas of Ogoni. However,

was "commissioned" by the Head of State

ber 1995, the Eleme Gas Turbine had yet to generate any

office as

was

whose addresses could not

set

up by the Abacha

junta to

appointed Sole Administrator in his place, he proceeded in

an even more brazen fashion. By September 1998,

kicked out for "gross financial misappropriation," Opia had

embezzled some $200 million

set aside for the

development of the impover-

ished communities of the Niger Delta.

For

its

part, Shell's attitude

toward and relationship with

cynical and mercenary, using the

commission

OMPADEC was

as yet another instrument to

dominate the oil-producing communities. The collusion between the two organizations trial

in

1995

became public knowledge

when

in the course of

Ken Saro-Wiwa's

two prosecution witnesses confessed that

officials

of

OMPADEC in league with others had bribed them to testify against the MOSOP leader and implicate him in the murder of the four Ogoni chiefs in May 1994. 39 A leaked memo originating from Lieutenant

Shell

and

Colonel Paul Okuntimo, the former Security Task

Force— specially

commander of the

created in

Rivers State Internal

January 1994 to

identify, isolate,

— Where Vultures Feast and eliminate leaders of MOSOP and other ing the resurgent

seemed

also

movement

and ecological

for social

to implicate Shell, other oil companies,

proposed military operation targeted Shell has consistently denied that

during the

activists in the

or that they

trial,

task force to repress

at

justice in the area

and

OMPADEC

in a

the oil-producing communities. 40

at

its officials

worked

Niger Delta lead-

bribed prosecution witnesses

any time with Okuntimo's security

MOSOP.

A Game for "Presidents" and

Oil

its

by-products have always provided Nigeria's military leadership a

lucrative source of unearned income. While corruption

ation of the country's

and

civilian elite,

huge

enue

and

for himself.

tional

in the process

The

in

who

gave himself the

of

billions of dollars of the oil rev-

was

Persian Gulf Oil crisis of 1990-91 final killing.

title

August 1985, turned corruption

cornered

rise in international oil prices,

The Gulf War

exactly

what

triggered a sudden

but instead of spending the addi-

revenue in productive social and economic projects, Babangida and

saw the windfall

his cronies

Fayemi, "The extra fund

on

the favorite pastime of the military

is

he seized power

Babangida needed to make his

and sharp

revenue

General Ibrahim Babangida,

"President" as soon as into an industry,

oil

and the misappropri

as a personal bonus.

was regarded

According to Kayode

as discretionary

income which went

a massive spending binge that diverted revenues into corruption-funded

patronage, sharply expanded extra-budgetary expenditure, and bloated an already inflation-ridden

economy" 41

Shortly after General Babangida his successor, General Sani

was ousted from power

in

August 1993,

Abacha, set up a panel headed by the respected

economist Dr. Pius Okigbo to look into the finances of the Central Bank of Nigeria during the Babangida years. In his statement

on the occasion of the

submission of the report of the Panel on the Reform and Reorganization of the Central Bank of Nigeria in July 1994, Dr. Okigbo accused Babangida and

members

of his government of stealing the country blind:

Between September 1988 and 30 June 1994, US$12.2 billion

years

)6

.

[in .

.

the dedicated accounts]

was

billion of the

$12.4

liquidated in less than six

they were spent on what could neither be adjudged genuine

Soldiers, Gangsters, and Oil high priority nor truly regenerative investment; neither the President

nor the Central Bank Governor accounted to anyone for these massive extra-budgetary expenditures tinely

.

.

.

these disbursements were clandes-

undertaken while the country was openly reeling with a crush-

ing external debt overhang. 42

William Keeling, the Lagos correspondent of the Financial Times investigated the Gulf Oil windfall

was

set

upon by

orders. 43

The

tation as a

scam and published the story

state security operatives

military junta also

permanent

who

in 1991,

and deported on Babangida's

promulgated a decree to stamp the depor-

legal fixture in Nigerian legal jurisprudence.

Following growing pressure by popular democratic forces for Babangida to

conduct elections and hand over power to elected representatives of the

people, the military president finally scheduled presidential elections for

June eral

12, 1993, after a

long-winded

political transition

process that saw sev-

postponements, detours, and the mass banning of credible members of

the political class. At the

last

moment, though, the sheer thought of giving

up power and, consequently, the his private

tious

bank accounts, proved too much

Young Turks

elections

billions of dollars of oil loot that

which

in the

for Babangida.

to

Aided by ambi-

Army, he annulled the results of the presidential

his friend

and business associate M.K.O. Abiola had won.

was, however, too late to stem the pro-democracy forced to relinquish

went

power

tide,

after putting in place

It

and Babangida was

an interim national

government headed by Ernest Shonekan. The only legacy

that Ibrahim

Babangida bequeathed to Nigerians before he was removed from office was the democratization of corruption and the corruption of democracy 44 Military

coups

in Nigeria are a zero-sum

game.

If you

succeed, the prize

instant access to the billions of dollars of oil revenue extracted

Niger Delta annually. boot, the penalty

is

If

the coup

is

from the

botched and you are caught

a swift court-martial

is

alive to

and summary execution. The

glit-

tering oil prize has, however, always proved an irresistible pull for Nigeria's

ambitious and largely indolent officer corps, who, given the chance, are willing to

walk

in the Valley of

1993, General Sani Abacha,

had participated

Death to seize

who was

it.

And

on November

17,

Babangida's second-in-command and

in two previous coups, staged his own, sweeping the

interim government contraption aside and assuming

Head of State. An

so

infantry soldier

who

full

powers

as military

rose through the ranks to his present

37

Where Vultures Feast Abacha was feared by

position, Sani

alike for his ruthlessness

and animal cunning. He personally ordered troops

into the streets of Lagos during the

mass demonstrations to protest the

annulment of the June 12 presidential gunshots

finally

By the time the sound of

elections.

faded away, hundreds of unarmed students, youths, and

children lay dead or dying. in

(he had few friends) and foes

allies

When

the country's

oil

workers went on

August 1994 to press for the restoration of the election

Abacha crushed the protests with uncommon but Like his predecessor, General Abacha also

results,

strike

General

characteristic brutality.

made his own pile in the course

of his long and checkered career as a military officer adept at coup-plotting.

He was widely perceived view

45

Again

the Niger Delta to his

to

be corrupt,

ruthless,

and narrow

former boss, he proceeded to divert the

like his

in his worldoil

wealth of

own private ends. Nor was he sympathetic to the prob-

lems of the oil-producing communities, as the military crackdown that com-

menced

in the area as

only did Abacha

make

bank accounts

soon

as

he seized power amply demonstrated. Not

the Niger Delta-based

OMPADEC redundant by freez-

— ostensibly to inspect the commission's books — he

ing

its

set

up another development agency, Petroleum

funded from

mer Head

oil

(Special) Task Force, also

Muhammadu Buhari, a forOMPADEC, certain officials of

proceeds, and appointed General

of State,

its

chairman. 46 Again like

the PTF, established by decree and inaugurated in March 1995, have been

accused of nepotism and financial recklessness. 47

The

International

barrels of oil

Monetary Fund (IMF) had reported

produced

daily in Nigeria

that

some 150,000

was not accounted for, implying that

the proceeds had been diverted by the general and his henchmen. In Sep-

tember 1995, Abacha ordered the revision of allocations of crude term contracts, giving

front

the controversial Swiss-based

company in

oil

trader

Marc Rich and

Nigeria, Glencore, control of a third of the country's

crude supplies. Glencore, before

its

grip

on the Nigerian

oil

his

term

industry

was

loosened in June 1999, held three of the five lucrative crude-for-products countertrade deals, operated one condensate contract, and had four of the six oil

import contracts for an estimated 55,000 tons a month. 48 Marc Rich,

interestingly,

was General Abacha 's business

partner,

and they shared a

mutual associate in Gilbert Chagouri, front for the general's extensive business empire. 49

General Abacha was on the verge of transforming into a "democratically

38

Soldiers, Gangsters, and Oil elected" president in the

when he died on June 8,

arms of two prostitutes

after several

cratic"

all

led

ola,

who

in

mansion

October 1998. He decreed

by front men. Prior to

security operatives politicians

in the presidential

in Abuj a. 50

this,

five political parties into

however, he had unleashed

on democracy and human

state

rights activists, journalists,

dared speak out against his excesses.

winner of the June

He had,

new "demo-

postponements, promised to hand over power to a

government

existence,

1998, apparently of heart failure,

and

He had put Chief Abi-

12, 1993, presidential election, in

jail

after the

former

declared himself president in June 1994. Several of Abiola's supporters, including his senior wife, JCudirat Abiola, hit squad.

51

inflict

the

maximum

from "subversive elements," sprang up

them with

operatives rapidly filled

and democracy

activists.

all

pain and extract "confessions"

over the country. Abacha's security

radical journalists, trade

By the time of the

were over eight thousand

dictator's

General Shehu Yar'Adua. The

union leaders,

death in June 1998,

political prisoners in his gulag, including

General Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military Head of

soned by

special

Detention centers, some of them equipped with special torture

chambers designed to

there

were murdered by Abacha's

latter

was

state security officials acting

State,

and

his deputy,

to die in detention, allegedly poi-

on Abacha's

instructions.

General Babangida had looted the treasury using a sophisticated array of fronts

His

and devices to cover

first priority, as

soon

as

his tracks.

Abacha dispensed with such

he seized power in November 1993, was

niceties.

to bring

the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, the

two

vital

enue of $8

organs through which the country's estimated yearly

billion

was processed, firmly under

oil rev-

his control. Gilbert Chagouri,

eldest son of a Lebanese family with extensive business interests in Nigeria,

was the conduit through which Abacha siphoned billions of dollars abroad. It has been estimated that $10 billion

was looted by Abacha and

between December 1993 and June 1998.

52

In

November

his cronies

1998, General

Abacha's successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, announced that his gov-

ernment had retrieved $1 billion— 10 percent of the loot— from Abacha's family.

An

additional

$250 million was recovered from Ismaila Gwarzo, the

late dictator's national security adviser.

53

General Abubakar was no better than his predecessor. Although he freed the bulk of the political detainees, he refused ola,

the country's elected president, free.

all

entreaties to set Chief Abi-

On July 7,

1998, one

month

after

39

Where Vultures Feast Abacha's demise, Abiola died in suspicious circumstances while

Abubakar's prisoner. 54 Following Chief Abiola's death, the

strongman announced a

new

1999, with the transfer of

political transition

power

program

new end

to

still

military in

May

to a democratically elected government.

— the People's Democratic Party (PDP), All Peoples' Party (APP), and the Alliance for Democracy (AD) — were registered to con-

Three

political parties

test state

and national

former military sial

election that

ballot

State,

On May

was sworn

29, 1999,

Olusegun Obasanjo, a

in as president after a controver-

was attended by accusations and counteraccusations of

vote-rigging, bribery,

where

elections.

Head of

and thuggery— most notably

boxes were

stuffed with fake ballot

in the Niger Delta area,

paper by local politicos

at

the behest of officials of Obasanjo's party, the People's Democratic Party. 55

empty

President Obasanjo inherited an politicians

were

traversing the length

however. While the

treasury,

and breadth of the country

in search

of votes, General Abubakar and his generals indulged in a last-minute orgy

of plundering the treasury.

First,

Abubakar awarded

to himself, the dis-

graced former Head of State General Ibrahim Babangida, and a handful of senior generals and business associates— including the ubiquitous Gilbert

Chagouri

worth

— eleven

oil

exploration blocks and eight

billions of dollars.

56

Then the

oil-lifting

generals turned their attention to the

country's foreign reserves. In the short space of three

the end of

contracts

months

December 1998 and the end of March 1999— $2.7

vanished from the national coffers.

When

— between billion

had

the influential London-based

newsletter African Confidential blew the whistle

on

this financial

hemor-

rhage in mid-April, Abubakar's finance minister tried to explain that the

economy had faced fall

extraordinary financial demands, including the drastic

in the oil price, the cost of the elections

and return to

civilian rule, as

well as the cost of Nigeria's military leadership of Ecomog, the West African

peacekeeping force

in Sierra Leone.

However, as African Confidential has

correctly pointed out, "The extra cost of the

foreseen in the budget calculations, but

Ecomog

operations was not

would not account

for

much

of the

$2.7 billion drawdown. Nigeria's operations in Sierra Leone are said to cost $ 1 million a

town,

it

day Even

if

that

would have added

ture, already partly defrayed States.

As

for

is

just

doubled

after the rebel

advance on Free-

$90 million to the extra-budgetary expendi-

by contributions from

Britain

payments to service foreign debts, they have

and the United

fallen well short

of the level set in the 1999 budget." 57 Africa Confidential concluded that

40

Soldiers, Gangsters, and Oil General Abubakar, along with a handful of senior army officers and vants,

may have

exchange deals

civil ser-

dissipated a staggering $2.6 billion in covert foreign

— money that ended up in their private bank accounts. This

has been confirmed by Chris McGreal, the Africa correspondent of The

Guardian of London } s President Obasanjo has promised "decisive action" to deal with the country's financial collapse.

Although he has

set

up

a panel to review the slew of

contracts General Abubakar awarded to himself and his cronies in dubious

circumstances in the

last

days of his regime, and also pledged to introduce

a wide-ranging anticorruption

enthusiasm in taking action where officers to "

Obasanjo has so

bill,

it

shown no

really matters: getting

great

former military

account for their financial misdeeds. Observed Chris McGreal,

[Obasanjo] has declined to target the officers

in

far

power, among

whom

the most notable

is

who plundered billions while General Ibrahim Babangida, a

who has yet to explain what happened to a windfall of nearly $12 billion that came Nigeria's way when oil prices surged during the Gulf war." 59 Obasanjo did, however, dissolve the boards of OMPADEC and PTF, preparatory to establishing a new Niger Delta Development Commis-

former military ruler

sion in their place.

One

of the

first

things Obasanjo did

on assuming

office

oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta, in the

was

first

1999, shortly after government officials announced that the tion

had increased to 13 percent of accruable

amount of money

to

be spent

in

to visit the

week

new

of June constitu-

federal oil revenue the

developing the area. His political party,

however, has no clear policy position on

how

to tackle the

horrendous

poverty and environmental devastation visited on the people these past four decades

by Royal Dutch

Shell

and successive Nigerian governments.

the representatives of the local communities Port Harcourt expected a concrete ian ruler, they

were disappointed.

who met

with Obasanjo

program of action from the

new

If

in

civil-

Said Felix Tuodolor, president of the

Ijaw Youth Council, an organization fighting peacefully to achieve

determination and environmental and

self-

social justice for the Niger Delta

communities, "Our people have long passed the stage of niceties and

empty words. We

will begin to take

Obasanjo seriously only

told us what happened to the billions of dollars of

oil

taken away from the Niger Delta. Thirteen percent

is

will take

him

seriously only

when he withdraws

when he

has

revenue that were not the answer.

the soldiers that

We

even

41

Where Vultures Feast

now

are killing

puts in place a

and maiming our young

new

political

self-determination. But

we

men and

arrangement that

are tired of waiting.

satisfies

in

42

government to deliver the

last

oil

women

It

and

our demand for

Our land has been

dered and ravaged. Our rivers and creeks are dying. expect us to fold our arms and wait for the

raping our

plun-

would be criminal

companies and

death-blow. We won't."

60

to

their allies

THREE Colossus on the Niger

Since the beginning of Shell's operations in the Niger

company has wreaked havoc on neighboring communities and their environment. Many of its opera-

Delta, the

tions and materials are outdated, in poor condition, and would be illegal in other parts of the world.

Greenpeace 1

"The Most Profitable

Royal Dutch firm British

Shell

began

Company

life

in

Shell Transport

in

the World"

:

1907 following the merger of the

and Trading Co. (STTC) and Royal

Dutch Petroleum Co. of Holland. The company has grown constantly, diversifying its

tries

holdings, stretching

of the world, and decentralizing

its

its

tentacles to virtually

coun-

operations to such an extent that

even some of the company's senior managers run into explain precisely

all

how Royal Dutch Shell functions.

Every year Shell competes with Exxon for the

difficulty trying to

3

title

of the worlds biggest

oil

company. The company, however, has a greater geographical spread than

its

American

rival.

In 1979, Shell

became the

first

company

post sales of $3.2 billion over a twelve-month period.

4

in the

world to

By 1996 the

Group's annual profit had leaped to $9.1 billion from sales of $176 Said

Mark Moody-Stuart, chairman of STTC, on the occasion of

pany's centenary celebrations in

Queen

November 1997

in

his

com-

London, which the

attended, "Were our founder, Marcus Samuel, to reappear today,

not think he would be displeased with what has grown from his Shell

Shell

billion.

produces

oil

and gas

in forty-five countries, but

it

I

do

efforts.

s

also has interests

43

Where Vultures Feast spread around a hundred countries, in biogenetic engineering, petroleum marketing, and the mining of coal, bauxite, zinc, uranium, aluminium, copper, nickel, gold,

The

diversity of nies,

and

lead.

structure of the conglomerate reflects the complexity and the its

interests

and areas of operation. The two parent compa-

Company

Royal Dutch Petroleum

and Trading Company, registered

of Holland and Shell Transport

in England,

own 60

percent and 40 per-

cent respectively of two holding companies, Shell Petroleum Shell

Petroleum Co.

Ltd.

Shell International

and

These holding companies provide the umbrella

and operating companies, among

for the conglomerate's several service

them

NV

Petroleum Maatschappij BV; Shell International

Chemie Maatschappij BV;

Shell International

Shell International Chemical Company

Company

Petroleum

Ltd.; Billiton International

Ltd.;

Metals

BV; Shell International Research Maatschappij BV; Shell International Gas Ltd.; Shell

Coal International

Ltd.;

and

Shell International

bulk of these companies are 100 percent

Queen

Beatrix of the Netherlands and the

Marine

Ltd.

The

owned by Royal Dutch Shell. Queen of England are major

shareholders. 6

Gulliver

Shell

on the Rampage

employs a sophisticated array of damage-control experts, scenario

planners, lobbyists, and spin doctors to present the image of a caring, thoughtful, and socially responsible

company

before the issue of the environment

became

in

Europe and the United

States,

to the outside world.

Long

a topic of national discourse

and multinational

oil

firms

were forced

adopt the veneer of environmentally friendly companies, Shell had vated the concept of selling

itself to

chunk of its budget

7

over the years. So successful was this portrayal, and so in contriving a

openness toward

critics, that

the company's intention to

England

in

1987 for

servationists

44

it

ele-

the powerful conservationist lobby

into an art form, devoting a considerable

image makers

to

to this effort

skillful

were

Shell's

semblance of "constructive dialogue" and took a major public relations disaster

drill

for oil in a protected forest in rural

this carefully cultivated

and ecologists to see

like

Shell for

image to shatter and

what

it

really

is:

a

for con-

modern-day

Colossus on the Niger Gulliver

on the rampage, waging an ecological war wherever

its oil rig.

Shell's acquisition,

people

all

and subsequent despoliation, of the land of helpless

over the world actually

commenced

after the

company began

production in British Borneo, Mexico, and Venezuela before the War. Shell

literally

and Shuar people

bulldozed

its

way

in the Ecuadorian

First

opening

missionaries

it

up

for

oil

World

into the lands of the Quicha, Achual,

Amazon

in the 1920s. 9

The company

constructed a road running through the area in the course of ration,

down

sets

it

8

explo-

oil

subsequent invasion by European colonists and

who in turn pushed the Indians out of their lands and imposed

debt peonage on them through unfair trade practices. 10 In an attempt to fight off Shell

and the fortune hunters that followed

front against the juggernaut in their midst,

with Texaco, as a major invader of their

The conglomerate made national mining

an

official

sidiary,

in the

Two

when

in Australia in 1975, along later,

see Shell, along

became the

it

delegation of aggrieved aboriginal peoples.

years

still

1 1

first

world whose headquarters was

had acquired a bauxite mining

Queensland nies.

company

wake, the Shuar

to present a united

and today

territory.

history in 1978

in its

them

Indians formed a federation in 1964 to enable

lease of

12

multi-

visited

by

Billiton, a Shell sub-

736 square miles

in

North

with two American mining compa-

despite the opposition of the

Aurukun people who

owned the land, the Queensland government gave Billiton and its associates rights over

Aurukun hunting and

mission to build a

company town and

surrounding coastal the year 2038.

pastoral land

and

also granted

them

a harbor, as well as rights to

reefs, including the

per-

mine the

mainland. The lease was to

last

till

The people of the Aurukun Aboriginal Reserve, however,

decried the company's attempt to mine bauxite on their land without their consent, arguing that the presence of the mines

would eventually

the pollution and subsequent extinction of Aurukun culture and

way of life.

They took their case to the headquarters of Billiton International Hague

in

November

media, the

lead to

at

The

1978, and following a major campaign in the Dutch

company appeared

to

back down, promising that

it

would not

venture into the Aurukun reserve without consulting with the people. This was, however, a tactical retreat. As Bernard Wheelahu, Billiton's Metals

Manager

in Australia,

was

to declare

land rights to the Aborigines ...

it

two years

means they

later

will

be

I

prefer not to give

in the

same position

t5

Where Vultures Feast white Australians

as the other

[sic]

gerous to the mining industries." conservative $27 billion

13

...

In

It is

problem and

dan-

it is

the bauxite deposits were worth a

all,

(in American

a very big

but

dollars),

all

the Aurukun got

was

the equivalent of a derisory eight dollars per square mile as rent (with the

promise that royalty of

this

one

would

rise to

dollar a ton.

about

fifty dollars after fifteen

The Aborigines did not

years)

and a

find this acceptable, and

they took their case to the courts, demanding a direct share of the royalties, guarantees of employment that their sacred places

the bauxite project proceeded, guarantees

if

would not be

defiled,

and equality of treatment

with the whites. They eventually lost their case in the London Privy Council

and the Queensland government handed over the lands of the Aurukun to Shell/Billiton to

do with

as

it

pleased. 14

The indigenous peoples of South America have of Shells methods.

Manu

National Park in Peru

also received a is

good dose

internationally recog-

nized as one of the largest ecoresource areas in South America.

home

GeoSource park,

It is

also

to several indigenous peoples. 15 In 1981, Shell, in collaboration with Inc.,

entered the Fitzcarrald Isthmus, which

and began seismic exploration

for

inhabitants and conservationists alike. particularly the Nahua, have

oil,

is

located in the

ignoring the protests of local

The indigenous peoples of the

been devastated by the

oil

company's

area,

activities

on their land. In the course of preliminary oil exploration in Nahua territory in the mid-eighties, Shell

Nahua

to

opened up the

frontier rain forest, causing the

who brought with them diseases that the

be exposed to outsiders

former could not cope with. According to Project Underground, a San Francisco-based

NGO, it has been estimated that between 30 and 50 percent of

the exposed population

was wiped out

as a result of these diseases. Shell

denies responsibility for this tragedy but has not produced independently verifiable

evidence to support

In 1997 the

ten planned legally

its

company began

oil

contention. 16

oil

production

at its Cashiriari 2 site,

exploration campaigns located

recognized territories

— including

the

one of

on indigenous peoples'

Nahua and the Kugapakori.

Although Shell conducted an environmental impact assessment and devel-

oped an environmental management plan (EMP) for its operations, the communities are already crying out that Shell's logistics

operations center in

Nuevo Mundo.

that at least five of these spills entered the

1997 alone. 17

46

local

fuel spillage occurs regularly at It

Urubamba

was

also reported

River in February

Colossus on the Niger The

Shell environmental chief in the area,

Murray Jones, and

ecologist Miguel Ruiz-Larrea admitted to journalists

company's

activists that the

Nuevo Mundo

activities

terrestrial

and environmental

had indeed adversely impacted on

and environs, but argued that population pressure

village

should also be factored in the process of environmental change in the area. "I

impact, because

it is

to say that our operations are not having an

clear they are, but

Even more

factors involved."

program

want

don't

Said Ruiz-Larrea,

new

repeat of the

Nahua

think there are a

significant, Shell has

in its Cashiriari project to

are vaccinated so that

I

ensure that

number of other

put in place a

all its

new health

workers and

responsibilities to the local people, is

happening

involve. Project

at

the drilling

Underground

Peru's indigenous populations

new project,

to a

tragedy. But Peruvian activists like Doris Bavin, an envi-

ronmental lawyer, have complained that Shell has overlooked

what

visitors

do not enter the region, leading

diseases

site

also

commended

Shell's

would not be harmed

We have real reasons to doubt Shell's sincerity." it is

moral

or what the future operations might

but added that "they are meaningless

Elsewhere, in Brazil, where

its

and that they do not have an idea of

if

commitment

that

in the course of the

they are not enforced.

18

owned company

the largest privately

in

the country, Shell has penetrated the Aripuana National Park in the Middle

Amazon, which was sition

and setting

originally reserved for Indians, shrugging off

down

its

rigs to drill for oil

and

gas.

all

oppo-

The Tucurui hydro

scheme, a project on the Tocantin River in which Shell

is

involved, laid

waste to vast swaths of the jungle. Toxic chemicals were used to clear the flora

and the containers were carelessly discarded. They were

use by the local

people— and

deformities in children.

put to

food poisoning, and

19

where the

In Bangladesh,

this led to miscarriages,

later

military

is

waging a genocidal war on the

tribes-

people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in a bid to drive them out of their mineralrich land, Shell,

working with the nationalized

completed seismic surveying of the area

mounted by the

also,

Petrobangla,

1985 despite spirited campaigns

over the years, acquired or leased vast tracts of Native

land, totaling

billion tons

company

NGO Survival International to get the company to withdraw

The company has American

in

oil

258,754 acres in 1983 and containing over twenty

of coal.

47

Where Vultures Feast Handmaiden

Apartheid's

Shell's role in aiding

and sustaining the apartheid regime

been adequately chronicled, beginning nalists

and researchers

in

all

when

in

South Africa has

antiapartheid jour-

London and Amsterdam blew

and revealed to the world that the

OPEC embargo

in 1979,

its

elaborate cover

company had been

oil

through the seventies by using various

violating the

fronts, notably

Japanese and Swiss companies, to supply crude to South Africa. revealed that Shell

was the major beneficiary of the

apartheid regime put in place to tempt

and

sell oil

oil

It

was

also

incentives that the

companies to break the embargo

to the country. International opposition to Shell's involvement

South Africa peaked in 1986 following a series of boycott

in apartheid

actions against Shell filling stations in Europe, the United States, and several

other countries, culminating in the attack on sixteen Shell gas stations four days before the company's 1986 annual meeting, by Dutch antiapartheid activists.

20

Shell's

business interests in the country date back to the 1920s. The com-

pany has always maintained a cozy relationship with Afrikaner merchants in South Africa. Today the conglomerate owns 50 percent of the Sapref ery,

the country's largest, in Durban.

It

refin-

also has a 50-percent stake in Abecol,

an asphalt manufacturing firm, and another 50-percent holding in the controversial Rietspruit open-cast coal

mine

in the Transvaal. Shell also

owns

over eight hundred gas stations in the country. Eighteen years after

exposed, the

oil

giant

its

link

with the murderous apartheid

shows few genuine

signs of making amends,

state

was

coming to

terms with demands for improved environmental performance, and behaving in a socially responsible manner.

company attempted

The Brent Spar

incident,

when

to dispose of an oil platform in the United

the

oil

Kingdom

in

1995, not only shocked the world but also served as a grim reminder that Shell, despite

its

public campaigns to encourage the British people to

improve the environment, does not always practice what Confidential Shell

documents leaked

to

Greenpeace

1996 revealed that contaminated waste from

it

in

preaches.

Turkey

in

March

Shell's oil fields in Diyarbakir

had been polluting underground drinking water. 21 The polluted aquifer the only source of drinking water for over

two

and experts say the water could stay seriously polluted years. Clearly, Gulliver

4H

is still

on the rampage.

is

million people in the area, for three

hundred

Colossus on the Niger Colossus on the Niger The corporate headquarters of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC)

is

an imposing marble-and-glass skyscraper on the Lagos

marina, Nigeria's bustling commercial capital.

It is

from here

that the

man-

aging director of Shell Nigeria oversees the operations of the company, concentrated mainly in the Niger Delta.

Royal Dutch Shell has been in the country since 1937,

explore for crude the

oil

oil

under the name Shell-D'Arcy, a

when

it

began to

joint venture

between

conglomerate D'Arcy Exploration Company and the British colonial

administration. Prospecting

World War, to resume again

was stopped

five years later

because of the Second

in 1941

under the

Development Company. The company struck

new name

its first oil

of Shell-BP

well in Oloibiri, an

Ijaw village in the eastern part of the Niger Delta, in 1956. Commercial exploitation

From

this

of Nigeria

is

began two years

later.

modest beginning

Shell

Petroleum Development Company

today the most important privately

owned company

in the

country. Shell operates the largest oil-producing venture in the country in

collaboration with the

government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum

Company and two other Western multinationals, Elf Nigeria, a subsidiary of the French oil company Elf, and Nigerian Agip Oil Company, a subsidiary of its Italian parent, Agip. Shell, the operating company of the joint venture, is solely responsible for day-to-day operations,

and on

its

own,

distinct

from

the three other venture partners, produces between 800,000 and one million barrels of crude a day,

To do

this the

about half of Nigeria's entire daily oil production.

company holds concessions over an

area of 3 1 ,000 square

kilometers in the Niger Delta, manages ninety-four producing

oil fields

and

3,800 miles of pipeline, and employs about 5,500 workers, including three

hundred expatriates. A further 20,000 people work as subcontractors or

for the

company

either

temporary workers. 22

Organizational Structure

The

federal

government of Nigeria, through the Nigeria National Petroleum

owns 55 percent of the shares of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). Shell International Petroleum Maatschappij. Corporation (NNPC),

49

Where Vultures Feast a subsidiary of Royal

Dutch

company, and Agip of

Shell,

is

company

at

gram discussion

is

its

in charge of daily operations,

joint ven-

discussions are

and

investment plans and budget. The yearly pro-

ancillary

entire operations of Royal

Dutch

companies revolves. Indeed, the future of

how

any operating company depends on for the year, as approval of

its

well

it

successfully defends

its

budget can be withheld by head-

23

In Nigeria, is

oil

SPDC enjoys the

The Hague. Program

on which the

the pivot

Shell, its subsidiaries,

quarters.

the French

the beginning of every financial year, and SPDC, like the others,

has to present and defend

work plan

Elf,

alongside other Shell operating companies at

the group's corporate headquarters in

held there

percent, while

have 10 percent and 5 percent of the

Italy

ture respectively. Since Shell status of operating

owns 30

SPDC

has

its

head office

also the chief executive officer.

and the managing director

in Lagos,

The Lagos headquarters

is,

however,

mainly concerned with administration, as the main areas of operations are located in the Niger Delta, in Port Harcourt,

which is the operational base of

the Eastern Division under a divisional manager designated General Man-

ager East, and in Warri, base of the Western Division, led by the General

Manager West. The head

activities

of the two divisions are coordinated by the

office in Lagos, but the divisions also enjoy a

There

is

compete

also rivalry

against

production

between the two

divisions

one another, especially

measure of autonomy

and they are encouraged to

in the area of oil exploration

and

targets.

A Veritable Money-Spinner It is

a

measure of

Dutch

Shell that

duced

in the

how

important

Nigeria

its

oil

concessions are to Royal

SPDC accounted for about half of the 93. 1

country in 1994

price of $16.20 per barrel.

30-percent share in

— nearly

1 .9

million tons pro-

million barrels a day

— at a market

Between 1991 and 1995 the conglomerates

SPDC generated between 250,000 and 290,000

barrels

of crude a day, making Nigeria Royal Dutch Shell's third-biggest country of

production after the United States and the United Kingdom. In 1994 alone, 1 1

.7

percent of Shell's

There

is

no doubt

total

crude

oil

that Nigeria has

production came from Nigeria. 24

been very

precise figures in dollar terms are hard to

50

profitable for Shell, but the

come

by.

The company shrouds

Colossus on the Niger the financial side of

cover of misleading tility,

ward

to

its

operations in Nigeria in mystery, using an elaborate

vague statements, and sometimes outright hos-

statistics,

However, going by figures that

off prying eyes.

plied to journalists and environmental activists in

were by no means comprehensive— "Shell, per

lar

barrel."

25

According to

Shell, a barrel

$15, after the $2 used to produce

of $12

it is

London

investments in

new

which again goes

— Shell,

oil

dol-

amounts

lion's share

owns 55 percent

$3, says Shell,

exploration and production

— which

one

just

deducted. Of this $15, the

The remaining

and Agip

1995— which

of crude yields an average of

to the Nigerian government,

Elf,

in

and Agip share

taken by the Nigerian government, which

is

shares of the joint venture.

panies

Elf,

Shell itself sup-

is

of the

divided between

activities,

on

tax

and the three other

profit,

com-

oil

Going by

to "just" a dollar.

SPDC's share structure, two-thirds of the one dollar net profit per barrel for the three oil

companies goes

Roughly translated

to Shell.

in terms of the

production figures, Shell earns between $530,000 and

joint venture's oil

$670,000 a day from

its

Nigerian concessions, amounting to an average of

$200 million per year. Assuming we take these figures

as a constant,

are extremely conservative, the oil giant earned $2 billion

and they

between 1986 and

1995 from Nigeria. 26

While

this is a

handsome

profit

ures do not begin to reveal the

with the other

oil

by

full

international standards, the above

fig-

picture of Shell's earnings. Shell, along

companies, signed a

Memorandum

of Understanding

(MOU) with the federal government of Nigeria in 1986 in an attempt by the latter to

sharp

boost

fall

world

exploration and production in the country following the oil prices.

By the terms of the MOU, which took effect on

1986, the

oil

companies are guaranteed

a profit

per barrel of

oil

they produce as part of the

SPDC

January dollars

in

oil

1,

margin of two

joint venture as

long as prices oscillate between $ 12.50 and $2 3. 50 a barrel. In 1991 the federal

government increased

nies that invest a

An

this profit

margin to $2.30 to $2.50 for compa-

minimum of $ 1 .50 for every barrel of crude they produce.

additional ten to fifty cents has

been

set aside as further incentive to oil

companies that provide evidence to show they discovered new with

oil

For

oil

over and above the barrels they mined for a particular year.

Shell, therefore,

because international stipulated Nigerian

the Nigeria oil

oil

industry

is

a

wells

'

winning game. This

is

so

prices have for the most part stayed within the

government bracket since 1986, even

$23.50 mark in some

2

rising

years. Together with the other foreign

oil

above the

companies.

51

Where Vultures Feast the conglomerate has been earning $2.50 per barrel since the

amended

Of

in 1991.

this

amount,

was

and Agip plow back $1.50

Shell, Elf,

toward further exploration and production. The other dollar to their corporate headquarters in

MOU

The Hague, London,

transferred

is

Paris,

and Rome

as

profit for shareholders.

The tendency has been

for Shell to present the

money

it

reinvests in

Nigeria for further oil exploration as cost rather than profit. This ing.

As Greenpeace has pointed out,

MOU

production) as profit.

and

It

company earns more than $500

has therefore been estimated, taking the it

into consideration, that the

million a year in Nigeria.

country and transfers the rest to

in the

Hague and London.

standard accounting practice to

earnings from

Shell's additional

$300 million

mislead-

new business activities (in the case of Shell, increasing

regard investment in its oil

it is

is

its

Of this

head

it

reinvests

offices in

The

28

A new wholly owned Shell subsidiary, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production

Company (SNEPCO), was established in

exploring for

oil off

SNEPCO is presently

the Nigerian coast and in the Gongola Basin in the

northern part of the country. 29 Shell

new

1992.

is

also the operating

company

of the

$2.4 billion liquefied natural gas project currently being developed by

Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited near Bonny, and holds a 24 percent stake in

it.

Shell also has a

40 percent stake

in National Oil

and Chemical

Marketing (NOCM), one of the leading marketers of petroleum and

allied

products in the country. In 1992, Nigeria's rels.

last

30

proven

oil

reserves

At the present rate of production

were projected it

at 17.9 billion bar-

has been estimated that this will

another twenty-six years. But there are more

oil

reserves to be discov-

ered (one billion barrels were found in 1994 alone) and staggering profits to

be made

baby,

in the process. Royal

SNEPCO, aims

The Nigerian

Oil

to

be

Dutch

in Nigeria for a

Shell,

through SPDC and

its

new

very long time.

and Gas Industry

Any Nigerian schoolchild will where the

readily

tell

you

that Oloibiri, a small village in

was struck by

the Niger Delta,

is

one of the

lessons they learn in primary school. But the story of

first

first oil

well

exploration in Nigeria actually began in 1908

52

when

a

Shell in 1956.

It is

oil

German company,

Colossus on the Niger Nigerian Bitumen Corporation, set

between

Shell

and

up shop. It was, however,

a joint venture

Petroleum (BP) that discovered the Oloibiri

British

reserves in 1956. Commercial exploitation began

decades after Oloibiri, Nigeria

is

two years

later.

31

Four

ranked as the thirteenth-largest producer

of oil in the world, accounting for almost 3 percent of entire global production. Nigeria is also a leading trillion oil

cubic

feet, 2.4

producer of natural

percent of

total

gas,

with reserves of 133

world reserves. There are seventeen

companies producing from about 150

oil fields presently.

Ninety per-

cent of these fields are located in the Niger Delta. 32 Oil

is

on which the Nigerian economy

the pivot

revolves. Oil sales cur-

rently provide over 95 percent of the country's export earnings and also

account for some 25 percent of Gross Domestic Product. So dependent has the country

become on

that the entire country oil to

suddenly vanish.

has earned from

oil

the

oil fields

would grind It is

of the Niger Delta that

it is

often said

to a halt, at least temporarily,

not easy to estimate exactly

exports to date. This

tion that has plagued both the industry

is

were the

how much

Nigeria

because of the endemic corrup-

and the government. According to

an assessment carried out by the International Monetary Fund, the country earned a

total

of $65.6 billion from the

1985 and 1992.

Company

33

oil fields

of the Niger Delta between

The government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum

has said the country earned $101 billion in

1958 and 1983

34

The government's

oil

revenue between

figures are not reliable, however, as

NNPC

the Justice Irikefe Panel that examined the books of the

discovered

— accounts were not being properly kept.

The price of Nigerian crude has always fluctuated vagaries of the international market. for a barrel of in 1986.

Bonny

The Gulf War, which broke out

as the

bottom

down

to $16.20.

Bonny

Light

fell

While prices have been

barrel.

But the recovery was short-lived, oil

market

swinging up yet again

what

in 1994, forcing prices

in the third quarter of 1996,

a barrel. 36 Oil prices

erratic,

response to the

in 1990, stimulated oil prices again

The market picked up later before

in

premier crude plunged to $14.60

out of the international

commanding $26

per barrel a year

1980

From an all-time high of $37.20 in 1980

Light, the country's

and Bonny Light sold for $24.30 a

in

35

is

with

dipped to $10 to $12

in 1999.

beyond doubt

is

that the oil fields

of the Niger Delta brought great wealth to the country, especially during the

boom years of 1972-79, when production peaked at 2.3 million barrels a day. The oil boom also brought with it massive corruption, misappropriation of

Where Vultures Feast funds, and a craze for imported luxuries, especially

senior

civil servants,

Nigeria

widened even further

mansions and

and

ery,

and the urban

— at

elite.

among the military rulers,

The gap between urban and

one end luxury motorcars and

rural

palatial

the other "good things "of life, and at the other, poverty, mis-

all

A World Bank

disease.

policy paper

on Nigeria estimates

was siphoned from the country by successive

$68

billion

and

their civilian collaborators

Niger Delta saw very

little

between 1972 and 1989

of the

oil

37

that over

military dictators

The people of the

proceeds.

The Big Players Nigerian crude

because

it is

very popular

is

among

oil

companies and buyers

very light and has low sulfur content.

sought after by refineries in Europe and the United very

strict rules

alike

therefore highly

It is

States,

where there

are

guiding environmental pollution. Nigeria's Bonny Light and

Forcados burn easily in the process of refining and discharge

minimum

waste into the atmosphere. There are along with

six

total output;

oil

Elf,

and Agip, produces about 42.2 percent of

Shell,

Nigeria's

Mobil 21.2 percent; Chevron 18.6 percent; Agip 7.5 percent;

in partnership

other

major oil companies currently operating in the country.

NNPC,

NNPC

with

companies

that

6.1 percent;

produce

ones. These are: Ashland (U.S.), land), British

Gas

(Britain),

and Texaco 2.6 percent. There are

oil in

the country, including indigenous

Deminex (Germany), Pan Ocean

Sun Oil

Elf

(U.S.),

Conoco

(U.S.),

BP

(Switzer-

(Britain), Statoil

(Norway), Conoil (Nigeria), and Dubril Oil (Nigeria). Between them, these ten oil

operators account for 1.7 percent.

buyer, taking about

The United

40 percent of annual

sales.

