Nigeria: Halt attacks against members of the Ogoni community

The following petition has been initiated by ESCR-Net member Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), who invites any member of ESCR-Net or the public to add their signature in support.

We, the undersigned civil society organizations and individuals, are deeply concerned about recent reports of the deteriorating human rights situation in Ogoniland, Nigeria. Reports allege brutal treatment against persons from the Ogoni community and death threats against members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) who are protesting non-violently against the laying of pipelines across some Ogoni communities by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the Nigerian subsidiary of the international oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell.

Reports reaching us indicated that members of the community who had gathered to embark on a peaceful demonstration on Thursday, 26 October 2017, against Shell over the company’s resumed laying of pipelines in Ogoni were violently disrupted, and scores of people were  beaten. We are told the security forces involved were a combined team of armed security officers drawn from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of MOPOL 56 of the Nigeria Police and military units participating in recently launched Operation Crocodile Smile of the Nigeria Army. Journalists covering the event reportedly had their cameras seized only to be returned upon the deletion of photographs taken of the march.

The truncated peaceful march was to be carried out at the pipeline location at Nonwa in Tai Local Government Area of Ogoni in Rivers State, Nigeria. The violent dispersal of this protest march violates the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression which is guaranteed under international human rights law and protected under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

We also observe that MOSOP has in the last three months repeatedly demanded that Shell carry out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the proposed pipeline and enter into broad-based discussion with the Ogoni community based on their right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Protests in August led to the suspension of pipeline laying in the Gokana area of Ogoni. However, recent calls for consultation and assessment have been ignored, and this latest attempt to lay pipelines has been reportedly initiated with no meaningful information or consultation with local communities.

The present effort to lay pipelines touches on a particularly painful and unfortunate history for the Ogoni people. It was the same pipeline laying exercise without consultation that led to local protests, casualties at the hands of military security and a crackdown that included the arrest of MOSOP President Ken Saro-Wiwa in the fallout from the notorious Wilbros incident in 1993.

The laying of oil pipelines remains directly associated with the torture and execution of environmentalist, and human rights defender Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight other Ogoni activists in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on 10 November 1995, following their non-violent efforts to protect the indigenous Ogoni People from human rights and environmental abuses associated with Shell and its cohorts in the oil industry in the Niger Delta.

Therefore, we take very seriously the current avoidable repression against the community and threats against the lives of members of MOSOP. It is of particular concern that renewed efforts to lay pipelines are taking place on the eve of the anniversary of the execution of the prior leadership of MOSOP.

We demand the following from the Nigeria government:

  1. An immediate and comprehensive investigation into the brutal beating of members of the Ogoni community who were attacked by the military in the course of their disruption of the protest yesterday and ensure due punishment for all those involved
  2. Instruct Shell and its contractors to suspend all pipeline operations until the conduct of a proper environmental impact assessment (EIA) which takes into consideration the socio-economic conditions of Ogoniland in consultation with the Ogoni people
  3. Ensure that all those wounded and injured in the course of the truncated protest by the security officers are given adequate medical treatment and compensation
  4. Immediate cessation of all further attacks, harassment and disruption of meetings of members of MOSOP