On November 10, 1995 internationally recognized peace activist Ken Saro Wiwa along with 8 of his colleagues from Ogoniland – a small ethnic community in the Niger Delta – were hanged by a military tribunal after they were convicted on trumped up charges. Wiwa was fighting for the Ogoni peoples’ rights regarding the environmental and economic destruction of their land due to Shell’s oil extraction in the region.
Watch this video that detailed the case against Shell.
Wiwa v Shell was settled on June 8, 2009 for the sum of $15.5 million. This is considered a victory for the plaintiffs, the Ogoni people and those working to hold the extractive industry accountable for their role in human rights abuses throughout the world.
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The multinational corporation Shell financed, armed, and otherwise colluded with the Nigerian military forces that used deadly force and conducted massive, brutal raids against the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta. Shell was also involved in a strategy that resulted in the executions of nine Ogoni leaders who were working for environmental justice and human rights, including internationally-acclaimed writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. The Center for Constitutional Rights, EarthRights International and other human rights attorneys sued Shell for their role in the repression of the Ogoni and the executions of the “Ogoni Nine”. The case will go to trial on May 26th, 2009 in New York City.
The film was produced by Rikshaw Films for EarthRights International and the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Special thanks to filmmaker Glenn Ellis, for extensive footage from two important documentaries made by Catma Films, The Drilling Fields (1994) & Delta Force (1995), and to photographer Ed Kashi, for use of his photographs.
Royal Dutch Shell, the 3rd largest company in the world, is a Dutch company with their headquarters in London. Last year Shell earned record profits of over $31 billion.dsc00907
Shell was the first oil company to extract oil from the Niger Delta in 1956 and operates in Nigeria under the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) – the largest private sector oil and gas company in the country.
Shell extracts between 700,000 and 1 million barrels of oil per day from Nigeria depending on levels of instability in the region equating to nearly half of Nigeria’s daily oil extraction.
Shell boasted their ’success’ in Nigeria in a briefing note issued in 2008 to ‘celebrate’ 50 years of extracting oil in Nigeria. According to the briefing, SPDC’s operations in the Niger Delta are spread over some 30,000 square kilometers and include a network of over 6,000 kilometers of flowlines and pipelines, 90 oil fields, 1,000 producing wells, 73 flowstations, eight gas plants and two major oil export terminals at Bonny and Forcados.
What they do not say is that most of the 6,000 kilometers of pipeline snake through local communities throughout the Delta above ground, and are old, rusted and constantly break, leaking oil into drinking water and the creeks where villagers fish, wash their clothes and fetch water for cooking. Shell does not reveal that those communities were never asked if the company could operate on its land nor were they compensated. And throughout the region Shell is burning gas flares some of which have burned 24 hours a day, seven days a week for over 40 years causing major respiratory problems, cancer and acid rain that has corroded roofs of houses and destroyed crops.
Read The Other Shell Report for more information on the worldwide activities the company does not report
Shell’s Environmental Devastation in Nigeria
Royal Dutch Shell, plc (Shell) began oil production in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria in 1958 and has a long history of working closely with the Nigerian government to quell popular opposition to its presence in the region. From 1990-1995, Nigerian soldiers, at Shell’s request and with Shell’s assistance and financing, used deadly force and conducted massive, brutal raids against the Ogoni people living in the Niger Delta to repress a growing movement in protest of Shell.
On November 10, 1995, nine Ogoni leaders (the “Ogoni Nine”) were executed by the Nigerian government after being falsely accused of murder and tried by a specially-created military tribunal. Those executed were internationally acclaimed environmental and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, prominent youth leader John Kpuinen, Dr. Barinem Kiobel, Saturday Doobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbokoo, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate and Baribor Bera. The detention, trial, and executions of the Ogoni Nine were the result of collusion between Shell and the military government to suppress opposition to Shell’s oil operations in Nigeria. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), EarthRights International (ERI) and other human rights attorneys sued Shell for human rights violations against the Ogoni. The case will go to trial on May 27, 2009 in federal court in New York City.
The environmental devastation the oil company has caused to Ogoni lands in the Niger Delta was a primary reason for the Ogoni movement against Shell. In 2006, the Niger Delta Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Project (an independent team of scientists from Nigeria, the U.K. and the U.S.) characterized the Niger Delta as “one of the world’s most severely petroleum-impacted ecosystems.” Their report noted that the Delta is “one of the 10 most important wetlands and marine ecosystems in the world.