States

Spain

is

Nigeria's

main

comes second with 14

percent. Other major buyers are South Korea, India, France, Japan, China, Tai-

wan, the Philippines, and Thailand. 38

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Nigeria joined the tries

(OPEC),

tional oil

54

oil cartel,

in July

the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Coun-

1971 primarily to safeguard her interests in the interna-

market and ensure, along with the other members, that the major

Colossus on the Niger consumer nations of Europe and North America do not force down prices by playing one producer against the other. 39 oil

OPEC

production, and by doing so influences international

The

federal

National Oil Corporation to

regulates annual

oil

such mechanisms as production quotas and ceilings that obliged to obey.

oil

prices through

all

members

are

government had established the Nigerian

(NNOC) by decree

the previous

May

in response

OPEC Resolution No. XVI. 90 of 1968, which urged member countries to

"acquire 51 percent of foreign equity interests actively in

all

aspects of

oil

and to participate more

production." 40 Eight years

later, in

August 1979,

the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo nationalized BP's share equity in the Shell-BP joint venture in an attempt to force the British

government, the majority shareholder in the company, to take a firmer

on the

stand

issue of sanctions against the racist

government of Ian Smith in

Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and also announced that the the Nigerian National Petroleum

Company (NNPC)

NNOC, renamed

in 1977,

would manage

BP's assets in the country.

Petroleum had participated with Shell on a

British

develop the

with

Shell,

first oil fields in

it

fifty-fifty

had acquired four Oil Exploration Licenses (OELs) from the

Nigerian government. Before BP's share of the Shell-BP partnership nationalized

by the Nigerian government

the country included eighty ties,

basis to

the Niger Delta in the 1950s. By 1961, along

oil fields,

was fully

company's assets

in 1979, the

including pipelines and storage

a 20 percent share in a refinery in Port Harcourt, a

in

facili-

60 percent stake

in

Petroleum Nigeria Marketing Company, and a further 20 percent in

British

the Shell-BP-NNPC oil-producing venture. Like Shell,

BP was

also implicated in the controversial dealings

apartheid South Africa, and

deliberately breaking the oil

exchanging ing in

its

embargo

against the apartheid state

North Sea crude for Indonesian crude from Conoco,

some of the

oil

with

was accused by the Nigerian government of by

result-

being shipped to South Africa. This, along with the

Nigerian government's plan to pressure Britain on the Rhodesia issue, led to the nationalization of BP's assets in the country.

BP returned

to Nigeria in

new partnership with Statoil, the Norwegian governmentcompany. An exploration license was offered the BP-Statoil com-

1991 through a

owned

oil

bine the same year, and two years later

venture agreement with the

NNPC

it

signed a production-sharing

NNPC.

enjoys a privileged position in the Nigerian

oil industry. It is

not

55

Where Vultures Feast involved in

oil

percent) in

all

Shell

exploration or production, but has the lion's share (55 to 60 joint ventures in the country.

Petroleum Development

ing Nigeria Ltd.,

leum Nigeria

oil

Ltd.,

58 percent in Mobil Produc-

58 percent in Chevron Nigeria

Ltd.,

and another 60 percent

Petroleum Company.

41

companies with which

its

it is

own

Kaduna

60 percent

in Elf Petro-

Texaco Overseas (Nigeria)

NNPC

has been taking tenta-

wells independent of the foreign

in partnership.

The NNPC owns and man-

two of which

ages the country's four refineries,

others in Warri and

oil

Ltd.,

in the

Recently, though, the

toward developing

tive steps

Company

NNPC has a 55 percent stake in

in the north.

It

are in Port Harcourt, the

has a joint venture partnership

with several petroleum products marketers in the country, among them African Petroleum, National Oil, and Unipetrol, and tion

and

sale of petrol

and permits to dealers

Killing

and all

allied

it

regulates the distribu-

products by issuing licenses, franchises,

over the country.

the Goose

The Nigerian oil industry has, over the years, been characterized by massive corruption and shoddy management. Refined petroleum products are

cheaper

in Nigeria

than in neighboring West African countries, and

been the standard practice

for the

army generals and

they were not looting the state treasury sale in the

subregion

at great profit.

directly, to

their cronies,

had

when

smuggle gasoline out for

About 30 percent of

leum products leave the country through

it

all

this illegal route,

refined petro-

and

this

causes

severe shortages in parts of the country. Industry sources said

some

100,000 barrels of oil were smuggled daily overland into Cameroon, Benin,

and Niger

in

1993

42

to hoard the product

Dealers also collude with senior government officials

and force up

prices.

Corruption and misplacement of priorities have also been the bane of the country's four refineries. Not only are they poorly maintained, high cials

sometimes deliberately sabotage operations and even burn down

ities in

an attempt to cover up their misdeeds and create the opportunity

for repair

work, which

in

turn

is

grossly inflated rates. Production

Port Harcourt, refineries

56

offifacil-

which was

manage

to

contracted out to incompetent cronies is

built only in

meet only

at

erratic, even in the second refinery in

1989. Between them, the four

half of their production capacity of

455,500

Colossus on the Niger barrels a day, not

anywhere near meeting

local

consumption needs. The

fed-

eral

government regularly imports petroleum products

fall,

but even this has been turned into a racket. The license to import

products retired)

is

in

civil servants,

number of front companies. They

using a

European markets,

pocket the excess

dear to Nigerian consumers, and

sell

profit.

The Nigerian people, exploited and subjected in gas stations for

weeks on end, have always

diers to increase the

pump

agony of

to the

lining

by the

resisted attempts

cheapest in the world and that

heavily subsidized.

it is

the "subsidy" so that, according to

needed ers

for the product,

it,

It

sol-

is

the

wants to remove

Nigerians will pay the proper eco-

and government

will in turn earn the

to properly maintain the refineries for the benefit of

and other

up

price of gas and other petroleum products. The

government, under pressure by the IMF, claims that Nigerian gas

nomic price

oil

the exclusive preserve of senior army generals (serving and

and ranking

buy cheap

to bridge the short-

all.

revenue

Labor lead-

of the government's structural adjustment policies

critics

have, however, contended that there

is

in fact

no subsidy on petroleum

products, that Nigerian workers are grossly underpaid, and that there will

be more than enough money to maintain the refineries

power

if

only the people in

are willing to stop looting the billions the country earns every year

from the export of crude. In the face of considerable civil opposition, the

government has been

increasing the price of petroleum products in installments, the most recent

of

which was effected

in

June 2000. 43 This has brought untold hardship to

Nigerian workers and peasants, forcing up the price of food and transport. This development, in addition to the public resentment and anger following the brazen annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election results by the Babangida junta, finally pushed the country's

Their two umbrella organizations, strike in

NUPENG

oil

workers to the

wall.

and PENGASSAN, declared

June 1994 that for ten weeks brought the country to a

a

standstill.

Several of their leaders, including Ovie Kokori, General Secretary of

NUPENG, were

detained in August 1994

work and

eventually forced back to

when the striking oil workers were

their

union secretariats taken over by

government lackeys. In

June 2000, one year

end of military

rule,

price of gasoline by

after

he assumed office

Olusegun Obasanjo fifty

as president following the

unilaterally increased the

pump

percent, claiming his government Deeded the

57

Where Vultures Feast The move was

extra revenue to deliver key social services to the people.

by the umbrella workers organization, the Nigerian Labor

stoutly resisted

whose

Congress,

leader,

Adams Oshiomole,

that crippled commercial

in the

life

called out

workers on a

strike

country for three days. President

Obasanjo was forced to back down, and a compromise arrangement was

worked out between the two parties

after tense negotiations, increasing the

price of gasoline only marginally while leaving the price of kerosene, the

major cooking fuel in the country, untouched.

SheWing Nigeria Shell has

done very well

for itself in a Nigeria repressed, brutalized,

looted in turns by successive military dictators. To outsiders, the

and

company

projects the image of neutrality in the quicksand of Nigerian politics, a wise

and benevolent patriarch towering above the chaos and corruption that gov-

ernment and public however,

is

way to the

life

has

become in Nigeria since the civil war. The reality,

that the multinational has quietly

epicenter of power over the years.

and unobtrusively worked It

its

enjoys cordial relations with

the soldiers and politicians in power, in a symbiotic relationship sustained by a mutual desire to control the Niger Delta

and exploit the

oil.

As the Ameri-

can environmental pressure group Project Underground pointed out in 1997

(when General Abacha was income It is

still

to a brutal regime bent

a

measure of

extent to which

its

how

in

power), "Shell supplies

on suppressing dissent."

fully half

of the

44

powerful Shell has become in Nigeria and the

business interests had merged with the designs of one of

the most brutal and corrupt regimes in the world that Dr.

Owens Wiwa,

brother of the murdered environmentalist, told journalists he had a meeting

with the former managing director, Brian Anderson,

May 1995, and

that

Anderson

said

he could

from detention but would only do so

campaign against

his

if

effect

MOSOP

in his

home

Ken Saro-Wiwa's

called off

company 45 Ken Saro-Wiwa

in Lagos in

its

release

international

rejected the offer out of

hand, and a few months later he was hanged. Shell has admitted that Ander-

son did meet with Dr. Wiwa but disputes the spired

The

58

latter's

account of what

tran-

between them. multinational maintains

its

own private police force, imports its own

Colossus on the Niger arms and ammunition, and to the Nigerian military.

46

at least in

two instances has admitted payments Underground have

Officials of Project

also

drawn

attention to the existence of three separate Shell armories in Bonny, Warri,

and Port Harcourt automatic

rifles,



in the Niger Delta.

all

and revolvers

weapons stored there

in these armories. 47 Shell maintains that the

are for the police officers assigned to the

by the Nigerian government and tion

that

and would know immediately

if

it

was "no account of

bullets,"

recorded, Shell invariably had cially in its

has an inventory of

any

however, spoke to former Shell police there

There are pump-action shotguns,

more

is

missing.

bullets in

its

in the Niger Delta.

Shell officials. Shell Police

Babangida's

is

explained that

were

bullets

armories than was

offi-

Shell are referred to as Shell

They are paid

something of an

directly

by the com-

their instructions

elite force,

from

not unlike General

now disbanded National Guard. The officers, unlike their coun-

terparts in the regular force, receive free

accommodation, transport, meals,

medical services, and regular lump-sum payments, rate,

in

the ammuni-

books. 49

by local people

engaged

who

and that while these

pany instead of the Nigerian government, and take

ernment

all

Project Underground,

members,

staff

These Nigerian police officers assigned to Police

48

company

at least

courtesy of Shell. Sometimes, especially

undercover operations on behalf of the

oil

double the gov-

when

they are

company, they move

about in plainclothes. 50 Shell Police has four units: Operations (OPS),

provide security

at

company

whose primary duty

installations; Administration,

is

to

which provides

administrative support for the operations of the force; Intelligence and Investigations,

whose members

investigate

community compensation

claims in case of oil spills and usually operate clandestinely; and the

Dogs

and Arms Section, which supervises the armories and the specially trained dogs Shell Police officers use in their work. 51

While

Shell officials insist that "the

assigned to local

SPDC for the

sole

policemen concerned are

purpose of carrying out such guard

communities have accused them of

specifically duties, the

brutally suppressing peaceful

protests

and using financial inducements to divide the communit\ \vhenc\ ef

there

an

is

oil spill,

so they cannot present a

press for compensation. 52 Four former

common

members

with Project Underground in April 1997

front

and successfully

of Shell Police

who

testified that Shell officials

spoke

would

Where Vultures Feast give

them "service money," which they used

and befriend

wherever there was an

villagers

then instigate conflict in the ation Shell

to gather intelligence

village

would subsequently

oil spill.

These

and bribe

villagers

would

over competing claims for money, a

exploit, claiming that

it

situ-

would not pay any

compensation since the community was divided on the issue of who would get what. These officers also talked about a special "strike force," which they

claimed was deployed to suppress community protests, armed with automatic weapons and tear gas canisters. 53 Dr. activists

troops,

stated that

were

ferried

Ogoni villages.

54

Owens Wiwa and

other

MOSOP

members

of Shell Police, accompanied by military

by the

company's helicopters and boats to attack

oil

Other communities

in the Delta

have also recounted similar

experiences.

As early

as 1991, a

former managing director of Shell Nigeria, Phil Watts,

members

retained five

personal protection. 55

of the notorious Nigerian mobile police force for his

Members of Shell Police have

the abduction of Ogoni people.

56

The

late

also

been implicated in

Claude Ake described

turbing trend as the privatization of the Nigerian state by Shell Professor Ake, "The privatization of the state

policemen and -women

is

officials. Said

evident in the

in Shell residential quarters

and

this dis-

swarm of

offices supposedly

securing Shell, the presence of armed troops in the operational bases of the

company, and

in the prerogative of Shell

and other

oil

companies

to call

on

the police and the military for their security." 57 Shell has

had on

among them

its

board of directors some very influential Nigerians,

Ernest Shonekan,

Government before

it

Shonekan has since

left

who was head of the illegal Interim National

was sacked by General Abacha the board. In

November

him chairman of the 173-member Vision 2010, junta ostensibly to chart a

new economic

which was dismissed by perceptive

a

in

November

1993.

1996, Abacha appointed

committee

set

up by the

direction for the country but

critics as yet

another of the elaborate

ploys that the late dictator had put in place to perpetuate himself in power. Conveniently, Vision 2010 happens to be based

oped by Royal Dutch

60

Shell.

58

on

a scenario

model

devel-

FOUR A

Dying Land

Then there was a big the ground

and

it

spillage.

The

oil just

came out of

was more than they could cope

with.

and many fish died, and where it touched the land, food crops died and the land

It

circulated in the rivers

became

infertile.

Princess Irene

Amangala

of Oloibiri village

1

Ecology and Resources of the Niger Delta

The

Niger Delta

is

the most extensive lowland forest and aquatic

ecosystem in West Africa, and has very high concentrations of biodi-

versity.

2

It

is

complex

a

formed by the Niger River before

it

as

it

swamps

tangle of creeks, streams, and

divides into six

enters the Atlantic Ocean.

main

channels

tidal

The Delta floodplain

just

consists of accu-

mulated sediments deposited by the Niger and Benue rivers and has four major ecological zones:

1.

Coastal sand barrier islands, mainly along the Delta coastline: This eco-

zone has four subecozones and forest,

trough freshwater

and sandy beaches. 2.

swamp

is

characterised by ridgetop tropical

forest,

brackish water

swamp

forest,

3

West African lowland equatorial monsoon: This ecozone

is

marked

mainly by high and low water table, vast stretches of floodplain. and riverine 3.

swamp.

West African freshwater est area

and

is

also

are white-water

alluvial equatorial

monsoon:

This

marked by palm swamp and seasonal

and black-water floodplain,

lakes,

and

is

s\\

a

levee

for-

amp There

rivers.

The

fresh

61

Where Vultures Feast water

swamp

clearly the

forests of the Delta cover

most extensive

sonally flooded, area,

it

in

and while

an area of 4,500 square miles,

west and central Africa. The

it is

difficult for

forests are sea-

farmers to cultivate in this

has nevertheless been subjected to

some

logging, leading to

gradual degradation. 4.

West African brackish-water is

alluvial equatorial

dominated by mangroves.

mangroves and freshwater

monsoon: This ecozone

also the area of transition

It is

alluvial equatorial

monsoon.

groves are the largest in Africa, and over half of this

There

is

between

Nigeria's

man-

in the Niger Delta.

is

an extensive network of creeks, and the mangroves grow in

such profusion and compactness as to make cult. This ecozone

is

human

penetration

diffi-

therefore one of the least degraded in the Niger

Delta.

The Niger Delta Equator.

It is fairly

low, flat terrain, straddling five degrees north of the

is

extensive, stretching into the Gulf of Guinea

and forming

the Bight of Biafra in the east and the Bight of Benin in the west. The climate

here

is

tropical hot

monsoon.

to 175 inches. Discharges

Rainfall

from the

is

very high, averaging an annual 117

rivers

and creeks peak during the rainy

season (July- September), and because the

percent of the Niger Delta

is

soils are

poorly drained, over 80

seasonally flooded. Erosion

is

also a recurring

phenomenon. When the flood eventually recedes during the dry season between December and January, the water channels Delta leave

swamps and

that fan out over the

small lakes in their wake. Average monthly temper-

atures hover around seventy degrees. 4

Before

dams were

1968, the Delta fine balance tion.

a

dynamic and

beginning with the Kainji

self-regulating ecosystem.

between the constant flooding,

erosion,

that about

tributaries has

Dam

in

There was a

and sediment deposi-

However, with the construction of dams upstream,

mated its

was

built in the Niger,

it

has been

esti-

70 percent of the sediment transport from the Niger and

been

lost,

and

this,

combined with

oil

production, has

severely disrupted the natural equilibrium of the Niger Delta ecosystem.

Sediment deposition

is

gradually rising again, though,

due mainly

to the

accumulation of silt in the dams, which has led to a decrease in the capacity of the reservoirs to obstruct river flow. 5 In terms of natural resources, the Niger Delta

62

is

one of the world's

richest

A Dying Land areas.

Apart from

forests,

abundant

substantial oil

its

Delta

is

also

and

wildlife,

cane, plantain, beans,

palm

famous

for

oil,

its

and gas deposits, there are extensive

fertile agricultural

land

where

rice, sugar-

yams, cassava, and timber are cultivated. The

fish resources.

has more freshwater fish

It

species than any other coastal system in West Africa. 6 Indeed, three-quarters

of the fish caught in the subregion are bred in the mangroves of the Delta,

which have been described 7

world. Mangrove trees,

as the third largest

and the most discrete

which grow tall and healthy on the creeks and near

riverbanks, provide protective barriers for the country's coast

source of medicine,

weaving,

wood

in the

and raw material

fruit,

carving, ana* rope making.

biodiversity of the Delta

enormous. The World Bank has drawn attention to to a great variety of threatened coastal

also a

such cottage industries as

for

The

and are

its

and estuarine fauna and

and

flora,

the need for preservation of the biodiversity of the area because of

is

home

importance as

its

to

rich

biological resources. 8

Shell in the Niger Delta

Shell has

been described

as a

major polluter of the environment on the one

hand, and a busy propagator and purveyor of technical fixes for gressions

on the

other.

9

It is

trans-

therefore not always easy to penetrate the elab-

orate "environmentally friendly" facade erected lobbyists

its

and spin doctors to the ogre that

is

by the company's green

polluting and despoiling the

world's fragile ecosystems. Shell's oil exploration

and production

activities in the

Niger Delta are

almost entirely based on land. 10 This means that the bulk of the company's

operations— ninety-four producing

oil fields

scattered through well over

12,000 square miles, eighty-six production stations, and more than 3,700 miles of pipeline— take place in the

same ecosystem inhabited by the

vari-

ous communities of the area, including the flora and fauna. In the course of exploring for oil in the Niger Delta these past four

decades, Shell, contrary to what the various public relations agencies and consultants in

its

employ have been

striving to sell to the international

com-

munity, has not only radically disrupted the ecological balance of the area,

but through negligence and cynical indifference has orchestrated

a

vicious

Where Vultures Feast ecological

war — a war whose

which they have

lived

victims are a hapless people and the land

and thrived for centuries. The report submitted to

the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples

ment during the Rio Earth Summit community

on

on Environment and Develop-

June 1992 by the kings,

chiefs,

and

leaders of the Niger Delta told the harrowing story of the

still-

in

ongoing ecological war waged by Shell in the Delta:

pollution from the

emissions and flares day

Apart from

air

and

producing poisonous gases that are

night,

cally

the

oil industry's

and systemati-

silently

wiping out vulnerable airborne biota and otherwise endangering

man

of plants, game, and

life

himself,

we

have widespread water

pollution and soil and land pollution that respectively result in the

death of most acquatic eggs and juvenile stages of shellfish

and sensible animals

(like oysters)

life

of finfish and

on the one hand,

the other hand, agricultural lands contaminated with

whilst,

oil spills

dangerous for farming, even where they continue to produce any nificant yields.

on

become sig-

11

In 1983, long before Shell's activities in the Niger Delta

made international

headlines, officials of the Inspectorate Division of the Nigerian National

Petroleum

Company had sounded an alarm over what the oil exploration and

production

activities

of Shell and the other foreign

to the Delta environment. Said the

oil

companies were doing

NNPC report, "We witnessed the slow poi-

soning of the waters of this country and the destruction of vegetation and agricultural land

by

oil spills

which occur during petroleum

since the inception of the oil industry in Nigeria ago, there has

ernment,

let

been no concerned and

alone the

oil

more than

effective effort

operations. But

twenty-five years

on the

part of the gov-

operators, to control the environmental problems

associated with the industry." 12 Nigerian government officials are noted for their cautious use of words. They

must have been

sufficiently outraged at the

spectacle of environmental destruction that assaulted their eyes in the Niger

Delta to state the condition of things in such stark terms. Seventeen years after If

they

made this

intensifies

up

64

report

little

has changed.

anything, the pace of environmental pollution has accelerated as Shell

its

its oil

production and exploration

activities in the area,

pushing

production target to one million barrels of crude a day. In the process

A Dying Land of extracting the

tions

oil,

adequate consideration

who live in the

million people

area,

is

not given to the over seven

and the impact of the company's opera-

on their environment and their way of life. Indeed, since

Shell set

Oloibiri in 1958, not a single satisfactory Environmental

first oil rig in

up

its

Impact

Assessment (EIA) has been conducted and made public in the Niger Delta before operations

such

commence,

activities are likely to

have on the area and

imize them. 13 Shell vigorously denies ing EIAs for

its

this,

potential harmful effects

how to avoid or at best min-

claiming that

it

its

denial with adequate evidence.

company claimed were commissioned

in the Delta turned out to

had commenced.

14

has been conduct-

— but the company

operations in the Niger Delta since 1982

has not been able to back that the

what

to determine

for a

The two EIAs

major pipeline project

have been conducted well after the project

Body Shop

International

commissioned Environmental

Resources Management, an environmental consultancy firm, to examine the

two

and

EIAs,

it

discovered that they were vague in conception and inade-

quate in implementation. Said the Environmental Resources Management report, "Both Spill

documents

[the Shell-commissioned EIAs] refer to Shell's Oil

Contingency Plan as a major mitigative measure, but there

is

no

clear

indication that an effective contingency plan, customized to account for specific local

environmental

that "there

little

is

sensitivities, in fact exists."

evidence that

The report

SPDC have been

also

added

involved in the EIA

process, that they acknowledge the potential impacts of their pipeline operations,

and that they have taken ownership of the mitigation measures nec-

essary to minimize potential impacts." 15 All available is

evidence suggests that

Shell's destruction of the

Niger Delta

informed by near-total disregard for the welfare of the local people. 16

Why else would the same company go to great lengths to conduct rigorous and extensive EIAs for refuse to

do the same

on seventeen

its

operations in Europe and North America and

in the Niger Delta?

different EIAs that Shell

Scotland before a single hole

Consider for a

conducted

was dug: "A

moment

this report

for a pipeline project in

painstakingly detailed Environ-

mental Impact Assessment covered every meter of the route, and each hedge, wall, and fence exactly as

it

was catalogued and

had been before

to avoid lasting disfiguration,

ultimately replaced or rebuilt

Shell arrived. Elaborate

measures were taken

and the route was diverted

accommodate environmental concerns."

17

Clearly,

in several places to

what

is

good

for the

.

Where Vultures Feast people of Scotland

is

not considered necessary or desirable for the

of the Niger Delta, from

nities

commu-

whose land Shell has extracted billions of dol-

worth of oil since 1958.

lars'

The net Delta

effect of Shell's environment-destroying operations in the Niger

an ecosystem so mangled, raped, and denuded that the area has

is

been labeled the most endangered delta in the world. 18 The carnage and

all-pervasive

— high-pressure

total

is

pipelines that crisscross farmlands and

even house backyards, well blowouts, and discharge of waste and flares that

up the

light

hours a day and poison the atmosphere with

skies twenty-four

lethal gasses.

David Moffat, an environmental consultant with the World

Bank, has estimated that since

it

began operations

has destroyed a substantial portion of the

in the Niger Delta, Shell

mangrove

forests in Rivers

and

Delta states alone, in the process also exposing this otherwise discrete

ecosystem to further degradation by hunters and loggers. 19 The company said

had 890 production wells

it

1997 flow

20

in operation in the Niger Delta as of

May

Blowouts occur regularly in some of these wells, particularly in the

stations, polluting

farmland and rivers and creeks with

oil,

and

destroying flora and fauna in the process.

The World Bank estimates spill

On

that oil

companies

in Rivers

and Delta

states

about 9,000 cubic feet of oil in three hundred major accidents yearly 21

its

part, Shell says

it

spilled

between 1989 and 1994, and course of

its

an average of 7,350 barrels of

oil a

year

that a total of 221 spills occurred in the

operations during the period. However, as Greenpeace has

pointed out, these figures do not include the large number of supposedly "minor"

spills that

account in is

its

occur daily but which Shell usually did not take into

rough estimation. 22 Besides, Nigerian crude

quick to evaporate, making

spread of

spills

when

it

times the official estimate. oil spills

which the

oil

difficult to assess the precise

volume and

is

actually about ten

23

occur because the bulk of

leaks are rusty, obsolete,

Shell's pipelines

since they

were put

in the rate

and volume of oil

in place in the 1960s. spills as Shell

24

The

result has

Shell

been replaced

been an increase

accelerates production activities,

subjecting old and weary pipelines to pressure they are handle. They crack and buckle, spewing

through

and poorly maintained. Some

pipelines and sundry installations in the Niger Delta have not

66

very light and

they occur. The World Bank therefore argues that the

actual figure of oil spills in the Niger Delta every year

These

is

oil

no longer able

into the surroundings.

The

to

testi-

A Dying La

mony of J. see

.

.

.

Van Dessel,

sums up

best

ies,

P.

own

standards,

Every Shell terrain

I

were not working

and they didn't

saw was

after

he took up

his post.

OPEC

ated gas

is

United

The World Bank

States.

26

compared

I

saw was contami-

letter in

December

up with

oil in

1994,

the drilling and

estimates that 87 percent of

flared into the Niger Delta

ing in Nigeria,

didn't sat-

25

countries) in flaring gas brought

extraction process.

They

could

I

honor of being the world leader (including

Nigeria also has the dubious all

cleanly.

went,

at Shell officials' indifference to this

shocking scenario that he threw in his resignation

two years

I

satisfy international standards.

polluted, every terminal

Van Dessel was so outraged

cl

former head of environmental stud-

nightmare: "Wherever

this ecological

that Shell's installations

isfy their

nated."

Shell Nigeria's

n

atmosphere by

to 21 percent in Libya

Shell officials said the

company

oil

all

associ-

companies operat-

and 0.6 percent

in the

40

billion

flared an average

square feet of gas every year between 1991 and 1994, and according to these figures, the

World Bank has estimated

flared in the Niger Delta yearly.

27

that

Shell's

80

billion

cubic feet of gas

is

operation in Nigeria, according to

Geoffrey Lean, the leading British environmental journalist, makes the com-

pany one of the biggest contributors to global warming. The company's flaring installations are like

some cases ill-maintained Britain's

its

pipelines

gas-

— old, poorly constructed, and in

— and as a result they emit "far more pollution than

twenty million homes put together." 28

of gas flared in the Netherlands, tional headquarters, is zero.

Interestingly, the

where Royal Dutch

Shell has

percentage its

interna-

29

For eight years the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), following entreaties

from concerned Nigerian

lobbied Shell to clean

amount of gas Shell,

the

up

its

scientists

and conservationists, secretly

operations in Nigeria and ensure that the

flared in the course of its operations

is

substantially reduced.

however, consistently rebuffed these pleas. Faced with

WWF went public in December

this obduracy,

1995, denouncing Shells operations in

the Niger Delta. After a tour of Shell's installations in Nigeria, an appalled Clive Wicks, the eling in the area

see these

head ofWWF-U.K.'s international program, declared: is

like flying over Dante's inferno.

goddamned flares." 30

Trav-

Wherever you look you

Where Vultures Feast Bull in a

We

China Shop

can get a

picture of the process by

fair

which

Shell ravages the

most

endangered ecosystem in the world by considering a typical day

in the life

of a Shell worker as he sets out to explore,

oil in

swamps, creeks, and mangrove

worker

this typical Shell

as

he

and transport

drill,

forests of the Niger Delta.

sets out

The

the

activities of

each morning have been likened to

amok in a china shop, trampling, slashing, and kick31 its way to smithereens. The process by which crude oil

those of a bull running ing everything in

found and put to commercial use goes through several

is

stages,

each of

them a lethal blow to the tender underside of the Delta ecosystem.

Seismic Survey To find

oil in

the Niger Delta, Shell engineers conduct geological analyses of

the area through extensive seismic surveys. 32 Since the bulk of the company's operations are

on

land, seismic

swamps, freshwater creeks, and, is

the

cated.

first

in

some

stage in seismic surveys.

An

crews operate

is

mangrove

cases, agricultural land. Line cutting

area of land

is

identified

Then the path through which the seismic waves

and receiver lines)

in the

and demar-

will travel (the shot

cleared of flora and other likely impediments, to a mini-

mum width of about three feet. This is done with machetes and involves cutting

down huge

swaths of trees and other vegetation. When the clearing

is

completed, deep holes are dug, which are flushed with standing or creek water,

and explosives (usually dynamite) are placed

nation equipment.

recorded

at a central

The explosives

in

them, alongside deto-

and the

are then detonated

signals

recording station using the appropriate instruments.

Since 1986, Shell workers have employed the three-dimension survey

technique (3D Survey), which

is

more

cost effective than the old two-

dimension survey. The 3D survey crews are very ing 1,200 workers. According to

2D

seismic lines since

it

Van Dessel,

in

sometimes number-

Shell has cut

37,000 miles of

began operations in the Niger Delta, more than

24,000 miles of these in the mangroves. The

with 10,790

large,

3D

lines total 19,460 miles,

the mangroves. Van Dessel also estimates, based

on the

cur-

rent one-meter-line width allowed for seismic surveys in Shells Eastern

Division operations, that approximately 35 square miles of land for the

68

company's seismic surveys; 22 square miles of this

is

was cleared

mangrove. 33

A Dying Land Shell operated

on

own in

its

teamed up with NNPC,

Elf,

the Niger Delta from 1956 to 1977,

and Agip to establish SPDC. And

for

when

all

it

those

twenty-one years, not a single adequate Environmental Impact Assessment

was conducted

to determine the potential

havoc seismic surveys could

wreak on the Niger Delta ecosystem. During the activities, forests are

oil

company's seismic

invaded and cleared, and animal species endemic to

that particular habitat are either expelled or killed.

the line-cutting stage also

makes the

Bush clearing during

forests accessible to

humankind, a

process that further accelerates the destruction of rare animal species. in the

mic

mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta

activities are

trees are

regenerate

— that

that the ravages of Shell's seis-

most noticeable. Here the

mauled and ravaged, and is, if

the area

is

aerial roots

them over

takes

it

It is

of

tall

mangrove

three decades to

not disturbed by renewed

oil

production

activities.

The detonation of explosives soil,

also disrupts the natural structure of the

and where the holes are not properly dug, they disintegrate and cause a

crater, further disfiguring

duced into the

soil after

the landscape. Alien chemicals are also intro-

the explosives are detonated. As Moffat and Linden

have pointed out, the Niger Delta ecosystem has one of the highest concen34 trations of biodiversity in the world.

And

given that an approximate

twenty-two square miles of mangrove has been cut by Shell in Division alone in the course of

amount of fauna and

flora

its

Eastern

its

seismic operations, a considerable

have been destroyed, expelled, or damaged

beyond repair during the period.

Drilling Shell's drilling

operations are in four stages: preparing the drilling

site,

exploration drilling, production testing, and transport. Before the drilling for oil

commences, access roads

proper are

is

also cleared of

all

are cut through to the drilling

vegetation.

Then the

site

site.

The

site

and access channels

dredged to a stipulated depth and width using bucket dredgers and a

dredging barge. When this

by tugboats. Where there

is is

completed, the

no

Shell

flow

drilling rig

station

is

nearby

vided for production tests to determine the commercial well. Shell's engineers use Water

Based Muds

towed

lasts a

is

site

pro-

feasibility of the

(WBM) to drill

than Oil Based Muds. Production testing usually

to the

a flare pit

the wells rather

few days but could 69

Where Vultures Feast extend to several weeks in some cases. Oil and gas brought to the surface during this period pipelines or

is

either sent to the nearest

is

flared right there

on the

usually massive activities, involving

flow station through operations are

site. Shell's drilling

men,

drilling

equipment, and vehicular

transport like boats, four-wheel drives, and helicopters. 35

As

and other vegetation cut

in seismic surveys, trees

down

in the

process of site preparation for drilling result in serious damage to the Niger Delta ecosystem. Dredging

Apart from land that material

is

is

dumped on

is

particularly harmful to the Delta ecology.

lost in the

usually high in organic content tion,

it

process of the dredging proper, dredged

either side of the canals,

and because

and turns acidic

some of the dredged

material

or canal constructed in the process of

is

waste

is

in the process of oxida-

where

destroys the ecology of the surrounding area

After a while

this

washed back

it is

dumped.

into the creeks

preparation, and this tends to

site

increase sedimentation in the creeks and the turbidity of the water, leading to a significant reduction in the penetration rate of sunlight. 36 Phytoplank-

tons that depend on sunlight to thrive and reproduce are thus harmed.

Water turbidity fishes in the

also

water

makes

clearly,

tain species of fish that

difficult for

it

and has

do not

such birds as kingfishers to see

been known

also

thrive in

muddy

to severely affect cer-

water. Sedimentation in

creeks leads to the destruction of benthic fauna and other sensitive aquatic creatures.

The Water Based Muds discharged oxygen

starch content. All available activity,

into the creeks have a high

used up due to increased bacterial

is

with the result that aquatic flora and fauna that depend on

this

important energy source are either expelled or wiped out completely. Shell

workers dispose of their Niger Delta

is

littered

drilling

waste in waste

with these waste

during the rainy season, discharging

pits,

mud

pits.

Indeed, the entire

and they sometimes overflow high in

salt

content into sur-

rounding farmlands. Shell's production-testing

operations

is

usually a very noisy

affair.

The

concentration of large bodies of men in a hitherto serene habitat, the noise

they

make

as they

tow the

rig

through the canal and operate other

equipment, and the noise generated by the

rig itself as drilling

drilling

commences,

not only scare away wildlife in the vicinity but also disturb the peace of local people.

Sometimes unburned gas and

water overflow from Shells

70

flare pits in the

oil

mixed with production

course of test

drilling, polluting

A Dying Land water and also

the vicinity through discharge of hydrocarbons. Blowouts

soil in

occur during production

Oil and

testing, further

damaging the environment.

Gas Production

The River Nun

was once famous

in the eastern Delta

and was celebrated by the

work, "The Call of the River Nun." Today, however, the Niger, has

for

its

serene beauty

poet Gabriel Imomotimi Okara in his

Ijo

classic

this river, a tributary of

been reduced to an ugly caricature of its former self. Gone

are

the beautiful beaches and^the somnolent waves at high tide that once

seduced the famous poet. Thanks to construction of extensive logical character of the

around the company's ically altered for

oil

Shell's activities in the area,

and gas production

infrastructure, the hydro-

once beautiful River Nun, the

oil field at

particularly the area

Nun River flow station, have been rad-

the worse, perhaps forever. 37

Elsewhere, waste generated through production activities

an environmentally hazardous manner. Van Dessel and toured Shell's production

facilities

its facilities.

it

Waste

is

this aspect

as primitive, inadequate,

burned

"very primitive barbecuelike incinerator"

The other options

discarded in

WWF officials who

highly lethal. In most cases, Shell's waste-treatment program

and inefficient as are

is

have graphically chronicled

of the company's operations, describing

able waste,

and the

— to

is

and

as obsolete

either in flare pits or in a

use Van Dessel

s

words. 38

are burial in waste pits for oily degradable and undegrad-

and injection into

oil

pipelines

where

small quantities of hydro-

carbon-based toxic chemicals are involved. It

has been pointed out that none of these three methods of waste

ment

is

treat-

39 satisfactory from an environmental and health perspective.

Buried oily waste tends to contain harmful chemical components and pollute

groundwater when

it

seeps into

it.

Nor are

Shell's incineration facilities

famous for their efficiency. A lethal cocktail of unburned hydrocarbon, and heavy metals to global fort.

40

is

soot,

emitted into the Niger Delta atmosphere, contributing local inhabitants considerable discom-

warming and causing the

A proposal to purchase a new

industrial incinerator that

would burn

the company's waste through an efficient and controlled process w as post

poned by senior company

officials.

ner in which the company's

41

Another cause

officials

for

worry

is

dispose of crude leaked

the

man

in

flow

71

— Where Vultures Feast and

stations,

burned

also oil recovered during spill cleanup operations. This oil

flow

in the flare pits in the

stations,

the atmosphere. Said Van Dessel,"What

an

oil spill

less

spill will

spill,

.

.

sending poisonous gases into

happening

be cleaned up,

removed using buckets and spades

ation.

pit,

then the

is

.

in Nigeria

in the sense that

is if

it is

there

Well, that's the level of the oper-

and

that's

it."

Oil, Oil

oil

collected with buckets and spades and collected in this

oil is 42

Abandoned

nobody is

landscape, and

is

more or

So what's usually being done is they dig a hole in the middle of the

and the

is

oil

wells and waste pits dot the Niger Delta

talking about cleaning

them up. Yet. 43

Everywhere

The bulk of

Shell's

and obsolete.

It

production

facilities,

especially

its

pipelines, are rusty

was, and continues to be, Shell Nigeria's stated policy to

swampy

replace flow lines in

1995 Van Dessel

areas every ten to fifteen years. However, in

moment

stated, "At the

there

a backlog of older

is still

pipelines with high leakage frequencies." 44 As of this writing, pipes continue to burst, ruining lives, fishing creeks, and farmlands in the Niger Delta. Consequently, spillage

and

this

a regular occurrence in the Niger Delta

is

occurs in the immediate vicinity of

oil

wells during massive

blowouts, spillage from leaking pipelines, and in the terminals where separated from the production water.

The number of oil

oil is

spills registered in

the course of Shell's operations has been increasing in recent years, as the

company steps up

oil

While company

production in the Niger Delta.

officials

claim that a good part of this spillage

by the Ogoni and the other oil-producing communities facilities in

— as a July

1996

that sabotage Shell

British Advertising Standards Authority

ruling against Shell has demonstrated. 45 Claude Ake,

who resigned from the

Shell-sponsored Niger Delta Environmental Survey in the

Wiwa's murder

in

November

as irresponsible, arguing that

way to

clean

up the

it is

in fact the local

oil spills.

of the pollution in Ogoniland

is

what the Ogoni have

do

tried to

wake

of Ken Saro-

1995, also dismissed Shell's claim of sabotage

terious plane crash in Nigeria in

72

caused

order to claim compensation, they have not been able to supply

credible evidence

of their

is

who go out who died in a mys-

communities

Said Professor Ake,

October 1996, "Nobody can say

caused by sabotage. In is

that

fact, as far as

to put out the flares,

which

is

I

most

know,

something

A Dying Land that importantly reduces pollution.

companies are putting out

that the oil

trying to

think that

I

the kind of propaganda

is

in order to discredit those

do something about the environment."

who

Several postimpact studies conducted in areas that suffered spillage to Shell's production operations in the Niger Delta, particularly the spill,

clearly indicate that they adversely

impact on the

communities and the flora and fauna. 47 Drinking water

mangrove

trees

is

due

Ebubu

of the local

lives

severely polluted,

and food crops are smothered to death, and

and other water creatures are destroyed

are

46

fish, oysters,

contaminated streams, swamps,

in

and creeks.

More gas

is

flared in the course of Shell's operations in Nigeria than in

any of the other hundred countries in the world where the multinational involved in

western

oil

oil

exploration and production activities. This

companies operating

in Nigeria find

to flare nonassociated gas right there

into the wells or collect

it

for

in the

flow stations rather

facilities to reinject

commercial use.

is

so because

economically expedient

it

on the spot

than incur the expense of putting in place

is

the gas back

Shell Nigeria flared

an aver-

age of 32 billion cubic feet of gas into the Niger Delta atmosphere every year between 1991 and 1994. 48

The World Bank

gas flares in the area released 39 million tons of

methane

into the

atmosphere

in

1994 alone.

by these carbon emissions has been put Shell's

have borne the brunt of these gas

at

13 million tons of

The marginal damage caused

at $7.50/ton.

