Since the return to civil rule in Nigeria in 1999, democracy has taken root. There is now greater opportunity for freedom of speech and a respect for fundamental human rights. Shell companies in Nigeria welcome this change, and we continue to contribute any we can to ensure that these opportunities are used in the continuous improvement of our relationship with host communities.
In the late 1990's, SPDC was criticised for continuing to do business in Nigeria because of the country's human rights record under the military government of the time. Some people thought that we should pull out of Nigeria; others advocated that we should have used our 'influence' to force the government to improve its record. We did, however, speak out both publicly and privately about human rights issues on a number of occasions.
For instance, during the trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogonis, we publicly stated that the accused had a right to a fair legal process. Before the trial, we said Ken Saro-Wiwa had a right to freely hold and air his views. After the trial verdict was announced, we said publicly that carrying out the death penalty would damage the process of reconciliation in Ogoni land.
The then Chairman of the Shell Group also sent a personal letter to the Nigerian Head of State appealing for clemency on humanitarian grounds. Sadly, this and other appeals from concerned countries, organisations and individuals went unheard.
On the 'Ogoni Twenty' issue, SPDC repeated its calls for early justice, for a trial that would not only be fair, but would be seen to be fair, for humane treatment and clemency for those found guilty. The people concerned were finally released in September 1998.
Shortly after the arrest of Batom Mittee and others in January1998, the company had written to the authorities to express its concern. We appealed for the highest standards of human rights to be upheld - particularly in respect for unhindered access to medical and legal services, dignified treatment and a speedy and fair trial process. Subsequently, Batom Mittee was released. We also asked the Government to consider withdrawing the Internal Security Task Force in Ogoni land, which in due course, it did.
Shell was then and continues to be strongly opposed to violence and we repeatedly stated that we would not operate behind a military shield in the Delta. We will neither use force, nor request its use to suppress demonstrations by peacefully protesting communities, even if production is disrupted. Dialogue to resolve the underlying problems - not force - is the answer in such situations.
Shell Nigeria’s commitment to human rights is guided by the Shell General Business Principles. Shell signed up to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) in 2000. This is a security initiative adopted by a group of governments, extractive companies and human rights NGOs. The voluntary principles provide practical guidance to companies on how to maintain the safety and security of their operations, while respecting human rights and the fundamental freedoms of people in surrounding communities.
With an increased presence of government security agencies in the Niger Delta, we have been organizing human rights awareness workshops for senior government security officers, our staff and other stakeholders.
Read more about Shell's Approach to Human Rights