Millions of people depend upon the Delta’s natural resources for survival, including the poor in many other West African countries who rely on the migratory fish from the Delta.” Of the nearly 27 million people living in the Niger Delta, an estimated 75 percent rely on the environment for their livelihood, often farming and fishing for market or subsistence living. Shell’s operations in the Delta have led to the deep impoverishment of the Ogoni people and surrounding communities in the Delta.
Natural gas is a byproduct of oil drilling. In much of the world, this gas is either used for energy or re-injected into the well. In Nigeria, Shell and other oil companies burn it in a process known as gas flaring. Nigeria flares more gas than any other country but Russia; at least 20 billion cubic meters of gas are burned per year, enough to meet the energy needs of Nigeria and neighboring countries. The gas burned in flares is not the clean natural gas used for heating or cooking; the gas is contaminated with toxic compounds and the flares send huge toxic plumes into the air. The chemicals, which end up in local waterways and fields through soot and precipitation, include carcinogens such as benzene, a deadly chemical that can cause convulsions, chromosomal damage and birth defects. Many of the flares are located adjacent to Niger Delta communities. According to the World Bank, gas flaring in Nigeria, which generates no useful energy, has contributed more greenhouse gases emissions than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa combined.
The Nigerian government first moved to end gas flaring in 1969 when it ordered corporations to set up infrastructure to utilize associated gas. Shell and other oil companies ignored this order. The Nigerian government passed the Associated Gas Reinjection Act in 1979 that required oil companies to submit a detailed plan for utilizing all gas with an ultimate goal of ending flaring by 1984. Since then, Shell and other companies have continued flaring, choosing to pay a fine rather than clean up their operations. Shell was again ordered to stop flaring in 2005 when Nigeria’s Federal High Court declared gas flaring as a gross violation of the neighboring communities’ human rights. Shell and other oil companies continue to make excuses. As of December 2008, there were over 100 flare sites still operating in Nigeria.
“I and my colleagues are not the only ones on trial… Shell is here on trial and… there is no doubt in my mind that the ecological war that the company has waged in the Delta will be called to question…”
- Ken Saro-Wiwa’s closing statement at the trial of the Ogoni 9
An estimated 1.5 million tons of oil has spilled in the Niger Delta ecosystem over the past 50 years. This amount is equivalent to about one “Exxon Valdez” spill in the Niger Delta each year. Many of the spills have taken place in sensitive habitats for birds, fish and other wildlife, leading to further loss of biodiversity and, in turn, further impoverishment of local communities. The spills pollute local water sources that people depend on for drinking, cooking, bathing, laundering and fishing. They also release dangerous fumes into the air, sometimes rendering villages uninhabitable and causing serious illness for those who are unable to relocate. Many of the oil spills can be attributable to poorly maintained infrastructure such as aging pipelines.
Environmental groups in Nigeria and Europe have filed a lawsuit against Shell in the Netherlands for its history of oil spills and lack of cleanup in Nigeria. According to the Nigerian environmental group involved in the suit, cleanup of oil spills is often very superficial, sometimes involving little more than turning the land so that the oil remains just beneath the surface of the soil.
An estimated 1.5 million tons of oil has spilled in the Niger Delta ecosystem over the past 50 years. This amount is equivalent to about one “Exxon Valdez” spill in the Niger Delta each year.
A pattern of Greenwashing
Despite Shell’s dirty record in Nigeria and elsewhere, the company continues to try to falsely portray itself as “green” in its advertising, a practice known as “greenwashing.” The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has found that Shell’s environmental claims violated advertising rules. In 2007, Friends of the Earth filed complaints about a Shell ad featuring an oil refinery emitting flowers that was accompanied by a claim that its carbon dioxide waste was used to grow flowers. The chairman of ASA called it “a ridiculous claim” and Shell was forced to pull the ad. In 2008, the ASA banned Shell’s ad that claimed it was building a “profitable and sustainable future” through its development of the largest oil refinery in the U.S. and its petroleum mining in a Canadian oil sands deposit.
The case against Shell
Beginning in 1996, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), EarthRights International (ERI), Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman and other human rights attorneys have brought a series of cases to hold Shell accountable for human rights violations in Nigeria, including summary execution, crimes against humanity, torture, inhuman treatment and arbitrary arrest and detention. The lawsuits are brought against the Royal Dutch/Shell group and Brian Anderson, the head of its Nigerian operation.
