Today, Friends of the Earth Nigeria / Environmental Rights Action and social and environmental activists from around the world will gather in Port Harcourt City, Nigeria. They will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight more Ogoni people at the hands of the Nigerian dictatorship of Sani Abacha.
Known around the world for his struggle with oil giant Shell, Ken Saro-Wiwa is now a figure acclaimed globally for showing how people power can beat polluting corporate giants and dirty energy.
The social and environmental crisis and injustice exposed by Ken Saro Wiwa in the oil-rich and massively polluted Niger Delta are still ongoing; the people of Ogoniland are still suffering from the effects of fifty years of land, air and water pollution by the oil industry.
“Ken Saro Wiwa’s legacy is not only a major source of inspiration to the people of Nigeria, it also serves as a beacon of hope to people across the world struggling for environmental justice,” said Friends of the Earth Scotland Director Dr Richard Dixon.
Dr Dixon continued “Across the world we still see environmental activists under threat, persecuted and vilified for defending their communities and homeland. The freedom to challenge corporate and political power is a vital part of our democracy and we must ensure that people around the world have the ability to pursue these same rights. We must hold companies to account here in Scotland if they are found to be complicit in human rights abuses or environmental injustice abroad.”
Friends of the Earth Netherlands, along with four Nigerian farmers, brought a lawsuit against Shell in The Netherlands for oil pollution in three Nigerian villages. This is the first time that a Dutch company has been brought before a Dutch court to account for environmental damage caused abroad. A judgement is expected on Friday 18 December.
“Oil companies such as Shell continue to dodge their responsibility. They must prevent further spills, clean up, and provide adequate compensation to people affected by oil pollution in Nigeria, ” said Godwin Uyi Ojo, executive director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria / Environmental Rights Action.
A British lawsuit resulted in 76 million euros compensation for the farmers and fisherman of the Bodo area, in Ogoniland, whose livelihoods were destroyed by two oil spills. Shell’s initial offer of compensation was 5,500 euros.
Four years after the 2011 publication of a groundbreaking report by the UN Environment Programme UNEP on oil pollution in Ogoniland, the report’s recommendations have still not been implemented and the people of Ogoniland continue to wait for justice and a chance to escape the devastation of the oil industry.
The resilience of the Ogonis and persistent pressure by local and international civil society is however starting to bear fruit : the recent elected Nigerian government of President Buhari committed to the implementation of the UNEP report. With an initial pledge of 10 million USD there are high expectations that the proposed governing body to oversee the clean up will be inaugurated soon.
”Because the UNEP report recommendations still have not been implemented, the Ogonis remain shortchanged and justice denied. Shell and the other companies, as well as the Nigerian government should immediately implement the recommendations. Shell should also compensate communities affected by continuing oil spills and agree to pay their share of the full cost of cleaning Ogoniland and other affected areas of the Niger Delta, ” said Godwin Uyi Ojo, executive director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria / Environmental Rights Action.
Kenule Beeson Saro Wiwa, October 10, 1941 – November 10, 1995.