25 years ago: Nigeria has prominent Shell critic

Environmental disaster still a serious threat to the Ogoni (Press Release)

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the death of the environmental and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa (November 10, 1995), the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) demanded effective measures to fight the environmental catastrophe in the Niger Delta. The disaster, which is caused by oil production, is still a serious threat to the indigenous communities living there. "Ken Saro-Wiwa had fought tirelessly to draw worldwide attention to the situation of the Ogoni and other indigenous peoples. A quarter of a century after his execution, his message is more relevant than ever before. Nigeria's politics and the oil companies are failing to protect the environment and the people of the Niger Delta," explained Ulrich Delius, the STP's director, in Göttingen on Thursday. "With his commitment to corporate responsibility, Ken Saro-Wiwa was far ahead of his time. He was, so to speak, one of the masterminds of today's supply chain law," Delius stated.

Around 300 leaking pipelines and other oil spills are registered in the Niger Delta every year. They pose a massive threat to the lives of the indigenous people, who make up a large part of the 6.5 million people in the delta. Many of them live off fishing – and around 30,000 of them have had to give up fishing because the water is contaminated with oil residues. Further, soil and air pollution due to oil production and gas flaring has reached catastrophic levels. "The United Nations and various non-governmental organizations have documented the dramatic ecological, health-related, and social consequences in countless studies. However, the oil companies and the Nigerian government are shirking their responsibilities, leaving the victims of the plundering of resources to their fate," Delius criticized. 25 years after Ken Saro-Wiwa's death, Nigeria's oil policy is still characterized by corruption, nepotism, and abuse of power. The oil business is extremely profitable. The country draws more than 65 percent of its state revenues from oil production and 88 percent of its foreign currency from exporting the raw material.

The STP has been supporting the 500,000 Ogoni and other indigenous peoples of the Niger Delta for more than 30 years, and the human rights organization had also teamed up with Ken Saro-Wiwa and his successors to draw attention to the dramatic situation of the indigenous people in the delta. Particular focus was placed on the Shell Group and its cooperation with Nigeria's dictator Sani Abacha – who had Ken Saro-Wiwa and a few like-minded people executed after an arbitrary trial. When the dispute escalated in 1995 and 1996, Shell had even spied on the human rights organization.