The cases were brought under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 statute giving non-U.S. citizens the right to file suits in U.S. courts for international human rights violations, and the Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows individuals to seek damages in the U.S. for torture or extrajudicial killing, regardless of where the violations take place. The cases also allege that Shell violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and violations of New York state law.
Shell has made many attempts to have these cases thrown out of court, which the plaintiffs have defeated. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has set a trial date of May 27th, 2009. The plaintiffs eagerly await their day in court to hold the defendants accountable for their injuries and the deaths of loved ones.
A Dutch Zembla Documentary which lead to Parliamentary Hearing:
Factsheet Nigeria is on fire: Broken promises
Natural gas is often released during the extraction of oil in Nigeria. Shell sets this gas on fire. These gas flares produce a
large amount of greenhouse gas. Furthermore, they waste an enormous amount of energy that Nigeria could put to good use.
In this factsheet, Milieudefensie [Friends of the Earth Netherlands] presents an overview of Shell’s broken promises.
Nigerian policy on gas flaring Gas flaring began in the late 1950s, when oil was first
extracted in Nigeria and the country was still a British colony. The British government was aware of the
undesirability of the situation but took no action (1).
Gas flaring has been theoretically prohibited in Nigeria since 1984. It is possible to obtain an
exemption from the ban on gas flaring; however, the requirements for this special permit are unknown. The
flaring permit held by Shell has not been made public, so it is not possible for local people to determine the
grounds on which it was granted to Shell. Moreover, the fine for flaring gas is too low per cubic metre to
motivate oil companies to stop flaring gas.
The Nigerian government is faced with conflicting interests in this matter. It is required to protect its
people from the consequences of flaring. But at the same time, the government works with Shell in a joint
venture and earns profits from oil production.
Local people oppose gas flaring. In Iwhrekan, Nigeria, the case was brought to court. The court ruled in
favour of local residents in 2006 and ordered the flaring to be stopped. But Shell and the state-owned
oil company appealed the decision, whereby the court granted them one year to stop the flaring.
Unfortunately, this did not lead to a halt in the flaring.
Shell announced it would appeal to a higher court and the judgement cannot be enforced until that case is
decided. In the meantime, the judge handling the case has been transferred to northern Nigeria.
Repeated promises from Shell
Shell has promised to extinguish the flares as the result of pressure from the Nigerian people,
government and environmental organisations. But Shell has not yet kept these promises. A list:
In 1996 Shell, promised it would stop flaring in 2008.
In 2000 the Nigerian Minister of Environment stated that an agreement had been reached with the oil
sector to end flaring in 2004. Oil concerns in Nigeria stated later dates. In its annual report, Shell Nigeria
restated 2008 as the final year (4). The accounting firm KPMG, however, expressed doubts about the
accuracy of the data in the report (5). Moreover, it turned out that projects did not proceed as planned in
Shell Nigeria nevertheless stated in 2002 that everything would work out and that the flames would
be extinguished in 2008 (6).
In 2003, too, Shell stated its commitment to the final year of 2008 (7). But further on in its report, it
emerged that boosting oil production took precedence over gathering the gas. Flaring would be increased instead of decreased. Shell placed the blame for lagging investments on its partners in the joint venture who refused to co-finance investments, as well as on local people who would block entrance to the installations.
In 2005, Shell hinted that it might not meet the 2008 deadline and this time gave the reason as the inadequate performance of subcontractors.
Nevertheless, Shell repeated its old promise. But in the same report, Shell stated that it unfortunately could not meet the 2008 deadline due to insufficient financing. It planned to discuss its options with the Nigerian authorities (8).
But the delay turned out to be less serious than expected. In the 2005 Annual Report, 2009 was listed as the new target (9). Shell was optimistic about the progress it had made (10).
In 2007, the promise to definitively stop flaring in 2009 was emphasised (11).
In mid-2009, Shell Vice President of Communications Nick Wood stated that three billion dollars had been invested in gas gathering installations, but that at least three billion more needed to be invested (15). In other words, Shell was not even at the halfway point in its planned adaptations. The only way that the deadline could still be met was to shut off the oil flow to the gas flares. Shell stated that this was not possible because the Nigerian government had ordered oil production, and thus income from oil, to remain steady. The 2009 deadline was not met.
