LAGOS, NIGERIA – Amnesty International, a reputable human rights group, on Tuesday, called for the prosecution of Shell Oil for allegedly assisting successive Nigeria’s military regimes in committing human rights abuses in the oil-rich south during the 1990s.
The rights group said the oil giant should be prosecuted in Nigeria, as well as in Britain and in The Netherlands where it has its head offices.
Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary has strongly denied the charges, calling them “false and without merit”.
The director of global issues and research at Amnesty, Audrey Gaughran, said it was “indisputable that Shell played a crucial role” in events in Ogoniland in the 1990s.
“But we now believe that there are grounds for a criminal investigation,” she added in a statement after publishing a cache of documents relating to the turbulent period.
Sources say a criminal file is expected to be ready and submitted to the authorities “with a view to prosecution”, she said.
Amnesty International alleged that Shell Oil “repeatedly encouraged” successive Nigeria’s military governments to deal with community protests in Ogoniland, which is part of the Niger Delta region.
The human rights organization claimed the company, Shell Oil, was aware that its action “would lead to unlawful killings, rape, torture, the burning of villages” and the company is accused of even providing transportation for army troops in the commission of human rights abuses.
“That it has never answered for this is an outrage,” Amnesty International added.
Globe Afrique’s research suggests that community unrests have forced Shell Oil to quit Ogoniland in 1993 but the company still maintains a network of pipelines in the area.
In a damaging analysis, Amnesty International said Shell Oil and successive Nigerian military governments at the time operated as business partners and had consistent meetings to discuss the protection of their interests.
“Internal memos and minutes from meetings show Shell lobbying senior government officials for military support, even after the security forces had carried out mass killings of protesters,” it said.
“They also show that on several occasions Shell provided logistical or financial assistance to military or police personnel when it was well aware that they had been involved in murderous attacks on defenseless villagers.”
On November 10, 1995, Ogoni activist and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his compatriots were executed on trumped-up murder charges under the late feared military ruler Sani Abacha.
The killing of the individuals named above led to Nigeria’s expulsion from the Commonwealth. But it was readmitted in 1999 after a return to civilian rule.
A spokesman for the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC), said: “Amnesty International’s allegations concerning SPDC are false and without merit.
“SPDC did not collude with the authorities to suppress community unrests and in no way encouraged or advocated any act of violence in Nigeria.
“We believe that the evidence will show clearly that Shell was not responsible for these tragic events.” To date, Shell remains a major oil community in West Africa.