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Case 4 - Human Rights in Nigeria

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  ROYAL DUTCH/SHELL: HUMAN RIGHTS IN NIGERIAIntroduction In 1995, a Nigerian military tribunal, in what most observers decried as a sham trial, orderedthe execution of noted author and playwright Ken Saro!iwa and eight other members of the ovement for the Survival of the #goni $eople% &he #goni are a 5'','''member ethnic group of farmers and fishermen that live in Nigeria(s coastal plain% )or several years, the #goni had been waging avigorous political campaign against Nigeria(s military rulers and the giant oil company *oyal+utchShell% &hey had been see-ing greater selfdetermination, rights to the revenue stemming fromoil exploration on traditional #goni lands, and compensation for the environmental degradation totheir land caused by fre.uent oil spills from fractured pipelines% Shell had been pumping oil from #gonilands since the late 195's% In 199/, four #goni chiefs who advocated cooperation rather thanconfrontation with Nigeria(s military government were lynched by a mob of #goni youth% &hough he wasnot present, Saro!iwa, a leader of the protest movement, was arrested and subse.uently sentencedto death along with eight other #goni activists%+espite intensive international pressure that included appeals to Shell to use its influence in thecountry to gain clemency for the convicted, the executions went ahead as scheduled on November 1',1995% 0fter the executions, Shell was criticied in the !estern media for its apparent unwillingness topressure Nigeria(s totalitarian regime% &he incident started some soulsearching at Shell about the socialand environmental responsibility of a multinational corporation in societies such as Nigeria that fall short of !estern standards for the protection of human rights and the environment% Background In 1921, the 0frican nation of Nigeria won independence from 3ritain% 0t that time, manybelieved that Nigeria had the potential to become one of the engines of economic growth in 0frica% &hecountry was blessed with abundant natural resources, particularly oil and gas4 was a net exporter of foodstuffs4 and had a large population that by 0frican standards was well educated today Nigeria has thelargest population in 0frica, with over 11' million people6% 3y the mid199's, it was clear that much of thatpotential was still to be realied% &hirtyfive years after winning independence, Nigeria was still heavilydependent on the oil sector% #il production accounted for 7' percent of 8+$, 95 percent of foreignexchange earnings, and about ' percent of the government(s budget revenues% &he largelysubsistence agricultural sector had failed to -eep up with rapid population growth, and Nigeria, once a  large net exporter of food, now had to import food% 8+$ per capita was a paltry :;7', one.uarter of what it was in 191, and the country was crea-ing under :/' billion of external debt% Nigeria had beenunable to garner financial assistance from institutions such as the International onetary )undbecause of the government(s unwillingness to account for how it used the revenues from oil taxes%$olitical problems partly explained Nigeria(s economic malaise% &he country has suffered frominternal strife among some of the more than ;5' ethnic groups that constitute the nation% In the 192's,the country was rac-ed by a particularly nasty civil war% In +ecember 197, the civilian government of the country was replaced in a coup by a military regime that proceeded to rule by decree% In 1997,democratic elections were held in Nigeria, but the military government nullified the results, declaringthere had been widespread ballot fraud%*oyal +utchShell is the main foreign oil producer operating in Nigeria% &he company wasformed at the turn of the century when <olland(s *oyal +utch =ompany, which had substantial oiloperations in Indonesia, merged with 3ritain(s Shell &ransport and &rading to create one of the world(sfirst multinational oil companies% Shell is now the world(s largest oil company with annual revenues thatexceed :17' billion% &he company has been operating in Nigeria since 197>, and by the md199'swas pumping about half of Nigeria(s oil% Nigerian oil accounts for about 11 to 1; percent of thecompany(s global output and generates net income for Shell of around :;'' million per year% ro! #$% in t&# Ogoni R#gion In 195, *oyal +utchShell struc- oil on #goni lands% 3y some estimates, the company hasextracted some :7' billion worth of oil from the region since then% +espite this, the #goni remaindesperately poor% ost live in palmroofed mud huts and practice subsistence agriculture% #f Shell(s5,''' employees in Nigeria, in 1995 only 5 were #goni% 3ecause they are a powerless minority amongNigeria(s 11' million people, the #goni are often overloo-ed when it comes to the allocation of ?obseither in government or the private sector%Starting in 19;, the Nigerian government supposedly directed 1%5 percent of the oil revenueit received bac- to the communities where the oil was produced% In 199;, the percentage wasincreased to 7 percent% &he #goni, however, claim they have seen virtually none of this money% ostappears to have been spent in the tribal lands of the ruling ma?ority or has vanished in corrupt deals%0lthough there were 92 oil wells, two refineries, a petrochemical complex and a fertilier plant in the#goni region in 199/, the lone hospital was an unfinished concrete hus- and the government  