Case Mnemonic: OGONIOIL
Case Name: Ogoni and Nigeria conrlict over Oil
The Ogoni have sought more political autonomy and compensation for environmental damage to their land by oil companies since 1990. Their campaign, against Shell Oil Company which has extracted an estimated US $30 billion of oil from Ogoniland since 1958, has been met with force and extreme violence by Nigeria's military government. Protesters have been jailed, killed and silenced for demonstrating against the multi-national company. For example, Ken Saro-Wiwa, leader of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, has been jailed and accused of inciting members of the group to kill four Ogoni elders. However, "his more likely "crime" is his effort to organize the Ogoni ethnic minority to stop destruction of their homeland caused by operations of Shell and Chevron, the multinational oil companies, and seek compensation for his people's lost farmland and fisheries."
Military coups have become something of a tradition in Nigerian politics, dating from the military seizure of power which followed the federal elections in 1964 in an effort to forge national unity. A succession of military regimes ensued (interrupted only briefly by civil rule), each replaced for its failure to effect national unity, policy reform, and effective economic policy. In 1993, Nigeria's democratically elected president was ousted out of office by the military government of General Abacha, who then became president. As a result oil production workers went on strike demanding that the fairly elected president, Moshood Abiola, be allowed to return to power. The oil workers joined pro-democracy activists in striking against the military rulers who were widely viewed as having totally mismanaged Nigeria's economy. The Unions , eager to get the oil industry out of corrupt hands, forced the state owned Nigerian National Petroleum Company to become largely in debt, causing Shell Oil Company a loss of one third of its usual production of 920,000 barrels per day. Companies oil production in Nigeria was being hampered by the debt burden, in turn hurting Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings from oil exports. The strikes were met with brute force by the Abacha regime which rules the country with an iron fist, often committing human rights abuses and otherwise suppressing political dissent. Abacha believes that the task of this military regime is to "bear the burden of managing the delicate transition from military to civil rule." However, Abacha is intent on bearing this burden for as long as he can.
Community Attempts at Collective Action
In the context of this wider political crisis, the government feared that the Ogoni's protests against environmental degradation would have a snowballing affect and that other ethnic groups would begin to fight with each other. In an effort to suppress this, the regime uses brute force and systemic violence claiming that they are actually helping to curtail the fighting between ethnic groups. The story of the Ogoni people has received world wide attention as a result of the arrest of Saro-wiwa, which has been exposed by human rights and environmental groups. Amnesty International and Greenpeace have campaigned against his arrest and have accused Nigeria's military government of looting, rape and executions of oil protesters. "The Nigerian security forces have been responsible for the extrajudicial executions of Rivers State villagers protesting against environmental damage and inadequate compensation for destruction of land and crops by oil companies." In a Greenpeace study on the Ogoni and Shell oil company, protests met with state violence in eight communities along the Niger Delta are documented. For example, a community in southern Lijaw sealed Shell's Dieby Creek Flowstation to protest against non-payment by Shell for an oil spill which occurred in 1992. The Ogbia community produced a Charter of Demands and established an organization to demand compensation for damages caused by Shell. In another instance, in 1990, about 80 people in Umuechen by the Mobile Police Force killed and 495 homes were destroyed during a peaceful protest against Shell, after the company requested the assistance of the police.
The social and environmental costs of oil production have been extensive. They include destruction of wildlife and biodiversity, loss of fertile soil, pollution of air and drinking water, degradation of farmland and damage to aquatic ecosystems, all of which have caused serious health problems for the inhabitants of areas surrounding oil production. Pollution is caused by gas flaring, above ground pipeline leakage, oil waste dumping and oil spills. Approximately 75% of gas produced is flared annually causing considerable ecological and physical damage to other resources such as land/soil, water and vegetation. Gas flares, which are often times situated close to villages, produce "soot which is deposited on building roofs of neighboring villages. Whenever it rains, the soot is washed off and the black ink-like water running from the roofs is believed to contain chemicals which adversely effect the fertility of the soil." Without fertile soil, indigenous groups lose their mode of survival and are faced with the crisis of food shortages.