Although the 2009 deadline was not met, gas flaring by Shell in Nigeria appears to have declined. Shell reported lower emissions in 2007 and 2008.
According to Shell, flaring was reduced by 30 per cent between 2002 and 2008 due to its own measures such as exporting LNG (liquefied natural gas) and using gas in electric power plants.
The main reason, however, is the result of closing down the oil flow in Ogoniland by government order.
That occurred following large-scale local protests against Shell pollution (12).
It is not clear whether all the problems really can be blamed on unrest in the region. It could also be that Shell is afraid that the government will actually hold the oil industry to its promise to stop the flaring.
Given that in many locations Shell has not yet attended to gathering the gas, this would mean that the oil flow would have to be temporarily shut off. This is a message that Shell would rather not communicate to its shareholders. The ‘rebels’ are thus a convenient scapegoat.
The government recently agreed a truce with the rebel groups. A large group of rebels in the Niger Delta recently took advantage of an amnesty ruling and surrendered their weapons. This has offered opportunities for a normalisation of the situation. It is feared that Shell plans to again open these sources as soon as possible, and thus to carry on with the flaring.
(1) The Climate Justice Programme / Friends of the Earth
Nigeria 2005, Gas Flaring in Nigeria: A
Human Rights, Environmental and Economic Monstrosity
(2) Shell website 2009, interview with Jeroen van der Veer
Jeroen van der Veer, former Shell CEO stated in 2008: ‘We are
simply carrying on with the offshore company, the LNG
installation and with investments in the Niger Delta as well.
Gas flaring must be completely stopped there. We very much
want to do this but it also must be made possible.’
(3) EIA 2005 country analysis brief Nigeria, http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/nigeria.html
(4) SPDC (Shell Nigeria) 2001,People and the Environment Annual Report 2000; p. 1,38
‘Flares out in 2008 on course. We remain committed to eliminating all unnecessary flaring of gas from our facilities by
2008. Good progress is being made towards achieving this target through the various projects in which we are involved to gather and put the gas currently flared to economic use.’
(5) KPMG 2001, Accountants report on 2000 Shell Nigeria
Annual Report ‘Limitations exist in the completeness and quality of gas metering at the flow stations and these could affect the accuracy of the reported data for gas flaring.’
(6) SPDC (Shell Nigeria) 2003, People and the Environment Annual Report 2002
‘Also, we flared approximately 10 per cent more gas than planned as a result of delays and slippage in a number of
associated gas gathering projects. In addition, a number of factors including community disturbances, facilities shut downs and sabotage, contributed to our inability to effectively implement planned gas/oil ratio (GOR) controls in 2014.’ ‘We will make every effort to optimise project planning in order to ensure that the 2008 date for ending routine flaring is met.’
(7) SPDC (Shell Nigeria) 2004, People and the Environment
Annual Report 2003 ‘Eliminating all routine flaring by 2008 is a major corporate commitment.’
‘However, in 2003, the volume of associated gas (AG) flared was 700 million scf/d. This was more than the amount flared in 2002 (570 million scf/d), due partly to increased production and delay in commissioning the Offshore
Gas Gathering System (OGGS).’ ‘(…) however, flowstation upgrades were behind plan due to budget pressure and some access problems to sites affected by community disturbances.’
(8) SPDC (Shell Nigeria) 2005 People and the Environment Annual Report 2004, Quote from Basil Omiyi, Managing Director
‘The second is the delay in fulfilling our commitment to end continuous gas flaring by 2008. Whilst past underfunding by partners is the main cause of this delay, some projects also suffered from poor contractor performance.’
‘In 1996, SPDC made a commitment to end continuous flaring of associated gas by 2008 and, subsequently, the Nigerian Government also adopted this date as a flares-down target.(…)’ ‘Over the last five years, a significant investment (of over $2billion) has been made by the joint venture to develop major associated gas gathering (AGG) projects to collect gas from our fields scattered across the Niger Delta (…)” ‘(…) This will leave 17 low production flowstations for which no firm and economically viable gas gathering solution has so far been determined. Further investigations are still required; if no viable solutions are found, we intend to shut in production from those fields during 2008.’ ‘We very much regret that we will not be able to meet the flares-down target of 2008 and we are discussing with the relevant Nigerian authorities the available options . The original flares-down target of 2008 was predicated on the joint venture’s programme being fully funded to deliver the required AGG projects. This was not achieved. For example, between 1996 and 2004 the budget approved by the Federal Government was in total some $4 billion less than that agreed by the partners as necessary to support the joint venture programme, including funding of the AGG projects .’