50

The

flare stacks in

yield,

and the

tory problems.

air

they breathe

homesteads. 51 Local communities

flares.

severely corroded, the heat generated

longer

C0 2 and

flow stations are poorly designed, spewing unburned gas into the

atmosphere and sometimes directly

crop

49

also estimates that Shell's

is

The

by the gas

difference

flares leads to

between day and

Shell consistently ignores the Associated

light is

flaring of gas

by 1984

at

the

latest.

52

Gas Reinjection Decree, which

Rather, the

pay the minuscule levy that the government flaring, refusing to take into

flared gas

is

such that they no

night.

companies

to

company prefers

to

the Nigerian government enacted in 1979, charging the

end the

reduced

severely polluted, leading to respira-

The constant noise and burning

know the

roofs of their houses are

later

oil

imposed

as a penalty tor

consideration the havoc every cubic meter of

wreaking on the people of the Niger Delta and

their ahead)

endangered environment. Even the flaring-reduction project that company officials

had proposed

for

its

Eastern Division operatic >nv to collect about

Where Vultures Feast 25 percent of the gas flared and

was canceled the project.

53

sell it

to fertilizer

and aluminium

plants,

1994 because Shell claimed there was no money to fund

in

The Liquefied Natural Gas

Project that Shell spin doctors

now

claim will lead to a "considerable" reduction in the amount of gas flared in the company's Niger Delta operations collect nonassociated gas, but

was not even designed

originally to

had to be modified when the company's

environmental policies came under fire in the wake of the Ogoni has the Liquefied Natural Gas Project, which

commenced

crisis.

Nor

operation in

1999, eliminated the incidence of gas flaring entirely.

new

In January 1999, Shell unfolded a

$8.5 billion

scheme

to

expand

output in Nigeria by 600,000 barrels per day, claiming that the

oil

ect

was

its

new proj-

part of a long-term strategy to commercialize the country's gas

industry and also reduce the flares. Environmentalists, however, are worried that this increased output will fields

— the

implication being that associated gas

flared in Shell's

nate flaring in

onshore

its

all

dos,

its

awesome

two years

flaring in

Shell's

oil fields.

They

oil is

would continue

also dismiss Shell's

if it

financial

"vow" to

to

oil

be

elimi-

and technical resources, could

was really serious about doing

production operations end

where

offshore

Niger Delta operations by 2008 as a ploy, arguing that the

multinational, with

end

come mainly from new

at

the

oil

terminals in

collected in tanks and production water

so.

54

Bonny and

Forca-

removed before

it's

loaded in tankers waiting offshore. Production water, already contaminated

with

oil, is

discharged directly into the surrounding creeks and rivers with-

out adequate treatment. Sludge and other lethal chemicals removed from the

bottom of storage tanks

in the course of

maintenance

activities are similarly

disposed. Oil leaks from the storage tanks are also a regular

and

this,

combined with evaporation

subjected the

dos

oil

soils, rivers,

and creeks

directly

from the tanks themselves, has

in the vicinity of the

Bonny and

Forca-

terminals to slow but relentless devastation. 55

Shelling the Niger Delta to Death: Seven

Shell in

Case Studies

Ogoni

This Ogoni song,

experience with

7/

phenomenon,

composed Shell:

in 1970,

sums up the Niger Delta community's

A Dying Land The flames of Shell are flames of hell

We bask below their light Noughtfor us serve the blight Of cursed neglect and cursed Shell. The Ogoni,

5

The

International Finance Cor-

A Dying Land poration, a World

Bank

affiliate originally

wake

the project, pulled out in the

November that

it

expected to take up 2 percent of

of the execution of

could no longer invest in the country. 107 The

operated by SPDC, Agip, and

becomes

it

and cool

Elf,

it

to

LNG Project is designed

minus 162 degrees

up one six-hundredth of

liquid, taking

in

was such

and nonassociated gas from gas treatment

to collect associated

so that

Ken Saro-Wiwa

1995, explaining that the political situation in Nigeria

its

stations Celsius,

previous vol-

ume and thereby making it cheaper to transport. This liquid gas, in a new gas plant in Bonny, is then transferred to four tankers

processed for sale in

European and American markets.

The LNG daily in its

Project began to produce 6,600 tons of liquefied natural gas

November

Soku,

Nembe

1999.

SPDC

supplies

Creek, and Ekulama

percent each. The

site for

and the people of Finima

oil fields.

the gas plant

village

533 percent of the gas drawn from 108

Agip and

Elf

supply 23.3

was cleared of vegetation

who originally occupied

it

in 1979,

were relocated

in 1991-92. 109

The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Project consists of two main elements: the

LNG

plant and

its

associated facilities

on Bonny

Island,

and the Gas

Transmission System (GTS), a network of pipelines that snakes through

mangrove, freshwater ter rivers,

project

swamp forest, dry land rain forest, farmland, freshwa-

and brackish and estuarine

areas. Environmentalists, before the

went on-stream, were worried about

its

potential ecological impact

on the already endangered Niger Delta ecosystem and Shell ect,

said that neither

nor the Nigerian government, the two principal partners

had done enough to ensure that these potential harmful

in the proj-

effects

were

minimized. 110 Separate environmental impact assessments

and GTS, the

first in

1989.

A

were conducted

monitored

its

report confirmed the

expressed by such environmentalists as Nick Ashton-Joncs.

an improperly designed strictly to

LNG

second one was carried out by the Liverpool-

based SGS Environment Ltd. in 1995. The thrust of fears already

for the

LNG

Project,

that

and one whose operations were not

ensure conformity with international environmental

standards, could turn out to

be an ecological nightmare and an economic

disbenefit for the local communities. Outlining the potential impact of the project, the

SGS report

the natural environment

said: is

"The main impact of the GTS construction on

the loss of ecologically important habitat and the

Where Vultures Feast fragmentation of what remains. There will be substantial impact on man-

grove and freshwater

swamp forests and their soils and groundwaters, which

cannot be mitigated in

full."

111

The report then went on

to catalogue seventeen other expected envi-

ronmental effects of the project, among which were a sudden increase in the population of the communities in and around Bonny, with the social

and economic pressures

this will inevitably generate; the introduction

of

such vector-transmitted diseases as malaria, due to ponding arising from construction

activities;

and general degradation of the environment and

loss of biodiversity in the

particular

mangroves and freshwater swamps

due to increased human

activity.

The SGS report

in the area, in

also outlined ten

preventive/repressive mitigations and four curative/compensation measures

it

hoped would ensure

LNG

the

that the adverse environmental side effects of

Project are reduced to an acceptable

hopeful note that "Nigeria

minimum, ending on the

LNG Ltd. recognize that the development, imple-

mentation, and maintenance of a system for the long-term management of the environment must form an integral part of business quality manage-

ment. To

this end,

tem (EMS)

they have developed an Environmental Management Sys-

to achieve these aims." 112

While the potential economic benefits of the that

it

will boost Nigeria's foreign

LNG are not in doubt, given

exchange earnings while

at

the same time

helping to reduce the flaring of associated gas, critics of the project have

pointed out clear lapses in the Shell-commissioned EIA and say that not only did

it

not address the problems on the ground squarely,

fell far

its

general contents

short of international standards. In a letter to the International

Finance Corporation in July 1995, the British environmentalist Nick Ashton-

Jones highlighted some of the shortcomings of the SGS report:

The worrying thing about the SGS environmental assessment assumes that Nigeria environmental does not, although

it

is

report

on the assessment

ria

currently based

is

legislation will

that

it

work: by and large

it

an invaluable handle for states

:

NGOs

is

to use.

"Development planning control

The

in Nige-

on the Fourth National Development Plan

(1981-1985). The FEPA [Federal Environmental Protection Agency] was established under the Environmental Protection Act, under

which the

development and monitoring of environmental standards was

90

intro-

1

'

A Dying Land duced. Environmental Impact Assessment became mandatory for major projects in 1992." This really

is

a fairy tale,

and any

sensitive

team of

environmental impact assessors working in Nigeria should have picked

up the

fact:

ommended

does not work, and there

really

it

is

no guarantee

mitigation of the adverse environmental impacts of the

LNG pipeline

be implemented and maintained

will

EIA has ignored the ing the report,

political

and

social realities of Nigeria

difficult to believe that

it is

in the long run.

the report its

in Ogoniland. In a free

would be acceptable

opinions

Shell's

freely.

1

and open society

The

Also, read-

.

actually trav-

no places were do not think

was allowed

to a public that

LNG

that

to express

mental protection and respect for of concerned environmentalists

behave any differently in

its

is

company's poor record

human

rights in Nigeria.

that there

is

no reason

management of the gas

also

in environ-

The argument

to expect Shell to

view

project. This

commissioned by The Body Shop

finds support in yet another report,

December 1995

company has

Project as operating

for serious alarm, given the

International in

I

.

3

involvement in the

been cause

.

anyone involved

eled the entire length of the pipeline; for instance,

mentioned

that rec-

to review the

SGS Environmental

State-

ments. The review, while conceding that there are some good points about the SGS reports, nevertheless criticizes their theoretical and abstract

approach:

The reports do not properly address the hazards and with an

LNG

facility

or the gas pipelines.

ment should have been transport of the

would need

carried out

LNG by

A full

on the

risks associated

hazard and risk assess-

pipelines,

LNG

and

plant,

the six cryogenic vessels. This assessment

to take into account the political instability in Nigeria

the fact that during the

life

of the

facility

and

(perhaps forty years) Nigeria

could become so inhospitable for foreign companies that they are forced to withdraw their expatriate personnel. The problems associated with sabotage of LNG

facilities

should also have been defined.

LNG

has the ability to spread very quickly through underground drains and

sewers

until

it

finds an ignition source,

when

it

ignites the

whole vapor

cloud. This does not appear to be mentioned in the reports.

'

'

Where Vultures Feast In other words, the Shell-commissioned EIA

was deemed

be neither

to

adequate nor comprehensive, a reflection of the company's attitude

toward the environment and the

communities that are

local

press releases as a major beneficiary of the is

LNG

listed in its

Project. Also disturbing

the fact that Shell has not seen the need to conduct a postimpact assess-

ment

in

New

Finima following the relocation of the people of the

village.

New Finima is a paltry 26 percent, compared to 72 percent 115 Why is this? Significantly, the SGS report acknowledged in Bonny town. LNG Project would create considerable social and economic that the Employment

in

problems

Bonny and the surrounding communities, but added

in

problems would be smoothed away with

that these relations."

"efficient public

116

"Efficient public relations"

proved useless

when

youths in Bonny town,

the main operational base of the gas project, stormed the

September 1999, blockading the gas

warned LNG

officials in July that

restive following the

plant.

117

LNG

Community

facilities in

leaders had

youths in the town were becoming

nonimplementation of the provisions of the Memo-

randum of Understanding reached by both

parties, providing for jobs for

people and also a comprehensive development program for Bonny

local

town. 118 Community leaders also accused company consult the

officials

of failing to

Bonny Kingdom Development Committee on key develop-

ments affecting the town, of not employing qualified residents ect,

glibly

and

also ignoring their request that they

in the proj-

be represented

new

in a

environmental committee established to oversee the operations of the gas project.

weeks

After waiting for several

to

no

avail,

angry youths took over the

access road between the main gas plant and staff residential quarters

on September

member

25.

During the scuffle that ensued, an expatriate

of the project shot and killed several of the protesters.

119

staff

was

It

not until President Olusegun Obasanjo flew into the troubled town in a helicopter

two days

later

and sued

for

peace that the youths

lifted

the

blockade. At a meeting with President Obasanjo, the youths and elders of

Bonny complained

that the

LNG

officials

had

failed to

adhere to the

gating measures spelled out in the Shell EIA report, and diate

employment

imposed on

92

LNG

miti-

demanded imme-

for local youths in the gas project, a penalty to for gas flaring,

which was

still

be

a recurrent feature in

Dying Land

A Bonny, and the repatriation and punishment of the protesters.

official

who

shot

some

120

The Open Sore of a Fragile Ecosystem All

over the Niger Delta a terrible tragedy, more chilling for

tion into just another day's sad story in a thousand ties, is

small

quietly playing itself out.

community

in the

One prominent landmark

western Delta,

is

Shell's

fragmenta-

its

and one small communi-

UtorWell

Otor-Udu, a

in 17,

which was

drilled right into the heart of the village. Children, oblivious of the health

hazards, have converted the drilling waste pits near the well into a swim-

ming pool. Day and night the ever-present entails

it

looms

large over the

Humphrey Bekaren,

a journalist

doomed born

is

no

oil

and

in Otor-Udu, has written

Shell operations' devastation of his village

comprise Udu Kingdom: "Every village

threat of oil spillage

is

all

that

village like a forbidding cloud.

about the

and the other communities

that

a witness to oil misfortune. If there

or gas well, then there will be the open-mouthed burrow pits used

for sand-filling roads

which the

oil

and locations, or the ubiquitous crude

oil

pipelines

companies prefer riding unmindfully above the ground

in a

dense network, thereby blocking off farmlands and water. The gas flares turn night to day and days to hell; while the heavy-duty trucks rumble

through the land." 121 In the for a

Ogbia Local Government Area of Rivers

State,

freshwater supplies

number of communities were disrupted by Shell's engineering works in

1993, resulting in a serious outbreak of cholera. Shelley Braithwaite, an Australian

environmentalist

who conducted an environmental and social investi-

gation into Shell's Nigeria operations in 1998,

samples from five Otuogidi, Aleibiri,

sites in

examined drinking water

the Niger Delta where Shell has installations—

Oruduba Creek,

Biseni,

and Ihuowo

hydrocarbon (TPH) contents. She discovered that all

five

0.01

— for total petroleum

TPH

in drinking

communities ranged from 250 to 37,500 times the

water

in

legislated level of

ppm for untreated drinking water within the European Union. 122 Wrote

Braithwaite, "Social investigations in the rural Biseni,

communities

of

Aleibiri.

Ihuowo, and Otuogidi revealed widespread discontent toward

Shell

Factors contributing to the complaints, while site specific, display a regional

accordance and

lie

with the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of

93

Where Vultures Feast the protracted and substandard quality of clean-up operations, and

oil spills,

the lack of adequate compensation." 123

human

In June 1999, Michael Fleshman,

rights coordinator of the

York-based The Africa Fund, also visited the Ijaw

where

underground

a sixteen-inch

Shell pipeline

village of

had burst

New

Otuegwe

1,

June 1998,

in

discharging an estimated 800,000 barrels of oil into the surrounding creeks.

The

was

trip

moment for Fleshman. He reported:

a defining

The impact of the

spill

on the community has been

devastating, as the

has poisoned their water supply and fishing ponds, and

oil

killing the raffia

is

steadily

palms that are the community's economic mainstay.

Lacking any other alternative, the people of the village have been forced to drink polluted water for over one year, and the community

many people had become

leaders told us that

some had died. The

that

the

spill

sight that greeted us

in recent

surface of the

still

months and

when we finally arrived at

was horrendous. A thick brownish film of crude

entire area, collecting in

Irri,

ill

oil

stained the

clumps along the shoreline and covering the

water. The

humid

air

was

thick with oil fumes. 124

Yenogoa, Diobu, Peramabiri, Kiolo, Odioma, and several other com-

munities



all

have, like

Otuegwe

next-door neighbor, and

it is

1,

tasted

what

it is

like to

not an experience they will

have Shell as a

recommend

to

other communities anywhere in the world. 125 Slowly, quietly, the Niger Delta

is

being mauled beyond repair.

Environmental Rights Action has always argued that the final analysis, tionship in

between

harmony

if

human local

ecosystems, and that the

all

ecosystems

human

ecological rela-

people and mining companies such as Shell must be

the Niger Delta

is

to return to the path of sustainable develop-

ment. By

its

think so.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, before he was murdered by the Nigerian

November

are, in

deeds these past forty years, however, Shell does not appear to

1995, had accused the

oil

company of waging an

junta in

ecological

war

against his people. Said Saro-Wiwa, "Thirty-five years of reckless oil exploration

by multinational

oil

companies has

left

the Ogoni environment com-

pletely devastated. Four gas flares burning for twenty-four hours a day over thirty-five years in

94

very close proximity to

human

habitation; over

one hun-

A Dying Land dred

oil

wells in village backyards; and a petrochemical complex,

refineries, a fertilizer plant,

and

aboveground have spelled death unacceptable."

oil

two

oil

pipelines crisscrossing the landscape

for

human

beings, flora, and fauna.

It is

126

For Ogoni read the "Niger Delta." And the Niger Delta

is

the world.

95

FIVE

Where

made a

[Shell]

Vultures Feast

of promises: the hospital

lot

and

toilet

houses were destroyed, as were the burying grounds.

They

pumped

and

out water

destroyed the

with promised compensation like

farmland

community and

sec-

ondary schools, a road to Nemhe and pipe-borne water.

But they

left

and

nothing has happened.

It

like

is

dreamland. Okoroba community

leaders

The Road Oloibiri

lage

is

in

November 993 1

to Oloibiri

usually depicted in Nigerian schoolbooks as a scenic pastoral

where

oil

was

1956. All you see

is

first

vil-

struck in commercial quantities by Shell in June

lush green mangrove, picturesque

little

houses, and

chil-

dren playing happily in the square without a care in the world. But there

is

nothing romantic or beautiful about the real Oloibiri. Said a British Petro-

leum engineer of the have explored for

village in 1990,

oil in

Kuwait,

pletely impoverished as Oloibiri."

Edwin Ofonih, a native. Ofonih

covered

found

found

oil in

at

fifty, is

still

oil in Venezuela,

oil-rich

town

as

I

com-

1

the government tax collector in Oloibiri.

remembers with

the village:"In 1956,

1

He

is

also

nostalgia the day Shell engineers dis-

was with my father when crude

eleven o'clock in the morning.

We

when

thought that

oil oil

was was

We are still depressed. The town is very tattered. Shell promised to

build schools and to

96

have explored for

— we people out here are very poor— we thought we would be mil-

lionaires.

year.

"I

have never seen an

I

make 2

a sea wall

Nothing was done." Forty years

because the town after Shell

lugged

is

its

flooded every

drilling rig into

Where Vultures Feast the village, extracted

all

the

other residents of Oloibiri are

There

is

no proper road

and

oil,

Ofonih and the eight thousand

left,

waiting for the promised riches.

still

linking Oloibiri to the outside world. Travelers

have to navigate their way through treacherous creeks and rain

There in

is

no drinkable water

in the village.

The government

forest.

hospital

begun

1972 has since gone the way of all abandoned projects, inhabited by

and cockroaches instead of patients needing British journalist life

was

like in

fers of Shell

who

visited Oloibiri in

care. Said Chris McGreal, a

December 1995

and the Nigerian government:" What

government.

ondary school."

residents or

its

little

is

has

come to the town

installed until last year

a six-classroom extension to the sec-

3

feeling in

all

the oil-producing communities in the Niger

company has subjected

Delta

where

them

to gross exploitation these past four decades, taking

Shell has

its

operations

from their land and giving them

when

dard response,

and neglect its, is

that

in

Company

that the

virtually

oil

it

its

oil

Shell's stan-

its

worldwide

prof-

revenue from the Niger Delta goes to the

shares just a dollar per barrel with Elf and

two other partners

how

away the

nothing in return.

an area that accounts for 13 percent of

90 percent of the

Shell to say

is

confronted with evidence of widespread poverty

Nigerian government, that Agip, the

what

by the grace of the Rivers

mains were] not

[Electricity

[1994]. Shell's sole contribution

The general

to find out

the village that once poured millions of dollars into the cof-

has been through the worlc of State

rats

in the joint venture,

and

that

"it is

not for

contribution to the national purse should be spent." 4

officials also say

it

is

not the responsibility of

Shell, a foreign

business venture, to develop the oil-producing communities, and that the federal

to task

on the question of poverty

in the Niger Delta. Said Chidozie

Okonkwo, community and

government ought to be taken

and neglect

environment manager in the company's Western Division, the business of a private

company

to develop [these areas]

get involved in infrastructural development,

ment's

it is

a

.

So,

complement

not really

when we to govern-

efforts." 5

Implicit in this

argument

is

that Shell

is

just

ness in Nigeria, handing over the bulk of the

and keeping to fund

"It is

another company doing busi-

oil

just a tiny fraction for itself, out of

development projects

in its client

nity leaders in the Niger Delta,

revenue to the government

which

it

goes out of

its \\ a\

communities. However, commu-

and indeed other watchers of the Nigerian 97

Where Vultures Feast oil industry,

company income

advance the counterargument that Shell

in Nigeria, given

earner.

They

its

not just "another"

is

preeminent role as the country's foremost

say that while they accept that the

company

is

not

legally required to

help develop the oil-producing areas,

it is

morally obliged to

plow back

running into mil-

lions of dollars annually,

the communities

where

portion of

a fair

toward the

this great

and economic development of

social

wealth

generated.

is

Shell officials habitually reel off figures

its profits,

nevertheless

and

statistics,

claiming that con-

company has

trary to the loud complaints of neglect in the Niger Delta, the

been contributing more than

in fact

area since

it

struck

nity assistance

its fair

1956, and that

oil in Oloibiri in

program

In a pamphlet titled

in

its

share to the development of the established a

it

"Community 1996" and issued

claimed that the company spent $36 million on

its

in Lagos, Shell officials

community program

1996. 6 In a briefing note distributed to journalists in the

Wiwa's murder

in

commu-

areas of operation over twenty-five years ago.

November

wake of Ken

1995, Shell also claimed that "the

in

Saro-

company

has stepped up support for the communities, in recognition of the lack of

development, and operations

now spending some

it is

on community

by the company's public

projects."

relations

7

$20 million a year in

These

figures,

its

area of

however, are supplied

department and have not been indepen-

dently verified.

Partners in Progress or Just Plain Parasites?

Perhaps a more that Shell

doing

fruitful

way of assessing the validity of the company's claim

and the communities are

all it

really partners in progress

and that

can for them in the way of development assistance projects

pose the simple question: Exactly

how much

is its oil

it is

is

concessions in the

Niger Delta worth to Shell annually, and what percentage of this does

spend on the

so-called

the

known

facts: Shell

ria.

Of

two

the

some 800,000 rian oil

community

assistance programs? Restating

controls about half of

million barrels of oil

to

one million

barrels

all

the

is

produced by

it

some of

concessions in Nige-

produced by the country every Shell.

8

day,

Globally, Nige-

accounts for almost 14 percent of the company's production, the

highest outside the United States. 9 Although Shell

98

oil

to

is

engaged

in oil

and gas

Where Vultures Pea Si production in forty-five countries, Nigeria alone generates 10

total profits annually.

it

its

how much is Shell Nigeria worth? own figures, Shell, along with the other two

So exactly

According to the company's joint

3 percent of

1

venture partners, earns a net profit of one dollar on every barrel of oil

produces

Of

in Nigeria.

and gives the

amount, Shell takes two-thirds

this

and Agip. 11 Based on these

as

own

its

figures,

Green-

peace estimated that Shell earns between $530,000 and $670,000 a

day, or

profit

$200 million every present the

rest to Elf

year.

company

as

12

These, however, are rough

doing

all

and corrupt government takes the

lion's share

Nigeria's indolent

of the results.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) General Ibrahim Babangida signed with the

and tend to

statistics

work while

the hard

oil

that the military regime of

companies

January 1986,

in

subsequently revised in 1991, offers a better clue to Shell's real earnings

from

its

Nigeria concessions. 13 Going

by the

ment between the government and the entitled to a guaranteed profit of

duced

so-called gentlemen's agree-

companies, the companies are

between $2 and $2.50 per

barrel pro-

remain in the $12.50 to $23. 50 bracket, and pro-

as long as oil prices

show evidence

vided they can

oil

every barrel they produce.

14

that they invest a

minimum

As a further sweetener,

companies are entitled to an extra bonus of ten to every operational year they discover

new

Shell

fifty

oil fields

of $1.50 on

and the other

cents per barrel for

with reserves greater

than the volume of oil they extracted. 15 Shell has been laughing to the

bank since the

prices have not

MOU

became

operational.

plummeted below the

since 1986. 16 This

means

that the

On

it is

In

1993,

it is

for the future

SNEPCO,

prospecting for

oil in

the

way

average, world oil

company, along with

true that a percentage of this profit

exploration,

all

stipulated $12.50 lower margin

been earning a minimum of $2.30 on every barrel of While

oil

is

oil

and Agip, has

Elf it

produces

plowed back

daily;

into further

good of the company.

a wholly

owned

Shell subsidiary that has

been

the environmentally sensitive Gongola Basin in north-

ern Nigeria, signed a production-sharing contract with the government. The

terms of this contract are very generous. 17 For SNEPCO, the government

reduced the petroleum profit tax (PPT) to a sions in deep-water areas,

and

flat

50 percent

for oil concefr

also increased investment tax credit

percent to 50 percent. Further, after royalty has been paid.

keep

all oil

production proceeds to

itself in

order to recoup

before paying the PPT. Petroleum economist Sarah

from 20

SNEPCO Its

can

expenses

Ahmad Khan

baa

99

Where Vultures Feast warned

that

SNEPCO and

new production-sharing

other

oil

companies

from the

that are benefiting

now poised to take

contract arrangement are

over

Nigeria's oil reserves completely:

While the

companies have continually claimed

oil

new

that the

production-sharing contract incentives are necessary for investment in exploration and production in deep-water acreage,

the government has been very generous to the

up the

initial

tranches of profit-sharing

that discovers only

would have

access,

one

oil.

oil

it

does seem that

companies

For instance, an

oil

in setting

company

large field of about 40,000 barrels per day

once tax

is

paid and cost recovered, to 80 percent

of the fields of production over a period of ten years. Given the financial straits that will

medium

continue to constrain the country in the

term, these production-sharing terms can be seen as a signing Nigeria's reserves

and future production

In dollar terms, this

not

tell

means even more

for a significant period. 18

activities in

who

is

elaborate

While

new

dollar per barrel

MOU,

leaving the

it

presents

its

at

earnings, over and

shares with Elf and Agip,

comes from an

in place to sideline the provi-

government with the short end of the

Shell has vigorously denied these allegations, a panel set

stick.

up by the

Nigerian government in 2000 has been uncovering a veritable can of

worms. The respected Nigerian Shell

it

mechanism the company has put

sions of the

to the conclu-

and accountants for tax assessment

the end of the financial year and that the bulk of

beyond the one

come

probably far greater than the figures

to the federal government's auditors

does

this

have investigated the

the country over the years have

sion that Shell's real profit

even

profit for Shell. But

the whole story. Nigerian journalists

company's

away of

daily

ThisDay reported on indications

that

was negotiating with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company over

a substantial refund.

This

is

how

such sidestepping works: A 1972 enactment, "Regulations

Employment of Nigerians," made

it

compulsory

for

all oil

in

companies operat-

ing in the country and wanting to dispense with the services of Nigerians in their

employ and replace them with expatriate

from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. the permission,

would

verify that there

staff,

The

were no

nel capable of doing the job and that the

loo

19

to first seek approval

ministry, before granting

qualified Nigerian person-

company was

not exceeding

its

Where Vulture s expatriate staff quota. Thus, while this law

impossible for the

companies, including

Shell, to

from the Office of the Petroleum Minister

all that,

in force,

still

however. 20 The

memo empowered

with the services of Nigerians in their

the

was

it

I

their

real cause.

companies

employ without

A

to dispense

clearing this with

them permission

the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, and also gave

s

January 1991 changed

in

oil

.1

virtually

do away with

and replace them with expatriates without

Nigerian staff

memo

oil

was

Fe

to hire

expatriate staff without referring to National Petroleum Investment and

Management

Services (NAPIMS), the

NNPC

subsidiary that monitors and

regulates the activities of joint venture partners.

Ademola Adedoyin, activities

of the

oil

a Nigerian journalist

who

has been monitoring the

companies, says that Shell and the other joint venture part-

ners have been flouting the expatriate quota since the January 1991

For the federal government, he said, "this

up picking up heavy

bills as salaries

January 2000, a Shell employee, plaint before the

"alleging that Shell

it

had

who

also

his

has ended

expatriates."

engineer, lodged a

appointment

In

com-

Petitions,

in order to replace

also alleged expatriate

21

him

quota violations

gone to court and obtained an injunction

from terminating his appointment until the House concludes

investigations

filing a suit at

and allowances of the

Emeka Nwawka, an

was terminating

against the oil giant,

its

double jeopardy, as

House of Representatives Committee on Public

with expatriates. Nwawka,

restraining Shell

is

memo.

and passes a resolution on the

matter." Shell

responded by

the Federal High Court on February 14, 2000, asking that the

House Committee be compelled to suspend court proceedings tive that Shells

were

concern

Mr.

Nwawka's

the

House Committee's

The case

over. in

allegations

is

all

action

pending

on the matter

in the courts.

until the

It is

instruc-

heading for the law courts was not to challenge

on

expatriate quota violation, but indeed to stop

investigations into this

Adedoyin further explained that the expatriate

and other alleged staff

violations.

22

earn their salaries in hard

currency paid into their accounts abroad, while they are also paid a living allowance as long as they are in Nigeria. This allowance

is

almost equal to the

total remuneration of their Nigerian counterparts. "The implication of this

that

government, as the senior partner in the

up about 60 percent of this

bill,

By the revised 1986 MOU, barrel sold, as costs. In reality, federal

government because

joint

or 55 percent in the case of Shell."

Shell

is

permitted to deduct S.'.SO horn CVCTJ

however, the bulk of it

is

venture arrangement, picks

pays 55 percent

this cost

is

borne by the

of the salaries

and emolu-

101

Where Vultures Feast merits of Shell's expatriate personnel, this further

who

boosts the company's profits.

way between

23

ostensibly

what

companies claim to be actual technical costs

has argued that easily accessible

means

difficult terrain invariably

Ademola Adedoyin has written

becoming

would

rise.

25

But

Mexico

improved technology and

rising progressively. This, according to him,

company has

more

to explore for oil in

that exploration costs in the Gulf of as a result of

It

Shell

fewer, and the

while the average unit production cost for Nigerian

efficiency,

operating

and the other

higher than $2.90.

that production costs

and the North Sea are nose-diving

been

reservoirs are

oil

is

Shell

company to company. 24

employ more sophisticated technology

to

and

Discussions are presently under

ranges between $4.50 and $6, and varies from

need

oil,

the government and the joint venture partners to raise the

notional technical cost per barrel to $2.90. Indeed, oil

produce the

means

oil fields

has

that Shell as the

the government in a viselike grip.

The higher the

production cost that Shell claims, the lower the Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) it

pays to the government. Also, the higher the production cost, the higher

the

amount the government pays

as cash call.

Energy economist Jedrzeg George Frynas has also argued that the control

over operating costs

is

probably the key to the understanding of high

He quotes

profits in the country's oil industry.

the

NNPC, who confessed

a former chief executive of

that "proper cost monitoring of their operations

has eluded us, and one could conclude that what actually keeps these companies in operation

is

not the theoretical margin, but the returns which

they build into their costs." 26 Noting that the operational budget in Nigeria is

decided by

Shell,

Frynas argues that the

company has

a financial incen-

tive to inflate costs.

The NNPC, tise to verify

as

we

have pointed out, does not have the technical exper-

the authenticity of these production cost claims. While

be admitted that corruption the

in

government

it

must

circles ensures that the bulk of

revenue simply disappears into private bank accounts of senior

oil

members

of the government and their hirelings, the ever-rising production

claims put forward by Shell and the other joint venture partners has put the

NNPC meet

in a

its

very difficult position



Shell claimed that the

NNPC owed

and production

Chevron

million,

102

now

it

finds

it

increasingly difficult to

financial obligations as the senior partner in the venture. In 1994,

and

Elf

costs.

it

said

a total of

it

$380 million

was owed $200

and Agip $10 million each. By

as exploration

million,

Mobil $180

early 1995 the total

amount

Where Vultures Feast claimed by the

ment

officials

oil

companies had risen to

$1

.

1 billion.

argued that they were prepared to acknowledge only a debt

of $400 million. Following a series of negotiations, settlement of $625 million and

before the end of 1996. In

was asked

(who has

to

pay

NNPC

agreed to a debt

this to the oil

companies

27

September 1996, however,

Daniel Etete

Significantly, govern-

Nigeria's Minister of Petroleum Resources,

since been replaced), called a press conference and

declared that henceforth his ministry would monitor properly and "very

thoroughly" there

cash

all

would be

call

claims by the joint venture partners. Etete said

established, in the office of the Minister of Petroleum

Resources, "a Monitoring Unit, which shall veto

debited to the cash

call

escrow accounts." Etete

panies would be asked to reapply for

oil

all

invoices and claims to be

also said that

licenses

all

the

new

under a

obtainable from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). 28

government was alarmed

eral

other

oil

oil

The

that the production costs of Shell

companies were ever on the

increase.

The monitoring

com-

guideline fed-

and the

unit does

not have the necessary technical expertise to verify Shell's claims, and so

NNPC

every year the

And NNPC's loss

is

is

saddled with huge production and cash

Shell's gain

Newswatch magazine

In an interview with

implicitly suggested that Shell

call bills.

— running into millions of dollars every year. and the other

oil

in

September 1996, Etete

companies operating

in the

country were shortchanging the government and people of Nigeria. Said Etete in the interview,'! have taken stock of our oil industry.

I

have looked

at

the nation's share from the oil industry over the years vis-a-vis the major

operators in the industry, that before me,

own

I

feel sad that

resource."

The

is,

the

oil

our country has not received a

share from

oil

its

had a

companies, government

offi-

not informed of the other assets accruing to the country apart from

cials are oil.

fair

minister explained that although the country

60:40 percent equity agreement with the

the

companies. From the evidence

Said the minister, "There should be other assets— fixed assets, and

equipment and so on and so ship with the operators,

forth.

But in this case of our venture partner-

we are not aware of all

these things.

The

oil

compa-

nies are the sole signatories to the accounts. Is that a fair deal?" Etete also

leveled other accusations against Shell and the other

oil

companies. He said

they regularly overspent their budget, as agreed under the terms of the

MOU, without latter to

the authorization of the government, and then turned to the

pay 60 percent of the excess. He complained

that

the federal

Where Vultures Feast government picked up

expenses of the

virtually all the

oil

companies,

including the coffee and tea the workers drink, and also the expenses for

which could cost

ing helicopters,

as

much

as $2,500

hir-

an hour. Etete asked

"How much do they [Shell and the other oil companies] invest how much do they take home? Let us be honest with ourselves. How much comes to government, how much goes to the oil-producing communirhetorically,

and

ties as against

amount of money they take away?" 29

the huge

As the 1996 Greenpeace report late

how much

the private

rightly concluded, "It

is

not easy to calcu-

companies earn on each barrel of

oil

Going by the revised MOU, Greenpeace estimates that

Shell earns

oil."

30

an aver-

age $500 million profit in Nigeria every year, of which $300 million

rein-

is

vested in the country and the rest sent to the Group's headquarters in

London and The Hague

as dividend for shareholders.

The Greenpeace

fig-

ures merely scratch the bottom of Shell's profit barrel, as the country's

petroleum resources minister has shown. The NNPC's inspectorate division suffers

from a chronic dearth of technical

claim that

spends well over the $ 1 .50

it

significantly,

also the issue of exactly

community which

it

calls

and "rising production

costs."

how much Shell spends on its so-called

assistance projects in the oil-producing areas, expenditures for

claims tax

relief.

These expenditures have not been independently

verified to ensure that the figures put out is

Shell's

company demands more and more money

from the government in the form of cash is

and so cannot verify

has been a major source of disagreement between Shell and

the Nigerian government as the

There

staff

minimum on every barrel. And this,

by

Shell officials for tax

purposes

an accurate reflection of what has actually been spent to help develop

company pays

the communities.

Then

munities for

and adequate compensation," saving millions of

"fair

there

every year in the process.

$500 million

emerge

cial oil

Times

1

billion

the foregoing

per year

is

Shell's

is

to the

com-

dollars

added to Greenpeace's

not too wide of the mark.

Shell's

It is

admission, the

from

claims that before

accounted for

is

1.5

it

its

company

ninety-six oil wells in

its

31

has, to date, extracted

withdrew from the area

percent of

wonder,

fundamentally a low-cost

strategic to the future of the group."

own

Little

chairman, would remark to a Finan-

journalist in February 1999, "Nigeria

lion barrels of oil

Id!

When

Mark Moody-Stuart,

producer.

By

the pittance the

a year, the true picture of Shell's earnings in Nigeria begins to

— and $

then, that

is

Ogoni alone.

in

Nigeria production,

634

mil-

Shell also

January 1993, Ogoni

down from

a

peak of

Where Vultures 5 percent in total

32

1973

And

yet

from

this relatively small

land area of 400 square miles,

over $30 billion worth of

ment programs

oil.

33

it's

Feast

community, with

a

estimated that Shell has extracted

Shell claims that

its

community develop-

Ogoni and the other Niger Delta communities date back

in

to 1958 and that

it

has increased

efforts in recent years

its

and

now

is

spending an average of $20 million every year (down from the $25 million it

claimed in 1994). Local

that

NGOs

in the area dispute these figures, arguing

between 1970 and 1988 the company spent only an estimated

$200,000, or just 0.000007 percent of the value of

Niger Delta, in

its

community projects

Clearly, then, the relationship

in the region.

between

it

extracted from the

34

and the communities

Shell

anywhere near the nice and cozy "partners ously

oil

is

not

in progress" picture so assidu-

promoted by the company's image makers.

Sokebolou and Other Tales of Woe Shell has

found the various

particularly

legislation

enacted by the federal government,

Petroleum Decree No. 51 of 1969 and the 1978 Land Use Act, a

which

useful shield with

to fend off criticisms of neglect leveled against

by the communities and other concerned stock response

is

that

it

interest groups.

pays royalties and rents to the federal government

amounting to more than 90 percent of the net

oil

revenues, while

pays compensation to the communities for the surface rights of acquired in the course of

damage, including

its

oil spills. Shell says its

it

compensation

minimum

has reason to believe that

including the communities themselves, are

The communities have countered sible

also

it

land

all

exploration and production activities, and for

adequate, over and above the statutory

government, and

it

The company's

stipulated

all

and

rates are fair

by the

federal

the parties concerned,

happy and

that these cruel

satisfied.

35

and morally reprehen-

decrees that took over their land and resources by force were enacted

by military dictators

who did not consult them, and that Shell supports

and

indeed profits from their collective misery. They also point out that even

in

such relatively simple matters as compensation for land and other private property taken over or destroyed by Shell in the course of they are subjected to humiliating treatment by

complain that more

company

its

operations.

officials.

And

the\

often than not, Shell has to be compelled b\ the courts

105

"

Where Vultures Feast pays these compensations, and then after long and frustrating

before

it

delays,

when

inflation

would have eaten deep

In September 1997 the people of

community

in the

western Delta,

company decided

a small impoverished

had

a court case that they

community compensation

Instead of paying the

took

won

with several other communities in 1988.

instituted against Shell along

fered, the

Ekeremor Zion,

finally

money.

into the value of the

for the loss they

had

suf-

to appeal to a higher court. Shortly after Shell

this decision, Nigerian soldiers,

armed

moved

to the teeth,

into Ekere-

mor Zion and razed the village to the ground. The community is still mourning

its

dead. 36

"We Are

Shell rarely pays Shell has

We Are Dying"

Suffering,

compensation

no policy

to

pay

fair

until

it is

Farah and Shell Petroleum Development this point. After

an

ernment of Rivers

compensation.

so.

And even

so,

Company

Ltd. in

1995

illustrates

incident in K-Dere, Gokana-Tai Eleme Local Gov-

oil spill

State, in 1970, in

twenty-five years for the plaintiffs 37

compelled to do

compensation. The celebrated case between

which

who

Shell

was

implicated,

it

took

took Shell to court to get adequate

Elsewhere in the Niger Delta the general complaint

is

one

of broken promises, development assistance programs that are abandoned halfway, and poor-quality facilities that break

soon

down and simply rust away as

as they are installed.

Yenogoa, capital of the newly created Bayelsa percent of the nation's

oil

and motorable roads, not even grid.

38

Since

it

opened

its

electricity

produces some 40 hospitals,

mains linked to the national

Utapete flow station in Iko in 1974, Shell has

extracted an estimated $1.5 billion worth of munity,

State,

and yet has no pipe-borne water, no

on the other hand, estimates

it

oil

from the

village.