Gas pipelines have also caused irreparable damage to lands once used for agricultural purposes. These pipes should be buried to reduce risk of fracture and spillage. However, they are often laid above ground and run directly through villages, where oil leaks have rendered the land economically useless. An account of Shell Oil Company's record in the Ogoni region uncovers a "ravaged environment ..(in which) oil pulses out of burst pipes and slicks dead vegetation." Although in its operation in other countries Shell ensures that it does not degrade the environment, it does not take such precautions in Nigeria. For example, "for Shell's pipeline from Stanlow in Cheshire to Mossmoran in Scottland, 17 different environmental surveys were commissioned before a single turf was cut... A detailed Environmental Assessment Impact covered every measure of the (pipeline) route.. Elaborate measures were taken to avoid lasting disfiguring and the route was diverted in several palaces to accommodate environmental concerns..The Ogoni have never seen, let alone been consulted over, an environmental impact assessment."
Oil spills and the dumping oil into waterways has been extensive, often poisoning drinking water and destroying vegetation. These incidents have become common occupance due to the lack of laws and enforcement measures within the existing political regime. Between 1970 and 1982, 1,581 incidents of oil spillage were documented in Nigeria. In addition, "according to an independent record of Shell's spills from 1982 to 1992, 1,626,000 gallons were spilt from the company's Nigerian operations in 27 sperate incidents. Of the number of spills recorded from Shell - a company which operates in more than 100 countries - 40% were in Nigeria."
Environmental regulations which are common practice in developed nations are often not followed due to their lack of power, wealth and equity of the affected communities. As a result, oil companies often evacuate inhabitants from their homelands, further marginalizing them. The system of oil production in Nigeria clearly is heavily skewed in favor of the multi-nationals and government elites who are the direct recipients of oil production revenue.
The oil industry in Nigeria has had a number of environmental and socio-economic effects both in the regions where oil drilling and shipping primarily take place, and in the larger country itself. The current crisis is largely concentrated the southwestern oil producing areas of Rivers, Cross River, and Delta. These areas of the country have been severely damaged by environmental pollution from oil spills, dumping of waste products, burning of excess gases, pipe-line leaks, oil well blowouts, and gas-flaring operations. One particular ethnic group in Nigeria, the Ogonis, have organized and protested against both the Nigerian federal government and Shell Oil, as the major oil producer in the region. The Ogonis have charged that Shell Oil has consistently damaged the local environment by: operating a number of off-shore rigs and oil port facilities which have seriously damaged "the tropical rain forest in the northern reaches of the Delta and mangrove vegetation to the south" (Hutchful, 1985). These areas are vital to the local fishing industry and other local industries. As well, mangrove wood which is found in this area is used in construction, and as firewood and charcoal (see Mangrove Case).
Shell is also being accused of engaging in "widespread ecological disturbances, including explosions from seismic surveys, pollution from pipe-line leaks, blowouts, drilling fluids and refinery effluents, and land alienation and disruption of the natural terrain from construction of industry infrastructure and installations" (Ibid). For example, oil spill contamination of the top soil has rendered the soil in the surrounding areas "unsuitable for plant growth by reducing the availability of nutrients or by increasing toxic contents in the soil" (Ibid). Gas flaring, on the other hand, "has been associated with reduced crop yield and plant growth on nearby farms, and disruption of wildlife in the immediate vicinity" (Ibid). Shell and other oil companies have developed an easy and inexpensive way to deal with by-products from oil drilling: "indiscriminate dumping" (Ibid).
The Ogonis have been critical of the Nigerian Federal government's role in oil-exploration and drilling activities. For example, the Federal government is responsible for issuing oil mining and exploration leases; the government has issued such leases for a large part of the land and offshore areas of Rivers State. The government has done this as the sole administrator of oil licensing through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with no consultation with local government groups. The Federal government has also been criticized for allowing the oil companies to dump wastes in a manner that would be illegal in the United States. For example, "U.S. environmental regulations completely prohibit the discharge of produced water or drilling muds from onshore facilities into surface-water bodies; produced water has to be reinjected for recovery or injected into disposal wells, while drilling muds are to be landfilled" (Nwankwo and Irrechukwu, 1981). However, in Nigeria, oil companies often dispose of wastes from oil drilling directly into fresh-water bodies, or do not follow proper pollution-reducing techniques (see Nigeria case).