schools, unable to pay teachers, were rarely open%In addition to the lac- of returns from oil production in their region, the #goni claim that theirlands have suffered from environmental degradation, much of which could be laid at the feet of Shell% #goni activists claim that Shell(s poor environmental safeguards have resulted in numerous oilspills and widespread contamination of the soil and groundwater% 0 Shell spo-esman, interviewed in199/, seemed to ac-nowledge there might be some basis to these complaints% <e stated, @Some of the facilities installed during the last 7' years, whilst acceptable at the time, aren(t as we would buildthem today% 8iven the age of some of these lines oil pipelines6, regrettably oil spills have occurredfrom time to time%@ 1  <owever, the same spo-esman also blamed many of the more recent lea-s inthe #goni region on deliberate sabotage% &he sabotage, he stated, had one of two motivesAto bac-up claims for compensation and to support claims of environmental degradation%#n hearing of these claims, Ken Saro!iwa called them preposterous% Saro!iwa argued thatalthough uneducated youths, frustrated and angry, may have damaged some Shell installations in oneor two incidents, @the people would never deliberately spill oil on their land because they -now the socalled compensation is paltry and the land is never restored%@ ;  &o support his position, Saro!iwapointed to a spill from the 192's near a settlement called Bbubu that still had not been cleaned up% Inresponse, Shell stated that the spill occurred during the civil war in the 192'sCand cleanup wor- wascompleted in 199'% Subse.uently, sun-en oil reappeared at the surface, but Shell claims it was unable todo anything about this because of threats made against its employees in the region% In Danuary 1997,out of concern for their safety, Shell barred its employees from entering the region%In 0pril 1997, the #goni organied their first protests against Shell and the government% #gonifarmers stood in front of earthmoving e.uipment t&at was laying a pipeline for Shell throughcroplands% 0lthough Shell stated that the land had been ac.uired by legal means and that fullcompensation had been paid to the farmers and the local community, some of the locals remainedunhappy about what they viewed as continuing exploitation of their land% Seeing a threat to thecontinuity of its oil operations, Shell informed the Nigerian government about the protest% Enits from theNigerian military soon arrived and shots were fired into the crowd of protesters, -illing one #goni manand wounding several others%Subse.uently, in a series of mur-y incidents, Nigerian soldiers stormed #goni villages, sayingthey were .uelling unrest between neighboring #goni tribes% &he #goni claimed the raids werepunishment for obstructing Shell% &hey stated that the military had orders to use minor land disputes,  which had long been settled with little violence, as an excuse to lay entire villages to waste% 0 fearedunit of the mobile police with the nic-name @Kill and 8o@ conducted some of the raids% 0lthoughdetails are s-etchy, it has been reported that hundreds of people lost their lives in the violence% &hecycle of violence ultimately culminated in the -illing of the #goni chiefs who argued for compromisewith the Nigerian government% &his provided the government with the ?ustification they needed toarrest Ken Saro!iwa and eight associates in the ovement for the Survival of the #goni $eople% Nig#ria and S&# und#r r#%%ur# Saro!iwa(s arrest achieved the goal that the protests and bloodshed had not4 it focusedinternational attention on the plight of the #goni people, the heavyhanded policies of the Nigeriangovernment, and Shell(s activities in Nigeria% Several human rights organiations immediately pressuredShell to use its influence to gain the release of Saro!iwa% &hey also urged Shell to put on hold plansto start wor- on a :7%5 billion li.uefied natural gas pro?ect in Nigeria% &he pro?ect was structured as a ?oint venture with the Nigerian government% Shell(s central role in the pro?ect gave it considerableinfluence over the government, or so human rights activists believed%Shell stated that it deplored the heavyhanded approach ta-en by the Nigeriangovernment to the #goni people and regretted pain and loss suffered by #goni communities% &hecompany also indicated it was using @discreet diplomacy@ to try to bring influence to bear on theNigerian government% Nigeria(s military leadership, however, was in no mood to listen to discreetdiplomacy from Shell or anyone else% 0fter a trial by a military tribunal that was derided as nothingmore than a -angaroo court, Saro!iwa and his associates were sentenced to death by hanging% &hesentence was carried out shortly after sunrise on November 1', 1995% A't#r$at& In the wa-e of Saro!iwa(s hanging, a storm of protest erupted around the world% &he heads of state of the 5;nation 3ritish =ommonwealth, meeting in New Fealand at the time of Saro!iwa(sexecution, suspended Nigeria and stated they would expel the country if it did nbt return to democraticrule within two years% ES $resident 3ill =linton recalled the ES ambassador to Nigeria and bannedthe sale of military e.uipment, on top of aid cuts made in protest at Saro!iwa(s arrest% 3ritish $rime inister Dohn a?or banned arms sales to Nigeria and called for the widest possible embargo%0mbassadors from the 15nation Buropean Enion were recalled, and the BE suspended a aid toNigeria%
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