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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Nigeria: Shell Protests, 1

Nigeria: Shell Protests, 1
Date distributed (ymd): 970515
Document reposted by APIC

On May 14, date of the annual shareholder meeting of Shell Oil in London, protests against the company for human rights and environmental abuses took place outside the meeting and around the world. A resolution sponsored by the Pensions and Investment Research Consultants and the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility won 41 million of the total 357 million shares (more than 10%). Demonstrations took place in a number of cities in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.

This posting includes excerpts from press releases from several groups involved in the protests. The next posting contains a special issue on Shell of Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly.

Other web sites with information on Shell, Nigeria and ongoing protests include:

(1) the Free Nigeria Movement
( - page no longer available 01/00 )

(2) Project Underground

(3) The Body Shop

Shell's defense of its involvement is at:

For more general background information on Nigeria, see the Africa Policy web site ( Use the search function to identify documents from 1995 to the present. For an overview, including pointers to other sources, consult the Nigeria: Country Profile at

Nigeria: Country Profile is also available in print, attractively printed in two colors in an 8- page 8 1/2" x 11" format, at $2 each, $1.60 each for 20 or more. Add 15% for postage and handling. Send your order with check or money order to APIC at the address below. It is an ideal source for continued public education on the issue.


May 13, 1997
Press Contact: Mark Westlund -

or Project Underground, 1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94703;
phone: 510-705-8981; fax: 510-705-8983; e-mail:


(excerpts from press release)


LONDON - The Royal Dutch/Shell Group, the world's largest international oil company, came under attack today from environmental and human rights activists for its activities in Peru and Nigeria, at the same time as the company prepares to fend off a shareholder resolution critical of its policies at its annual meeting tomorrow. In the United States, there will be demonstrations in at least eight cities demanding that Shell improve its human rights perfomance.

Coinciding with Shell's annual general meeting and the release of the company's first worldwide environmental report, Rainforest Action Network and Project Underground, released their own independent annual report that reveals Shell's destructive environmental practices in Peru and Nigeria. The report, with a blood-spattered Shell logo on the cover, criticizes the company's approach to gas development in Peru, and accuses Shell of making only cosmetic changes to its operations in Nigeria. Two representatives from Peru and Nigeria, Ledum Mites, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People and Wrays Perez, secretary of AIDESEP, Peru's largest indigenous federation, will also attend the meeting.


Since 1958, Shell has extracted billions worth of oil and natural gas from the Niger River delta area of Nigeria, home to the Ogoni people. As a result, the Ogoni's traditional fishing and farming life has been devastated by oil pollution, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, the land has become a "ravaged environment." The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development has declared the Niger's mouth as the most endangered river delta in the world - a direct result of nearly four decades of oil exploitation.

Desiring profits from Shell and other major oil companies, the Nigerian government has been silencing the voices of protest in Ogoniland, to the point of executing human rights activist, poet, and 1995 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight fellow activists. The report reveals new information about the destruction of the delta environment.


Group Stages Protest Outside Company Headquarters

May 14, 1997

CONTACT: Stephen Mills, Human Rights and Environment Campaign Director, Sierra Club, 408 C St., NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; tel: 202- 675-6691; e-mail:

Washington, D.C. -- Amid demonstrators chanting, "No Blood for Oil", outside Shell Oil's Washington, D.C. lobbying headquarters, members of the Sierra Club pledged today that the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization will continue its boycott of Shell Oil until the company's rhetoric matches its actions.

"Since the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Shell has spent millions on public relations and advertising to respond to the public outcry for environmental justice in Ogoni," said Stephen Mills, Director of the Sierra Club's Human Rights and the Environment Campaign. "But they have yet to admit responsibility for their actions, to pay adequate compensation to villagers whose farms were destroyed, or to clean up their environmental mess in Ogoni. Our boycott campaign will continue until Shell's deeds match their words."

"If anything, the situation in Nigeria has worsened," said Mills. "The Ogoni region is now a military zone and MOSOP has been forced underground." MOSOP stands for the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, the environmental and human rights organization led by writer Ken Saro-Wiwa before he was hanged in November of 1995. "Teachers are arrested if they mention Ken Saro-Wiwa in the classroom, preachers are arrested if they mention Ken in church," said Mills.

"We have new reports that local security forces in Nigeria's main oil-producing region has forced people, often at gunpoint, to sign statements inviting Shell to return to Ogoniland," said Mills. "The fact is, Shell cannot return to Ogoni until they negotiate with MOSOP, and that will be impossible as long as MOSOP members are forbidden to assemble."

At its annual general meeting today in London Shell will be under pressure from church pension funds and Pirc, the U.K. investment advisory service which holds 12 percent of Shell's stock, to clarify its commitment to environmental protection and human rights. Among the key points in the Pirc shareholder resolution: make someone on the committee of managing directors personally responsible for seeing that Shell honors its commitments to the environment and human rights; establish an effective auditing process to guarantee that words and actions match; and publish a progress report to shareholders, specifically in relation to Shell's operations in Nigeria, by the end of 1997.

Shell's Board of Directors advice to shareholders to reject Pirc's resolution has only given environmental and human rights organizations more reason to doubt the company's recently issued business principles that call for a respect for human rights.

"Shell has made a great effort in recent weeks to praise its contributions to hospitals in Nigeria. What they won't tell you is that the Ogoni won't go near the hospitals because of their profound fear of the company," Mills added. "This is nothing more than an attempt to disguise the fact that Shell has yet to adequately address the Ogoni environmental demands that started this whole campaign."

Shell first found oil in Nigeria's Ogoniland in 1958. Since that time the company has extracted some $35 billion in oil from the lands of the Ogoni people. While royalties from these sales fill the coffers of the Nigerian military dictatorship, the rich farmland and rivers of Ogoniland have been poisoned by oil spills and the venting of toxic gases. Meanwhile most Ogoni today still lack running water , electricity, adequate schools or health care.

"Nineteen Ogoni men are now awaiting trial for the same murders for which Ken Saro-Wiwa was wrongly tried and hanged," said Mills, "some are suffering in detention from blindness, disease and torture. We are demanding that Shell use their considerable influence to see that the Ogoni 19 are released."

Environmental and human rights advocates believe Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed because of the international campaign he led against the pollution in his homeland caused by Shell, one of the largest revenue producers for the military junta that rules Nigeria. The Nigerian military government, an international pariah, has refused to release the body of Saro-Wiwa and eight others it executed, to the families. The regime maintains a strong presence in Ogoniland, beating and jailing any Ogoni who dares speak Saro-Wiwa's name or attempts to organize others to protect the environment.

The Nigeria Country Report on Human Rights, released in January by the U.S. Department of State, noted that "General Abacha's Government relied regularly on arbitrary detention and harassment to silence its many critics." That report is available on the internet at /nigeria.html.

At the protest the group distributed specially designed postcards for citizens to sign and send to Shell and President Clinton.

Also available today for comment: Dr. Owens Wiwa, brother of Ken Saro-Wiwa, (416) 657-6180.

For more information, please visit the Sierra Club website,

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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