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Nigeria: Ogonis Say Arms Were Sponsored by Shell

by Ahamefula Ogbu and Chuks AkunnaAllAfrica.com
January 25th, 2001

PORT HARCOURT, Lagos -- The multinational oil giant, the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC) was yesterday accused of importing arms and ammunitions into the country with which destabilisation was engendered in the Niger Delta.

The accusation was made at the Port Harcourt session of the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa Commission investigating human rights violations in the country by the President of Ogoni socio-cultural organisation, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Ledum Mitee while presenting a petition on rights violations in Ogoniland.

Mitee said since communal clashes bore scars of military operations, it was apparent that the villagers who had no access to automatic weapons could not have been the ones that were wreaking the havoc with its attendant loss of lives and property in the mayhem.

He, called for reduction in the fields of operation of Shell which now stood at over 50 per cent to avoid what he described as blackmail on the part of authorities, who Shell constantly remind of the dire economic consequences of stoppage of Shell operations.

Mitee, who began his testimony at about 10 a.m., also queried the arrangement whereby Shell bought arms from the police only to hand over such to the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force to kill the Ogonis.

Mitee regretted that it was only in Nigeria where the state deployed its armed forces against her citizens just to satisfy the dictates of Shell, cautioning that unless the powers being enjoyed by the oil giant which he said has extracted oil worth $32 billion, was reduced, they would not be disposed to peace.

"We have information that as at the period of these killings in Ogoniland, Shell was involved in the importation of arms and ammunitions. Police, also, was selling arms to them, so the simple question is, 'what was the purpose for these arms' importation?'

"In fact, their executives were also sent abroad for training in arms. They have hands in the killings and violations of human rights in Ogoniland. An instance was when Shell invited the police to protect their installations and they came firing sporadically, killing a disabled boy fleeing from the scene in the process," Mitee said.

Another worrisome aspect of government abdication of responsibility leading to deaths, Mitee said, was in the churning out of spurious security reports always aimed at suppressing the next protesting community in the area.

On the Ogoni/Andoni clash, Mitee alleged that it was engendered by Shell which also allegedly sponsored the killing of 60 Ogoni fishermen returning from their settlement in Cameroon. He said prior to that time, the Andoni and Ogoni never had any differences.

On the boycott of June 12, 1993 presidential election, alleged to have caused the problem in Ogoniland, he said it was a "collective decision, exhaustively debated, voted for in a general meeting where those for were 11 while six voted against it."

On cross-examination by Mr. Yunus Ustaz Usman (SAN), counsel to a former administrator, Colonel Dauda Komo (rtd), Mitee said the administrator was neither involved in the trial, sentencing and execution of their late leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa, adding quickly, however, that the statement of Komo accusing MOSOP of killing the Ogoni Four was without basis since investigations had not been conducted at the time.

The suggestion that Shell may have employed supernumery officers who carried arms was to protect her investments due to hostile environment was hotly debunked by Mitee who insisted that in Britain and The Netherlands where Shell has installations, such situations could not have been tolerated.

Further led in evidence by his counsel, Mr. Femi Falana with Robert Azibaola, Mitee said that lack of respect for the environment was the grouse of his people, opining that rules on that be reviewed.

Justice Oputa, who had directed that counsel to the commission should cross- examine last, directed counsel on the matter to meet and explore ways of achieving reconciliation so that today when the case resumed, Ogoni and Shell would have struck a new understanding which means reconciliation, the reason for setting up the commission.





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