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The 1995 executions of Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogonis by Nigeria’s military government attracted international condemnation. Although SPDC was not responsible for those tragic events, and SPDC - and Shell International in London – had attempted to persuade the government to grant clemency, the family of Ken Saro-Wiva and others brought a court case against Shell. The allegations being made are false and without merit.
SPDC started operations in Ogoni land in 1958. The company withdrew in 1993 because of violence against staff and actions targeting our facilities. At the time, oil production from Ogoni land – some 28,000 barrels a day (b/d) - accounted for a small proportion of SPDC’s total production in Nigeria of around 1 million b/d.
The rising agitation coincided with the activities of the Movement for Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), which was campaigning for greater control over oil and gas resources on their land, for economic development, and autonomy over their affairs, (including cultural, religious and environmental matters). MOSOP – of which Ken Saro-Wiwa became president in 1993 - also alleged that the oil industry was causing ‘environmental devastation’.
There was ongoing violence and in May 1994 four prominent Ogoni leaders were murdered. The government arrested Ken Saro-Wiwa for complicity in the crime. The charges were unrelated to his criticisms of Shell, which had no involvement in the case. No member of Shell staff was on trial, none was called as a witness, and neither Shell nor SPDC was mentioned in any of the charges. On October 31, 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogonis were sentenced to death for inciting the murder of the four Ogoni leaders. They were executed on November 10, 1995.
Despite Ken Saro-Wiwa's criticisms of the company before his arrest, SPDC publicly said that he had a right to freely hold and air his views.
During the trial, Shell stated that the accused had a right to a fair legal process. After the trial verdict was announced, the then Chairman of Shell’s Committee of Managing Directors, Cor Herkstroter, sent a personal letter appealing to the Head of State to show clemency on humanitarian grounds to Ken Saro-Wiwa and his co-defendants. To our deep regret that appeal - and the appeals made by many others - went unheard. We were shocked and saddened by the news that the executions had been carried out.
Although there were environmental problems in the Niger Delta in the early 1990s and the activities of the oil industry did affect the environment, a number of international journalists who visited the Delta reported that the claims of environmental devastation just weren’t true. The World Bank carried out the most comprehensive study of the Delta environment at the time. Its report in 1995 made clear that oil pollution was only a moderate factor when compared with other environmental problems of the region.