The com-

has sustained losses up to $300 mil-

lion as a result of Shell's activities in the area. 39 Anietie Usen, a Nigerian journalist, visited the

wretched

community

oil-rich village.

in

December 1985 and

That shady village of

reporter's nightmare, the oil man's goldmine.

On October Ken Saro-Wiwa

and palm

trees. Iko, a

4()

31, 1995, shortly after the Nigerian military junta to death, Shell

spent what amounted to

106

oil

reported: "Iko, that

sentenced

rushed out a press statement claiming

about $720, 000

in its Shell East

it

had

Community Assis-

Where Vultures tance Projects, including Ogoni, between 1986 and 1993

NGOs and community

least

A team

41

of

groups comprising Ogoni Community Association

U.K., Civil Liberties Organization, Niger Delta Watch, Centre for Nigerian

and International Environmental Law, and Environmental Rights Action (ERA), however, visited Ogoni with a view to authenticating these claims

and discovered that they were to a very large extent exaggerated. 42 in response, disagrees that the total value of the oil

Ogoni wells between 1958 and 1993 when $30

billion.

The company has valued the

oil

it

Shell,

extracted from

is

taken from the area before

it

went

pulled out in 1993 at $5.2 billion, claiming that 79 percent of this to the Nigerian

Ogoni leaders

government

insist

on $30

its

pulled out from the area

it

in taxes, royalties,

billion as nearer the

and equity mark,

it is

take.

While

important to

note that no independent financial audit of Shell's Ogoni operations from

1958 to 1993 has been undertaken to confirm the company's $5.2

billion

figure.

All

over the Niger Delta, the complaints and grievances are shockingly

similar

— villages

and whole communities pining away

neglect under the intimidating the oil

Nembe people and gives them

naya, the journalist

shadow of

in

a bloated Shell.

poverty and

The

struggle of

away

against a monstrous multinational that takes little

in return

who

visited

began

in

their

September 1990. Obasi Ogbon-

Nembe and Okoroba

in

March 1994, was

surprised to discover that virtually every youth in the area had the facts and figures of Shell's operations in

Nembe Kingdom and

Ogbonnaya, "The people use these figures to

environs. Explained

justify their militant

opposi-

tion to decades of neglect, systematic impoverishment, pollution of land,

water,

and

air,

destruction of fishing nets and of communities.

In Okoroba, a

few miles from Nembe, where

well, the inhabitants are

still

,s

Shell also operates an oil

reeling with pain after the

company's dredgers

went through the village, ravaging economic crops and farmlands, destroying the

human ecosystem. Many families who

the following year. Shell paid a paltry the over six thousand people

who

two

lost

lost their

farms starved

million naira ($20,000). in total, to

everything to

its

dredgers, from food

to irreplaceable cultural artifacts, including the graves of loved

Ronnie

practically

ones

who

Siakor, an environmentalist and community worker

and works in the Niger Delta, was contracted by Living Earth based environmental

NGO)

Western Division operations

to visit

some

in April 1996.

The

trip

London-

(a

selected communities

lues

In Shell's

was sponsored

h\ shell

107

Where Vultures Feast International Petroleum

Company

(SIPC) in London, ostensibly to provide

Living Earth with background material for pilot educational development

NGO wants to set up in the communities of the Niger Delta in

projects the

collaboration with the multinational. Shell paid Living Earth $96,000 to

conduct the preliminary survey.

The

Living Earth survey

saw enough of

Siakor

was

Shell's

only a few days.

brief, lasting

Still,

Ronnie

"development" projects in Sokebolou, Ogbo-

rodu, Agidiama, and several other communities in the western Delta to

make him self-help

livid

with anger. Said Siakor in his report: "Shell

development projects

investigations

really Shell-help."

it is

tries to establish

communities, but according to our

in the 44

"The Black Hole of Corruption"

On

Sunday,

December

was planning

17, 1995, the

Times of London reported that

a purge of executives in Nigeria "following the discovery of a

payment of

'black hole of corruption' involving the

kickbacks to

tribal chiefs,

troubled Ogoni region." 45

community

It is

Insight

the international

Team

to

activist

beam

its

community what

millions in bribes

and

leaders and the military in the

interesting that

an eminent writer and political

Sunday Times tell

Shell

and

it

took the brutal murder of

his eight compatriots for the

searchlights

Shell

on the Niger Delta and

had been doing

in the area for

the past four decades.

Of

course, for the inhabitants of the over eight hundred communities

where

Shell has

its

operations, the

company has long been

associated with

charges of corporate corruption and double-speak. Steve Lawson-Jack,

mer head Division, his

had over the years perfected the

art

of speaking from both sides of

mouth, promising the communities development assistance

materialized.

The public

tions liability for his

relations "expert," however,

Lawson-Jack had offered to

($5,000) with him

in return for

audit

I

OS

split a

a

company

was involved

in a

that never

a public rela-

prominent Ogoni

500,000 naira contract

working to subvert MOSOP.

team investigating Shells Nigeria operations

that Lawson-Jack

the

became

employees when Saturday Kpakol,

leader, alleged that

An

for-

of Shell's public relations and governmental affairs in the Eastern

,( '

also "discovered"

$100,000 compensation claim against

for a nonexistent oil spill.

The managing

director of Shell in

Where Vultures Nigeria at the time, Brian Anderson, conveniently

tanced his company from declaring that he

its

I'

went public and

east dis-

image maker and government point man,

was considering Steve Lawson-Jack's

future and that

twenty other Shell employees could be dismissed. Said a "contrite" Anderson,

us

a black hole of corruption, acting like a gravity that

"It's like

down

the time."

47

all

(Anderson

is

pulling

denied the statement credited to

later

him by the Sunday Times concerning Lawson-Jack.)

One

where the company has ample room

area

where

sation claims,

most useful

ally.

it

to cut corners

has found the country's inchoate

While government

about ownership of land,

oil,

legislation

clear

is

is

compen-

mineral laws a

oil

and unequivocal

and other minerals, vesting them

in the federal

government of Nigeria through Petroleum Decree No. 51 of 1969 and the 1978 Land Use Act, there are no clearly defined laws guiding compensation claims in the oil

oil industry.

Going by the foregoing decrees,

mining lease by the federal government, and

is

Shell

However, the company

oil.

is

required to pay

it

explores and

and adequate

fair

compensation to the communities for the surface rights of acquired.

from

It is

spillage

also required to

pay compensation

that Shell uses

lawmaking

for

damage

all

land

that results

and other related incidents.

in the interpretation of the phrase "fair

It is

given an

not legally obliged to pay

any compensation to the local communities on whose land

produces

is

its

awesome

in Nigeria is notoriously slow,

tape. Thus, the statutory

and adequate compensation"

clout to exploit the communities. The process of

bogged down by bureaucratic red

minimum rates of compensation

set

by the General

Babangida regime in 1987 are ridiculously low. According to government regulations, Shell tree

it

expected to pay about twenty-five cents for every mango

uproots in the course of its operations, though an average

in Nigeria

has a

is

life

span of some

fifty years. Its

mango

tree

fruit

every year and

stem and branches are

also a valuable

today produces an estimated $800 worth of

source of timber, yielding an average $1,600 each

year.

Even

Shell officials,

obdurate and uncaring as they are, recognize that twenty -five cents lor

mango

tree

is

not a bargain, but plain robbery, and claim to have unilaterally

increased the government-approved rates in June 1992.

Government, faced with increasing unrest following

a

The

Federal Military

in the oil-producing

Ken Saro-Wiwa's murder, caved

upwardly reviewed the compensation rates

in

to

public

in late 1997.

communities pressure

and

Where Vultures Feast But what does pensations,

this so-called

when

the

oil

Shell,

community

nity

their

is

we

projects."

its

any case, the com-

— usually end up in

payment

for services ren-

people so the company can extract

European

all

Shell executive,

would go so

activities in Nigeria, "I

money on

spent more

development

'illiterate

company's

his

to? In

very rare

leaders as

desires without being challenged. Said a

it

Shell claims in

that in

down

holding

commenting on say that

— and this

they are paid

the pockets of corrupt

dered to

increment amount

bribes and corruption than

far as to

on commu-

48

briefing notes that "allegations that

we take advantage of

landowners' in negotiations are insulting to the communities," and

its

opinion the people with

whom

it

negotiates

were well-educated

and aware of their

rights. Obviously, Shell

be taken

because elsewhere in the same briefing notes

seriously,

edges that communities in the Delta area electricity,

does not intend

"still

statement to it

acknowl-

lack basic facilities such as

running water, roads, sewage treatment

opportunities for education and employment." British environmentalist

this

49

facilities

and have limited

As Andrew Rowell, the

who has written extensively on the communities of

the Niger Delta and their struggle for social and ecological justice, has written, "Three-quarters of

Ogoni cannot read or write and cannot understand

the compensation forms." 50

The present compensation process

is

very complicated, and involves

between affected communities and the

negotiation

polluter or purchaser through their various lawyers.

oil

companies

If

both parties

as the fail

to

agree on a schedule of compensation, the Department of Petroleum

Resources

the case, the its

expected to intervene and mediate.

is

two parties end up

in court. And

it is

If this

also

cated and often commit themselves to agreements

nities

fully

as

is

often

here that Shell comes into

own. The overwhelming majority of community leaders

they do not

fails,

are poorly edu-

whose legal implications

understand until they get to court. Moreover, the commu-

themselves are usually poor and in no position to afford the expen-

sive legal fees. Frequently they're forced to settle out of court, accepting

whatever handout Ideally, rates

Shell officials

choose to give them.

of compensation payable for crops and trees that are dam-

aged or affected by

oil

approved government

exploration activities are determined using the

rates

and such other considerations

as court judg-

ments, crop yield researches, and the reports of independent valuers com-

missioned by Shell

110

itself.

Procedures for compensation

are,

however,

Where Vultures Feast notoriously chaotic. Indeed, a policy

document written by

com-

a technical

mittee and designed to streamline assessment of damages due to

oil pollu-

tion has yet to receive the attention of the federal government.

It is

were

significant that as late as 1995, Nigerian courts

ments, as in the Shell

v.

Farah

mineral producing areas of Nigeria and a guide to sation claims." 51 their

own valuers independent

Given

these constraints

all

officials,

What

If

income from ever, as

to

in

employ the

— that

and inadequacies,

is,

where they

Shell,

compen-

services of

exist at

all.

supported by govern-

simply treats the compensation claims as

the communities of the Niger Delta lose

rigs

its oil

would

poor

companies

oil

light to oil

it

pleases.

Shell Left?

What would up

are too

delivering judg-

of Shell. Neither do they have access to the

of crop yield researches

latest reports

ment

The communities

still

beacon of

case, that "serves as a

also

if

Shell

were

today and leave? Nigeria earns over 95 percent of

export

How-

receiving an estimated $20 million daily from sales.

oil,

pack

to

its

Nick Ashton-Jones has pointed out, a simple cost-benefit analysis

indicate that rather than contribute to the social

being of the communities, the Niger Delta

is

a net disbenefit.

industry as

oil

52

Among

it

and economic

well-

presently operates in the

the direct costs are environmental

degradation resulting from pollution (offshore and onshore spillage and gas flaring),

the destruction of the natural hydrology of the area through the

construction of poorly designed canals to materials,

such

and the slow but

relentless

activities as seismic testing,

pipeline laying. There

is

facilitate

transport of

havoc wreaked on the ecosystem by

road construction, well

drilling,

the pollution of groundwater

is

sinking gradually

says an estimated

of sea-level

rise,

oil

which the sea

is

and

attention to the fact that the Niger Delta

operations. Citing a World Bank report, he

that the resulting billion.

soils,

effluents.

80 percent of the population

neighborhood of $9 nario in

by

drawn

also

due to

and

and

also the concentration of lethal gases in the atmo-

sphere, the introduction of harmful acids into otherwise fertile

Andrew Rowell has

men and

damage

Rowell paints

rising

will

have to move as a result

to property will

be

in

the

a frightening but very real sce-

while the Niger Delta

and quotes a report by community leaders

itself i>

subsiding,

in the area, estimating that a

///

Where Vultures Feast twenty-five-mile-wide strip and

the next twenty years.

its

people could be washed Into the

B€fl

m

53

With the advent of the

oil

industry in the late 1950s, the Niger Delta wit-

nessed an influx of people from other parts of the country— all looking lor 54 jobs in the oil companies. Thus, from a modest 76,000 people in 1952, the population of Port Harcourt, the chief city of the area, tripled during the

boom

1970s. Today

But the

tants.

"oil"

it is

oil-

a sprawling conurbation of over a million inhabi-

jobs are few and far between. According to the World

Bank, Shell and the other

oil

companies invest some $30 million

in oil-

related activities in the Niger Delta every year, but their initiatives to

improve the quality of "minimal."

in the oil-producing

life

and the other towns and villages have to

good part of which pled with

communities have been

Meanwhile the rapidly expanding population

55

is

in Port

Harcourt

and they turn to the

land, a

flooded during the rainy season. Overfarming, cou-

Shell's devastation

tivable land gasping

eat,

of the environment, soon

and devoid of

nutrients,

left

the available cul-

and the creeks and

rivers

stripped of their fish population. Hunger leads to anger, and the crushing

poverty and marginalization of the communities, in contrast to the resources that are rightly theirs, provide the trigger. ensues: youths against elders,

community

Shell;

whom

A war of all

oil

against

all

they accuse of selling them out to

against community, in competition for scarce Shell con-

tract

work; and communities against Shell and the federal government,

deny

that their actions have driven the

who

people of Nigeria into a dark, impos-

sible corner.

In their defense, Shell officials argue that

company

for the social

it is

not

fair to

blame only

their

and environmental problems of the Niger Delta,

pointing out that "Mobil, the second largest producer, produces from

shore

fields,

say that

if

and

Shell

withdraw from as

no other

ers that the

oil

is

is

many ways

is

'out of sight

and out of mind.'"

tional

112

also

people of the Niger Delta would be worse for it,

company operating

match

in the

invite

country presently (including oth-

from outside to take over

discovery of

oil in Oloibiri in

companies to the Niger

Delta.

Shell's con-

and environment standards.

Shell's health, safety,

right— but only to the extent that the other

equally culpable in the destruction of the Niger Delta Shell's

They

off-

"punished" by the international community and forced to

Nigeria, the

government might

cessions) can Shell

in

56

oil

companies are

human ecosystem.

1956 quickly drew other multina-

The

federal

government granted two

Where Vultures Feast Oil Exploration Licenses (OEL) for the country's continental shelf to Mobil,

(now Chevron),

Texaco, and Gulf

respectively, in 1961. Shell-BP, which (OML) on 15,000 square miles of Nigeria's given four OELs to prospect for oil offshore. 57 Chevron

already held an Oil Mining Lease

land area,

was

also

began to produce

oil

from

offshore fields in 1965, Elf (former Safrap) in

its

1966, Mobil in 1969, and Texaco and Agip a year It

could be argued that these

rowed

from

a leaf

adopted

Shell's

oil

book, the biggest

a lackadaisical attitude

the course of nately.

One

methods than

oil

that

oil

58

came

later

company

simply bor-

and

in the area,

toward the environment and the general

welfare of the local communities. use even worse

companies

later.

The World Bank has reported

Shell in the treatment of

production. 59 They also

spill oil

and

that they

water generated in

flare gas indiscrimi-

year after a storage tank in Shell's Forcados terminal ruptured in

1979, spewing 570,000 barrels of creeks, a blowout in Texaco's into the coastal waters

and

and the adjoining

into the estuary

oil

Funiwa well discharged 400,000 laid

barrels of oil

waste to 840 acres of mangrove.

It

is

reported that 180 people died in one of the communities severely affected

by the resultant pollution. Agip's Ogada-Brass pipeline regular occurrence since

spills— a

1988,

when

is

also notorious for

10,000 barrels of

escaped from the pipeline and polluted the surrounding vegetation. Mobil

is

also a culprit in this regard,

mated 20,000

barrels of oil

were

coming

oil

60

An esti1995 when

closely after Shell.

spilled into coastal waters in

the company's production platform located twenty-two miles offshore

(near Ibeano) exploded, also claiming ten

lives.

61

On January

12, 1998, the

twenty-seven-y car-old pipeline in Mobil's Idoho platform leading to the

Qua

Iboe terminal ruptured, spilling some 40,000 barrels of light crude into the sea.

The

spill

quickly spread, damaging fishing nets, polluting farmlands and

water sources, and triggering water-borne diseases villages

with an estimated population of one million.

two other ties

in at least

oil

companies, has also been

62

taken to court

twenty-two

Mobil, along with

by some communi-

because of a substandard Environmental Impact Assessment. Reenact-

ing Shell's State,

Okoroba

disaster,

opening the area up

areas to mix,

Chevron dug

a canal in

Awoye

to coastal erosion, causing

and wiping out

traditional fishing

village in

salt-

Ondo

and seawater

grounds and sources of

drinking water. Bruce Powell, an authority on the Niger Delta

human

ecosystem, described the resultant damage as "one of the most extreme 63 cases of habitat destruction " in the Niger Delta.

113

Where Vultures Feast Shell

does not have a monopoly on inviting armed soldiers and police to

restore "peace" in

Human

areas of operations. As

its

Rights

reported, Chevron called in the police after protesting youths at in Delta State

together in

blockaded

May

1994.

its facilities in the area

rammed the blockade and sank the boats.

Antiriot police

Obagi community, which accounts for 70 percent of

the

that they

which

had stormed the

Elf's total oil

tion in the country, the previous February, after the people

company officials

Opuekebo

with sixteen boats strung

a self-propelled barge,

The police deployed 64

Watch has

produc-

complained to

were not getting any worthwhile benefits from

taken from their land. Their spokesman, Professor J. G. Chinwah, was

oil

65 accused of murder and detained. However, for

falsely

sundry misdemeanors of these other companies,

it is

all

the lapses and

the operating

Shell, as

officer of the largest oil-producing venture in Nigeria, that sets the stan-

dards for the others to follow. Shell officials are therefore disingenuous

when

they raise the possibility of being replaced by other companies with

even worse standards. The question

among

the

companies

oil

Shell officials to treat the

is

not

who

the greatest polluter

is

presently operating in Nigeria.

about getting

It is

people of the Niger Delta and their environment

with proper consideration.

Would

life

come

to an

denly pack up and go, as

end it

for these

communities

has suggested in

its

if

Shell

were

to sud-

publicity campaigns? Let us

assume, for the sake of argument, that one immediate repercussion of the

company's departure would be the temporary resultant disruptions in

community

scarce cultivable land and other

immigrant population jobs in the facilities

oil

life this

and the

loss of the oil asset

would

cause. Competition for

economic resources would increase

who had been

as the

lured to the area by the prospects of

industry turned to other activities in order to survive.

abandoned by

Shell

were not properly disposed

would

of. Life,

also constitute a health hazard

however, would certainly not

if

The they

come

to

be shut

down permanently Attention would

gradually return to the long-neglected

Renewable Natural Resources sector

an end

if

the

oil

wells

(agriculture, forests,

Improvements

were

to

and fisheries)— the basis of

in soil conditions

and farming methods would be

ously pursued, and agricultural productivity

expanding population Let us consider, Shell

114

were

real sustainable wealth.

would increase

assidu-

to sustain the

in the Niger Delta. 66

on the other hand, the benefits

to operate in a socially

to the

communities

if

and environmentally responsible way and

Where Vultures

Feast

respected the property rights of the communities. The federal government

would

let

the communities have a

would be jobs turn

them

for

would generate

in Shell

fair

share of the

and other

oil

wealth, and there

ancillary industries,

would enrich the

social amenities that

which

lives

in

of the

inhabitants.

But

which

all

these are theoretical scenarios, and

Shell,

beyond

even now,

repair.

is

we are living in a real world in

human ecosystem

ravaging the

of the Niger Delta

As Ashton-Jones has argued, a proper cost-benefit

analysis

might suggest a net benefit or a net disbenefit, but the real test would be to assess

what

situation the oil-producing

had extracted

nomic

asset

all

the

damaged the environment, and departed. An

it

repair, leaving

generated

it

for so long

it is

not.

after the oil indus-

had crumbled. Said Ashton-Jones, "The

economic costs might be deemed acceptable

economy:

getting a

them with nothing to fall back on for sustenance, and

had powered

whole, remaining

eco-

— their land and rivers and creeks damaged

with a local economy disoriented and reeling with shock try that

in after Shell

would have disappeared without the communities

share of the wealth

beyond

oil,

communities would be

if oil

revenue was, on the

in the oil belt to create a viable agricultural

The

costs might be

was being invested outside

to

deemed

acceptable

produce an income

if

and

the

in the future:

industrial

oil

it is

revenue not."

67

Oppressed, repressed, and denied their property rights in turn, the

producing communities of the Niger Delta

which successive regimes insatiable vultures,

particular carrion

in Nigeria

and

have feasted, and are

would have nothing

denly to leave her alone.

It

has

its life

have become

living carrion

oil-

on

their foreign collaborators, like still

feasting,

to lose

if its

without letup. This

tormentors were sud-

to gain.

115

S

Ambush

I

X

in the

The sound of gunfire in the

Night

brought Maria

streets

Nwiku racing from her home. As she emerged, a bullet to her leg sent her sprawling. Two of her children, running with

her,

were shot dead. As Nwiku watched,

way into her house and murdered her elderly husband and their third child.

attackers forced their

Newsweek, reporting an Ogoni

village,

the sacking of Kaa,

by Nigerian troops

in

September

1

993

*

the Niger Delta has been the the dark days of From her by ruled by and men of violence have sought slavery to

present,

to rule

violence,

force. The area's substantial natural

proved an

and human resources have always

irresistible attraction for slave traders,

colonialists,

and plain fortune hunters

who

commodity merchants,

subjugate the inhabitants

through treachery and force of arms and plunder their resources. With the discovery of oil in the area in 1956 by Shell, the oppression and exploitation of the peoples of the Niger Delta entered yet another, and even

more

insidi-

ous, phase.

The Movement in August

1990

for the Survival of the

to put to

an end

Ogoni People (MOSOP) emerged

this

dark chapter in the Niger Delta story. In

the words of the writer and activist

Ken Saro-Wiwa, "The Ogoni took stock

of their condition and found that in spite of the stupendous

oil

and gas

wealth of their land, they were extremely poor, had no social amenities, that

unemployment was running less, as

116

at

over 70 percent, and that they were power-

an ethnic minority in a country of 100 million people, to do any-

Ambush thing to alleviate their condition. Worse, their environment

devastated by three decades of reckless fare

by

Shell."

oil

Night

was completely

exploitation or ecological war-

2

October 1990 the chiefs and community leaders of the

In

in the

came together

at Bori

and presented the Ogoni

Bill

six

Ogoni clans

of Rights, a document

they had collectively adopted two months previously, to the government

and the people of Nigeria. The right of the

Ogoni people

OBR demanded, among

other things, the

to self-determination as a distinct people in the

Nigerian Federation; adequate representation as a right in

all

national institutions; the right to use a fair proportion of the

resources

in

Ogoniland for

OBR

environment. The

also

its

economic

development; and the right to control their

emphasized

that the

MOSOP was a nonviolent

organization, and believed in the use of nonviolent goals.

Nigerian

means

to pursue

its

s

The Ogoni

are a "mere" 500,000 in a Nigeria with a population of over a

100 million people, dispersed

in

over two hundred nations and ethnic

groups. Thus the launching of MOSOP did not even register on the national

canvas save for a brief mention in some of the local newspapers in Rivers

MOSOP

State.

However, things began to change when

ber

1992, acting on behalf of the Ogoni people, issued a thirty-day ultima-

tum the

3,

to

all

the

oil

companies operating on

their

leaders

on Novem-

land— Shell, Chevron, and

NNPC— to pay back-rents and royalties and also compensation for land

devastated by

oil

exploration and production

orandum, addressed

to Shell,

demanded

activities,

or leave. 4 The

mem-

the following:

a.

Six billion dollars as unpaid royalties

b.

Immediate stoppage of environmental devastation of Ogoniland, with particular reference to gas flaring at Yorla, Korokoro, and

c.

Burying of

all

high-pressure

oil

Bomu

pipelines currently exposed in

all

damages and compensation

for

of Ogoni d.

Payment of $4

e.

environmental pollution suffered by the people and their environment Dialogue between representatives of the community, Shell, and the federal

billion as reparation for

government

The three companies,

like the

government two years

the demand. But they had not counted

previously, ignored

upon Ken Saro-Wiwa's

organizational

117

Where Vultures Feast genius.

A consummate

newspaper

articles,

publicist

and

who had honed

best-selling

his craft writing novels,

soap operas for the government-owned

television network, Saro-Wiwa, in collaboration

MOSOP

with other

leaders,

had quietly embarked on a mass mobilization of Ogoni men, women, and children shortly after the

innovations of the

whereby

sum

as

all

movement was launched. The simple but ingenious

movement included

Ogoni people, young and

the

old,

One

Naira Ogoni Survival Fund,

were asked

to contribute a token

an indication of commitment to the cause; and the formation of such

pan-Ogoni organizations as the National Youth Council of Ogoni People

(NYCOP), the Federation of Ogoni Women's Associations (FOWA), the Conference of Ogoni Traditional Rulers (COTRA), the Council of Ogoni Churches (COC), the Ogoni Teachers Union (OTU), the National Union of Ogoni

Stu-

dents (NUOS), Ogoni Students Union (OSU), Ogoni Central Union (OCU),

and the Council of Ogoni Professionals (COP), for which

MOSOP

served as

an umbrella. These ensured that the movement had a truly democratic, roots base.

grass-

5

Ken Saro-Wiwa had always believed in the power of learning and the pen as instruments to help bring

onset,

what tice,

he urged

his fellow

MOSOP was

really

about progress and social change. From the

Ogoni

about

to study

and to educate their peers about

— a movement for social and ecological jus-

informed by the finest traditions of African participatory democracy

and powered by the philosophy of nonviolence. Said Saro-Wiwa,

was intent on breaking new ground in the ical,

economic,

social,

and environmental

struggle for

rights in Africa.

We

believe that

mass-based, disciplined organizations can successfully revitalize societies,

"MOSOP

democracy and polit-

moribund

and that relying upon their ancient values, mores, and cultures,

such societies can successfully reestablish themselves as munities and

at

self-reliant

com-

the same time successfully and peacefully challenge tyran-

nical governments." 6

Saro-Wiwa 's ultimate goal was a restructured Nigeria,

functioning as a proper federation of equal ethnic groups and nations, spective of size, with each group free to control

ment and

also exercise

its

its

irre-

resources and environ-

political right to rule itself

according to

its

particular inclination.

The immediate task, though, was the strengthening of MOSOP, and even more important, the urgent need to take its case to the Nigerian people and the international

community and

find allies

among them. Saro-Wiwa found

sympathetic ears particularly among Nigerian journalists working in the inde-

118

Ambush

in the

Night

pendent press, of which he was considered a member. His talent for publicity

was given

free rein,

and

Ogoni people became a subject of debate the early

months of 1992.

traveled to

The Hague

MOSOP and the travails of the

in a matter of months all

In his capacity as

MOSOP

where he

in July 1992,

over the country, especially in

spokesman, Saro-Wiwa

registered the

movement with

the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), ter enjoins his

nonviolence on

all its

members. He

whose

char-

also brought the suffering of

people to the attention of the United Nations Working Group on Indige-

nous Populations

in

Geneva, and made useful contacts with international

environmental groups and business organizations such as The Body Shop International, based in

London, whose founder and chief executive, Anita

Roddick, had long been involved in campaigns such as in Nigeria.

On

MOSOP was pushing

7

January

4,

1993, approximately 300,000 Ogoni men,

women, and

children took to the streets and staged a peaceful protest against Shell's eco-

war and the government's continued

logical

self-determination and a stration

was timed

fair

right to

The demon-

to coincide with the start of the United Nations Year of brilliantly

incident of violence marred the event,

clear,

Ogoni

share of their natural resources.

Indigenous Peoples. This protest, so

campaign and

denial of the

told the military

marked

organized that not a single a turning point in

MOSOP s

government and the Nigerian people

in

new organization had entered also, now marked as the Ogoni

unmistakable terms that a formidable

the national political stage. national day, the

On

that day

Ogoni people crossed the psychological

signaled to the military junta and

them down

its civilian allies that

were now prepared

for over three decades that they

their destiny into their

hands and

barrier of fear

liberate themselves

and

had been holding to take

from tyranny and

oppression through nonviolent means.

General Ibrahim Babangida and the other members of the military junta

were

finally

forced to take notice of

MOSOP. A few

days after the hugely

successful January 4 demonstrations, the Inspector General of Police invited sion,

MOSOP

however.

would

8 leaders to a parley in Abuja. Nothing It

was

came of the

discus

apparent the junta believed that a few harsh words

frighten the leadership into giving

up

their "dangerous" enterprise

Saro-Wiwa and the other MOSOP leaders were summoned to the headquarters of the

was read

dreaded State Security Service (SSS)

to

them before they were

in Abuja,

where the

riot act

sent away.

119

Where Vultures

Feast

Unlike the military junta, however, Shell ties closely,

and

its senior officials

were

was monitoring MOSOP's alarmed to

sufficiently

activi-

initiate a

strategy meeting between executives of Shell Nigeria and Shell International in

Rotterdam and London

February 1993. Leaked minutes of the

in

meeting indicated that Shell recognized that "the main thrust of the [Ogoni] activists

now seems to be directed at achieving recognition of the problems

of the oil-producing areas by using the media and pressure groups."

meeting also decided that

officials

of Shell Nigeria and

The

Shell International

should keep each other more closely informed to ensure that movements of

key players, what they said and to whom, was more effectively monitored to avoid unpleasant surprises adversely affecting the reputation of the Shell

Group. 9

The first

real confrontation

between

Willbros, a U.S. pipeline contractor

MOSOP and Shell came on April 30.

commissioned by

newly planted farmland and laying pipelines farmers

was digging up

Shell,

in the village of Biara. The local

came out and challenged the Willbros workers, pointing out

that

they had not been paid any compensation for their land nor had a proper

environmental impact assessment been conducted for the project, as stipulated

by Nigerian

law.

A contingent

of the Nigerian

Army accompanied

the

Willbros workers. These soldiers subsequently shot at and dispersed the protesters.

A young man, Agbarator

Friday Otu,

was

killed.

Eleven others

received gunshot wounds. 10

Following this incident, there were spontaneous peaceful demonstrations throughout bros,

Ogoniland to protest these destructive acts by

and soldiers of the Nigerian Army. Calm was restored

Steering

Shell, Will-

when MOSOP's

Committee dispatched Ken Saro-Wiwa and two others to speak to

the people. Shell subsequently claimed that

it

had ceased operations and

pulled out of Ogoni because of public hostility to a single Shell

its activities.

worker was the recipient of "hostile

whose opposition was intended stand up for their rights.

bers,

to

acts"

empower

by

11

In fact, not

MOSOP mem-

their fellow

News that the oil giant had been "forced" out of one

of its

Ogoni

oil fields in

to

the

Niger Delta sent shock waves through the country's security apparatus.

There was an immediate national

were routinely made

alert,

in the security reports that

Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. Biara shootings,

120

and references

On May 7,

to "another Biafra"

streamed to Abuja from 1993, one

week

after the

MOSOP leaders were invited to Abuja to a meeting with the

Ambush

in the

Night

top echelon of the military junta's security establishment. The Ogoni were represented by Ken Saro-Wiwa, Dr. G. B. Leton, A. T. Badey, and Chief E. N.

Kobani. (Badey and Kobani, along with two other chiefs, were later to be killed

mob

by an angry

that accused

them of

collaborating with Shell and

MOSOP cause.) The junta was represented Mohammed Gusau, National Security Adviser;

the government to subvert the

by Major General Aliyu

Brigadier General Ali Akilu, Director of National Intelligence; and Alhaji

Mohammed,

Aliyu ers

were asked

Secretary to the federal government. 12

The Ogoni

to prepare a paper detailing their demands, a

list

lead-

of unem-

ployed Ogoni youth, and a summary of the relationship of oil-producing

communities and the

oil

in

other parts of the world with their various governments

companies. After the meeting, the four Ogoni leaders departed

and nothing more was heard from the junta. To

all

intents

and purposes, the

Ogoni demands had been ignored.

Seeds Shell

of Discord

was determined

to return to Ogoni.

The five

oil fields

were producing

an estimated 30,000 barrels a day before the company announced in 1993 that

it

had pulled out of the

extracts

from the other

were anxious

to see that the

producing communities press

area.

Compared to

oil fields, this

Ogoni

was

a

the one million barrels Shell

trifle.

Shell officials, however,

"virus" did not spread to the other

in the Niger Delta,

oil-

and so were determined to sup-

MOSOP and use this as an example to other communities who might

be tempted to tread a similar path in the

future. Shell set

about doing

this

with great cunning. Shortly after the four

Ogoni leaders returned from

Ken Saro-Wiwa embarked on

their trip to Abuja,

yet another European tour to

port for the Ogoni cause. While he

was away,

drum up

Dr. Garrick Leton,

sup-

MOSOPs

president, and the late Chief Edward Kobani, the vice president, reportedly

convened several public meetings

in

mid-May and attempted

the Ogoni people to allow Willbros, the Shell pipeline. 13

pipelines

When

the people of a Gokana village, through

were due

to convince

contractor, to resume laying

to pass, sought reasons for this

whose

land the

sudden about-face, they

did not receive a satisfactory explanation. They subsequently refused to

Willbros onto their land. Saro-Wiwa returned from his trip on June

let

in

1 .

121

Where Vultures Feast time for a crucial meeting of the Steering Committee, where

motion to

a

boycott the presidential elections scheduled for June 12 was to be debated

By now, however,

it

duced into MOSOP's

was

ter.

Bill

MOSOP

as reflected in the

of Rights, the June 12 motion ought to have been a simple mat-

MOSOP

officials

had been advised to shun party

politics

and the two

parties— the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National

political

Republic Convention tary

Intro-

body system by agents provocateurs.

Given the philosophical underpinning of

Ogoni

had been

clear that the cancer of discord

fiat.

The

(NRC)— that

General Babangida had created by

which the

constitution under

being held also did not reflect the

people as contained in their to boycott the election

bill

mili-

were

presidential elections

wishes and aspirations of the Ogoni

of rights, and so the logical thing to do

was

and thus demonstrate to the government, and

indeed the entire world, that

MOSOP

had no part

in yet

another election

charade whose results would only perpetuate the regime of injustice and exploitation they

were working peacefully

ment community leaders, according differently.

They wanted

Shell to

to overthrow.

Some progovern-

to press reports at the time,

resume operations

to participate in the presidential elections.

in Ogoni,

saw things

and

MOSOP

14

These men, however, ran into a wall of opposition during the debate.

Those

who

took the position that the Ogoni people should boycott the

elections carried the day. Attempts

were made

into rescinding the decision of the Steering

he would not be party to such an

act.

to pressure

Ken Saro-Wiwa

Committee, but he insisted that

A few days

later,

Dr. Leton

and Chief

Kobani announced that they had decided to resign their positions as dent and vice president of

MOSOP. June

12 came, and the boycott

presi-

was

a

resounding success, in spite of desperate attempts by some chiefs to lure the Ogoni into voting by sending out false information that Saro-Wiwa,

had traveled to Europe as

in the line

who

with his publicity and diplomacy duties

MOSOP spokesman, had asked them to vote on the day. 15 Afterward, Saro-Wiwa and the other MOSOP activists who

believed, like

him, that dialogue could only be initiated with Shell and the junta based on the

demands of the Ogoni people

in their bill of rights,

became marked

men. Guided by the resolution during the meeting of senior tives in

lowed everywhere by government and

122

Shell execu-

Rotterdam and London the previous February, Saro-Wiwa was Shell security operatives

and

fol-

his

Ambush activities closely

in

t

hu

Night

monitored. (Irene Bloemink, of the Amsterdam-based envi-

ronmental pressure group Milieu Defensie, has described cials

in

monitored Saro-Wiwa's movements while he was on

February 1994, and even followed him into a meeting

address Dutch environmental campaigners.)

how

Shell offi-

a visit to that city

hall

were he was to

16

The Ogoni leader had previously been detained by the military junta, in April 1993, on frivolous charges. Following MOSOP's success in organizing a National Ogoni

Vigil, a

candlelight event to keep the struggle alive, attended

by thousands, the military junta on May 2 enacted the Treason and Treasonable Offenses Decree of 1993, specifically equating secession with treason,

punishable by death. l7

became

It

clear that the

groundwork was being

pared for a major offensive against Saro-Wiwa and MOSOP.

was

arrested and detained, along with

Dube and Kobari belonging to to a

head

two other

MOSOP

MOSOP. While they were

in the

it

21 he

activists, N. G.

Nwile. Criminal charges were brought against them for

movement

in detention in Owerri, matters

by Leton,

as a faction led

resigned his office as president, attempted to restructure gesting that

On June

pre-

cease to be an umbrella organization for

came

who had MOSOP by

earlier

sug-

NYCOP, COTRA, and

the other subgroups. Leton and his group also leveled several allegations against Saro-Wiwa,

among them

and also encouraged and-file

that

he sought to

his supporters to

members of MOSOP

employ

"hijack" the organization

"militant tactics."

The

MOSOP's

Steering

Committee elected Ken Saro-Wiwa

dent and spokesman of

MOSOP

in absentia.

and on July

6,

elected vice president.

Shell's Cat

The Ogoni

rank-

did not see any merit in Leton's case, however,

Ledum

presi-

Mitee, a lawyer,

was

18

Among the

Pigeons

are a predominantly fishing and farming

community who have

always lived in peace and harmony with their neighbors— the Andoni, the Okrika, and the Ndoki. However, following the failure of the pro-government

community leaders

to "see reato "persuade" the majority of MOSOP activists

working son" with Shell, a plan involving security operatives in Rivers State with directives from Abuja was hatched to cause the guise of

communal

clashes. In July 1993, 132

mayhem

in

Ogoni under

Ogoni men, women, and

Where Vultures

Feasi

children returning from a trip to the

Camcroons were massacred on the

men wielding automatic weapons.

Andoni River by uniformed

In

August the

Ogoni market village of Kaa on the Andoni border was attacked by a troop of men using grenades, mortar shells, and automatic weapons. I\vo hundred and forty-seven people were slaughtered, and the community primary and secondary school buildings were set upon and destroyed. Even as

this grisly

carnage was going on, the Ogoni villages of Tenama andTera'ue, again on the

Andoni border, were ransacked and several people It

was

clear to

19

killed.

MOSOP

Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other

activists

who was

behind these unprovoked attacks. The Ogoni had no dispute with their

Andoni neighbors, and intent

their territory

on punishing the Ogoni

was merely being used by

for forcing Shell out of their land.

It is

forces

incon-

ceivable that the civilian governor of Rivers State at the time, Rufus

George, a former Shell executive, and the did not

know what was

of the Ogoni villages

members

Ada

of his Security Council

going on, but they acted as though the destruction

was just another communal

clash.

The governor set up

the so-called Andoni-Ogoni Peace Committee, headed by Professor Claude

Ake, to "mediate" between the

change of government soon General Abacha,

two communities. There was, however,

after,

who was

a

and the committee dissolved.

preparing to topple the Ernest Shonekan-led

interim national government at this time, and

needed

all

the support he

could muster, invited Saro-Wiwa to Abuja. Abacha claimed he had been fed

with

on the Ogoni problem

false security reports

would move Ogoni.

to

remedy the

He apologized

all

along,

and

said

he

and look into the grievances of the

situation

for the harsh treatment

Saro-Wiwa had received

at

the hands of government security operatives and ordered that his passport,

which had been impounded

earlier in June,

be returned to him. Back

Ogoni however, the plan to destroy the Ogoni had taken on a

own, nurtured by a deadly cabal consisting of some

handful of senior military officers and security operatives to confess that they Shell

were

in the oil

were used by armed troops

company's pay

its oil

124

a thousand

who were

later

Ogoni

villages

on

Bristow-owned helicopter that

production

sighted in Ogoni skies as these attacks

weeks of September over

A

its

and a

Boats belonging to

to attack several other

the Andoni border in September 1993. Shell usually charters for

20

of

life

Shell officials

in

activities

were going on.

Ogoni were

was 21

also regularly

In the first

two

killed in the villages of

Ambush Eaken, Gwara, and Kenwigbara.