(9) SPDC (Shell Nigeria) 2006,People and the Environment
Annual Report 2005
‘But reduced funding of the joint venture programme in past years (including funding of the gas gathering projects) and
poor contractor performance on some projects mean that some gas gathering projects will be completed only in 2009.’
‘It is expected that a further $1.55 billion will be spent to meet the 2009 flares-down target.’
(10) Royal Dutch Shell, Annual Report 2005, p1
‘In Nigeria, for example, we made good progress in the programme to end continuous flaring.’
(11) SPDC (Shell Nigeria) 2007,People and the Environment Annual Report 2006
‘SPDC intends to shut in production from any fields where there is no prospect of a solution for gathering the associated
gas by 2009.’
(12) Royal Dutch Shell, Annual Report 2008.
‘In 2007, total flaring in Exploration & Production dropped again. Nearly 80% of the drop in 2007 came in Nigeria, most of this from the closing down of production wells with a high gas content in the Niger Delta onshore, as a result of the security situation.’ Violence continued to block access to all remaining sites where gas-gathering equipment is needed in the Niger Delta, causing further delays in ending continuous flaring there. Flaring levels in Nigeria were the same as in 2007, as further progress with the programme to end continuous flaring was blocked by ongoing government funding and security problems.’
(13) Buitenhof [Dutch TV programme] 2009, interview with Jeroen van der Veer
(15) Shell 2009, Nick Wood, Vice President of Communications, Exploration and Production in official web chat: ‘Doing
business in Nigeria: challenges and questions’, 23 July 2009
‘The only other way of stopping flaring is by not producing oil in the first place. At a time when Nigeria’s oil production – and thus government revenue – is already badly hit by the ongoing violence, shutting-in production to reduce flaring would further cut revenues for social and infrastructure development.’
Author: Milieudefensie, April 2010
Peter Voser, Shell CEO the Shell Sustainability Report
And Last but not Least, the Royal Dutch Shell CEO has a word with regards to the Shell Sustainability Report:
Statement on UNEP’s Ogoniland Environmental Assessment Report
Nairobi, 18 July 2011 - In response to reports mainly in the Dutch media over the past 48 hours, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) wishes to clarify several points.
- The forthcoming launch of its independent Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland report is on track and its release has not been delayed as a result of security concerns.
- UNEP’s report contains the findings and recommendations from its two-year assessment of the environmental and public health impacts of oil contamination in Ogoniland, Nigeria, conducted at the request of the Government of Nigeria.
- An extensive peer review of the findings has been carried out by external scientists. The study represents an unprecedented effort to examine the location, nature, extent and implications of oil contamination in Ogoniland.
- In early July 2011, UNEP informed the relevant authorities in Nigeria that the report will be ready for publication as of the last week of July, and proposed that the launch takes place in the capital Abuja.
- Once the report has been released, it will be made available to the public and the national and international media via the UNEP website.
- Claims that the independent report either exonerates some stakeholders or blames others for the oil spills are wrong – as has been previously publicly stated.
- UNEP hopes the report and its findings will catalyze cooperation and a response to decades of oil-related environmental challenges and provide for the people of Ogoniland the opportunity for a sustainable future.
- During 14 months of fieldwork in Ogoniland and its surrounding creeks, UNEP teams collected samples of soil, water, sediment, air and plant and fish tissue for analysis. The samples have been tested for more than 400 substances, or analytes, such as petroleum hydrocarbons and heavy metals.
- Community input and assistance was a key element of the project and UNEP deeply appreciates the community support, particularly the widespread contribution of local knowledge of oil contamination stretching back over several decades.
- UNEP had Community Liaison Assistants liaising closely with local communities in Ogoniland, and as part of the project, extensive consultations and discussion groups have been organized by UNEP. The main local academic partner was the Rivers State University of Science and Technology.
- At the project’s peak, some 30 local staff were employed with UNEP’s project team based in Port Harcourt, who worked alongside international experts. The UNEP project team was supported in the field by voluntary community representatives.
The content of this statement can be attributed to Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson: firstname.lastname@example.org