Many Ogoni leaders have pointed to the nearly complete devastation of the local economy due to socio-economic and environmental disturbances from the oil industry. Although Shell earns a considerable deal of money from its drilling in the Rivers region, it has done little to nothing to reinvest a portion of its profits back into the local communities where drilling takes place. For example, in the Rivers region, "there is an almost total absence of schools, good drinking water, electricity, medical care, and roads in many peasant communities" (Hutchful, 1985). Communication and transportation facilities for local villagers are seriously limited. The Nigerian federal government is being accused of diverting profits away from the oil producing regions to other parts of the country.
Other critics charge that industry wastes from the oil industry could be used to address, in part, infrastructural deficiencies in the local communities. For example, the disposal of gas from flaring "could constitute the basis for generating power for urban and rural electrification" (Ibid). Other industry wastes "could form the feedstock for the petrochemical industry, such as plastics, synthetic fibers, detergents and solvents" (Ibid). However, Shell and the other oil companies operating in Nigeria "consider it cheaper to burn away the gases that could have been used to give electric power and light to these villages" (Ibid).
The oil companies have also introduced major distortions into the social and economic fabric of the local societies. Apart from the destruction of local economic activities, Shell and other oil companies have perpetuated "regional and class inequalities" by creating "oil colonies" in local areas where oil executives live quite lavishly in comparison to the impoverished conditions of the local communities (Ibid). Because the oil industry requires highly-skilled workers, local villagers are either forced to migrate to the urban centers after being economically displaced, or to become low-skilled workers dependent on the oil company. These structural changes in the economic life of the local communities has often "generated bitter conflict as the issue of employment and participation in the oil industry" has divided different segments of the communities, often along ethnic lines (Ibid). Other structural effects of the oil industry are "rural depopulation, disintegration of the peasantry, and urban marginalization" (Ibid).
The crisis over environmental pollution and economic marginalization from the oil industry reached a peak in January 1993 when 300,000 Ogoni protested against Shell Oil. This organized protest was followed by repeated harassment, arrests, and killing of Ogonis by Federal government troops. Developments in the Ogoni region have been documented by the Office of the General Secretary, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) from January 1993 through April 1994. A timeline of events in the conflict follows (see Table 1).
|A Timeline of the Ogoni Conflict|
|January 4: 300,000 Ogoni protest against Shell Oil activities and the environmental destruction of Ogoni land.||January 2: Mr. Saro-Wiwa is placed under house arrest.|
|February 15-16: Shell International advisors meet with the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in London and the Hague to consider strategies for countering the "possibility that internationally organized protest could develop" over Shell's activities in Ogoni.||January 4: Dr. Owen Wiwa and Mr. Ledum are released and Mr. Saro- Wiwa's house arrest is lifted.|
|April 18: Ken Saro-Wiwa, chairman of the resistance group "Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)," is held by the Nigerian State Security Service at Port Harcourt Airport for 16 hours without charges, is released, but then arrested 5 days later.||January 11: A seven member Commission of Inquiry is installed by the Rivers State government to investigate Ogoni-Okirika clashes, and starts public sittings in Port Harcourt.|
|April 30: Construction work on Shell's Rumuekpe-Bomu Pipeline destroys freshly planted Ogoni farmland sparking a peaceful demonstration of approximately 10,000 Ogoni villagers. Nigerian Federal government soldiers open fire on the crowd of demonstrators, wounding at least 10.||January 20: A three-member ministerial team starts a two-day tour of Rivers State to investigate the hostilities between the communities there, as part of a general inquiry of community clashes. The Nigerian government is especially worried about troubles in oil producing areas.|