An

the Night

in

estimated twenty thousand more were

rendered homeless. 22

who had been hoodwinked into heading Committee, now realized that other forces were

Professor Ake,

Ogoni Peace

was more

that there

to these "disturbances" than

met the

the Andoni-

eye. Thus,

the Rivers State Peace Conference Committee,

composed of

Ogoni and Andoni, was

in

tives of the

convened

hastily

work and

at

when

representa-

October 1993 to

broker an accord" between the two communities under the auspices of a

government agency, Ake dismissed

federal

it

to unravel the mystery" of the sophisticated

Andoni,

if

in reality

they actually had carried out the attacks on Ogoni

lages. Said Professor Ake,

there

is

realty

and called for an investigation

weaponry that was used by the

don't think

I

no reason why

it

was purely an ethnic

clash, in fact

should be an ethnic clash, and as

it

far as

could determine there was nothing in dispute in the sense of territory, ing rights, access rights, or discriminatory treatment,

causes of these

eommunal

broader forces

at

pressure

in

Watch team was

Rights

been part of the army contingent

at a

on

are the normal

added that he suspected there were

later to visit Nigeria, in the

According to the

who

wake

of the

admitted that they had indeed

that attacked

soldiers, their units

Ogoni

were

villages

from Andoni

instructed to assemble

point in Andoni territory and then were informed that they were going

a mission to maintain

peace between the two warring communities.

the way, however, the orders were suddenly changed and they were attack the Ogoni,

one of the Corporal

one

fish-

MOSOP agenda. 23

and interview two soldiers

territory.

which

we

work, which were interested in putting the Ogoni under

order to derail the

A Human killings,

clashes." Ake

vil-

clip,

who

soldiers

they were told were "causing

whom

the

Human

Number One: "I heard people but after the

first

shots

I

Rights

all

the trouble." Said

Watch report

shouting, crying.

heard screaming from

On

told to

I

referred to as

fired off about

civilians,

so

I

aimed

my rifle upward and didn't hit anyone.'The second soldier, who was part of a Nigerian contingent serving in the Liberia, also narrated

Cameroonian

attack.

how his

They were

they were actually shooting

Ogoni

villagers.

24

unit

ECOMOG

was ordered home

told to shoot

at their

Interestingly, all

peacekeeping force

on

in

ostensibly to repel a

sight,

only to later realize

fellow Nigerians— in this case unarmed

Ogoni policemen serving

were reassigned three weeks before Kaa and the other

in the area

villages

were

set

125

Where Vultures

Feast

upon by the death

squads.

And when

the attacks

commenced,

senior gov

know what was

ernment officials in Port Harcourt pretended they did not happening. Attacks from Okrika and Ndoki territory in

1994 respectively were operatives

December 1993 and

April

similarly orchestrated. In the case of Ndoki, security

convinced members

of the

community

to attack

Ogoni

villagers

over a land dispute that had lingered for years but had never triggered any previous violent confrontation between the two groups. soldiers took over, ransacking eight

Ogoni

and

villages

Then uniformed

killing

everyone

in

sight.

Two people from the Ogoni village of Barako told Human Rights Watch

how

they attended a town meeting in July 1994 and heard Lieutenant

Colonel Paul Okuntimo, nal Security Task Force

and

who was

at

the

commander

of the Rivers State Inter-

MOSOP and boasting that he

the time, denouncing

troops were responsible for the so-called

his

communal

clashes

between the Ogoni and Andoni. One of the men recalled Okuntimo's words: "You [Barako

villagers] are the

Then the Andoni

let

worst type of people. You

us know. So

Andonis.

killed the

we came and chased you people. After the

Andonis, you fought with the Okrikas and then with the Ndokis. So they invited us to chase

you people. So

we

are the people

who

chased you from

your houses and destroyed them." 25 Paul Okuntimo's punitive raids from Andoni, Ndoki, and Okrika territory, vicious

commandolike

military expeditions in

which thousands of Ogoni

people were killed or rendered homeless, were a mere dress rehearsal for

what was masters,

to follow.

Meanwhile, the chief enemy of Okuntimo's alleged pay-

Ken Saro-Wiwa, was

still

alive

and causing "mischief."

Ken Saro-Wiwa: Chronicle of a Death Foretold Ken Saro-Wiwa knew he had signed his bill

a pact

with death

desk one early morning in 1990 and wrote the of rights. After he and other Ogoni

when he

first draft

community

sat

down at

of the Ogoni

leaders launched

MOSOP later that October, he began to talk incessantly about death. A man with a keen sense of history and imbued with a great only too well what usually happens to the small guys

gernauts of this world. Said Saro-Wiwa, "When the streets, to mobilize the Ogoni people and

126

I

intellect,

who

take

he knew

on the

jug-

decided to take the word to

empower them to protest the

Ambush

Night

in the

devastation of their environment by Shell, and their denigration and dehu-

manization by Nigerian military dictators,

had no doubt where

I

it

could

death." 26 Like the great Nigerian musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti,

end

Saro-Wiwa carried death Shell

was

still

desperate to return to

on Ogoni

the series of attacks

villages

timo, the oil

company thought

about

an ingenious manner.

this in

Ken

in his pocket.

it

was

its oil

fields in the

Ogoni

area. After

by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Okun-

safe to return to Ogoni.

First,

And

it

went

Professor Isaiah Elaigwu, director

of the National Council on Intergovernmental Relations, a government

was convinced

agency,

supposed peace

to play a part in the

talks.

Elaigwu

arrived from Abuja as head of a "peace conference," ostensibly to settle the

dispute between the Ogoni and the Andoni. But this

peace conference.

On October

4, less

was not

document declaring economic

all

many seemed an

that the discord

(meaning

activity

later

officials,

Shell's

who

elaborate charade. 27 A

had been amicably resolved and production

should resume was presented to Ken Saro-Wiwa to

he

another

than two days after Eliagwu arrived,

an "accord" was fashioned, supervised, conveniently, by Shell played a prominent role in what to

just

activities in

sign.

He

that

Ogoni)

refused. When

presented the document to the representatives of the Ogoni, they

unanimously resolved they would have no part in Professor Elaigwus called

peace

so-

initiative-

Shell then unilaterally decided that there

workers back to work

Ogoni. Alarmed

in

was an accord and ordered

at

its

the sight of Shell workers in

their midst, the people of Korokoro protested nonviolently and asked them

to stop work. Shell officials sent for soldiers.

timo,

commander

of the task force, arrived with a detachment of twenty-

four military police in

youth, Uabari Nnah,

two

was

buses, and then

killed

Shell later claimed that

The ber

3,

it

witnessed the

killing.

who also threatened its installations.

truth,

however, was that the

many

days after Shell

was taken

officials

sent for soldiers because one of its fire trucks had

villagers,

Meanwhile, Okuntimo,

opened fire. A nineteen-year-old

and several others were wounded, including

Papa Ndah, a seventy-year-old man. Shell

been seized by the

On October 23, Colonel Okun-

fire

truck incident occurred on Novem-

officials called in

Okuntimo and

his soldiers.

who had sustained a minor injury during the fracas,

to a Shell medical clinic,

where he was

treated at the company's

London expense. This sequence of events was later chronicled by the he murder, 2* Saro-Wiwa learned of the Korokoro Observer.

When Ken

127

Where Vultures Feast traveled to Port Harcourt and sought an audience with Brigadier General

of the Second Amphibious Brigade,

Commander

Ashei,

diate boss. Ashei sent for

reportedly accused

Okuntimo and,

Okuntimo

imme-

Saro-Wiwa

in Ashei's presence,

him of accepting blood money from

s

Shell to

kill

Ogoni

villagers.

Writing about this incident a few months later while he was in deten-

Saro-Wiwa asserted that the Korokoro murder clearly indicated

tion,

complicity in the state-sponsored violence that had been visited

Ogoni since April 1993: "Shell denies

participation.

all

pany's ready cash overt actions." this

29

is

He

I

is

on the

always there in the background even

believe,

always

Shell's

if it

and not without reason, that the com-

at play,

goading

and

officials to illegal, covert,

did not know, however, that

Okuntimo was

plotting at

time to exact a most gruesome revenge for the Korokoro fiasco.

The Giokoo Murders General Sani Abacha eventually struck on

powers

Head of

as

aides, Lieutenant trator.

was a

One

arrest

of the

State.

November 17 and assumed

Abacha dispatched one of

full

his trusted military

Colonel Dauda Komo, to Rivers State as military adminisfirst

things

MOSOP's deputy

Komo

did

president,

when he arrived at his new posting Ledum Mitee, and Dr. Owens Wiwa,

member of the Steering Committee. Then, as Ogoni Day —January 4 — was Ken Saro-Wiwa and

approaching, he placed

under house Colonel

arrest.

Komo

He did not lift the

all

the

members

of his family

siege until January 5. Two

weeks

later

constituted the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force,

composed of the

army, navy, air force, Mobile Police, and State Security Ser-

vice personnel, and appointed Major (later to

be promoted Lieutenant

Colonel) Paul Okuntimo, a former course mate of his at the Nigerian

Defense Academy,

box

instruction:

who Komo gave the task force one terse

commander. This was the same Okuntimo

its

claimed to have acted in in the

Shell's interest.

Ogoni and subject them to the authority of the

Rivers State Internal Security Task Force.

and Colonel lem,"

and

The

it

Komo had finally worked

was

attacks

left

to

Okuntimo

on Ogoni

villages

to

Between them, General Abacha

out the solution to the Ogoni "prob-

implement

it.

from Andoni, Okrika, and Ndoki had

the land broken and bleeding. Fear and insecurity

128

were

left

pervasive, and

Ambush up

villages tried to set

local vigilante

tion they could muster.

sations of betrayal,

and

by angry Ogoni youths ded

to this

was the

a

few Ogoni

MOSOP

groups to offer what also accusations

chiefs

as collaborators

were

protec-

little

and counteraccu-

specifically pointed out

who were

working with

Shell.

divisive influence that Dr. Garrick Leton

Some MOSOP

group represented. the former

There were

the Night

in

and

Adhis

they had evidence that

activists said

president had been compromised by Shell, and they

rebuffed attempts by a handful of individuals to mediate between Leton

and Saro-Wiwa, with a view to giving Leton

his old job as president.

who

Leton, in turn, accused Saro-Wiwa of using the youths

NYCOP

MOSOP. 30 There was

to gain control of

belonged to

dissension, true, but noth-

ing so irreconcilable as to result in the senseless slaughter of Ogoni by

fellow Ogoni.

Colonel Okuntimo, however, interpreted these debates and dialogues,

normal

democratic movement, as "division" between the Ogoni

in a truly

leadership, and decided

he sent a

memo

Komo, on the

it

was the perfect time

On May

to strike.

12, 1994,

to the military administrator, Lieutenant Colonel

The memo, which was

subject of law and order in Ogoni.

marked "Restricted" twelve

Shell operations

still

times, read, in part:

impossible unless ruthless military operations are

undertaken for smooth economic

between the

elitist

Dauda

commence

activities to

Ogoni leadership

exists

.

.

.

.

.

.

division

intra-communal/king-

dom formulae alternative as discussed to apply; wasting operations during

MOSOP

justifiable

.

.

military presence

and other gatherings making constant

deployment of 400

.

military personnel

.

.

.

wasting opera-

tions coupled with psychological tactics of displacement/wasting as

noted above

.

.

.

initial

disbursement of 50 million naira [$500,000] as

advanced allowances to

officers

and

men

operations with immediate effect as agreed

for logistics to

commence

31 .

.

.

A meeting of the Gokana Council of Chiefs and Elders was scheduled for May 21 ever, a

at

Gbenemene Gokana, a traditional meeting, some Ogoni leaders, with

the palace of the

few days before the

ruler.

How-

Dr. Garrick

were afoot Leton in the lead, alleged that they had heard "rumors" that plans he didn't know to murder certain prominent Ogoni individuals. Leton said

where these rumored murders would

take place, but he found

it

necessary

129

Where Vultures Feast go to Port Harcourt to lodge complaints with the military administrator, who assured him he would "take care of the situation." 32 Ken Saro-Wiwa to

saw the

link

between Okuntimo's

claimed he heard.

When Lt.

Col.

others that

he was

memo and the "strong rumors" Dr.

Leton

He wrote:

Komo

[the military administrator] assured Dr. Leton

he would take care of the

saying.

situation,

He knew he had approved

Lt.

and

he knew precisely what

Col.

Okuntimo's propos-

knew that the Gokana people would be holding a meeting at Giokoo the following day, and he knew that an election period was as als,

he

good

were

On

also

a time as

any to conduct "wasting operations."

painfully lost

on

and

Dr. Leton

his colleagues.

All these factors

33

the day of the chiefs' meeting, Giokoo and environs

with government security operatives. Yet

when

a

were

mob emerged

bristling

seemingly

out of nowhere and descended on the venue of the meeting, murdering four of the chiefs State

— Edward Kobani, a former commissioner in the

government who had resigned

as vice president of

MOSOP along with

Samuel Orage, another former commissioner; Chief Theo-

Dr. Leton; Chief

philus Orage, former secretary of the

Gokana Council of Chiefs; and Albert

Badey, a former secretary to the Rivers State government

policeman or soldier showed up to intervene

prominent Ogoni community

leader,

they did not arrive

still

tee, also

first

the scene until

it

was too

late to

in

stop

Owens Wiwa, a member of MOSOP's Steering CommitHe too was ignored.

12

were

Okuntimo had

called

memo now accomplished, he and his men fanned out into

for their real target.

children

Significantly, a

what was happening

part of the "wasting operations" that Paul

May

for in his

Ogoni

murderers

hurried to the Bori police station to alert the officers there to the

situation in Giokoo.

The

at

a single

Chief Kemte Giadom, had drawn the

attention of law enforcement agents in the area to

the murderers. 34 Dr.

— not

until well after the

had completed their task and made good their escape.

Giokoo, but

Rivers

Hundreds of unarmed Ogoni men, women, and

homes as they slept or were driven Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was nowhere near the vicinity of

either massacred in their

into the bush.

Giokoo when the murders took place, was arrested that same evening. 35

The next

and declared

130

Colonel Dauda Komo called a press conference MOSOP was responsible for the Giokoo murders and that

day, Lieutenant

that

Ambush he had arrested "those

on May

television, broadcast sible for the acts rity

we wanted

to arrest." 36

22, that

Komo

he had directed

the Night

in

also said

that

all

on

national

those respon-

MOSOP leaders) be arrested, and that state secu-

(meaning

operatives were doing just that even as he spoke. Instructively, not a

single investigation

had been conducted

Komo

into the incidents before

passed his guilty verdict on Ken Saro-Wiwa and MOSOP.

From then on

it

was open season

force loose in Ogoniland,

where

and turned thousands into refugees. While

was going on, the

military junta

and death,

this carefully

planned slaughter

what was going on

in the Niger

took the courage and determination of Professor Ake, an interna-

It

tionally

let his task

cordoned off Ogoni from prying journalists

so the rest of the country did not realize Delta.

Okuntimo. He

terror, rape, torture,

for Colonel

spread

it

who

acclaimed scholar and Nigeria National Merit Award winner,

sent an urgent press release from his office in Port Harcourt, for Nigerians to

become aware of the

his press statement,

tragic

drama unfolding

which was subsequently published

independent newspapers and magazines, politically

tions

in Ogoni. Professor Ake, in

said: "I

have followed the cynical,

motivated assumptions of culpability, the mass

and blatant abuse of the

our national honor.

law, of the

in several leading

arrests, the deten-

person and rights of suspects and

have checked out the beatings. Ken Saro-Wiwa,

I

like

other suspects, was severely beaten and injured even before interrogation,

and

his legs

were chained together

for ten days

July 18, the respected Nigerian daily

commentary

."

37

.

.

A few

days

The Guardian published an

alerting the nation to what the military junta

on

later,

editorial

was doing

in

exceedingly perturbing reports have been

Ogoni: "For several weeks

now

coming out of Ogoniland.

Tales of a military siege, tales of uniformed per-

sons rampaging

at

night in the villages behind the veil of a deliberate

blackout and in the confidence that the nation has

moment."

The

team fanned out into

all

move to

stop Okuntimo, however. His mercenary

the 126 villages, hamlets, and towns in Ogoni.

Farms were destroyed, markets were regularly

burned down. In

all,

thirty villages

timo was true to his word.

dent

raided,

were reduced

and school buildings

to rubble. Colonel

He had "sanitized" Ogoni. He was

and graphic account of his

at a

bigger worries at the

38

authorities did not

chilling

far

news

activities in

Ogoni

Okun-

later to give a

after the

Giokoo

inci-

Nigerian Telepress conference in Port Harcourt broadcast by the

vision Authority:

W

Where Vultures Feast The

three days of the operations,

first

I was some detachments of soldiers, they will

knew where take

operated

I

What

coming from.

the town.

They

.

.

.

have automatic

about twenty soldiers and give them

we

machine gun with like that

.

.

I

will

Nobody

the night.

do

that

is

1

will just

corners of

sounded death.

will equally

grenades

.

surround the town

shall

hundred rounds

five

then .

in

just stay at four

rifle [s] that

hear the sound you will just freeze. And

very hard ones. So

will just

I

.

.

at

now

you

If

choose-

explosives night

.

.

.

.

.

.

The

open up. When four or five

open up and then we are throwing grenades and they are mak-

ing "eekpuwaa!"

what do you think people

are going to do?

And we

we don't want anywe made was that we should

have already put roadblock [s] on the main road,

body

to start running

drive

all

these boys,

all

... so the option

these people, into the bush with nothing except

39 the pant[s] and the wrapper they are using that night.

On

Botem Tai with ties

Okuntimo raided the Ogoni

July 7, Lieutenant Colonel a

detachment of eighty

village of

soldiers. Officials of the Civil Liber-

Organization, the respected Nigerian

human

rights pressure group,

chronicled the tragic event:

Then without warning, flying through the air

a running explosion of gunshots, angry bullets

and motor engines tearing through the

rent the peace of the night.

It

was bedlam

women and children

sleeping

for cover. "They" had

come, and only a foolish

on

as the

tracks,

mourners, men,

their laps, dived in various directions

man would wait for them

because not even the dead earn their respect. Within minutes, about 80 soldiers in uniform had arrived, riding in three

army trucks and singing

like

American cowboys going against

helpless Indians in the movies. A pathetic

and children and

symphony of wailing women

men in pain mixed with the angry voices of military men chased people into their houses and

cries of

sadistic soldiers as

the surrounding bushes, cursing, kicking, and shooting and slamming

people with the butts of their guns. As they did

and valuables, assaulting and raping

on children

.

.

.

One man heaved

to the military cantonment.

the team.

132

40

so,

they extorted

money

women and young girls, trampling

a sigh of relief as they drove

He was Major

Paul Okuntimo.

back

He

led

Ambush

in the

Night

were opened in Kpor and Bori and were subwith thousands of hapless Ogoni. Okuntimo and his men

Special detention centers

sequently

filled

women as took their fancy. Villages were forced to pay

raped as many

money

tection"

his wrath.

other

commander, and even then they

While Ken Saro-Wiwa,

MOSOP

activists

and deliberate their

to the

who had

pined away

"pro-

did not escape

still

a heart condition, and scores of

in detention, suffering physical torture

starvation, the military junta

was preparing the ground

for

mass hanging.

When word

MOSOP activists who had been driven under-

leaked out to

ground by Okuntimo about the

Wiwa to zation,

initiate a

plot,

dialogue with Shell

had always indicated

its

they

officials.

and delegated

Dr.

Owens

MOSOP, a nonviolent organi-

willingness to dialogue with Shell

and means of securing ecological and however, preferred to dismiss

rallied

on ways

social justice for the Ogoni. Shell,

MOSOP activists as upstarts who did not have When it became obvious, how-

the support of the majority of the people. ever, that

MOSOP was

aspirations, the oil

movement was in nature

indeed the sole and legitimate platform of Ogoni

company changed

militant

tack and began to claim that the

and violent and that

its

hidden agenda was

(by which they meant secession from Nigeria). 41

political

All the strands of

found then-

the evidence are not yet

in,

way

from the Ogoni Day celebrations on January 4

to Abuja beginning

1993,

all

but the

false security reports that

MOSOP

alluding to plans by the "militant" segment of

to

produce

an Ogoni flag and national anthem, were part of a grand plan to force the

hands of the junta into quelling another "Biafra" uprising. And one does not

need to go

far to

see

who was orchestrating these false reports.

In three secret meetings that Dr.

executive of Shell Nigeria

at

Wiwa had

the time, in the

with Brian Anderson, chief latter's

Lagos

home

in

May

through July 1995, Anderson insisted that the only condition for his "intercession" with the

and the other

head of the

junta, General Sard

Abacha, to

set

Ken Saro-Wiwa

MOSOP activists free was that MOSOP should call off the local

and international campaign highlighting

Shell

and the

junta's activities in

Ogoni. According to Dr. Wiwa, Anderson also requested that a press release stating that there

MOSOP put out

was no environmental devastation

in Ogoni.

Owens Wiwa, "Each time I asked him to help get my brother and the oththe out, he said he would be able to help us get Ken freed if we stopped

Said ers

protest

campaign abroad.

didn't have the

I

was very shocked. Even

if I

had wanted

to,

power to control the international environmental protests.

I ij

133

Where Vultures Feast Officials of Shell in

ings took place

London

later

admitted

between Anderson and

"quiet diplomacy" to

resolve the Ogoni

that, indeed,

these private meet-

Dr. Wiwa, but claimed

it

was

part of

crisis.

When details of Shell's "proposal" were communicated to Ken Saro-Wiwa out of hand, insisting

in his detention cell in Port Harcourt,

he dismissed

that nothing short of meeting all the

demands of the Ogoni people would

do. In

November, General Abacha

set

up

it

a Civil Disturbances Tribunal, con-

two government-appointed judges and a military officer, to try cases arising from the Giokoo incident. In the dock were Ken Saro-Wiwa sisting of

and Ledum Mitee, president and deputy president of MOSOP,

respectively.

Charged along with them were thirteen others. After a fundamentally flawed and unfair

two

trial

in

which evidence was given

that Shell

principal prosecution witnesses to testify against

had bribed

Ken Saro-Wiwa, nine on October

31,

1995, even though their lawyers had pulled out of the case, alleging bias

on

of the defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death

the part of the tribunal. 43 Shell has consistently denied the allegations that

bribed the two prosecution witnesses, but the

its officials

to date

produced credible evidence to substantiate

That same the

day, Shell issued a press

company withdrew from

was no longer

safe for staff

its

company has not

denial.

statement reminding the world that

the Ogoni area "in January 1993 because

and contractors to work there

it

in the face of

growing intimidation and physical violence from members of the commuSaro-Wiwa was accused of a criminal offense within the Nige-

nities," that

rian legal system,

and that

morning of November

MOSOP was

10, 1995, ten

a violent organization. 44

On

the

days after Shell issued this statement in

London, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Barinem Kiobel, John Kpuinem, Baribo Bera, Felix

Nwate, Paul Levura, Saturday Dbee, Nordu Eawo, and Daniel Gbokoo were

hanged fresh

in Port

on the

Shell

Harcourt Prison.

was

a Friday morning.

The dew was

still

and Okuntimo: The Devil Finds Work

Shell, after

denying for three years what everyone in Ogoniland

fact, finally

admitted in

authorities to help put

area in at least

134

It

grass.

two

December 1996

down

instances.

that

it

knew for a

had invited the Nigerian

the "disturbance" in

its

As Andrew Rowell, the

Ogoni concession British writer

and

Ambush environmentalist

who

in

Night

the.

has written extensively on the Ogoni saga, rightly

noted, Ogoni demonstrators were killed in both instances. 45 While Shell officials

strenuously protest that the soldiers they paid were not

still

who were

responsible for thousands of Ogoni

either killed or

maimed

beginning with the Andoni attack in June 1993, Lieutenant Colonel Paul

Okuntimo, commander of the Rivers

and a self-confessed multiple

company

to "sanitize"

has alleged that he was paid by the

killer,

Ogoni and

State Internal Security Task Force,

facilitate its

return to

five oil fields in

its

the area. In the course of a conversation with the environmentalists Nick Ashton-

Uche Onyeagucha, whom Okuntimo had earlier Ledum Mitee, one of his many MOSOP detainees, on

Jones, Oronto Douglas, and brutalized for visiting

June 25, 1994, Okuntimo revealed that he had been risking of his soldiers to protect Shell the

company

for not paying

oil installations,

him

as

from the Sunday Times of London

it

in

used

to.

his

and that he was angry with

46

Interviewed by journalists

December 1995, one month after Ken

Saro-Wiwa and his eight compatriots were hanged, Okuntimo that

and those

life

he regularly received payments from

also admitted

Shell officials while

he was

in

charge of crushing the Ogoni protests against the company. Said Okuntimo, "Shell contributed to the logistics

we needed the only

resources, and Shell provided these."

MOSOP member tried

acquitted:

through financial support. To do 47

Added

Mitee,

he was angry because they were no longer paying

He

felt

who was

along with Saro-Wiwa and the others to be

"He [Okuntimo] admitted he was being paid by

of his boys.

this,

as

much

Shell.

He

said

for the upkeep

they were not grateful enough." Mitee also said he

rewarded Okuntimo personally. Although Okuntimo later denied the statement he made to the Sunday Times, apparently under pressure from his superiors in Port Harcourt, Human Rights Watch was able

was aware

that Shell

to establish that

met

all

through the Ogoni

regularly with the

Force.

48

The managing

commander

crisis Shell Nigeria

representath 1 5

of the Rivers State Internal Security

director of Shell Nigeria at the time, Mr. Brian Ander-

company's involvement with Okuntimo When the matter of Colonel Okuntimo and his involvement in the Ogoni massacres was raised by the Sunday Times journalists, Anderson replied, son, did not expressly

"I'd like

stamp

it

to

deny

know if we were

out."

his

involved with somebody like that so

A spokesman for Shell in London, however, said

we

could

Shell Nigeria

statement did not authorize any financial support to the military. But this

Where Vultures flies in

Feast

the face of the evidence provided by

Human

Rights Watch and Nick

Ashton-Jones.

Fairly Brutal

"A

Person"

"From what I hear of his recent Shell's Brian

team

is

a fairly brutal person.'This

services had been dispensed with

tional outcry that greeted the is,

he

Anderson described Colonel Okuntimo

after his

brutal"

past,

wake

murder of the nine Ogoni

singular misfortune of crossing the path of

this rapist

of the interna-

activists.

however, an understatement, as any individual

how

Sunday Times

to the

in the

is

who

49

"Fairly

has had the

and psychopath

will

testify.

Before Lieutenant Colonel Paul

Okuntimo was redeployed by the new

military administrator of Rivers State to

Force, he

was second

command

in

which was part of the Bori 1993, he

Andoni

was approached

Military

head the Internal Security Task

of the Second Amphibious Brigade,

Camp. While

still

a

to coordinate the attacks

territory, cleverly disguised as a

"communal

major

swore to avenge himself on Ken Saro-Wiwa and

the

camp

in

on the Ogoni from

clash."

Oronto Douglas narrated

led the Korokoro expedition.

at

MOSOP

Okuntimo

also

how Okuntimo after

determined

but peaceful villagers foiled Shell's attempt to return to the Ogoni area: "He told us

how he nearly got killed at Korokoro last year and that he will never

forgive

Ken Saro-Wiwa

for that.

I

place and be chained legs and hands and not to be given

never see the

light,'

Nick Ashton-Jones, later

he asserted vehemently." 50 The

who was

unknown food. Ken will

ordered him to be taken to an

present

British environmentalist

when Okuntimo made

this threat,

confirmed Oronto Douglas's account of the incident in a

letter to

who was

asked by

Michael Birnbaum QC, a senior English criminal lawyer

the London-based International Center Against Censorship to attend the trial

proceedings involving Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other

MOSOP activists.

A good number of the members of the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force that the administrator, Lieutenant Colonel Dauda Komo, set up in Jan-

uary 1994 were former

members of

the controversial National Guard,

which General Ibrahim Babangida established rial

fore, the political

136

in the last days of his

impe-

presidency to help perpetuate his rule. The National Guard was, there-

arm of the armed

forces,

an army within the army, which

Ambush took directives only from the Head of

State.

the false security reports sent to Abuja,

was

and had army, it.

political

Night

The Ogoni problem, thanks

to

a dire threat to national security

undertones and therefore needed the

which "understood" how to

in the

political

arm of the

deal with such matters, to quickly contain

Thus were the members of the National Guard, who had been

rede-

ployed to other formations following the dissolution of the organization by General Abacha as soon as he seized power in November 1993, given a lease

on

life.

like beasts

And

to

new

Long starved of action, they descended on the unarmed Ogoni

of prey.

command them

there

was

Paul Okuntimo,

who

long before had

established his reputation in the area as an unpredictable and bloodthirsty character. In Ogoni, the people have a

he was to

live

up

name

to this epithet following the

for

Okuntimo: the

Giokoo incident

in

Beast.

May

The Nigerian Army, weakened and corrupted by decades of mediocre ership, a process that accelerated after General Babangida

Sani Abacha, seized

Okuntimo, who, colonel

at

power

in

August 1985, has

significantly,

was promoted

the height of the Ogoni massacres,

Okuntimo was

its

and

And

1994. lead-

his sidekick,

share of villains. But Paul

to the rank of lieutenant

was the lowest of the

neither an officer nor a gentleman.

He was, and

breed.

still is,

a psy-

chopath on the loose.

Other Communities, Other Massacres

On December

15,

1993, Mr. V. Oteri,

who was

Shell Nigeria's security

adviser at the time, requested an audience with the Inspector General of 51 Police to discuss "crucial matters relating to disruption of our operations."

The "matter" was permission

weapons

to

police)— at

to import half a million dollars'

arm the company's supernumerary least that

was what

police guards (Shell spy

Oteri stated in his letter to the police chief.

Unrest was growing in the Niger Delta communities not been able to return to

its

that the other oil-producing

worth of

Ogoni

oil fields,

at this time; Shell

and company

had

officials feared

communities would follow the Ogoni example.

the country Nigerian law explicitly forbids commercial firms operating in another from importing arms for their own use. But then, Shell is not just

company Under pressure by Shell officials, who warned that "the importance overemphasised, the of our organization on the nation's economy cannot be 137

Where Vultures Feast inspector general buckled and in July 1994 gave approval for Shell to buy

weapons manufactured abroad which obtained

via a third party.

copy of a materials

a

requisition

the Inspector General, revealed that the

ammunition. Shell

The Observer of London,

form submitted by

London firm XM

among which were 130

posed supplier of the weapons, submachine guns,

52

officials in

when

Shell to

was the pro-

Beretta 9mm-caliber

pump-action shotguns, and 200,000 rounds of

thirty

London,

who had

denied that the com-

earlier

pany ever made such a request to the Nigerian police their story

Federal

chief, later

changed

confronted with the evidence and claimed the deal

fell

through because the company was concerned about the growing unrest in the Niger Delta

and did not want to inflame the

had previously

Shell

dealt with "troublesome"

situation. 53

communities

in the Niger

Delta long before the instigated intercommunal clashes that broke out in the area beginning in 1993protest in 1987 and

When

demanded

tice of flaring

unburned gas

invited antiriot

policemen

claimed Shell

officials

showed them the villagers

Officer

not

into their skies, the

(alias "Kill

obnoxious prac-

company

and Go") to the

reportedly

village. Iko villagers

provided the police team with three speedboats and

direction to

its

Utapete flow station, where the aggrieved

On arrival, the armed team, led by Divisional Police Effiong, went to work, shooting and looting. Those who were

were gathered.

J.

B.

wounded were simply beaten

the spot.

the people of Iko organized a peaceful

that Shell put a stop to the

up, and in the case of

women, raped on

54

On October 29,

1990, J.

to the Rivers State antiriot police (the

R Udofia, Shells Divisional Manager (East), wrote

Commissioner of

same kind

Police, specifically requesting that

that terrorized the

people of Iko three years

before) be sent to protect the company's facilities against an "impending attack"

by youths

in the Etche village of

Umuechem. According

to Udofia,

he had reason to believe that the youths were planning a violent demonstration against Shell for the following day,

In truth,

march

to Shell's

sioner of Police

flow station

30.

in the area. Udofia's letter to the

Commis-

was headed: "Threat of Disruption of Our Operations

Umuechem by Members letter, "In

October

no "violent" demonstration was being planned— just a peaceful

of the

anticipation of the

at

Umuechem Community." Said Udofia in the threat, we request that you urgently pro-

above

vide us with security protection (preferably Mobile Police Force) at this location." 55

138

On

the morning of October 30, village youths gathered at the

,

Ambush company's ful

installations carrying placards

and orderly

affair.

Not

a single Shell

and singing songs.

It

was

a peace-

worker was molested. After the

demonstrations, Shell officials dispatched another military governor of the state.

the Night

in

letter, this

time to the

A copy was also sent to the Commissioner of

Police.

The next morning

a contingent of

chanting war songs, descended on

They opened

Mobile Police, armed to the teeth and

Umuechem. They

on whomever they

fire

good measure. By midafternoon

did not ask questions.

saw, exploding tear gas canisters for

several villagers lay

dead or bleeding to

death from bullet wounds. Hundreds fled into the nearby bush out of fear

them

for their lives. After chasing their base. But

it

slaughter ensued.

some of them

An

for the fun of

estimated eighty people were murdered in cold blood,

Over

as they slept.

villagers left to

it.

The

the government

1

who had returned from the bush unawares. A five

hundred houses were

hours the policemen chased

were no other

marauders went back to

was a trick. They returned just before dawn on November

catching most of the villagers

for several

for hours, the

judicial

kill

after

set ablaze,

domestic livestock

and

when there

or molest, killing goats and chickens just

commission of inquiry

to investigate the causes of the

that

was

later set

up by

Umuechem massacre found

not a single thread of evidence of violence or threat of violence on the part of the villagers and censured the police for displaying "a reckless disregard for lives

and property." 56

The people of Bonny have

for

decades watched millions of barrels of oil

pass through their land every day, to enrich Shell and other people while

they were fobbed off with endless promises of jobs and social amenities that

were never

give

them

kept. Following attempts

jobs in

its facilities

by angry youths

to get Shell to

in the area in 1992, Shell officials called in

the police. In the ensuing fracas,

two police vans were

slightly

damaged.

The police returned with reinforcements, cordoned off the town, and began to shoot. Elderly citizens of the town who were too weak to flee were wounded by the flying bullets. Others were rounded up and taken to the

town

indignities.

In

square,

where they were beaten up and subjected

December 1993

the people of

make good its promise to of the

to other

57

community where

significantly it

Nembe,

improve the

pumps out some

decided to take matters into their

tired of waiting for Shell to

social

$2.6 million

and economic

worth of oil

own hands. 58 On December 4

life

daily,

the youths

Where Vultures Feast

tion,

a peaceful protest, took over the

town organized

of the

company's low

sta

i

and held the workers there hostage for a brief period. ( )n January

made up

1994, a delegation visited

Nembe

of Shell,

OMPADEC, and government

1

5,

officials

Creek to dialogue with the community leaders. Nothing

came of the visit, however, and in early February a military occupation force was dispatched to Nembe. 59 The soldiers took over the town, where they

women

harassed the local

and threatened that they would "deal" with the

people of the community for daring to attack the Shell flow sion heightened,

on February 8 the

soldiers arrested four

who

they claimed had stolen an air conditioner from the

area.

They took them

to the

town council building and

charged with economic sabotage for trying to stop

According to reports, the men, one of

whom was

station.

men

in the

and the bottom of

said they

Shell's oil

be

would be

production.

a respected chief, full

knife. Later that evening, five

were

view of

set free.

The

soldiers refused.

hundred

demanded

angry youths gathered in front of the council building and their four compatriots

town

when he tried to escape, a soldier cut his arm

with a

his foot

opened

fire

on them,

hitting

that

As the unarmed

youths approached the building, intent on rescuing the four men, the diers

ten-

Shell facility in the

forced to the ground and beaten with guns and horse whips in the public. The chief said that

As

one youth several times

sol-

in the leg

and

on

bor-

another in the shoulder.

The people of Rumuobiokani, rowed

a Port Harcourt suburb, are living

time. Shell, they complain, has

been encroaching on

the years, quietly but systematically expanding

Rumuobiokani so

that

it is

now

stops and the village begins. if

60

difficult to say

This

its

their land over

sprawling

where the

camp toward

Shell

compound

would not have presented any problem

the villagers had received adequate compensation for the loss of their

land,

60 percent of which they say

Shell

is

presently occupying.

The immediate cause of the confrontation between the indigenes and the

company on February

21, 1994, was, however, the former's allegation

that Shell deliberately labeled their land as belonging to another nity,

Rumuomasi, on a map of Port Harcourt published by the company.

Subsequently,

on December

18, 1993, the

signposts in the area bearing the indigenes, this early

was

like salt

people of Rumuomasi defaced

all

name "Rumuobiokani." For Rumuobiokani

put into an already festering wound, and in the

morning of February 2 1 1994, they gathered at the

Port Harcourt and

te*

commu-

,

demanded

Shell

compound in

a meeting with the company's senior execu-

Ambush was

tives. It

a peaceful demonstration,

and

the Night

in

the villagers wanted

all

was

a

dialogue with Shell with a view to airing their long-standing grievances.

Two

community and public

Shell

Omuku,

Precious

relations officials, Steve Lawson-Jack

hours

finally arrived several

had been

after the villagers

singing and dancing and waving placards in front of the Shell

compound.

While Rumuobiokani representatives were speaking with the two

MOPO, navy and

a contingent of soldiers,

about thirty in

They were

arrived.

all,

led

officials,

numbering

force officers,

air

and

by Paul Okuntimo, then

still

a

major. 61

According to the his

men

villagers present at the scene,

that they should

open

fire.

Okuntimo screamed

They immediately went

at

to work, shoot-

ing indiscriminately, throwing tear gas canisters and beating

up

villagers

with the butts of their guns. Several people were shot and about ten people

were bundled

into waiting vans,

which then roared away. Human Rights

Watch spoke with some of the eyewitnesses

in

March 1995, and they gave

graphic details of what transpired that morning. A twenty-five-year-old

who was

shot and

wounded during

man

the February 1994 demonstration nar-

rated his ordeal at the hands of a naval officer:

When

[the

navy and police]

arrived, they started using belts

men. Blood was going out from

on

elderly

bodies. We, the young men,

their

tried

A navy man approached me when I was trying to elderly men. He told me that he will shoot me to

to rescue our fathers.

rescue one of our death.

I

was

afraid.

When

about one meter away.

I

tried to

He was

run away ... he shot me. He was

holding two guns, one long-range, but

it

me once in the stomach. The bullet passed through my body One of my intestines was hanging out so I tried to push it inside with my hands. My people rushed me to the

didn't

work so he used

hospital to save

the pistol.

problems. Sometimes I

shot

my life. I was supposed to spend three and half months,

but due to lack of funds

and because

He

I

get weak.

I

came home

after

one month.

I

am

still

can't trek long distances because of the pain 62

Rumuobiokani community leaders met with bloody incident, and the

Shell officials again three

officials

claimed that Okuntimo

weeks

after this

and

men intervened of their own volition and that Shell did not

his

hand

having

have any

in the matter.

141

Where Vultures Feast "Saro-Wiwa's 'Children'"

When Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni community leaders initiated the to launch the

wanted

Movement

to set in

for the Survival of the

motion a ripple

effect

on

all

Ogoni People

the other oil-producing com-

munities in the Niger Delta so they too could stand

demand

social

and ecological

Ken Saro-Wiwa's lished the

justice.

prediction. In

Movement

for the

idea

in 1990, they

By 1992

this

up with one voice and

was happening,

October of that year the Survival of the Izon

Ijo

true to

nation estab-

Ethnic Nationality

(MOSIEND) and presented the Izon Peoples Charter to the country. Modeled loosely

on the Ogoni Bill of Rights, the Izon Peoples Charter called for politi-

autonomy

cal

for the Ijo-speaking

people

in a restructured

and viable Nige-

rian federation, for the right of the Ijo to control their natural resources,

and

for adequate compensation to the nation for the ecological adversities they

had suffered ties

for four

decades due to the exploration and production

of Shell and the other

oil

companies. In March 1994,

MOSIEND

forces with the Ijaw National Congress, the umbrella organization of

activi-

joined all Ijo-

speaking people in the country, to further articulate their demands and pursue their objectives through nonviolent means. 63

Elsewhere in the Niger Delta the

Oloibiri,

where

MOSOP initiative had fired the imagina-

community of forty-five

tion of youths in Ogbia, a

villages,

one of which

commercial quantities

Shell first struck oil in

people of the community are not happy with their present

and

billions of dollars later,

poverty,

and neither

Shell

they are

still

in 1956.

lot.

is

The

Forty years

trapped in the vicious cycle of

nor the federal government has done anything

tangible to redress this injustice. Said Princess Irene Amangala, daughter

and granddaughter of two previous kings of Ogbia, "People because the companies took our with nothing."

oil for

call

us fools

other people to enjoy and

left

us

64

One month after MOSIEND presented the Izon Peoples Charter, in November 1992, the people of Ogbia community gathered in the "historic" village of Oloibiri

and launched their

own

charter.

