This week the Shell multinational oil company are to go on trial for complicity in Nigeria’s 1994 brutal crackdowns against the Ogoni people and the murder of non-violent activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa.
Mr Saro-Wiwa was hanged in November 1995 after being convicted by a military tribunal in which he was denied proper legal representation or appeal. Shell subsequently faced a storm of protest and Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth. The then British prime minister, John Major, called the execution “judicial murder”.
While Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, the peoples of the river delta where the crude is extracted have seen their homelands turned into a wasteland. The millions of dollars of oil revenue accrued every day have done nothing for the 70 per cent of Nigerians who live on less than $1 a day.
And even while the current trial gets under way the Nigerian government the Nigerian military has launched a large offensive against the people of the Niger Delta, in an attempt to “crush armed insurgent groups.” Brutal military attacks have rained down on the Western Delta from the air, sea and land since last Wednesday. Despite attempts by the military to cover up the massacres, the Ijaw National Congress, which represents the region’s largest ethnic group, has said that the attacks have “resulted in over a thousand deaths, because we dared to ask for our rights,” in the mostly Ijaw communities of Gbaramatu, Okerenkoko, and Oporoza.” According to Amnesty International they have received reports that indicate hundreds of civilians have already been killed. The military presence has made independent access to the communities difficult and claims impossible to verify. (Get the full story here)