|May 1: Mass demonstrations along Bori Road against the pipeline construction continue. Shell decides to withdraw American workers and equipment.||January 21: A $500 million contract is signed in Port Harcourt between Shell Nigeria and ABB Global Engineering UK, allowing the latter to collect gas from 10 flow stations in Rivers State.|
|May 3: Agbarator Otu is shot and killed by members of the Nigerian military while protesting work on the pipeline at Nonwa.||January 24: The three major oil companies in Port Harcourt estimate to have lost over $200 million during 1993, due to 'unfavorable conditions in their areas of operation,' and call for urgent measures to combat the situation.|
|May 16: Mr. Saro-Wiwa has his passport seized while trying to leave for London.||Early April: A small conflict between Ogoni and Okoloma leads to serious clashes; Lt. Col. Komo is reported to have said that soldiers have been directed to deal with aggressive communities, and if necessary shoot trouble makers. Fifteen Ogoni people are arrested without being charged, including Dr. Owen Wiwa.|
|May 19: Amnesty International issues an Urgent Action concerning the extra-judicial killing of Mr. Otu and the Nigerian government's use of force against peaceful Ogoni protests.|
|May 24: Mr. Saro-Wiwa begins a European tour and succeeds in drawing attention to the struggle of the Ogoni people.|
|June 12: Presidential elections are boycotted by the Ogoni. A ruptured pipeline begins to spray oil in Bunu Tai, Ogoni land. Forty days later, the flow is yet to be stopped. Mr. Saro-Wiwa is prevented from travelling to the UN conference in Vienna by Nigerian SSS, and his passport is seized.|
|June 21: Mr. Saro-Wiwa and other MOSOP officials are arrested.|
|June 22: Ogoni people march in Bori, in protest against MOSOP arrests. In reaction, Federal government soldiers are moved from Port Harcourt and stationed in Bori. Indiscriminate beatings and arrests of Ogoni people by 'heavy[ily] armed and unfriendly Nigerian soldiers and police' are frequent.|
|June 30: Amnesty International issues a Fast Action concerning Mr. Saro-Wiwa.|
|July 9: At least 60 Ogoni people are killed by Andoni when arriving back from the Cameroon Republic by boat. This 'incident' marks the beginning of Ogoni-Andoni violence. Mr. Saro-Wiwa is moved to a hospital and later released on bail, but charges still stand.|
|August 5: Kaa is the first village attacked in the Andoni-Ogoni conflict, resulting in 33 deaths and 8,000 refugees. Over the coming months, similar incidents occur in over 20 other villages. MOSOP accuses Shell of being behind the Andoni-Ogoni violence.|
|August 31: MOSOP leaders are summoned to Abuja for a meeting with the Interim government, installed by former head of state Babangida after the annulment of the June 12 election results. This is the first time that the Nigerian government officially discussed the situation in Ogoniland with MOSOP.|
|Early September: Mr. Saro-Wiwa, Senator Birabi, and representatives of the Rivers State Security Council visit the destroyed village of Kaa and urge Governor Ada George to take measures to curb Andoni-Ogoni violence. Meetings are arranged between Andoni and Ogoni leaders and government representatives. This leads to the creation of a Peace Committee, headed by Professor Claude Ake.|
|September 15: General Sani Abacha promises Mr. Saro-Wiwa that Federal troops will be sent to Ogoniland to help curb Andoni-Ogoni violence.|
|October 6: A Peace Agreement is signed concerning the Ogoni-Andoni troubles, but without the signature of Mr. Saro-Wiwa, or the 'consultation of the communities involved.'|
|October 17: An oil spill at Korokoro oil fields in Ogoni, operated by Shell. Baritonle Kpormon is shot dead at a checkpoint in Bori by a Federal soldier who has been sent to ensure peace at the Ogoni-Andoni border; however Bori is not at the border. A MOSOP Steering Committee meeting accepts the Peace Agreement but for two paragraphs, and calls for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to be installed by the Federal government.|
|October 19: Professor Ake, chairman of the Peace Conference, send a letter to Governor Ada George, stating that he does not agree with the Peace Agreement. According to him, it was drafted in haste and without proper consultation of the communities involved.|
|October 23: Two fire trucks from SPDC are seized at Korokoro by local inhabitants.|
|October 25: Three Ogoni men are shot at Korokoro oil fields by Federal government soldiers accompanying Shell workers who went back to retrieve the fire trucks. One man dies (Uebari Nna), and two are wounded (Pal Sunday and Mboo Ndike).|
|November 17: The interim government resigns. General Abacha becomes the new Nigerian head of state.|