They demanded the

immediate repeal of the various legislation giving the federal government authority over revenue allocation;

cent of the profits from

oil

payment of

rents, royalties,

and 50 per-

extracted from their land; compensation for

environmental damage; greater representation in national institutions; greater

142

employment of Ogbia indigenes

in the oil industry

and national

Ambush on Ogbia

agencies; a halt to gas flaring oil

in

the Ni^ht

lands; the burying of high-pressure

pipelines at least five feet belowground and away from residential build-

ings;

and greater shore protection and erosion

control.

The Council

for

Ikwerre Nationality was established in 1993 to articulate the demands of the

community in

Realizing there

a

new federation based on justice and fairness. 65

was

great advantage to be derived in unity, networking,

and proper coordination of

their activities, the various oil

came together with other minority Rivers,

Akwa Ibom, and Edo

communities

ethnic groups in Rivers, Delta, Cross

states— twenty-eight ethnic groups in all— to

form the Southern Minorities Movement. Over ten thousand youths across the Niger Delta gathered in Aleibiri village in Bayelsa State on August 18

new anti-oil-spillage pressure

1997, and launched the Chikoko Movement, a

group. 66 Shell

is

also coordinating

and neutralize

show no

this

first

drew

near, over three

were

They have made

their choice, taken their

Ken Saro-Wiwa and

the Ogoni eight

were redeployed from other to various parts of the Niger

Omoku, Ahoada,

Elele,

and Ogoni. All policemen of Ogoni

newly created Bayelsa

State, in a

put them in a place where they could be easily monitored. crack police officers was also stationed

where the Ogoni nine were

of the

buried.

called for quiet

November 10

and song, and night

1996, as

antiriot police

also redeployed to the

MOSOP had

in line

and distributed

thousand

parts of Nigeria to Rivers State

origin

keep the communities

own hands. It is justice or death. On November 6,

anniversary of the murder of

Delta, including

to

"undue" environmental awareness. But the communities

sign of buckling under.

destiny into their

the

its activities

at

A

move to

unit of fifty

the Port Harcourt cemetery

67

and peaceful observation of the anniversary

executions, and a weeklong program of fasting, prayer vigils. Shell

and government

however, and Major Obi Umahi,

who had

officials

were

still

edgy.

taken over from Lieutenant

Colonel Paul Okuntimo as head of the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force, went on a rampage through Ogoni, threatening and warning people not to carry out any activity to commemorate the hangings. Members of the Niger Delta Human and Environmental Resources Organization

(NDHERO),

a pressure group,

were harassed and

their

homes

in Port Har-

court looted by security operatives. The organization's president. Robert

was declared wanted. On Monday, November 11, soldiers of the and Security Task Force raided Bane, hometown of Ken Saro-Wiwa,

Azibaola, Internal

Feast

Where Vultures raped several

women

men

and tortured

came

they

across.

The following

morning they shot dead Barida Naaku, an Ogoni indigene in Port Harcouri The harassment, torture, rape, and murder of MOSOP activists and ordinary Ogoni

alike

by security operatives during the Ogoni National Day celebra-

tions has since

Killing

become

a yearly ritual.

Kaiama

new who were now not only openly challenging

Faced with an increasingly restive Niger Delta, and the emergence of a generation of educated youths

corrupt chiefs and community leaders, but were also successfully mobilizing their communities to resist the

companies, the Abacha junta estab-

oil

lished a

new security outfit, Operation Salvage, in August

Salvage

was charged with the

where the bulk of

1997. 68 Operation

task of "taming" youths in Bayelsa State,

Shell's installations

were

located. In Rivers State, yet

another security task force, Operation Flush, was set up by the military administrator, ers

who

declared that he had obtained special emergency pow-

from Aso Rock (General Abacha 's

capital) to "deal ruthlessly

December 1997, the Bayelsa State

with economic saboteurs." Four months

junta, claiming

was becoming

began to put together

it

had received security reports

establishment of a

State,

was

It

new

National Coast Guard, "comprising the army, navy,

and customs, to ensure uninterrupted economic

clear to environmental

was preparing

and

political activists in the

largest ethnic group,

and

oil

it

Ijo

people, Nigeria's fourth-

whose land and creeks supplied over

output, lived.

insisting that

Niger Delta

to launch another Ogonilike operation, this

time in Bayelsa State, where the bulk of the

crude

when he "suggested" the

the oil-producing communities.

that the junta

daily

another key oil-producing

massive military operation the

to launch in the Niger Delta

air force, antiriot police,

activities" in

that

a plan to establish a naval base in the area. In April

1998 the military administrator of Delta

was preparing

later, in

increasingly unsafe for the oil companies,

area, unwittingly revealed the details of the

junta

headquarters in the federal

fortified

A

fully

mobilized

half of Shell's

Ijo nation, pulling

together

had had enough of economic exploitation and environ-

mental devastation, would make MOSOP's face-off with Shell in Ogoni seem

144

Ambush like a

minor problem. The

military regime

Something had to be done, and

and the

among

companies knew

this.

urgently.

The sudden death of General Abacha struggle

oil

the Ni^ht

in

in

June 1998, and the ensuing

senior army officers to replace him, delayed the operation.

But not for long. In November, Abachas successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, ordered the deployment to the Niger Delta of battle-tested troops returning from peacekeeping duties in war-torn Sierra Leone. The navy also put

on

youths were

Ijo

that

and steps were taken to equip

alert,

fully

was being put

it

for a

was

major offensive. 69

aware of the military buildup and the ring of

in place to encircle the Niger Delta,

steel

but that did not

deter them.

On December announced

11,

1998, six days after a government radio station

had concluded plans

that the military regime

to build a naval

base in Yenogoa, the Bayelsa State capital, over five thousand youths, drawn

from the

hundred communities and

five

nation, gathered in

adopted the

now

Kaiama

historic

village, established

Ijo life

was

was mainly about the

the Ijaw Youth Council, and

oil

visited

on the

companies; that the

main gas

political crisis in

damage done

to our

due

in the

environment and to the health of our people

to uncontrolled exploration and exploitation of crude

which has

up of our

nation by the

Ijo

struggle for the control of the oil wealth of

the people of the Niger Delta; and that "the unabating fragile natural

led to

the Ijo

deteriorating as a result of utter

and marginalization

Nigerian state and the Western Nigeria

make up

Kaiama Declaration. 70 The Kaiama Declaration

charged that the quality of neglect, suppression,

forty clans that

numerous

spills,

is

oil

and natural

uncontrolled gas flaring, the opening

forests to loggers, indiscriminate canalization, flooding, land sub-

71 sidence, coastal erosion, and earth tremors."

Asserting that

all

land and natural resources within

Ijo territory

belonged

to the Ijo communities and were the basis of their survival, the youths

declared that the IYC had ceased to recognize "all undemocratic decrees that

rob our people/communities of the right to ownership and control of our lives and resources, which were enacted without our participation and con-

demanded "the immediate withdrawal from Ijoland of all military of occupation and repression by the Nigerian state. Any oil company

sent."They forces that

employs the services of the armed forces of the Nigerian

tect' its

operations will be viewed as an

state to pro-

enemy of the Ijo people." Stating

that

145

Where Vultures Feast youths in

Ijo

steps to

all

the various clans comprising the

would

nation

panies stop

IYC demanded

all

exploration and exploitation

tired of gas flaring, oil spillage, blowouts, terrorists. It is a

this labeling.

that

we

advise

Ijo territories

all oil

30, 1998,

alley

dark night three days

reject

pending the resolution Ijo

area of the

later,

streets of Port Harcourt.

and warned him to leave the

back down,

it

oil

was meant

failed abysmally.

They edged him

companies alone "or blood

into an

will flow."

and sped off before Tuodolor could

into a waiting car

identify them. 73 If this

an environmentalist and

Felix Tuodolor,

behind the Kaima Declaration, was waylaid by

spirits

masked men on the

The men jumped

to

We

72

one of the moving three

are

and contractors to

staff

of the issue of resource ownership and control in the

Niger Delta."

com-

We

and being labeled saboteurs and

companies'

by December

as the

"all oil

activities in the Ijo area.

case of preparing the noose for our hanging.

Hence,

withdraw from

One

take the

implement these resolutions beginning December 30, 1998,

step toward reclaiming their lives, the

first

[jo

and force them

to intimidate the youths

On December

28 the

Ijo

Youth Council

unfolded plans for "Operation Climate Change," a series of activities designed to raise environmental awareness the

first

all

over the

and tenth of January 1999, culminating

whose objective would be

Ijo

nation between

in nonviolent direct action

to put out the gas flares that

were polluting their

environment.

As a vehicle for nonviolent protest, Operation Climate Change was uniquely designed. Tapping the veins of

Ijo culture,

it

sought to bring the

pains and travails of the people to national attention through the "Ogele," a traditional Ijo

dance where

the erring, heal the

stories, song,

wounds

and mime are deployed to chastise

of the injured, and invoke the spirit of the

ancestors to cleanse the land in a festive atmosphere of drink and merri-

ment. 74 In truth, Operation Climate Change was not so

provoke the authorities and the

oil

much an attempt to

companies— as the

junta

claim— as it was a festival of cleansing and regeneration. But on

a military regime that

and

their

had long ago

way of life, and preferred to

lost

touch with the

all

was

later to

this

was lost

common people

see "subversion" even in something as

sublime as a song urging humankind to protect the earth and her manifold bounties.

On the morning of December 30, the day marked by the Kaiama Declaration as the

146

commencement of activities

to

implement

its

resolutions,

young

Ambush

in the

Nij»ht

women and men all over the Ijo nation trooped out to the streets and village squares in the thousands to dance and sing and voice out their grievances.

They were not armed. They were not In a letter dispatched to

all Ijo

and clans on December

Youth Council had emphasized the need ation Climate

was obeyed

What that the

Change

festivities to

They did not molest anybody.

violent.

villages

be peaceful, courteous, and

orderly. This

to the letter.

the youths did not

know was that the military authorities, realizing

Kaiama Declaration was not

quietly in the

just

was determined

the Ijo Youth Council

another piece of paper and that

implement

to

its

resolutions,

moved

dead of night to deploy several thousand troops into the

area of the Niger Delta

agency, reported that

on December 28 and

two warships and

sent to the area. 75 In Bomadi, a key Ijo

29. Reuters, the British

fifteen

town

the revelers in the Ogele dance, telling

Ijo

news

thousand soldiers had been

in the

western Delta, the

tary administrator of Delta State, a naval captain, played ignorant

them

that the

aware of their plight and was taking steps to address that

28, the Ijo

for participants in the Ogele/Oper-

and joined

government was

He

it.

mili-

did not

enormous firepower had been ranged on Yenogoa, the

tell

them

capital of

Bayelsa State and the heart of the Ijo nation.

As the youths, dressed lated

and danced

in black

in the early

and carrying

morning of

station

was

candles as they sang, ulu-

that fateful day

Yenogoa, violence and sudden death was the

Yenogoa police

lit

last

quiet as they passed,

thing still

on

on the

streets of

their minds.

However, as they neared Creek Haven, home and headquarters of the tary administrator, an

army

The

singing and dancing. mili-

colonel, a barrage of machine-gun fire cut a

bloody path through them. As the dead

began to scream, tear gas canisters

hit the

ground and the wounded

sailed into the

air,

suffocating them. In

the ensuing melee, a second group of soldiers rushed to the gate of Creek

Haven

to reinforce the machine-gun

team with

rifles,

shooting indiscrimi-

who were now scattered in all directions. As the three youths— Amy Igbila, nineteen; Engineer Frank,

nately into the dancers,

gun smoke

cleared,

"

Goodluck Wong, twenty-nine— lay dead in the street wounds. Thirty of the dancers, among them several youths who had serious station police the were thrown into the back of army trucks and taken to twenty-eight; and

The

others,

who were

from lucky to escape, regrouped some distance

among Creek Haven. After hurried deliberations, a group was chosen from them

to return to

Creek Haven to ask

for the bodies of their compatriots.

14?

Where Vultures

Feast

As they

also for the release of the detained.

and

set out,

approaching the

new sports complex in the center ofYenogoa town, Major Oputa, commander of Operation Salvage, accosted them. Oputa had with him five truck-

armed

loads of soldiers,

and

recounted

later

Human

Rights

to an Ijaw Council

it

Watch

who saw what happened of Human Rights team, as well as

to the teeth. Witnesses

researchers, said

Oputa ordered the delegation

back and said he would release their colleagues turned to go,

Oputa s

soldiers

opened

three

go

But as they

in detention.

fire, killing

to

youths. 77

more

Again, the rest fled into the surrounding bush, but this time carrying their

wounded,

trailing blood,

with them.

As dusk descended on the blood-spattered town, the tor, its

military administra-

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Obi, declared a state of emergency, the

kind in the Niger Delta since the

civil

war ended

first

thirty years before.

dusk-to-dawn curfew was also imposed, with "immediate

effect."

78

dancers

few at

— as

news spread of the wanton

A

But not

even the administrator's desperate attempt to contain the anger of the

communities

of

local

unarmed

slaughter of

— by instructing his troops to shoot anyone found breaking the cur-

sight,

could deter the

now incensed and grieving youths. Bad news, it

has been

said,

details of

what had transpired

in Yenagoa

always travels faster than good.

And by morning

the gory

in front of the military administrator's

was known by everyone

in

all

home

the towns, villages, hamlets, and

creeks in Ijoland.

As the sun

rose,

touching the Niger River with crimson, several thou-

sand youths rose with

would be waiting

for

it.

They were unarmed. They knew

Blessing Ajoko, a youth leader tell

reporters,

determined to couldn't go protest." 79

other

new

from Ogbia, one of the

"We were determined tell

to

make our

General Abubakar and the

on messing up our land and

The slaughter continued

Ijo villages

that the soldiers

them, and that they had orders to shoot to

in

oil

killing

was

Ijo clans,

voices heard.

companies us

kill.

But as

later to

We

were

that they just

when we

stood up to

Yenagoa, Odi, Kaiama, and several

and towns that morning of December 31 and on into the

year. Soldiers

had positioned

their

machine guns, armored personnel

carriers,

and tanks on

villages.

As the youths emerged from their homes, they were met with

rifle

and machine-gun

confines of their

148

all

streets

fire.

and road junctions

in

key

Ijo

towns and

People going about their daily business in the

compounds

did not escape the flying bullets either.

Ambush Gripped by

fear

and panic, residents of towns such

as

the N ^

in

i

lit

Yenagoa fled into

the bush.

The

soldiers

pursued the fleeing youths into the bush. They spread out and maiming. They stormed the Yenagoa General

into the villages, killing

Hospital, dragged out the

wounded, and, waving

aside the protests of the

doctors and nurses, murdered them in cold blood. Houses were vandalized

and looted. Women, married ones and underaged

When

raped.

the

women's

attempted to mobilize brutalization diers

and

women

and rape of

antiriot police.

fast

were gang-

Women

for Justice

in the city of Port Harcourt to protest the

their fellow

women, they were

set

They were beaten back with gun

whips, water cannon, and tear gas. The pregnant not run

girls alike,

organization Niger Delta

enough were

set

upon by trained

upon by

sol-

cowhide

butts,

among them who could

dogs. Over

fifty

women were

stripped naked in the street by soldiers, beaten up, and frog-marched into police

cells.

80

Special treatment was, however, reserved for Kaiama, Ijo

hero Isaac Adaka Boro, a soldier and revolutionary

hometown

who

first

attention of the world to the plight of his people

by attempting

Niger Delta Republic in 1966, and in whose honor

members of the

Council had signed the Kaiama Declaration in the town in 1998.

81

of the

drew the

to create a Ijo Youth

December

Following a peaceful Ogele dance in the town on December 30,

there had been skirmishes between youths and the soldiers deployed to the

town on December

3 1 and January

1

.

The

soldiers claimed that three of their

colleagues had been killed by the youths, an accusation the youths denied, asking the soldiers to produce the bodies diers

were unable

dumping the corpses

in the

following morning, January

who had

air as

Nun 2,

this

fire,

was

true.

The

sol-

killing ten youths and

which runs through the town. The ten truckloads of troops descended on River,

they arrived. They were led by a one-eyed major

recently seen action in Sierra Leone.

macabre imitation of the Major

indeed

do so and instead opened

to

Kaiama, firing in the

if

Israeli

One Eye unleashed

He wore an eye patch

in a

war hero Moshe Dayan.

his

men on

the town.

A team headed

for the

home of the king (Amanowei) of Kaiama, a highly revered personage. There they met the king, Sergeant Afuniama, and other members of his council ol chiefs and elders who had gathered to deliberate on the bloody event> of

December

31.

Afuniama and the other elders were taken

to the

motor park

Where Vultures at

Feast

gunpoint, their hands raised in the

knowing what was not

come, attempted to

to

One

air.

of them, Lokoja Percwairc,

flee into the

make it. A burst of machine-gun fire turned

nearby bush. He did

head into a bloody mess.

his

of the elders later described the events of that day:

One

I

can only tell you what

the morning

saw

I

on January 2, 1 was visiting Chief Ajoko. While I was there

crowd running toward us saying

a

turned to go into the next as

we

my own eyes. At about ten o'clock in

saw with

room

turned, three soldiers

out, Chief Ajoko, myself,

said

we

came and

called us to

come

out.

We went

and two others, and the soldiers told us to

should

I

We

of the house to decide what to do, and

on the ground. I was kicked in the

came back and

"Soldiers are coming!"

hip. The soldiers

lie

went away and then

move with them. As we went we met

Milton Pens Arizia, Moses Ogori, Nairobi Finijumo, Chief Geigie, and

Ogbugu.

Aklis

they

us

sat

We

were

all

down under

the fruit tree. Others

Chief Ajoko was by me. A soldier just

gutter.

cut off the bottom of his ear. eat

it.

He

refused,

we got were lying down

taken to the motor park. As

The

came and used

soldier took

it

in a

wheelbarrow

in the

his knife to

and told him he should

and one other soldier told the

They brought four corpses

there,

first,

"Don't do

that."

In the evening they took

them away. They took us went

in.

into the

They put us

motor park.

in three

We were

sixty-seven

when we

groups and guarded us with soldiers

till

morning. There were more than one hundred soldiers. They told us to

some time they

take off our shirts. For

told us to look

up

at

the sun

when it was very high and they beat us if we closed our eyes. They took sand and sprayed

it

our eyes. They said

in

jumps. For some years

I

we

should do some frog

have had a problem with

my

right leg,

which

Up to today I now have pain in my leg because of the frog jumps. They said we should walk on our knees with our hands on our head. Then we had to lie on our back on top of broken does not bend properly.

bottles

and creep along. They also had broken bottles and used them to

cut us on our backs.

Then they came with machetes and told us to sit on the ground and look forward. They cut me on my head, which started

bleeding— my clothes

I

was wearing

with blood. They were beating us

all

that day are

stained

the time for just anything. Chief

Sergeant Afuniama, the traditional ruler of Kaiama;

150

still

T

K.

Owonaro,

Ambush

in

the N



i

h

t

the deputy chief of Kaiama; Chief Tolumoye Ajoko, traditional ruler

of Oloibiri; and Pereowei Presley Eguruze, the youth president of

Kokokuma-Opokuma

government

local

"special treatment." When Chief

park,

on

he

fell

his head.

This

was

took

it

down He

in the

unconscious.

released

area,

were taken outside

Afuniama was brought back into the

A

soldier

came and dropped

twice, and he said "The chief

it

morning. They

for

left his

body

until the

is

a stone

sleeping."

evening and then

out.

About ten

that evening, January 3, another

and one of them

said, "Have

Up

fetched water for us.

group of soldiers came,

these people taken water and food?" and he

to that time

we had no

water.

Some were

drinking their urine; about four were ready to give up had water not

been given trator]

to them.

The following morning the Milad

came, with the commissioner of police and the commissioner of

health and education, and said

who

[military adminis-

we should be handed over to the police,

then took our names and addresses, and then released

Milad said nothing about compensation.

The body of Chief Afuniama,

his

shapen, was found floating in the the end of Kaiamas

travails.

The

occupation, looting, raping

head bashed

Nun

River

in

on January

and underaged

men, and hunting down the youths. By January

4.

But this was not

7,

girls,

The

and towns. In Oloibiri the only his

ill

fled), shot

fifteen-year-old

him while he

army of

molesting old

Kaiama had become a

ghost town. The inhabitants— those of them who could run— had the bush and swamps.

The

and grotesquely mis-

soldiers turned themselves into an

women

us.

82

fled into

soldiers spread out to the neighboring villages soldiers burst into the king's palace and, seeing

son in bed (other members of the household had

slept.

83

In Yenagoa they

rounded up people

indis-

criminately and put them in police cells, where they tortured them every morning. The wounded who sought medical attention at the hospital were

chained to their beds

like

dangerous criminals. The mortuary

in the hospital

was now choking with the corpses of murdered youths. When their parents came for the bodies, they were turned away at gunpoint. The dead were be dumped unceremoniously into an unmarked grave. on JanuAlthough the military administrator of Bayelsa State announced

later to

ary 4, 1999, that the state of emergency had been

manded by Major One

lifted, his soldiers,

com-

populace. As Eye, continue to terrorize the

ol

151

Where Vultures Feast June 1999 the road from Port Harcourt, the Niger Delta's chief city, to Yenagoa was still manned by tanks and armored personnel carriers. Local people

who

soldiers in

come

spoke to

Human

December 1998

said that "the soldiers boasted that they

who wanted to stop the oil companies." And Human Rights Watch estimates that "possibly over

two hundred " people were during this period.

four days or so, six

85

who

into account those

killed in Yenagoa,

But local

fled into the

months

swamps

are

Kaiama, and nearby communi-

activists say this estimate did

swamps and never

after the first shots

corpse would break the calm surface of the the

not take

returned. Every

rang out in Kaiama, a bloated

Nun River. Those who fled into

now returning. The people are still counting.

While Kaiama, Yenagoa, Odi, and Oloibiri were besieged, the nities

had

84

to attack the youths

they did a good job of it.

ties

Rights Watch researchers of the arrival of the

Ijo

commu-

of Opia and Ikenyan elsewhere in the western Delta were given a

good dose of the Chevron treatment. When youths of

community

Ilaje

in

Ondo State attempted to occupy a Chevron oil platform to protest the comMay 1998,

pany's despoliation of their freshwater and fishing grounds in

company

officials called in

ferried heavily

They opened Jola

the navy. Chevron provided helicopters,

armed navy personnel and

fire as

antiriot police to the platform.

they neared the platform, circling in the

Ogungbeje and Aroleka Irowaninu, were

Chevron

officials later said that

the navy

which

killed

on the

men opened

air.

Two men,

spot.

fire

86

Although

when one

of

the youths attempted to disarm the officers, eyewitnesses said this could

not have been the case since the youths were not armed, and in any case the officers had

the

oil

opened

fire

even before the helicopter landed, making

company's claim that the youths attempted to disarm the officers

untenable. 87

The helicopters were pressed time in two small

Ijo

in

on January

communities where Chevron has

activists say there is a link

Kaiama and those

into service again

between the

4,

1999, this

installations. Local

military attack

on Yenagoa and

Opia and Ikenyan. According to them, Chevron took

advantage of the mass deployment of troops in the Niger Delta by the junta to ferry troops to the

way

for

its

new

lage of Opia. boats,

88

two villages, with the aim of wiping them out

pipeline,

which

The

soldiers,

numbering about one hundred, came

one of which was

fitted

is

make

routed to pass right through the

with a machine gun, and

contracted to Chevron Nigeria. Opia was the

152

to

oil

first

to

vil-

in four

in a helicopter

be attacked. Villagers

Ambush saw

said they

to Chevron's

a helicopter, the kind they usually

two

oil

Then the

it.

ing at them. Several people

were

it

aircraft

Those

hit.

The helicopter continued

and-wattle huts. Then

saw conveying workers

wells in the village, flying over their village. 89 At

they thought nothing of

the bush.

the Night

in

swooped down and began

who

circling the village, firing into the It

mud-

descended to the

of the treetops and began to spray the huts with machine-gun

went up

fir-

escaped unhurt ran into

headed for Ikenyan village.

ten huts received direct hits and

first

fire.

level

About

in flames, together with their

occupants.

The

wounded and bury

care of the

came

were

survivors of this attack

just

the dead

emerging from the bush to take

when

the soldiers arrived. They

used by a Chevron contractor and a navy gun-

in three boats usually

boat with a swiveling machine gun mounted in front. The people of Opia

and Ikenyan did not stand a chance. The Bright Pablogba,

when

was hurrying

a hail of bullets lifted

Then the

soldiers invaded the

They shot

tear gas into the

to the

him

air.

traditional leader of Ikenyan, Chief

beachhead to speak with the and flung him

off his feet

two

villages,

shooting

fire

set the

and went about destroying property, including the

fishing

on

was

shot.

for daily survival. Apparently, the soldiers

had

Opia and Ikenyan from the surface of the earth. They exe-

wipe

told to

flimsy

Then they

boats the people relied

been

everything in sight.

They smashed down the door of the

huts with their boots, and anyone they saw

houses on

at

soldiers

to the ground.

cuted their orders with brutal efficiency.

A Human later

Rights

Watch team

and saw a people

When Human

Rights

1999, the death

found, but a

still

two communities

five

weeks

reeling with shock:

Watch

was

toll

woman

visited the

visited

still

and her

both communities

in

February

uncertain. Only four bodies had been five children fishing

from

a

canoe by

Ikenyan village were also presumed dead, since the boat was sunk mu\ they had not returned. Fifteen people from Opia and forty-seven toon

Ikenyan were

still

missing: those

who

still

remained

in the villages

believed they were dead, and that their bodies had been thrown river or taken ties

it

is

away— given

the isolated position of the two communi-

unlikely that they could have simply fled without anyone

knowing. In Opia, which previously had a houses,

in tin

we

counted

forty-six

total

of perhaps

completely destroyed by

fiftj

tire,

Of rixtj

and others

Where Vultures Feast were damaged. four

left

destroyed, and only

standing at one end of the village. Tear-gas cannisters and car-

tridge cases

were

still

Ikenyan came to

one of

Chevron acknowledged in a

on the ground. 90

scattered

Chevron's version of the story

detachment

homes were

In Ikenyan, about fifty

rig locations

that

its officials

nearby naval base

group of youths from Opia and

that a

is

its

on January

3 to

demand money.

reported the matter to the military

who warned off the youths. The follow-

ing day, according to Chevron, the youths returned to the rig in increased

numbers and

fully

Chevron claimed

it

armed and engaged the armed

was not aware of any

and that allegations that Ikenyan had no basis in

it

A joint team composed

casualties

facilitated the military

fact.

forces in a shoot-out.

from these incidents,

expedition on Opia and

91

Environmental

rights organization Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), the

Rights Action /Friends of the Earth Nigeria, and the Ijo Council for

two communities. They

Rights investigated the razing of the

Chevron was disingenuous when and

that they

lous," said

it

Ogon of the

Ijo

detail in a shoot-out. "That

Council for

team. "These are poor fisherfolk. Where guns?"

92

Ogon

Human

said that

claimed that the youths were armed

had engaged the security

Patterson

human

of officials from the respected Nigerian

is

ridicu-

Human Rights, who led the

would they

also dismissed Chevron's claim that

find the

it

money

to

buy

was not aware of the

deaths resulting from the invasion of the

two communities on January

3.

"Ikenyan and Opia were razed to ground.

Many people were murdered

in

The

cold blood.

Madagho

came

how

live, in

to

who

carried out this dastardly act

came from

the

They

Chevron helicopter and boats used by Chevron contractors.

in a

News of the So

soldiers

military base near Chevron's operational base at Escravos.

slaughter

was widely reported

can they say they didn't

Mars? Let's face

make way

for the

it,

know

in the

newspapers the next

day.

about the deaths? Where do they

these people were killed and their villages razed

Chevron pipeline

to pass through Opia.

It's

cheaper.

Chevron wouldn't have to incur the extra cost of rerouting the pipeline.

Dead people don't ask for compensation or tal

insist

on

a

proper environmen-

impact assessment, do they?"

Chevron that their

police

154

officials in

company

the United States continue to maintain the fiction

"has

no involvement

activities in Nigeria." 93

This

was

in or

after

connection to any internal

one of Chevron's senior man-

Ambush agers in Nigeria, Olusola Omole, told the world

work, broadcasting from

New York in

authorized the use of armed navy personnel killed,

on the

October 1998, at Ilaje,

and indeed provided the helicopters

the Nik!"

in

Pacifica Radio Net-

that his

company had

where two people were

that carried out this military

expedition against unarmed protesters. 94 During Chevron's shareholders

meeting

in

San Ramon, California, on April 29, 1999, Ken Derr, Chairman and

Chief Executive Officer of Chevron, told a journalist from Pacifica Radio that his desist

company would not

demand

officially

from shooting protesters

Chevron

at

people of Opia and Ikenyan three weeks public relations point

man

sites.

that the Nigerian military 95

In a letter to the grieving

after the massacre, the

in Nigeria, Olusola

Omole, claimed

Chevron

that

has

"it

always been and continues to be our company's policy to have enduring

and mutually beneficial

relations

with communities hosting our operations.

Ikenyan and Opia, even though smaller settlements, have not been an exception to this

rule."

96

Call

Ikenyan, and indeed other

gallows humor. But the dead in Opia and

it

communities

Ijo

like

Yenagoa, Kaiama, and

Oloibiri, are not laughing.

"Denouement If

of the Riddle of the Niger Delta"

the intention of the Nigerian government and the

oil

companies was to

cow the local communities by making an example of Kaiama and the Ijo

1993-94— they

villages— as they did in Ogoni in

The massacres have hardened the to put an

end

badly miscalculated.

resolve of the oil-producing communities

them so much

to a system that has brought

pain, poverty, and

death. Demonstrations, peaceful and well-coordinated, are

occurrence the second ing that

it

all

over the Niger Delta. And the effect

week

other

is

now

a daily

beginning to show

In

of July 1999, Shell Nigeria declared force majeure, claim loading operations at its Forcados export terminal

had suspended

in the Niger Delta. Elf followed

porarily shutting

down

result of "threats of

two days

production

community

at its

unrest."

national energy market, pushing

later,

up

97

oil

announcing

Obagi

oil field

that

near

it

was tem-

Warn

as I

This triggered shock in the inter prices to $18.69 per

band,

a

twenty-month high. Shell

and the other

oil

companies blame

unemployed youths who, they

their

woes on

"sabotage" h>

also claim, have taken to kidnapping

ofl

Where Vultures Feast workers as a means of extorting money from them.

heed

to

Clearly, they did not

Ken Saro-Wiwa's prescient words before he was executed.

pay

In his

submission to the kangaroo court that sentenced him to death by hanging

on October

30, 1995,

Saro-Wiwa predicted that "a denouement of the riddle

of the Niger Delta will soon come," and called

upon

the Ogoni people, the

peoples of the Niger Delta, and the oppressed ethnic minorities of Nigeria to stand

up and fight

The Niger Delta

156

is

fearlessly

on the

and peacefully

boil.

for their rights. 98

The denouement of the

riddle

is

upon

us.

SEVEN A Game

It is

hard

down

to

ignore the stain of blood

now

spreading

that once^proud corporate logo. Jonathan

Poor

Forty-eight

for Spin Doctors

Little

Porritt,

Forum

for the Future

Rich Shell Just Wants to Be Loved

hours before Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight compatriots

were murdered by the Nigerian military junta on November Shell

swung

its

10, 1995,

public relations machine into overdrive. Shortly after

General Sani Abacha confirmed the death sentence on the nine Ogoni activists

on November 8, Brian Anderson, chief executive of Shell in Nigeria at

the time, issued a press statement in which he expressed "sympathy" for the families of

Ken Saro-Wiwa and his

codefendants, as well as the families of the

four Ogoni chiefs. Anderson, however, refused to intervene on behalf of the

condemned men even though he was aware

that the judicial process

leading to their conviction had been roundly criticized as fundamentally

flawed. According to Anderson, "A large multinational

cannot and must not interfere with the

The was

affairs

company such

of any sovereign

significance of Anderson's press statement lay not so

said as

what was

as Shell

state."

much

1

in

wbal

carefully omitted. While a statement released onl\ the

week by the parent company, Shell International Petroleum ComLondon, made reference to Ken Saro-Wiwa being found guilty of a

previous

pany

in

"criminal offense" and stated that tion,

Anderson took great pains

MOSOP was

a violence-driven oiganiZfr

to skirt the issue in his carefully

worded

three-page press statement, concentrating instead on denying allegations

made

in the course of the trial that his

company had

offered a bribe of 400

157

Where Vultures Feast million naira (about $4 million) to certain

and that

masterminded the

Shell also

surprisingly conciliatory, calling

and the need to

Anderson did not forget to add, though, that background gations that

it

listen to all points of view.

his

company had prepared

a

briefing note "with full details of our response to specific alle-

made

was

MOSOP, chiefs. The

to subvert

of the four Ogoni

killing

was

general tone of Anderson's statement for understanding, dialogue,

Ogoni men

against Shell at the [Ogoni Civil Disturbances] Tribunal,"

available for

anyone

who wanted

a copy.

2

No one needed

and

to

be

3 told what was going on— and indeed, what was about to happen.

Still,

when

hangings

the

first

wave of the backlash

Tower

hit Shell

in

which for decades had prided ery,

was caught napping.

outcry in the

London itself

a

on

Shell's spin

triggered

few days

its

by the November 10

later,

the multinational,

efficient public relations

doctors

knew

there

machin-

would be public

wake of Ken Saro-Wiwa's murder, but they had

clearly under-

estimated the speed, scope, and ferocity of the counterattack launched by

human rights groups, journalists, and other shocked and outraged individuals everywhere in the world. And the words, laced with anger and vitriol, fell thick and fast. The company was still reeling from the environmental and

shock of the spate of street demonstrations and condemnation of its alleged role in the deaths of the

McElvoy called

Ogoni Nine

a

few weeks

Shell's public relations

later

when journalist Anne

department to arrange a background

briefing for the piece she

was writing

Ogoni

from an obviously confused

tragedy. All she got

for the Spectator in

was

a vague "Statement of Principles,"

later

on the phone, the

official said

any more questions after "talk exclusively

that.

which was faxed

head of press

to her. Speaking

hopefully that he didn't think she'd have

He was

about Nigeria."

London on the

Shell

also anxious that

McElvoy shouldn't

4

Brian Anderson and his team of spin doctors in Nigeria had prepared elaborate briefing notes in the expectation that the postexecution furor

would be mostly

a local affair that could

aged. Apparently, London,

be quickly and

The Hague, and other Western

efficiently cities

man-

were not

given similar priority treatment. Said McElvoy, "Never can there have been a public relations offensive as incompetent as that

According to the

journalist, Shell's

mounted by Shell Tower." 5

PR campaign

failed (at least initially)

because the company was on shaky ground from the

start,

having polluted

Ogoni and neglecting to introduce adequate cleanup measures too

158

late.

until

it

was

McElvoy explained that the company's media counterattack was

make

unable to

significant

A

Game

for Spin Doctors

impact "because

[Shell]

foolishly treated an

event which was bound to cause revulsion and demands for immediate action as It

were any other PR hiccup."

if it

did not take the

company long to rally its forces, however.

son had flown into London shortly

after the international

Brian Ander-

media exploded

with anger following the murder of the Ogoni Nine. And for three weeks, briefings for British

hand

in the

Anderson

MPs and

at

pressure groups, he insisted that Shell had no

murders or the violence

also claimed that his

that

had engulfed Ogoni since 1993.

company had

from the Nige-

called for help

Umuechem in October He never mentioned Iko, Nembe, Korokoro, and the other towns and

rian military only once, during the "disturbance" in

1990.

villages

where

soldiers

and

antiriot police visited terror

and mayhem on

defenseless people. Anderson also did not mention that Paul Okuntimo,

who

admitted being in his company's payroll, had planned and carried out

on the Ogoni from neighboring

the attacks

sented these as

villages

and

later misrepre-

communal clashes.

Nnaemeka Achebe, Anderson's deputy at the time, and an executive director of Shell Nigeria, was to follow a week later with a whirlwind tour of

Europe— the European

Parliament in Strasbourg, Dublin (where he

addressed the Dail Foreign Affairs Committee), and several other cities-

members

speaking with

of Parliament, journalists, and

human

and

rights

environmental groups. Wherever Achebe and Anderson went, their speech

was always the same,

like a parrot trained to sing the

again: Ninety percent of the net revenues

Nigerian junta, and Shell and the two "only"

one

dollar per barrel.

From

its

same song over and

from each barrel of oil go

"modest" profits the company spends

$20 million annually on community development projects Delta. Shell

is

a business organization

political affairs.

Neither does the

petrate violence

and does

on the oil-producing communities. is

in the Niger

not interfere in Nigeria's

company collude with

agenda (secession from Nigeria) and

to the

other joint venture partners share

the military to per-

MOSOP

has a political

merely using its ecological campaign

against Shell as a leverage. There are undeniably environmental problems

in

case. 60 per the Niger Delta, but they do not amount to "devastation." In any the arc a bj cent of the oil spillage in Ogoni before Shell was driven out of

violent villagers in January 1993 Shell should

was caused by

withdraw from Nigeria

sabotage.

Demands

thai

are unrealistic because stopping

oil

Shell loves Nigeria production would destroy the country's economy. That

Where Vultures Feast and Nigerians, particularly the people of the Niger Delta,

poor little rich

All

Shell

wants

is

to

be

is

beyond doubt.

loved in return.

Plotting the Offensive

On

February 15 and 16, 1993, three senior

officials

of Shell Nigeria, Nnae-

meka Achebe, Precious Omuku, and A. Okonkwo, met with Royal Dutch Shell advisers on community relations and environment in the offices of

Company (SIPC) in Waterloo, London. 6 Two three-man party moved to The Hague, where consultations

Shell International

days later the

were

also held.

Petroleum

The purpose of the two meetings was

ground for discussions on

strategies to

be adopted

in

to provide back-

response to the Ogoni

"challenge" during another meeting scheduled for February 26.

The

British television station

about the plight of the Ogoni in

Channel 4 had screened a documentary its

Heat of the Moment program

ber 1992. The documentary generated a Britain, the Netherlands,

and as

far

of bad publicity for Shell in

lot

away

in Octo-

as Australia. But

it

was the

groundswell of support for the Ogoni cause after the march on January

in their

backyard and there was an urgent need to put

it

4,

was burning

1993, that finally convinced Shell officials in Nigeria that a fire

out before

it

engulfed the entire Niger Delta. The march garnered international media attention,

and the attention of environmental and human

rights groups.

Minutes of the February 1993 meetings in Shell offices in London and

The Hague fingered Ken Saro-Wiwa London meeting

as the "problem." The file notes of the

read, in part: "International networking,

so far involving the Ogoni tribe and

most prominently

Ken Saro-Wiwa, is at work and gives rise

to the possibility that internationally organized protest could develop.

Saro-Wiwa

Geneva

at

is

using his influence at a

the U.N.

number of meetings,

Commission on Human Rights and, most

last

Ken

year in

recently,

one

organized in the Netherlands by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.

." 7 .

.

The leaked memo

stated that the

main thrust of the

MOSOP activists was

directed at highlighting the problems of the oil-producing communities

using the media and sundry pressure groups.

what

160

Shell did to

improve public

It

also

relations, the

by

noted that no matter

company would

still

be

.

Game

A

for Spin

under pressure

"until the

and

benefits start to flow from the 3 percent

that

real

offices in

London and The Hague

to ensure that

being heard

is

Committee

effectively

media

in

say,

and

to

monitored to avoid unpleasant surprises and

Group

adversely affect the reputation of the

improvements

of the

keep each other closely Informed

to

key players (read Ken Saro-Wiwa), what they

whom, was more quality

feel that their case

memo called for the public relations departments

[OMPADEC]."The

two

communities

Doctors

relations "to

as a

whole.

It

also called for

respond to questioning from

may have an impact on

the international press on matters that

the Group's

reputation." 8

and money to keeping

Shell devotes a great cleal of time

Moody

logo spotlessly clean. As Roger

devoted a larger part of

its

where

it

guarded openness toward

counts."

