Amnesty International has just released documents that reveal how Royal Dutch Shell was in cahoots with the Nigerian military as it carried out human rights atrocities in the oil-rich region of Ogoniland.
The damning report alleges the British-Dutch oil giant worked with the Nigerian government in order to silence the Ogoni people, whose lands have been affected by oil pollution from Shell’s operations and poverty during the 1990s.
“The evidence we have reviewed shows that Shell repeatedly encouraged the Nigerian military to deal with community protests, even when it knew the horrors this would lead to — unlawful killings, rape, torture, the burning of villages,” Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty’s director of global issues, said in a statement.
The first bout of bloodshed occurred in November 1990 when Shell asked for "security protection" from Nigeria police inside Umuechem village.
Even though the protesters carried out peaceful demonstrations, demanding their right to an environment free of oil pollution, paramilitary police attacked the village with "guns and grenades" in response, killing 80 people and burning down 595 houses.
Defiant activists from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), a social movement organization of the indigenous people, started lobbying for political and economic autonomy in the following years. As a result, Shell announced an end to operations in 1993 in the region.
Despite officially leaving Ogoniland, Shell tried to carry on with its plan for a new pipeline that year.
As locals protested, another massacre occurred. Nigeria's military reportedly killed about 1,000 people and displaced nearly 30,000 others after destroying their villages.
In 1995, Nigerian activist Saro-Wiwa and eight other members of MOSOP were hanged after being convicted of murder following an internationally discredited trial. Moreover, Saro-Wiwa's corpse was burned with acid and thrown in an unmarked grave.
The controversial trial eventually led to Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth.
While Amnesty maintains Shell knew all about these human rights violations, the oil giant categorically denies the allegations.
Oil spills in Ogoniland continue to contaminate the people’s source of water. Earlier this month, MOSOP gave an ultimatum to the government to either combat oil pollution in the region or “be ready to face the anger of the people.”
Thumbnail Credits: REUTERS/Toby Melville