|December 13: Governor Ada George is replaced by Lt. Col. Dauda Komo. Violent clashes between Ogoni and Okirika over crowded land at waterfronts, Port Harcourt. Over 90 people are reported dead, many more wounded.|
|December 28: Probably to prevent the start of the Ogoni Week, MOSOP leaders Dr. Owen Wiwa and Ledum Mitee, a lawyer, are arrested without being charged. The Ogoni Assembly is dispersed by Nigerian soldiers. Lt. Col. Komo states that Ogoni Week was aborted because MOSOP didn't apply for a permit.|
Since this report was compiled, Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa, along with eight other MOSOP members, were arrested and charged with the murders of four traditional chiefs belonging to a pro-government group in the Ogoni region. The murders occurred during a bloody clash in May 1994 between Ogoni activists and Federal government soldiers. On October 31, 1995, a federal military tribunal convicted Ken Saro- Wiwa and the eight others of murder and sentenced them to death. On November 10, 1995 Ken Saro-Wiwa, Barinem Kiobel, John Kounien, Baribor Bera, Saturday Dobee, Felix Nwate, Nordu Eawo, Paul Levura, and Daniel Bgokoo were hanged in Port Harcourt by the Nigerian federal government. Reactions by the international community were swift and included the following (see Table 2).
|International Reaction to Ogoni Conflict|
|Protest marches at Nigerian embassies and Shell offices all over the world.|
|Suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth of Britain (a group comprising of Britain and its former colonies).|
|The withdrawal of ambassadors by several countries.|
|Calls for a multilateral oil embargo and other sanctions by world leaders.|
|Plans for a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning the executions.|
|Protest actions by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and environmental groups such as Greepeace.|
|Calls by the European Union to impose economic sanctions.|
|Imposition of a ban on arms sales to Nigeria by a number of countries.|
|Protests in Nigeria by thousands of students and other individuals.|
|Under extreme pressure, the International Finance Corporation cancels a proposed $100 million loan and $80 million equity deal to Nigeria LNG, a company owned by the Nigerian government and the top oil producers in Nigeria (Shell, Elf, and Agip), to produce a gas plant and pipeline in the Niger delta.|
Royal Dutch Shell, on the other hand, announced plans on November 16, 1995, just six days after the hangings, that they intend to proceed with the $5 billion natural gas plant in Nigeria, despite numerous protests by world leaders, including South Africa's Nelson Mandela. In mid-November 1995, Shell reiterated its belief that sanctions would do more to hurt ordinary Nigerians and that the country will benefit from the natural gas plant. Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has defrayed all criticism by stating that the executions were in the purview of the country's domestic judicial system, and therefore not in a position to be judged by the international community.
Region: West Africa
The oil industry employs only 5% of the labor force (as opposed to 70% which agriculture once employed before the country become a single commodity export economy with oil production).
Both Shell Oil and the other foreign oil companies operating in Nigeria have argued to the Nigerian Federal government that any attempt at regulating the petroleum industry will have a detrimental impact both on company profits, but also on national government revenues and local employment. Shell has argued that it is in the national interest of Nigeria for the government to support efforts at expanding current drilling operations and promoting exploration and establishment of new oil-wells which will contribute to the economic viability of Nigeria in the competitive global oil market. Because the Nigerian government receives the vast majority of its foreign exchange earnings from the sale of oil, any restrictions on the oil producers or explorers could have a negative impact on Nigeria's economic earnings. For example, even a slight reduction in current production levels could have a large impact on the economy.
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Fact Sheet on the Ogoni Struggle
Execution of Ken Saro Wiwa
"People, oil and politics". Brian Anderson, Managing Director of the Shell Petroleum Development company of Nigeria, speaks about Shell's place in this troubled West African nation and his hopes for the future.
Materials used from Kerstin Moesinger and Amy Maglio case studies