Geographic itself

on

9

The company

Society,

corporate

has noted, "Shell has probably

budget, over a longer period, to selling

to the conservationist lobby, than any other oil major. This, a policy of

its

is

critics,

has given

it

image

a clean

closely linked to the prestigious Royal

some of whose

activities

it

funds, and indeed prides

a corporate identity resembling a better-remunerated civil service.

According to environmentalist Kenny Bruno,

this is

greenwash, "where

companies are preserving and expanding

transnational

cate poverty." is

also a past master in the art of spin-doctoring.

world and a subsidiary of the American

The company

PR company

advertising giant

on environmental

The

oil

issues, chalking

giant

is

up

a profit of

also closely associated with

and

$18 million E.

in the

Young and

cam. Burson-Marsteller earns substantial income advising corporate

alone.

eradi-

10

retains the services of Burson-Marsteller, the largest

11

by

their markets

posing as friends of the environment and leaders in the struggle to

Shell

itself

combined with

Rubi-

clients

in

1993

Bruce Harrison,

also regarded as the

the

cm

sixth largest in the global

PR pecking

ronmentalist specialist.

Bruce Harrison, the company's chief executive,

made

his

name

E.

order,

leading the counterattack following the publication of

Rachel Carson's influential book Silent Spring, which raised awareness

environmental issues and provided the intellectual foundation

ronmental movement in the West.

PR

i-

On

that venture, Harrison

tor the

ot

cm

worked with

transnational- )ul\>nt executives supplied by Shell and three other

Dow, and Monsanto. 12

1

Where Vultures Feast began to mount on

When pressure

Shell in the late

1980s to pull out of

apartheid South Africa or face a boycott of its products, national, another

PR

leviathan,

boycott campaign with the code

were coopted

to

push

it

hired Pagan Inter-

which helped the company devise an

name "Neptune

Shell's position; the

Strategy."

13

anti-

Public figures

background of leading boycott

would be dug up

supporters was investigated, with the hope that

dirt

could eventually be used against them; and

columnists were recruited

and

to monitor

fifth

that

boycott meetings. As icing on the cake, Shell

infiltrate

formed a front group called the "Coalition on Southern Africa" to further

its

antiboycott campaign.

knows how

Shell also

spring of 1995 following

to strike back

its

when

cornered, as

it

did in the

confrontation with Greenpeace over the Brent

Spar incident. Greenpeace had run a hugely successful campaign to stop the British subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell from rig,

dumping

its

redundant

oil

the Brent Spar, into the North Atlantic. Even though British Prime Minis-

ter John

Major weighed in on the side of Shell during the ensuing

company,

realizing there

ahead and dumping the

would be no PR dividend rig in the face

figure

wrong

lethal

PR

little

in

while

"Don't

its

later

issue" perspective 14

Its

fol-

chance for

apologized for getting a

the Brent Spar" campaign. Launching a

on an

albeit indirectly, of

issue that called for balance, reason,

In other words,

commit themselves followed up this oil

as Shell are sober,

on the environment even

as they

to the desirable goal of sustainable development. Shell

PR coup

in

February 1998

platform would be quartered

ferries,

and clear

Greenpeace was a fundamentalist group given

clearheaded, and adopt a balanced view

Brent Spar

adopting "a single

and muddled thinking, while such companies

to hysteria

wegian

back down.

counteroffensive, Christopher Fay of Shell accused Greenpeace

and other environmental groups,

thinking.

to

when Greenpeace

Dump

be reaped from going

of the international outcry that

lowed Greenpeace's campaign, wisely decided revenge came a

to

furor, the

when

it

up for use

announced

that the

as a quayside for Nor-

adding that this was an innovative and acceptable "environ-

mental option." 15 In his

book Green Backlash, Andrew Rowell has graphically docu-

mented the

alliance

America and

their hatchet

in industry

162

between right-wing

politicians in

Europe and North

men, media establishments, and the big polluters

and government as they move to ambush the environmental

Game

A

movement, defang

it,

and turn

it

for Spin

Doctors

into another harmless "irritant "The Global

Climate Coalition to which Shell belongs, and which has spent millions of pushing the controversial claim that man-induced climate change is

dollars

not occurring presently,

is

a

key player in

brunt of this counterattack, which, while

found expression in such

And

yet

game. 16 In

1980s and the antiroad protesters

activists in the

"ecoterrorists,"

this

making

when

it

it

Britain, antinuclear

in the

1990s bore the

did not involve physical assaults,

labels as "communists," "scaremongers;

easier to turn the state

and

machinery against them.

the Ogoni storm broke, Shell was taken completely by

surprise.

For

Shell,

Ken

Saro-Wiw^a and

enon. Consequently, threat.

it

MOSOP were a completely novel phenom-

did not have a

PR strategy ready to counter this new

Four decades of treating the people of the Niger Delta with undis-

guised contempt, secure in the knowledge that Nigeria's military could

always clobber them into submission again taken

its toll

when

they dared protest, had

on the expertise of the company's PR machinery

Corruption was

rife

among

manning the community

senior

relations

company

department were inept, poorly

and unable to properly coordinate simple public

even though Nigeria accounted

profits, the

good

slice

country was treated as safe-and-secure

The panic

that greeted the arrival of

therefore understandable. its

for a

The

of the

The Hague, so

Groups annual

territory.

Ken Saro-Wiwa on

effectiveness of the

trained,

relations activities. This

"business as usual" attitude also percolated to London and that

in Nigeria.

executives, and the officials

the scene

MOSOP campaign

is

lay in

disarming simplicity. Since 1958, Shell had devastated the Ogoni envi-

ronment. "This clearly amounted to a double standard and ecological racism since the company's operations in western countries were cleaner, efficient,

and more environmentally

friendly. Shell, in collaboration

more with

the Nigerian government, had taken several billions of dollars' worth of

oil

out of Ogoni without giving the owners of the land adequate recompense The Ogoni had had enough of this injustice, and so they were appealing to the world to help get Shell off their back. This was the message Ken Saro-

Wiwa

delivered wherever he went, and Shell had no response to

simple reason that the accusations were true.

could ever hope to launder munities of the Niger Delta.

No amount

Shell's operations in

it.

tor the

of "greenwasfa

Ogoni and the other com-

Where Vultures All

Feast

through the "communal" clashes

false security reports

whose

1993 and 1994, a regular flow of

poured into Abuja, labeling Ken Saro-Wiwa a

ultimate agenda

this disinformation

in

was secession

campaign worked.

for the Ogoni. It

To

terrorist

a certain extent,

prompted the junta

Abuja to

in

consider the Ogoni "revolt" a high-priority issue requiring the dispatch of troops to the area. But the image of Saro-Wiwa and other

MOSOP

as bloodthirsty terrorists did not stick in international circles, really

mattered

— at least for Shell's

mass of the people were

still

united solidly behind

the attempts of Shell officials to put a cat

generous financial

And

spin doctors.

among

in

Ogoni

activists

where itself

Ken Saro-Wiwa,

it

the

despite

the pigeons by offering

inducements to certain community leaders to denounce

MOSOP and ultimately destroy the organization from within. 17 These chiefs, whom the people contemptuously referred to as bedele, or vultures, had to contend with a

new

Ogoni— young,

generation of

well-educated,

and determined to put an end to their collective denigration by Shell and the junta.

Ken Saro-Wiwa had been

arrested and detained in

May 1994

following

the Giokoo incident. His popularity began to soar then, and he

became

a legend while

still

alive,

though chained hand and foot

detention cell and denied food and water. In its

leader

Alternative

Nobel Peace Prize)

for

striving nonviolently for the civil,

his people." 18 Two other is

"exemplary and

leading the peaceful

1994,

(also

selfless

in a dark

MOSOP and

known

as the

courage and in

economic, and environmental rights of

awards were to follow: the Goldman Award, which

the world's premier environmental prize

people

November

were awarded the Right Livelihood Award

literally

movement

— given to Ken Saro-Wiwa for

for the environmental rights of the

Ogoni

— and the Hellman/Hammett Award of the Free Expression Project

of Human Rights Watch. For Shell, these international awards translated into

even more bad than

publicity.

when he was

Ken Saro-Wiwa caged was even more dangerous

free. It

was one thing

to

be

vilified for

doing business

with apartheid South Africa; but to be seen as devastating the environment

and collaborating with a corrupt military junta less

people

in

order to steal their

oil

in

was the

mass

killings

of defense-

ultimate corporate-image

nightmare.

On March

16, 1995, four senior officials of Shell International

Company (SIPQ— Malcolm Williams, head

164

of regional liaison; A.

Petroleum J.

C. Brak,

Game

A

group public

affairs coordinator; D.

for Spin

Doctors

Van den Broek, regional coordinator

of the Western Hemisphere, and the African regional organization; and A. Detheridge, area coordinator of Nigeria

and Angola— held

the Nigerian High Commissioner to Britain Alhaji, at Shell

counselor.

Ogoni

issue

meeting with

the time, Alhaji Abubakar

at

Centre in London. 19 Also in attendance were Colonel

bosin, the defense attache to the High Commission, and ical

a

The meeting was

called to

Ikctu

().

A. Ekpa, the polit-

S.

exchange information on the

and to work out a coordinated PR response

to the

campaign

mounted by Anita Roddick of The Body Shop and other environmental groups, which were accusing Shell and the military junta of murdering hundreds of Ogoni in cold blood, and were calling for the immediate release of

Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other MOSOP activists. Brak, SIPC's public affairs coordinator,

was

particularly worried that

The

Body Shop, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, and various church groups. as well as an increasing

number of Shell shareholders, had become

involved

campaign. For his part, Malcolm Williams was uncomfortable with

in the

the close relationship between Anita Roddick and a working partner of Ken

Saro-Wiwa's caliber. When the High Commissioner suggested that an

all-out

countercampaign be launched, Williams called for caution, explaining direct attack

would simply bring the matter more

and that the company was working on

a

more

into the public

that a

domain

subtle strategy, holding dis-

cussions with key people in the environmental organizations, and that this

was paying

off.

The matter of Catma Films and the documentaries Channel 4 Television was

also discussed. After the

of the Moment, Catma followed up

rowing account of

Shell's

in

it

had produced

tor

1992 documentary HetU

1994 with The Drilling

Fields, a

bar

plunder and devastation of the Ogoni human

ecosystem in collaboration with the Nigerian

junta.

The

Shell officials

w ere

worried that Catma Films wanted to produce yet another documentan on the Ogoni saga in a few weeks' time, and informed Alhaji Abubakar that their

company had embarked on

would present sioner

was

a "balanced"

also presented

their

own documentary

view of the Ogoni

with copies of

issue.

film,

which

The High Commis-

Shell's briefing

notes— including

background material on the Niger Delta Environmental Survey launched the previous a

month and

specifically designed to serve as the bridgehead of

new public relations offensive. 20

— Where Vultures Feast Niger Delta Environmental Survey: "I

see the hand of God

When

Shell

enterprise"

in this

launched the Niger Delta Environmental Survey (NDES) with

unprecedented media fanfare

in Nigeria

coincide with the beginning of the

Ogoni the

activists

by the Ogoni

Civil

company was walking on

Cam-

awareness and protection project

PR giant Ogilvy and Mather, had been as

it

posed

as a "green"

company,

on the environment.

The green mask

slipped, however,

run-

Shell

organochlorine pesticides, which have damaging and 21

to

Disturbances Tribunal in Port Harcourt

ning for some two decades. But even

ing effects

1995— timed

familiar ground. Shell's "Better Britain

designed and coordinated by the

selling

2,

Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other

of

trial

paign," a "public service" environmental

was busy

on February

last-

when

Shell was forced to postpone the 25th Anniversary of the Better Britain

Awards ing

its

1995

in

when

face-off with

NDES was

it

was caught up

in the

Greenpeace over the Brent Spar incident. 22

a variant of the Better Britain Campaign, only this time

company

designed to promote the image of a contrite lessons and

storm of controversy follow-

was now ready

to clean

up

its

that



its

operations in the Niger Delta

with the cooperation of other "stakeholders." According to notes, the

had learned

Shell's briefing

NDES policy objective was to:

Recommend reform

of inappropriate policies and practices which

encourage social dislocation and environmental dislocation •

Address poverty-induced causes of environmental degradation and social tension



Improve public

sensitivity

and understanding of environmental issues

and the application of this understanding •

Strengthen the capacity of the people to identify and deal with environ-

mental problems, in their local space and their

own cultural idiom 23

The preparatory phase, which was to cover the formation of a Steering Committee for the survey, defining its scope and "Terms of Reference" and arranging the

visit

of Steering Committee

members

communities where public seminars would be held to Reference,

was

to take place

to the oil-producing finalize the

Terms of

between February and October 1995. The

"Survey Phase" (November 1995-April 1996) would involve the examina-

166

Game

A tion of existing research to

for Spin

Doctors

work on

the Niger Delta by a managing consultant be appointed by the Steering Committee, with a view to determining

the causes of environmental degradation to enable stakeholders to formu-

programs to tackle them. The

late

1996 and

phase— beginning about February months— would involve detailed field-

final

lasting twelve to eighteen

work, which in turn was expected to provide the basis for various research reports and environmental action programs to remedy the environmental

and socioeconomic problems Shell

had gone to great lengths to convince the world

provided the

initial

dent, and that the

come

in the Niger Delta.

funding for NDES,

its

company would not

of the survey in any way.

It

Steering

it

Committee was indepen-

interfere or influence the final out-

was obvious from the

that the $2 million Niger Delta Environmental Survey stunt.

that although

The immediate impetus for NDES,

outset, however,

was

just

another PR

apart from the bad press generated

by the Channel 4 documentaries and the media campaign led by

several

powerful environmental groups, was the announcement by the

British

company TSB

that

it

was

from

selling its Shell shares

its

Environmental

Investors Funds because of the company's environmental and social policies in Nigeria.

24

MOSOP's campaign was clearly hurting Shell, and plans for

the two-year survey were quickly Shell carefully

Onosode, selected Shell's products.

hammered out.

chose the members of the Steering Committee. Gamaliel as chairman,

was head of Dunlop

Nnaemeka Achebe was

a Shell

way

later to point out, either

ties,

government

or another with the government or the

who was

hope

officials oil

steer

NDES

at

Ken Saro-Wiwa's

in the right direction.

25

it

hope

that

he

turned out to be one more

had with

Shell officials

they approached to participate in the survey showed

which the multinational intended

to use

passing off the survey as an independent

the dual purpose of absolving local

communi-

misplaced— as later events were to prove.

Leaked minutes of a meeting that

for

Claude

or connected in one

insistence, in the

But

as

of the

companies. Ake himself,

designated as the representative of the oil-producing

accepted the job

would

major user of

employee. And most

among them, were,

other members, particularly the Nigerians

Ake was

Nigeria, a

[Shell]

and international accusations

of all

NDES.

initiative,

It

clearly the

was hoped

the

gate environmental problems created by the

enough oil

is

purpose that b>

NDES "would Boh c

responsibility

that not

a contractor

and addressing the

being done to nun

and gas Industry

Where Vultures Feast attitude to the local

communities that NDES was supposed to benefit was

also cynical in the extreme.

During meetings with the communities

in Port

Harcourt on October 24 and 25, and in Effurun, Warri, on November 28,

show of consulting with local people on the survey's Terms of Reference. This was a farcical game. But in the aftermath of Ken Saro-Wiwa's murder on November 10, and following the resignation of Gamaliel Onosode

made

a

Professor Ake, the communities had

the Steering Committee.

no one

on

to represent their interest

They were not allowed

to elect or

nominate

another representative. In any case, Onosode declared during the Effurun

meeting that the detailed

field research

would not be undertaken by mem-

bers of the Steering Committee, but by professionals commissioned for that

purpose. 27 And

who would recruit and pay the "professionals"? Shell.

MOSOP, which had been excluded from the survey's Steering Committee for obvious reasons, saw through NDES as the public relations gimmick it

was from the

outset.

MOSOP

activists

dismissed the survey as another

attempt to hoodwink Nigerians into believing that Shell was

company to

mentally conscious, and called on the to

now

dialogue with

environin order

it

conduct environmental and social impact assessment studies in Ogoni.

Later,

MOSOP s

uncompromising stance found wide support when

Struan Simpson of the Conservation Foundation revealed that Shell a legal instrument that said the

company

committee was

Committee

as the representative for

jointly responsible

Simpson

for the survey's findings. Dr.

sat

wanted

with the

on the NDES Steering

David Bellamy, founding director of the

London-based Conservative Foundation. Realizing that Shell and

were not serious about

fulfilling

Dr.

NDES

the survey's modest objectives, Dr. Simp-

son resigned in December 1997. 28

The major trating

criticism leveled against

on the ecological and

production

activities,

social

NDES

is

impact of

that rather than concen-

Shell's oil exploration

physical and biological diversity in the Niger Delta.

there

were already over

Shell's possession,

which

sixty reports it

has not

information-sharing newsletter set to the execution of

"There

is

already

168

and

a fair share of the

that

available to the public. Delta,

in the

Ken Saro-Wiwa and

enough evidence

was pointed out

on the Niger Delta environment

made up

It

to act:

in

an

United Kingdom in response

his compatriots,

what

is

needed

commented,

now is

not more

documentation but the cleaning up of the Delta, compensation to affected,

and

the survey instead elected to produce a catalogue of

all

those

wealth that has been taken by force

A

Game

returned to the people. The $2 million that Shell

could provide clean water to

500,000 Ogoni."

all

In Claude Ake's letter of resignation

on November

he

15, 1995,

happenings and the

crisis

said,

is

for Spin

Doctors

spending on the Wirvej

29

from the NDES Steering Committee

"Considering the tragic enormity of recent

of conscience arising from them,

NDES now

my mind diversionary and morally unacceptable. By all indications, what we need now is not an inventory of pollutants but to look our seems to

selves in the face, reach

down

to our innermost resources and try to heal

our badly damaged social and moral fabric ."Ake also pointed out that NDES

was "too

little

too late and does not represent a change of heart" on the part

of Shell and the other

oil

companies. 30

came

Professor Ake's letter

five days after

other Ogoni were hanged after a flawed

by bribing two prosecution witnesses

role

Ken Saro-Wiwa and

trial in

which

the eight

Shell played a key

to testify, a fact that Shell has

consistently denied but has not produced independently verifiable

dence to support

its

position. In

ultimate success of the Survey atively

its

briefing notes, Shell

had stated

evi-

that the

stakeholders working together cre-

lies in

and harmoniously to harness the human and natural resources of the

region." 31 Certainly, contributing to the turbulent ally led to

atmosphere

that eventu-

the judicial murder of nine of the Niger Delta's finest

not the best

way

to creatively

men was

and harmoniously harness these resources

For his part, Gamaliel Onosode, a reverend, did not see the irony in his

ment when he declared communities enterprise."

in the course of his

in Effurun

on November

state-

meeting with the oil-producing

28: "I see the

hand of God

in this

32

David Bellamy of the Conservation Foundation angered environmental

when he refused to follow Professor Ake s example from the NDES after Ken Saro-Wiwa's hanging. Anita Rod

campaigners in Britain

and

also resign

dick,

Greenpeace's Lord Melchett, and Charles Secrett of Friends of the

Earth accused Bellamy of being used by Shell to repair after the execution.

the

NDES

It

its

battered image

did not take long before cracks began to appear

wall, revealing the real

purpose of the survey: A Dutch

ronmental consultancy had produced

a two-volume report on Phase

in

envi-

One

of the project in September 1996, a report criticized by local

NGOa

m^\

for failing to state elearh

hat

had

even some Shell Nigeria personnel

been achieved so

far

of the survey. There

and what was

was

also a

to

be expected

in

\\

the second ph.isc

major disagreement between the Dutch

Where Vultures Feast members

consultancy and

of the

NDES

the former pulling out of the survey.

Steering Committee, culminating in

A

local

environmental consultancy

replaced the Dutch firm, and in September 1997 brought out a four-volume

document

that

it

claimed was the

final report

One

of Phase

of the survey.

David Bellamy and the Conservation Foundation withdrew their support for the project three

months

talk seriously.

and they were

There

is still

talk

of commencing the sec-

least of all the oil-producing

ond phase, but nobody, ing such

later.

communities, are

tak-

They had predicted the way NDES would end up,

right.

Mandela, "Quiet Diplomacy," and Other Shell-Sponsored Fictions Shell's spin

doctors

knew

that international

green coalition would launch their

when what

it

own

human

rights

groups and the

attack after the executions, but

began, the scope and precision of the campaign was

Shell

had ever encountered

beginning to

rally,

in the past.

By November

way beyond was

19, Shell

however, and beginning on Monday, November 20, the

company launched a major PR counterattack, taking full-page ads in leading British

newspapers to make a case

withdraw from

after the

for the

November 10

LNG project, which it

killings.

refused to

Running alongside

this

cam-

paign was yet another, infinitely more subtle, designed to rewrite Ken Saro-

Wiwa's biography and present him as a philanderer, con man, and

The spin doctors were hard

at

work.

In response to calls that Shell intercede for the

son declared in his November Nigeria, that try,

he had spent the

8,

Ogoni Nine, Brian Ander-

1995, press statement that he

first

twenty-four years of his

life

was born

in the coun-

invoked the name of President Nelson Mandela and sought

convey the impression that

his

company was

quietly

working

in league

with that venerable statesman to work out a lasting reconciliation to the sis in

like

the Niger Delta. Said Anderson, "Many of those

We

think those

who

on the possible

results of their actions." 33

Apparently, the phrase "quiet diplomacy" was coined

170

the

company

for-

currently advocate public condemnation and

pressure would do well to reflect

calls for

cri-

who know Africa best,

Nelson Mandela, are advocating 'quiet diplomacy' as the best way

ward.

any

in

and that there were no quick-fix solutions to the "problems" in the Niger

Delta. Anderson

to

terrorist.

by

to intervene in the trial of the

Shell to fend off

Ogoni

activists.

Game

A

for Spin

I)

octors

When President Mandela began to employ the phrase in the weeks

leading

November 10 killings, he genuinely believed that working behind the

to the

scenes to exert pressure on the Nigerian military dictator, General Sani Abacha, was the best option. What he did not know, however, was that he

was being used by

PR coup, designed

Shell in a brilliant

Mandela did not throw Saro-Wiwa's release,

his considerable

at least

first

to ensure that

moral weight behind

calls for

not in public, and secondly to use his

Ken

"saintly"

name

to endorse Shell's so-called policy of noninterference in the internal

affairs

of a sovereign country. The task of working on Mandela was assigned

to

John Drake of

the

South Africa (Pty)

Shell

efforts that President

Mandela was

Commonwealth Heads

rian junta

and so successful were

Ltd.,

his

mouthing this meaningless phrase

at

of State conference in Auckland while the Nige-

was busy preparing the gallows on which Ken Saro-Wiwa would

be hanged a few hours

later.

when Mandela

Later,

still

discovered he'd been conned

all

along,

out angrily, calling for sanctions to be imposed on Nigeria and

Drake was

still

on hand

to explain

trying to convince General

he lashed

Shell.

John

away the "difficulties" his company had

Abacha

in

to stay the executions. Drake requested

an urgent meeting with the South African president on November 20, and proffered as proof of Shell's genuine intentions the copy of a letter that he

claimed C. A. J. Herkstroter, head of Royal Dutch

Shell,

had written to Abacha

appealing for clemency. Whether the letter was actually delivered was

another matter altogether. Brian Anderson, managing director of Shell Nigeria,

had put out a press release on November 8, 1995, some

forty-eight

hours

company

before

Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged,

would

not appeal to General Abacha for clemency on Saro-Wiwa's behalf

stating categorically that his

because "a large multinational company such as interfere ples, in

with the

affairs

which we

of any sovereign

strongly believe, are

Shell

state,"

cannot and must not

adding that "these princi-

embedded

in Shell's Statement of

General Business Principles." What could have changed so dramatically

two days

to force Mr. Herkstroter to

and send a

letter to

meeting with a the previous

Abacha appealing

letter

week

go

on November

for

clemency? Drake followed up the

24, thanking

in spite of the short notice

Mandela

for

and suggesting

Onosode, chairman of the "independent" NDES, be afford the president

in

against these "business principles

meeting him that Gamaliel

invited to South Africa to

and members of his cabinet the opportune to hear I " u Drake also Delta.

non-Shell view of the challenges facing the Niger

171

Where Vultures Feast included in the letter a bulky briefing note on Nigeria in which the late

MOSOP leaders first

son,

was

Ken Wiwa,

quoted out of context and presented

as appealing to his father's murderers to seek a peaceful outcome to the

country's troubles as a Shell's

mark of respect

PR campaign

to his

memory!

in the aftermath of the

ings was largely designed to

tarnish

November

10, 1995, hang-

Ken Saro-Wiwa's image, to convince the

powerful green lobby in Europe and North America that Shell was not dev-

and that where pollution occurs,

astating the Niger Delta environment,

the

work

of saboteurs like

employed the same

MOSOP

activists. Interestingly,

tactic in the aftermath of the

blaming the horrific accident in

its

plant

Bhopal India

on sabotage.

it is

Union Carbide disaster,

In the project of

showing the world the "other side" of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Shell has found com-

mon

cause with the trinity of

Andrew

Sunday Times] Donu Kogbara, another

former editor of the London

Neil,

journalist,

who

is,

Wiwa's niece; and Richard D. North, the ex- Independent controversial book, Life battering

whose

attack

is

a

on the environmental

United Kingdom. Several other journalists, including

in the

Dominic Midgley,

journalist

on a Modern Planet: A Manifesto for Progress,

ram of the resurgent right-wing

movement

incidentally, Saro-

a contributor to the

London-based Punch magazine, also

joined the Saro-Wiwa bashing campaign. 35 Six days after the in

Ogoni nine were murdered, Andrew Neil wrote an article

The Mail of London

which he implied had charmed

his

that the late

way

Ken — Violent Hero of the

titled "Saint

MOSOP

leader

was

in reality a terrorist

this It

lines,

even suggesting that the

was why he could

him

did not occur to

MOSOP

Donu Kogbara her

that

Ken Saro-Wiwa was

Kogbara begins her anti- Saro-Wiwa

his generosity, not forgetting to

Then she

was

along the

articles

a corrupt

man and

a successful writer, business-

own right.

has chosen a different tack, the

late uncle's literary talents, his

typewriter.

leader

afford to send his children to elite schools in England.

man, television producer, and publisher in his

tivity."

who

into the liberal circles of green London, using Anita

Roddick as a stepping-stone. 36 North has also been writing

same

Gullible," in

add

lays into him.

more

articles

lethal for

its

"objec-

with effusive praise for

urbane and cosmopolitan outlook, and that

he had

in fact

bought her very first

Uncle Ken was inordinately ambitious,

man who used others to get what he wanted, and then he disthem — but above all he was a violent man who was single-handedly

he was a con carded

responsible for

172

all

the tragedy that befell her beloved Ogoni people since

A G the January 1993 march. This, naturally,

is

is

me

for Spin

sweet music

the company's spin doctors have ensured that

brave niece"

a

Doctors

in Shells cars,

Ken Saro-Wiwa's poor

never in want of an audience to recount her

talcs

and little-

Shell's

public relations department then carefully assembles these newspaper

arti-

Saro-Wiwa and mails them to people (including schoolchilhad expressed concern over the multinational's activities in the

cles critical of

dren)

who

Niger Delta. Shell has

employed the

spin doctors.

37

British

The company has

PR firm Shandwick also

to beef

been arranging

visas

lations

and meeting

but they

company has

may

also

actually include

see

it

by

air;

been putting

much

apparently

a spin to

of a

it

looks quite beautiful." 38 The

advertorials in

its

development projects

in the Niger Delta every year.

controversial claim that

were very angry when they saw

Shell calendar in January 1997,

swampy

instal-

area of the

the Niger Delta

visit to

its

filled a

Delta,

other journalists have been visiting Shell

magazines to support

Delta State

team of

Shell staff at Shell headquarters during these Shell trips.

The program doesn't itself

aritl

its

Remarked

journalists' trips to Nigeria to "see" things for themselves.

"Dutch, German, British

up

and sponsoring

newspapers and

spends $20 million on

it

The people of Ojobu

with the company claiming that

community

in

a picture of their village in a

as part of

its

it

had sand-

assistance program.

When they complained about this deliberate deception, state security operatives

went

Opara,

after their

whose wife

community

There

leaders.

Ogbuyewe, and the twins

in Erhoike Hospital,

also the case of Chief

Jacinta "mysteriously" appeared in a Shell advertorial in

the London-based Africa Today magazine in as Mrs. Christina

is

whose

May

in the

1996. Shell passed her off

photograph

state-of-the-art facilities

as hers,

were supplied

else— Shell. But the hospital featured in the photograph

is

in

born

by—who

Egbema and

not anywhere near Erhoike. Opara and his wife have since sued Shell

tor

which

$25(),()()0)

w

ith

they hope to establish a fund for the welfare of the Niger Delta

s

exploited

defamation and are asking for 25 million naira (about

children. 39 Shell presently operates

some

senior officials are constantly

sixty websites to

on the wing,

push

its

position

traveling the globe and telling

opinion leaders and key persons in the environmental movement

company

is

in fact the victim in the Niger Delta saga not the

Ashton-Jones, the environmentalist and

Its

\

that the

ill.iin

Hk

k

adviser to Environmental Rights

Action (ERA), attended one such meeting

in

Sweden on Septembcf

Jsi

rulers then

of the laud

'

a regional legislature or a state before mill

made by the

military governor of a state or region

during the pendency of military dictatorship.

Customary laws are laws ties

rule

of Nigeria. is

that

in existence in

all

the various rural communi-

now generally agreed that what constitutes

It is

which

enjoys widespread acceptability in that

customary

a

communit]

G. E. Ezejiofor ventures a definition:

Customary law

is

a

body of customs and

various kinds of relationships between their traditional setting.

They

originate

from moral

traditions

members

which

regulate the

of the communit)

rules,

engrafted as "jural postulates"

16

shaped by "ancestral

and DOW

beliefs

in Nigerian legal jurisprudence

1

he benefit

of customary law to the overall well-being of humankind has he en

nized and extolled.

17

Ko

15

As recently

as 1990, the

re

I

Supreme Court declared

unambiguously in Oyewunmi v. Ogunesan:

Customary law

is

people the organic or living law of the Indigenoua

Nigeria, regulating their lives

not the

static. It is

and transactions

regulatory in that

community

subject to

culture of the people.

imports justice to the

I

it. It

would

it

is

It

is

organic

customa ^

lives of all those subject to



the m.rror

ma

«'t

ca further

say that custom..it

if

In that n la

controls the lives and iranaa*

said that

i

1

4

the

and

Appendix: Justice on Such customary

rules,

Trial

though not written, regulate the use of the

land,

water, forest resources, fisheries, wildlife, waste disposal, inheritance, marriage, religious beliefs, art,

and relationships in society, among others. The

rent debate in Europe as to just as

humankind,

is

not novel in the Niger Delta. In 1846 a treaty between

two indigenous communities of the Niger

Delta,

namely Bonny and Andoni,

declared the need to allow "animal liberty" in the territories of these 20

neighbors.

However, a rule of custom cannot operate as law

repugnant to natural

justice, equity,

will declare such laws void because

will not

it

voided.

it is

waste

its

time transforming "a

Rules of custom that question the in present-day Nigeria are similarly

22

Nigeria's environmental laws laid

21

government

military

when

two

and good conscience. As such, the court

barbarous custom into a milder one."

supremacy of the

cur-

whether "animals" should be accorded "rights" 19

can also be found

in judicial

precedents

down by the courts. A precedent is a legal principle on which a judicial

decision

is

of Nigeria

based.

A combination of all these in addition to the Constitution the sources of Nigerian law. 23

make up

Environmental Outlaw Shell claims that

it

political positions,

in

the Niger Delta

operates "within the laws of Nigeria," that

and that

it

it

does not take

has "never violated any laws" of Nigeria. 24 The

company, however, now accepts that "there are problems in the Delta and we are committed to dealing with them." 25 Also, the company has "offered" to clean

up Ogoni, one of the

several

communities where

Shell's

operations

We propose to appraise these issues under three broad headings and a fourth subheading. We shall assess environmental laws relating to land, the aqueous environment, and the atmosphere. We has devastated the ecosystem.

shall also

where

consider Nigeria's compensation laws, and specific instances

Shell appears to

Violating

26

have violated them.

Laws Protecting Land 27

Laws protecting land Shell's activities

in Nigeria,

and by extension the Niger Delta where

have the greatest impact, dates back to 1915, with the

introduction of the

Waterworks Act by the

colonial administration.

lowing the 1915 act was the Public Health Act of 1917. Nigeria in 1937 and

left at

Shell

at

Fol-

came

the outbreak of the European interethnic

1939- 1945. 30 The company returned to Nigeria

214

29

28

to

war of

the end of hostilities in

Appendix Europe and discovered 1956.

oil in

:

Justice on

["rial

"commercial quantities" in the central Delta

in

31

Between 1945, when the war ended, and 1996 over one hundred laws with relevance to the protection of land were enacted or decreed/ Some of the laws are draconian. An example to divest

ownership of land from

is

local

the Land Use Act, which purports

communities and places such own-

ership in the hands of the federal government. The government thus

became

a trustee of land for the people. 33

Other relevant laws

are the

I

Em

I

ronmental Impact Assessment Decree of 1992 and the law that prohibits the importation of plant seed,

harm the

land.

The laws

soils,

and containers into Nigeria

that

could

34

referred to above

do not include the over one thousand

tomary laws regulating the protection of the environment us consider these customary laws in forests, wildlife,

and

some

detail

cus-

as a whole. J5 Let

under three subheadings

soil.

Forests Forests 36 and forest reserves 37 exist throughout the Niger Delta. National. state,

tion,

and customary laws

exist to regulate the protection, use, prescrva-

and conservation of these

applicable state law

is

forests.

Law

the Forest

38

In Rivers

of 1956.

39

and Bayelsa

The law

states,

t

In-

exists to preserve

and control the exploitation of forests and prevent them from unwarranted

Ondo

degradation. Similar provisions are to be found in Edo, Delta, and state laws, so too in Akwa

Ibom, Cross

River,

Imo, and Abia states

Customary law regulates the protection of forests

among which

pal

are the

communal

'"

in

many

\va\

s.

peine V

declaration of certain forests and

groves as sacred; the delineation of forests as burial grounds for apod and evil

in

people (the bad bush practice); the recognition given

boundary

forests

forests, forests

deserves

A

some

of

common

forest habitat that

tection

is

use,

and

and observed

family heritage

the essential habitat forests

I

he

last

explanation.

protection practices

its

between neighboring communities,

to

does not

may become

fall

into any of the other general

protected as a result of an e\ ent

not permanent, as other events could occur to erode w

protection in the

first

place. For example,

Nembe, Bonny, Abureni, and regarded as sacred and

is

among

Brass people, the

in fact worshiped.

|

hat led ID

the Kalahari

Odumti

fofCSfl

he

I

(

fcrika

(loyal pythofl

Now. should an

(

klumu

find

Appendix: Justice on

Trial

suitable habitation in a part of forest of

common

to reproduce, that part of the forest automatically

members of

for

priestess.

the

community

after

use and remain there

becomes

seismographic companies

swamp

wide

go area" priest or

41

In carrying out operations relating to exploration for

est,

a "no

due consultation with the

42

oil,

SPDC employs

that cut seismic lines through tropical rain for-

mangroves, and farmland. The lines are sometimes as

forests,

as fifteen feet

and run into hundreds of miles

in length.

"No

no

tree

how big was allowed to stand in Shell's way," remarked Chief Irene who lives in Oloibiri. 43 In Okoroba the phrase "as straight as

matter

Amangala, Shell's

lines

road" has gained currency and aptly describes the company's seismic

and

overarching dominance of the people's daily

its

life.

44

In the

process of constructing pipelines to transport crude from flow stations 45 to the tank farms located in Forcados, Bonny, and Brass, and in constructing pipelines from gas fields to gas plants as in Utorugu, 46 Shell as a matter of

routine cuts

down

thousands of acres of rain

forests in the barrier islands.

even from the

air.

47

These

lines,

forest,

mangrove

forests,

and

grotesque and ugly, are visible

They crisscross the Niger Delta landscape

like the chaotic

markings of a demented cartographer.

The est

result of this assault is that previously inaccessible areas of

were opened up

to illegal hunters

and timber

the area in the past thirty years and carted

proposed Taylor Creek

told

oil

its

to the area in 1991, Shell

The

viability to ceaseless

industry activities directed and con-

by Shell. J. P. Van Dessel, SPDC's former head of environmental

ERA activists in October 1995

for-

who have invaded

invaluable resources. 48

forest reserve has almost lost

seismographic and other related trolled

away

loggers,

dense

studies,

that during the visit of the Prince of Wales

had pledged to

establish a forest reserve in Taylor

Creek, an ecologically interesting ecosystem with a thriving population of

monkeys, elephants, chimpanzees, crocodiles, and pigmy hippopotami. Nothing came of the venture, however. The company has admitted that historic polluter of land in the Niger Delta, particularly freshwater forests,

mangrove

forests,

high

forests,

recently as 1994, Shell told a World spills,

and

it is

swamp

forests in the barrier islands.

Bank team

a

As

that fifty-five incidents of oil

spewing 515 barrels of oil into the environment, occurred

in the West-

ern Division of its operations. In the Eastern Division, 203 incidents resulting in

18,527 barrels of crude

216

oil

being spilled in forest areas were recorded. 49

,

a ppendix: Justice on Trial This

almost double the quantity spilled by the other

is

ing in the area put together.

Have these

activities

by

oil

companies opt

rat

50

Shell violated any of the laws protecting forests

or forest reserves in the Niger Delta? Section 30 (1) of the 1979 Constitution guarantees the right to

life

of all Nigerians, including those living

Niger Delta. The state or any person

away the

takes

lives

is

in the

not to do anything that impairs or

of the people of the Niger Delta. The inhabitants arc

the main agrarian, and they

still

gather food. 51 They depend to

in

a large

extent on what the various forests hold in store for them. s - Their survival is

closely linked with the survival of the forests.

Shell has consistently ties,

53

is

done through seismic and other

to deprive the people of their

parts of the Niger Delta over

Other laws that in the criminal

To destroy the

which

Shell's activities

it

means of

forests aa

industry

oil

activi-

livelihood. Shell has set

superintends on the path of death

5

'

have probably violated include provisions

code governing the prevention of nuisance, 55 deposition or

discharge of harmful waste on land, 56 and Federal Environmental Protection

Agency (FEPA) Decree 1988. 57 The FEPA decree

spells out liability

penalties for spillers of hazardous substances whether

Such

spillers

and

on water or land

are compelled by the decree to bear the cost of removal,

replacement of natural resources damaged or destroyed by the discharge

and report same to the agency or other related agencies. 58 No record of Shell reporting the spillage at Iko exists in

area in the Delta

ecosystem. tion

60

where

WWF-funded Cross

border.

61

for forty years, failed to support any conserv

River National Park located near the

Shell's destruction of the

sundry agencies.

a-

Cameroon

Niger Delta environment has been recorded h\

and international observers 62

no

in the Niger Delta, preferring to support the high

profile

local

is

Shell has successfully restored or replaced a natural

The company,

program of note

records. 59 Also, there

FEPA

alike,

What has not been

including environmental groups >ml\

reported

is

the multinationals dtarc

spect and flagrant violations of local customs and law. These laws woe-

developed from moral rules that Delta. Environmentalists

and overhaul

its

still

exist in the

communities of the N

and public commentators

who

ask Shell to rethink

policies so they are in line with the \\a\ of

communities have often been chastised by the company^ Lagos, London, and

The Hague. The former chairman

life

of d

executives

of the Shell

m

croup

Appendix: Justice on Trial C. A.

J.

alists

Herkstroter, dismissed these views as emanating

and moral

tices in

relativists,"

referring to voices critical of his

Europe and Nigeria

lation.

The law

enjoins

and customs

45 of the Petroleum

oil

company's prac-

respectively.

In refusing to respect local laws Shell violates Regulation

from "moral imperi-

relating to the environment,

(Drilling

companies to ensure that

"hinder" the development of the communities. requires oil companies to respect

63

"communal

and Production) Regu-

do not

their activities

Specifically,

Regulation 50

areas or objects declared

sacred by the community or government as well as tree and mangroves venerated under their custom. These should not be destroyed by the operations

of the

oil

Shell

company." 64

is

in a joint venture

arrangement with the government of Nigeria in

the exploration, exploitation, production, and marketing of crude

petroleum products.

65

how much money is due

interested in

national community,

ments, and

In the joint venture, the Nigerian

is

is

it.

66

Nigeria, as a

government

oil

and

is

only

member of the inter-

a signatory to several international legal instru-

expected to observe and respect such obligations.

Shell,

by its

operations, has contributed to Nigeria's violation of several of these laws, particularly those relevant to biodiversity conservation. 67

The conventions

violated include the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollu-

by

tion of the Sea

Oil,

1954; Convention

on Fishing and Conservation of

Nature and Natural Resources of the High Seas, 1966; African Convention

on Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 1968; the African Charter on Human and Peoples' tion

Rights;

Convention for Cooperation

in the Protec-

and Development of Marine and Coastal Environment of the West and

Central African Region, 1984; Convention

on the Conservation of Migratory

Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention), 1979; and the Base Convention

on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, 1989; among others.

Eboe Hutchful said of oil industry pollution:"Environmental pollution from the

oil

industry has had far-reaching effects

and production. In addition to the noted,

spills

of crude,

on the organization of peasant life

effects of spills

dumping of by-products

and refining operations (often

on mangroves

already

for exploration, exploitation

in freshwater environments),

and overflowing

of oil wastes in burrow pits during heavy rains has had deleterious effects on

bodies of surface water used for drinking, fishing, and household and industrial

218

purposes

.

.

.

Spills,

disposal of industry by-products, and flaring of gas

Appendix: Justice on also

have had widespread repercussions on the

availability

Trial

and production of

farming land." 68

The NNPC,

Shell's

venture partner in the Niger Delta, agrees

that oil

com

wreaking havoc on the environment. 69 By the admission of these two companies, crude oil emanating from frequent spillage dots enter the parties are

sea through estuarine currents and then are driven westward and eastward

dumps household waste (poisonous food human consumption) and hazardous waste (oil from generators and drilling mud) directly into the sea, thus violating the London Dumping

by the Guinea not

fit

currents. Shell also

for

Convention and the Base Convention on Transboundary Movements of Ha* ardous Waste and Their Disposal, 1989

70

One

that has suffered the greatest violation

is

the African Charter on

Peoples' Rights. Article 24 guarantees

international legal instrument

Human

and

peoples of Africa, including the

all

peoples of the Niger Delta, the "right to a satisfactory environment favorable to their development." The

development of the Niger Delta people includes

the protection of their land, culture, and customs. 71 Gas flares have banished nights as infernal blazes light tions, killing

whose

up the Delta

skyline in Shell's areas of opera

moths, butterflies, grasshoppers, and other valuable insects

usefulness to ecological stability

of Shell's gas-flaring nozzles tributor to the

is

is

impoverishment of people

Wildlife Protection,

beyond question. Not

protected. 72 Oil pollution

is

a single

one

the biggest con-

in Shell's oil fields.

Animal Rights

The concept of animal

libertarianism has

been practiced among the com-

munities of the Niger Delta since antiquity. The concept received forma] legislative

stamp

in 1846,

when

the

first

recorded treaty between two

neighboring communities (Bonny and Andoni) was signed. The

eflfecl

of the

treaty has benefited the world today, as the largest population of elephants in the Niger Delta

is still

found

importance of animals to the

in the

lives

Bonny-Andoni area Because of the

of the people,

relevant articles of the treaty, the sixth and

They, the

Andony men,

also

we

shall

twelfth, respecti\

reproduce two el\

promise not to destroy the Guano [iguana]

but allow animal liberty the same in Bonny.

Should the Andony

men

kill

any elephants, the) are

teeth thereof to King Pepple;and should

to present the

the Andom nun

be short of musket or powder, King Pepple

will

at

supply them

am

time

Appendix: Justice on

Trial

Respect for animals began as early as humanity began settled

life

in the

74 Niger Delta more than five thousand years ago. Humankind have lived and

developed a harmonious relationship with their environment, even bordering

by the Christian

on veneration. This

is

The region

the low equatorial forest plain of Nigeria, with the

lies in

attested to

coastal area shaded

by

which disappears inland

historian Tasie:

stately

and changeless evergreen mangrove

into a

zone of tropical forestland with some

luxuriant foliage of various huge trees and almost impenetrable thick

undergrowth. The plant Iroko,

life

include the cotton tree, African oak and

growing to such enormous

size that in certain parts of the Delta

they are set apart as objects of worship or veneration.

enormous variety of birds,

finds an

animals, and reptiles. Among the last

the python Sebae or African python

Sir Alan

One

is

widely venerated.

named,

75

Burns, the British historian, chronicled events in Brass and

Bonny

thus:

At Bonny and Brass, for instance, the monitor lizard and the python respectively

were regarded

as sacred

and were allowed to crawl

throughout the towns, no one being allowed to fere

with them; so

British subjects

sacred reptiles.

real

were

was

kill

animal worship

this

actually fined

by the Consul

way inter-

about 1878 that

for molesting the

76

The dynamic nature of customary law has ensured are

or in any

till

weeded out with

time.

77

that

obnoxious laws

In the Niger Delta, respect for animals has sur-

vived this dynamism as far as written records in the area can confirm. 78 The

people do not hunt animals for sport;

dance with value

rather,

they are categorized in accor-

— religious, ecological, social, and economic.

only the economic imperative allows

members

of a

79

community

animal, either as food or as a nuisance and threat to societal

Of these, to

kill

harmony

an

that

has to be removed. 80 Thus, grass cutters, rabbits, leopards, bush cows, and a

few other animals have always been crocodiles, iguana, chimpanzees,

killed for food.

some

Other animals such

as

species of monkeys, several types of

birds (the grey parrot, eagles, the owl, the fishing owl, bats, herons, doves,

blue-breasted kingfisher, etc.) and

220

some snakes

are guarded

by customary

1

Appendix Justice on

Trial

:

laws and protected from harm. In earlier times the

on the prohibited

list,

killing of

any annual

either willfully or accidentally, attracted the death

penalty:

In the year 1787

two of the seamen of a Liverpool

being ashore watering, had the misfortune to rolling a cask to the

beach

.

.

.

kill

ship trading

guana

a

The offenders being

King or chiefman of the place were adjudged to

by

severity of justice being softed

tence was fine of

King

a bribe

Bonny;

at

as the

w ere

\

carried before the

Ilownvr

die.

the

from the captain, the sen

length changed to the following, that they should pa]

at

700 bars (aboutmd

violated the "liberty" of animals as well? Very

wastes to be introduced into the habitat

and pipeline-laying contractors

who

activities,

85

go on the rampage

it

destroying economic

dies a natural death. The Wildlife Act supports

are authorized killings

by competent

population. For communities

work

to strictly regulate the

crops on which animals depend. To preserve an animal until

allow fag harmful

of these animals through setamk

and refusing 86

much so— by

this

is

trees

and

to allow

it

oi

i

to live

except w hen

1

authorities in cases of (Ha

whose very way

of

life Is

dosdj with a

with some of these animals, the attendant misery of taring difficult gernaut like Shell these past forty years would be simpl>

tattefwavefl lam to assess

Appendix: Justice on

Trial

Maiming the Soil Soil in this

context

the

is

fertile topsoil

(two to eight inches) that crops

planted by the local communities thrive on. Agricultural production in the Delta takes place mostly

on levees during the nonf looding season, on mudon

or the banks of rivers (rich in humus), and

flats

naturally drained land.

Customary, national, and international laws protect these practices and the soil

so that humanity in this part of the world can survive. 87

Shell

is

known to have

carried out activities in the Peremabiri area of the

Niger Delta that have caused massive erosion of streams,

Houses were

also ruined. In

between December

town ties

88

Nembe, eleven incidents of oil

10, 1994,

and February

and the surrounding environment

and

rivers,

spillage

land.

occurred

10, 1995, that affected the

as far as the farming

communi-

of Agrisaba, Egenelogu, Ikensi, Odioma, Elemuama, Idema, and Obiata.

Botem Tai, Bomu, Korokoro, principally Kaa, have oil pollution.

89

E.

J.

Kpite, K-Dere,

had had

Fekunmo,

ence and Technology

and the riverbank communities,

their soils ravaged

by the destructive

a senior lecturer in

law

at

effects of

the University of Sci-

in Port Harcourt, described this kind of pollution as

and property" and called

"deliberate infliction of injury to persons

for

changes to the traditional rules of liability, which have provisions that favor Shell

and the other

ever, given the bitter is

most unlikely

oil

companies and cheat the

local communities.

How-

experience of the communities these past forty years,

that Shell will

mend

its

ways even when these

it

rules are fur-

ther strenghtened. 90

Shell

and the Violation of the Aqueous Environment

Aqueous environmental laws

are legal rules that protect rivers, lakes, wells,

ponds, estuaries, fish dams, fishing grounds, and the general biodiversity of

aquabased

life

from the polluting

These laws include: the Oil

activities

in Navigable

Act, the Criminal Code, the Harmful etc.)

of Shell and other such agents.

Waters Decree, the Sea Fisheries

Waste (Special Criminal Provisions,

Decree, the River Basins Development Authority Act, the Petroleum

Act of 1969, the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulation Decree, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency Decree, the Works Act of 1915, the Public Health Act of 1917, the Territorial Waters

Act 102, and the Explosives Act of 1967, Explosive eral

222

all

federal laws.

(Amendment)

There

is

also the

Law 104 (applicable in Bayelsa and Rivers states) and another fed-

law— the Oil Pipelines Act of October 4,

1956.

1

Appendix: Justice on

Trial

Local customary laws with respect to the protection of the aqueous envi-

ronment

exist in several

communities

many

ways: sacred rivers, ponds and lakes of seasonal usage; 92 and laws with raped to individual species in a particular or general aqueous environment. w There

and

lakes;

91

rivers

are criminal

and

civil liabilities

the destruction of result in fines,

some or

clear

impunity

is

recognized under customary laws against

of these prohibited species. Infraction could

all

expensive ablution and atonement

the age group or the

One

in

community as

example of Shell's

violation of the

the case of Allar Irou

v.

Shell-BP, in

grant an injunction in favor of the plaintiff, losses in the

form of polluted

rites,

and ostracism from

a whole.

land, fishponds,

aqueous environment with

which the judge refused

who had and dead

suffered

to

enormous

fishes, arising

from

the defendant's activities in the course of the company's exploitation of

mineral crude

oil.

Studies, in Lagos,

M. A. Ajomo, director of the

commented on this

mental degradation oil

is

companies and the

Institute of

Advanced Legal

where environ-

case: "In the oil sector

mostly prevalent, the all-pervading influence of the paternalistic attitude of the judges

toward them

in

matters relating to environmental hazards created by these companies have

made

the enforcement of environmental laws ineffective." 94

The

acts of Shell in polluting Allar Irou's land

is

contrary to Section

(5)C of the Oil Pipelines Act, Cap 145, of 1958. The statute creates bility in this

kind of pollution. In paragraph 36 of Schedule

leum Act of 1969, the law

1

strict

1

lia-

of the Petro-

says:

A holder of an oil exploration license, oil prospecting license or oil mining lease shall in addition to any

may be

liability for

compensation

subject under any provisions of this Act be liable to

to

which he

fair

and adc

quate compensation for the disturbance of surface or other rights to

any person who owns leased

The overwhelming

land.

majority of the communities of the Niger Delta do

11k •> not have the financial resources to drag Shell before the law courts

simply suffer in silence and hope for justice on Judgment

I)a\

The most serious threat to the aqueous environment is the threat p mines are km 1* 10 to aqueous life by the use of explosives. Explosives and In loud* ecosystem have maimed and killed humans and destabilized the threat bee Nft ern Africa. In the Niger Delta, marine life is under severe

Appendix: Justice on

Trial

the activities of Shell and the other

Dynamite

companies operating

used by the companies during seismographic

is

explore for

oil

oil

deposits.

A

seismic shooter employed by a

company in Port Harcourt described

graphic

in the area.

activities as

German

they

seismo-

the process:

we lay the seismic cables along the route and connect the necessary positive and negative points of impact. Then we retreat to a maximum allowable safety regulation distance, and through a remote detonator we set the system to work. A massive explosion In very simple terms,

which shakes the whole area

do get

for miles then follows. Trees

uprooted and thrown to the ground. Sometimes huge chunks of earth are lifted

and thrown into the

other land and scares birds,

What ally,

if it is

kills

rivers,

or a land area can be cut off from

close to a river an island

especially during the breeding season. in the Niger Delta that are

an otherwise earthquake-free

was the

area,

It is

effect

kill fish.

on

fish gener-

also significant that

some

now experiencing earth tremors, in more worrisome is the illegal

dynamite to inhabitants of local communities,

device to

The explosion

have suffered continuous blasting of the

earth crust during oil-related activities. 97 Even sale of

created.

animals, and sometimes destroys buildings. 96

the seismographer did not mention

communities

is

who now

use the

According to a former employee of the British Seismo-

graphic Services Ltd.

now

taken over by the

German

firm

Geko

Prakla

Schlumberger:

When we were in SSL, we used dynamite to kill fish. We simply connect the device to any lake or river and the blast die.

We

select the big

let go. All fishes

within the area of

ones and leave the small ones. Some-

times

we sell some of the dynamite to make money or simply give them

away

to our friends in the area

located.

where our camps or houseboats

are

We often do this when we have industrial disputes or to please

the youth of our host communities. 98

The

Oil in Navigable Waters Act prohibits discharge of crude oil

heavy diesel

in the

Brian Anderson, admitted in plant" in the Niger Delta.

224

and

waters of Nigeria. 99 The former chief executive of SPDC,

100

London

that "we

do not have

According to Anderson,

his

a waste treatment

company had

just

Append

i

\

Justice

:

ordered one from Canada. So where has Shell been dumping

used diesel

oil

waste from giant generators

houseboats anchored in the boats

sea, rivers,

owned and operated by

tional?

The

truth

is

Delta into one huge

Methods of

spill

in

heavy

difl

flow stations residential

estuaries;

waste

oil

from speed

contractors but supervised by the mult ma

that Shell has turned the

aqueous environment

dump site for the disposal of waste control and

ommended by Regulation oil field

and

its

Oil

ot the

lul

management do not accord with

iw

thai

7 of the Minerals Oil Safety Regulations of "good

practice" as in current use

by the

Institute of

Petroleum

Safetj

Codes, the American Petroleum Institute Codes, and the American Sodetj of Mechanical Engineers. The regulation requires

oil

companies

such practice. 102 In 1994 a team of environmentalists

visited Shell

Port Harcourt and

products and oil is

saw an

oil

dump

where

site

to

dump

is

In

vehicles receive petroleum

other oil-based products for their work.

staff collect

routinely spilled here, and the

adopt

(amp A

lot

very close to a drinking

\\

of

ater

borehole. 103

Atmosphere and Noise

Pollution

Atmospheric pollution by

worry

Shell constitutes the biggest source of

the international community.

It is

visible

and

easily

documented, and

M

has admitted to polluting the biosphere through continuous gas-flaring.

The company's

some of which

action

is

tor

Shell

therefore a deliberate infraction of enactments

are criminal provisions.

105

The offense of public nuisance

under Section 234 of the Criminal Code does not allow

am common to

Shell to cause

inconvenience or damage to the public in the exercise of rights 106 Shell's right to explore and produce hydro all members of the public."

carbon (a right

now

seriously challenged

by

all

communities

Delta) does not preclude the rights recognized to be enjoyed by mals,

and other

hibits noise

living

from

and nonliving

vehicles,

things.

music shops,

I

etc.

The law

vehicular traffic in the metropolis of Port Harcourt

according to Kemedi Demeiri, an environmental their

workers control more than

pew ins, am

The 198S Riven Mate Bdk pn also applicable

is

Bayelsa State. Noise from vehicles "constitutes the bulk of the

by

Niger

ot the

n fee

activist

>il

m

pfl Kfci

Warn and fen (

i

fl

L UUipan iCl

Niger a quarter of the vehicles ,n the

and

>

l

fckl Add the noise to the huge decibels from generators seism (graphic u til

music from camps and houseboats, and you

Shell-which generates some 50 percent of

will get a ta.r picture

these actfc

Wcs-haa


r

1999).

Kaiama Declaration. Kaiama Declaration.

72. See the ten-point resolution of the

73. Felix Tuodolor, president of the Ijo Youth Council, in an interview with Ike okonta, Jjniun

I

1999. 74. Patterson

Ogon, coordinator of the

Okonta, January 75. Reuters

4,

news

Yenagoa

Council for

1999. See also Ogele, bulletin of the report, January

76. Ijo Council of

Kaiama

Ijo

Human

1,

A Human

of Blood: Rights

and government troops on the morning of December

May

Council,

Human

intemeu with

Ike

Decemlx

Rights Atrocities inllmntig the

Watch team

confirmed the number of deaths

killings also

the Niger Delta,

Ijo Youth

Rights, in an

1999.

Rights, Barrels

Declaration, June 1999.

Human

in the first

30. See

that visited the area after the

encounter between the souths

Human

Rights

\\

ttt±

(

mchtkmm

in

1999, 6.

77.

Human Rights Watch, Crackdown

78.

PM News, Lagos, January

1

,

in the Niger Delta, 1.

1999.

79. Blessing Ajoko, Interim Secretary,

Ogbia Youth Vanguard,

Alert (monthly publication of Delta Information Service), April 80. Anemeyeseigha Brisibe, coordinator of Niger Delta

1

in

an interview with

VSfpjar

Delta

999

Women

for Justice. Port Harcourt

in

an

interview with Ike Okonta, January 12, 1999. 81. Adaka Isaac

1969, just

Boro

later joined the federal forces

when the war was

Hodder and Stoughton, 82.

when civil war broke

about to end. See John De

St.

Human Rights Watch, Crackdown

Following the

//>
\

sions with impunity." In "Legal Responsibilities of Shell as an Oil Operator in Nigeria," Jan uarv

1

i

996

111. See Environmental Rights Action, Shell in Iko.

112. Shell executives addressing the Irish Parliament 113. Article

on January

36 of first schedule to the Petroleum Act. There

is

27, 1996.

a similar provision in Regulation 2 1 of

the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulation. 114. Obasi

Ogbonnaya, The Guardian on Sunday, Lagos, April

115. Shell claims credit for infrastructural

destroyed in the

first

development aimed

place in the course of

oil

as

18.

155.

workers

its

1868 LR 3 HL 330. Also see J. Chinda and 5 ors

v.

half-built

Community Development,

SPDC (1974) 2RSLR

1995.

1.

MWSJ 61; 87-88.

117. 1

replacing edifices

"compensation" for destroying the

local hospital during its canalization project. See Shell brief on 16.

at

exploration and production. In Okoroba the com-

pany offered the community 90,000 naira ($900)

1

1994.

3,

This reechoes the Alar Irou case. But see

Machine Umudje &Anor v. Shell-BP (1975)

Edhemowe v. Shell-BP. Unreported Suit No. UHC

9-1

1

SC.

12/70 of 29/2/71 Ughelli High Court; Onyori

andAnor v. Shell-BP and another Supra FCA/B/1/82. 1

19.

Per Uwais Ag.

CJ. in

Salamotu v.Adamu Yola (1976)

NMLR at

1

15

at

page

1

17,

and the Umudje

case.

120. See "The Tragedy of Oil Discovery" in Ogoni: Trials

and Travails

(Lagos: Civil Liberties Orga

nization, 1996), 16.

121. See Irish Parliamentary Foreign Affairs

Committee video of January

31, 1996.

INDEX

Abacha, Sani, 34, 36-39,

58, 60, 124, 128,

Ashton-Jones, Nick, 78, 90-91,

133, 134, 137, 145, 157, 171,

174-76, 179, 184, 203

I

1

1

I

IS,

135, 136, 173-174, 191-194, 198, 199

Aurukun people, 45-46

Abdu-Raheem, Tajudeen, 201-202 Abiola, Kudirat, 39

Babangida, Ibrahim, 27, 31-32, 36-37,

Abiola, M.K.O., 37, 39-40

39-41, 57, 59, 119, 122, 156, 137

Aborigines, 45-46

Balewa, Alhaji Abubakar Tatav\

Abubakar, Abdulsalami, 39-41, 145, 148

Bane, Nigeria, 143-144

Aburi Accord,

Barclay brothers, 6

18,

22

Achebe, Nnaemeka, 77, 159, 160, 167,

Barry, John, 180, 181

Bayelsa

State, 18, 106, 143,

Achual Indians, 45

Beatrix,

Queen

Adedoyin, Ademola, 101, 102

Beecroft, John, 8-9

African Petroleum, 56

Bellamy, David, 169, 170

174, 177, 184

Agip Oil Company, 49-51,

54, 69, 88, 89,

97, 99, 100, 102, 113, 199

Benue

144

of the Netherlands, 44

River, 5, 61

Biafra, 18, 21, 23

Aguiyi-Ironsi, Johnson, 17, 21

Billiton International Metals BY. 4

Ake, Claude,

Body Shop

4, 29,

125, 131,

33-34, 60, 72, 88, 124,

Bonny, Nigeria,

Abubakar

Alhaji,

All People's Party (APP),

165

40

Amangala, Princess Irene,

Amnesty

61, 142

International, 165, 176

Anderson, Brian,

5, 7, 8,

59, 86-88,

193

Akpan, Mike, 34 Alhaji,

International. 65, 91,

165

167-169

Akilu, AH, 121

58, 109, 133-134, 136,

157-159, 170, 171, 179, 184, 198 Apartheid, 48, 55, 162

17

a,

Bonny

Light. 53, f

I

Braithwaite, Shelley, 93-94, 201

Brak, A.J.C.. lo*. 165 Brass. Nigeria. 1,5,7, 12-14

Brent Spar incident, British

18,

Petroleum (BP

Buhan. Muhammartu,

162, 166

2

-



l) 1

l

-

Index Cameroon, 56

Fanon, Frantz,

Carter, Sir Gilbert, 14

Farahcase, 106, 111

5,

205

Cashiriari project, 46, 47

Finima, Nigeria, 91, 92

Chagouri, Gilbert, 38-40, 203

Fleshman, Michael, 94, 188-189

Chevron,

Forcados, Nigeria, 54, 86-88, 113

54, 56, 102, 113, 114, 152-155,

199, 202

Forrest,

Chikoko Movement, Civil

war (1967-70),

Clifford, Sir

Clinton,

21-23, 76

6

Frynas, Jedrzeg George, 102, 186

Hugh, 16

Gbokkoo, Daniel, 134

203

Bill,

Conoco,

143, 198 18, 19,

Tom, 30

Freitas, Lancarote,

George, Rufus Ada, 124

54, 55

GeoSource,

Conoil, 54

Inc.,

46

Giadom, Kemte, 130 D'Arcy Exploration Company, 49

Giokoo murders, 130-134, 175

Delta State, 18, 66, 144

Gladstone, John, 6

Deminex, 54

Gladstone, William, 6

Derr, Ken, 155

Glencore, 38

Detheridge, A., 165

Gongola Basin, 52

Diyarbakir, Turkey, 48

Gowon, Yakubu,

Douglas, Oronto, 135, 136, 193,

Graf, William, 27

Greenpeace,

194, 199

Drake, John, 171 Drilling operations,

69-71

Gross Domestic Product (GDP),

19, 30,

Gulf War, 36, 53

Gusau, Aliyu spill,

25, 43, 48, 52, 66, 77, 87,

104, 162, 165, 166, 169, 178, 185

Dubril Oil, 54

Ebubu

17-19, 22, 23, 25

Gwarzo,

73, 178

Mohammed,

121

Ismaila, 39

Ecomog, 40 Ekeremor Zion,

Nigeria, 106

Eleme Gas Turbine Elf,

Project,

34-35

49-51, 54, 69, 88, 89, 97, 99, 100, 102, 113, 114, 155, 199

Elizabeth

II,

Queen

of England, 44

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), 65, 69, 81, 91-92, 113, 186 Esara,

Herkstroter, C.A.J., 171, 176

Hillenbrand, Barry, 196-197 Horsfall, Albert K.,

Human

33-35

Rights Watch, 34, 114, 125, 126,

135, 136, 141, 148, 152, 153, 177,

180

Edem, 84-85

Etete, Danile,

Exxon, 43

262

Harrison, E. Bruce, l6l

103-104

Ibibio people, 6

ICER Nigeria Limited, 35

53

I

Igbo people, 6

Lagos, Nigeria,

Ijaw National Congress, 142

Lagos Colony, 14

Ijo

people,

Ijo

Youth Council,

1, 5, 6,

10, 49,

7,

144-155

Laird,

41, 145-147, 149

Land Use Act of 1978,

ndcx

50

Macgregor, 11 26, 105, 109

Ikenyan, Nigeria, 152-155

Lawrence, Barbara, 174

Iko, Nigeria, 32, 83-86, 138, 159

Lawson-Jack, Steve, 108-109, 141, 170

International Finance Corporation,

Lean, Geoffrey, 67

88-89

Leton, Garrick, 121-123, 129-130

Fund

International Monetary

(IMF), 27,

28,30,31,38,53,57

Levura, Paul, 134

Liquefied Natural Gas Project (LNG), 74,

Izon Peoples Charter, 142, 182

88-92, 170, 184 Living Earth, 107-108

Jaja,

King of Opobo, 10-12

Johnson Mathey Bank

affair,

Lugard, Frederick, 14, 15, 23, 27, 31

30

Johnston, H.H., 12

Macpherson,

Jones, Murray, 47

Major, John, 162

Justice Irikefe Panel, 53

Mandela, Nelson, 170-171

Sir

John, 17

Marshland and Project Nigeria Limited, 34—35

Kaa, Nigeria, 116, 124, 125

Kaiama Declaration, 145-147,

McCarron, Majella, 201

149, 182

Kaiama massacre, 149-152 Kainji

McElvoy, Anne, 158-159, 200 McGreal, Chris, 41, 97

Dam, 62

Melchett, Lord, 169

Keeling, William, 37

Kegbara Dere

Martin, Alice, 82

disaster,

Khan, Sarah Ahmad,

76-77

22,

Memorandum

of Understanding

(MOU)of

99-100

1986, 51,52, 92.

99, 100, 103

Kiobel, Bainem, 134

Kobani, Edward, 121, 122, 130

Midgley, Dominic, 172

Kogbara, Donu, 172-173

Mitee,

Kokori, Ovie, 57

Mobil, 54, 56, 102, 113. 200

Komo, Dauda, 128-131, 136

Moffat, David, 66, 69

Korokoro

disaster, 77, 83,

127-128,

Ledum,

Mohammed, Moody, Ron,

136, 159

123, 128. 134, 135

Alhaji Aliyu. 121 161, 195

Kosoko, King of Lagos, 9

Moody-Stuart. Mark. 43, 104

Kpakol, Saturday, 108

Moor, Ralph. 12

Kpuinem, John,

Movement

134, 211

Kugapakori people, 46

for the Survival of the Izon

Ethnic Nationality (M

1

n d e x

\i

tvemenl for the Survival of the Ogoni

People (MOSOP),

3, 4, 32,

35-36,

Northern People's Congress (NPC), 17 North Sea crude, 55

58, 60, 78, 116-136, 142-144, 157,

Nuevo Mundo,

160, 163, 164, 165, 168, 175, 176,

Nun

177, 179, 182, 183, 197

NUPENG,

Peru, 46-47

River, 71, 149, 152

57

Nwako, Nwibani, 179

Nahua people, 46

Nwate,

Nana Olomu,

Nwawka, Emeka,

12

National Council of Nigeria and

134

Felix,

101

Nwile, Kobari, 123

Nzeogwu, Chukwuma Kaduna,

Cameroons, 16

17, 21

National Guard, 59, 136-137 National Oil and Chemical Marketing

(NOCM),

52,

Obi, Paul, 148

56

National Petroleum Investment and

Management

Services (NAPIMS),

Nigeria,

1, 2,

79-81, 107,

Ogoni

Niger Delta Environmental Survey

Ogoni Nine,

Environmental

of Rights, 117, 122, 142, 182 134, 157-159, 166, 168-171,

184, 200

Ogoni people,

32, 60, 72. {see also

Resources Organization

Movement

(NDHERO), 143

Ogoni People (MOSOP))

Nigeria Liquified Natural

Gas Limited, 52

Nigerian Bitumen Corporation, 53 Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decree of

Nigerian Labor Congress, 58

(NNOC), 55 Nigerian National Petroleum

100,

Niger River,

Star"

(Saro-Wiwa), 183

Oil Mineral Producing Areas

Development Commission

1, 5,

12, 6l

North, Richard D., 172

Oil Rivers Protectorate, 12

Oil Spill Contingency Plan, 65

Company

39, 49, 53-56, 64, 69, 88,

102-104

38, 41, 140,

161

Nigerian National Oil Corporation

(NNPC),

"Ogoni

for the Survival of the

(OMPADEC), 32-36,

1977, 29

264

Bill

72, 164-171, 181, 186, 193

Human and

80, 107

193

Niger Company, 12

Niger Delta

Nigeria, 142-143, 182

Ogoni, Nigeria, 34, 35, 74-78, 104-106,

139-140, 159

(NDES),

18

Ofonih, Edwin, 96-97

Ogbonnaya, Obasi,

Andrew, 172

Nembe,

Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Emeka,

Ogbia community,

101 Neil,

Obasanjo, Olusegun, 39-41, 55, 57, 58, 92

Oil spills, 66, 72, 73, 77, 78, 80, 83, 85-86,

113

Okara, Gabriel Imomotimi, 71

Okigbo,

Pius,

Okonkwo,

A.,

36-37 160

Index Okonkwo,

Chidozie, 97

Petroleum Decree No. 51 of 1969,

Okoroba, Nigeria, 81-83,

107, 113

Okrika, Nigeria, 5

Petroleum

Okuntimo,

Population growth, 19

Paul, 35, 126-133, 135-137,

141, 143, 159, 176, 180, 183

Old Calabar,

22, 25,

105, 109

Porritt,

Nigeria, 6, 7, 10, 11

Profits

Tax Ordinance-

of 1959,

Jonathan, 157

Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 18, 50, 56, 59, 112,

Oloibiri well, 22, 23, 49, 52, 96-98, 142,

151

191-192 Port Harcourt Water Project, 35

Omole, Olusola, 155

Powell, Bruce, 113

Omuku,

Project Underground, 46, 47, 58, 59, 79

One

23

Precious, 141, 160, 180

Eye, Major, 151

Onosode, Gamaliel, 167-169

Quicha Indians, 45

Onyeagucha, Uche, 135 Operation Climate Change, 146

Republican Constitution of 1963, 24

Operation Flush, 144

Rhodesia, 55

Operation Salvage, 144, 148

Rich, Marc, 38

Opia,

Richards, Arthur, 16-17

Eric, 34,

35

Opia, Nigeria, 152-155

Rio Earth Summit of 1992, 64

Opobo, 11-12

Rivers State, 18, 24, 25, 35, 66, 75, 143, 144

Orage, Samuel, 130

Rivers State Internal Security Task Force, 35

Orage, Theophilus, 130

Roddick, Anita, 119, 165, 169. 172

Organization of Petroleum Exporting

Rowell, Andrew, 110, 134-135, 162, 195, 196

Countries (OPEC), 24, 48, 54-55,

Royal Dutch Petroleum

Oshiomole, Adams, 58

Royal Niger Company,

Oteri, V., 137

Rubber exports,

1,

oil trade,

25,

1,

13. 14

28

Ruiz-Larrea, Miguel, 47

188-189

94,

Owome (New Calabar),

Palm

Nigeria,

5,

7

7-9, 11, 13, 14, 25

Rumuobiokani, Nigeria, 140-141

Samuel, Marcus. 43

Pan Ocean, 54

Sapref refinery, South Africa

Patani, 12

Saro-Wiwa, Ken.

Pax

Christi,

of

Holland, 43, 44

202

Otuegwe

Company

34

78,89,94-95. 106.

176

109, 116

126-131, 133. 134, 136, 142

PENGASSAN, 57 Persian Gulf Oil

3.

crisis

of 1990-91, 36

17 1_175, i". 178, 181, 183

Petrobangla, 47

Petroleum Act of 1969,

156-158. 160. 161. 163-169,

19,

23

196, 200. 201. 207-209. 211

265

I

n d e x

Second World War, Secrett, Charles.

16,

Siakor, Ronnie, 107, 108

49

SGS Environment

40

Sierra Leone,

169

Seismic surveys, 68-69

Simpson, Struan, 168 Slave trade, 6-7, 9

193

Ltd., 89, 90,

Shagari, Alhaji Shehu, 26, 29, 30

Smith, Ian, 55

Shell-BP Development Company,

49, 55,

Sokoto Caliphate, South

113

14, 15

Africa, 48, 55, 162

Shell Coal International Ltd., 44

Soyinka, Wole, 22

Shell D'Arcy, 23, 49

State Security Service (SSS), 33, 119

Shell

Group,

43, 177

Shell International Ltd.,

Chemical

Company

44

Chemie Maatschappij

BV, 44

Gas

Shell International

Marine

Shell International

Petroleum

Ltd.,

Oil,

Adjustment Program,

54

44 44

Ltd.,

Taubman, George Goldie,

Company

Petroleum

C.L.,

16

Texaco, 45, 54,56, 113, 199

Maatschappij BV, 44, 49-50 Shell International Research Maatschappij

BV,44

Thatcher, Margaret, 30-31

Tocantin River, 47

Tucurui hydro scheme, 47

Shell Nigeria Exploration

and Production

Company (SNEPCO), Company

52,

Shell

Petroleum

Shell

Petroleum Development

Ltd.,

99-100 44

Tuodolor, Felix, 41-42, 146 Turner, Terisa, 29

Twon,

Nigeria,

1

Company

of Nigeria (SPDC), 49-50, 52, 56,

UdolfiaJ.R., 138

59, 69, 75, 79, 89, 106, 177, 181,

Ughelli, Nigeria,

182

Umahi, Obi, 143, 179

Petroleum NV, 44

Shell Police, 59-60, Shell Transport

137-138

and Trading Company

(STTC), 43, 44

Umuechem

86-88

massacre,

32, 138-139, 159

Unipetrol, 56

Urubamba

River,

46

Shiva, Vandana, 195-196

Usen, Anietie, 106

Shonekan, Ernest,

Uthman Dan

Fodio, 15

Utor Well

93

Shuar Indians, 45

266

1,

12-13, 31

Temple,

44

Shell International

Shell

Sun

Survival International, 47

Shell International

Ltd.,

57

Strikes,

Structural

Shell International

55

Statoil, 54,

37, 60, 124, 184

17,

28,

31-32

Index Van den Broek, Van

Wiwa, Ken,

D., 165

Dessel, J.P, 67, 68, 71, 72, 79, 181, 194

Vision 2010, 60, 184

172, 178

Wiwa, Owens, World Bank,

58, 60, 130, 133,

184

33, 54, 63, 66, 67, 73, 87-89,

111, 112

Warn, Nigeria,

12, 56, 59,

192

World Conference of Indigenous Peoples

Watts, Phil, 60

on Environment and

West African Frontier Force, 14

Development, 64

Wheelahu, Bernard, 45-46 Wicks, Clive, 67

World Wide Fund

for Nature

(WWF),

67,

71, 204

Williams, Gavin, 29-30

Williams, Malcolm, 164, 165

Yar'Adua, Shehu, 39

Willink Commission, 24

Yenogoa, Nigeria, 106, 145, 147-149, 151,

Willis,

John, 178-179

Wilson, Harold, 23

152

Yorubaland, 7

267

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Ike

Okonta is a writer and journalist. He was part of the editorial team

founded Tempo, the underground newspaper,

Tempo eral

later

critical role in

the forced ousting of the dictator Gen-

Ibrahim Babangida in August of that year. Okonta also worked closely

with the the

played a

that

in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1993.

late

Ken Saro-Wiwa and other MOSOP activists

management committee of Environmental

Earth, Nigeria.

He

is

presently at

St.

in Nigeria

and

is

on

Rights Action/Friends of the

Peter's College, Oxford, England,

where

writing a doctoral dissertation on the ongoing social and environmen-

he

is

tal

crises in the Niger Delta. Ike Okonta's first collection of short stories,

The Expert Hunter of Rats,

won

the Association of Nigerian Authors Prize

in 1998.

Oronto Douglas is Nigeria's leading environmental human rights lawyer. He is

deputy director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the

Earth, Nige-

and speaker

at

community-organized

events, international conferences, and universities

all

over the world. Doug-

ria,

las

and has been a

was

a

member

visiting lecturer

of the legal team that represented Ken Saro-Wiwa before

he was murdered by the Nigerian degrees in law at Nigeria,

military junta in

November

the University of Science and Technology.

and De Montfort,

Leicester, England,

and

his articles

have been published in books, journals, and magazines

and the United

He took

and speeches

in Nigeria,

Europe,

States.

Okonta and Douglas England.

1995.

Port Hatcourt,

are Fellows of the

George

Bell Institute.

Birmingham,

ERA: Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the

Environmental Rights Action (ERA)

is

Earth, Nigeria

a Nigerian advocacy

nongovernmental

organization concerned with the protection of the environment and the

ERA is committed to the defense of human

democratization of development.

ecosystems within the framework of

human

rights

and the promotion of

environmentally responsible practices by governments, corporations, and

mandate from

the people.

It

Human and

Peoples' Rights,

[a]

takes

its

which

Article

24 of the African Charter of

states that: All

people have the right to

generally satisfactory environment favorable to their development.

ERA

is

the Nigeria chapter of Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) as

well as the coordinating

NGO

in Africa for

Oilwatch International, the

global network of groups concerned about the effects of oil

ronment of people

who

winner of the Sophie

live in

oil-producing regions.

Prize, the international

development.

E-mail: eraction@infoweb.abs.net

award

in

ERA

on the is

envi-

the 1998

environment and

OKONTA,

IKE

newspaper role

writer and journalist, was

Babangida

Lagos, Nigeria, that played

in

the

in

ousting 1993.

in

dictator

ol

Okonta

and he

is

His

first

M(

other

)|'

on the management committee

o(

of

the

I

ftfth

collection of short stones, The Expert

won

Ibrahim

closelv with

)S(

mental Rights Action/Friends

Rats,

of the

a critical

General

worked

also

Ken Saro-Wiwa and

the late

pan

team that founded Tempo, the underground

editorial

u

n\ ltd nvifOfl

I

Nigeria I

ho

the Association of Nigerian Authors I'nzc

Okonta

1998. Ike

is

presently

at St

I

Yin

|

in

Col

Oxford, England.

ORONTO DOUGLAS human

mental

is

Nigeria's leading environ

He

rights lawyer.

is

deputy directOI

Environmental Rights Action/Friends

of

the

of

artb

I

Nigeria, and has been a visiting lecturer and speaker at

community-organized events, international confer

ences, and universities

was

a

member

all

over the world

degrees

junta in

Ken

of the legal team that represented

Saro-Wiwa before he was executed by military

Douglas

in

November

1995.

the-

He

Nigerian received

law from the University of Science and

Technology, Port Harcourt, Nigeria and De Montfort Leicester, England. His articles

published

in

and speeches have

books, journals, and magazines

in

;

Nigeria

Europe, and the United States.

Jacket photograph:

©JOHN

LA\X Rl \,

SIERRA CLUB, SIERRA CLUB

N

-

BOOKS

and the Sierra Club

logos are registered trademarks of the Sierra C lub

Sierra

Club Books, San Franc ism

www.sierraclub org/books

Published

New

in

conjunction with

Crown

Publishers

York

8/01

www

randomhouse corn

ISBN 1-57805-046-4

w

45863"024u0""8

4

ON FEBRUARY command

1895,

22,

A BRITISH NAVAL FORCE UNDER THE

of Admiral Sir Frederick Bedford laid siege

people of

Nembe

on

Brass, the chief city of

Niger Delta. After severe fighting, the

the

Ijo

city

was razed to the ground. More than two thousand people, mostly

in Nigeria's

and children, perished

in that attack

One hundred

later, in

locked

years

launched

name

Queen

of

Victoria.

Nembe were

with Royal Dutch Shell, a British

again to safeguard their source of livelihood

oil

the

February 1995, the people of

in a grim, life-and-death struggle

multinational

in

women

company's exploration



which the

their environment,

and production

firm,

had

activities

despoiled. Shell, in collaboration with successive governments in Nigeria, has

been extracting

communities return.

billions of dollars

in the

The plunder

oil

and gas from

Nembe and

of the Niger Delta has turned

oil,

full circle.

Crude

but the dramatis personae are the same

European multinational company intent on extracting the

of the richly

other

Niger Delta since 1956 without giving them much

taken the place of palm

ful

worth of

endowed Niger



a

oil

in

has

power-

last life juice

out

Delta, and a hapless people struggling valiantly

against this juggernaut.

CURRENT AFFAIRS

ISBN 1-57805-046-4 52400

9

'781578"050468

'