by Ben Ikari, Director, African Cultural and Fundamental Rights Council (AFCRC-USA)
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) may be set for a serious crisis and bloodletting in Ogoni, Nigeria. Information reaching the African Cultural and Fundamental Rights Council (AFCRC-USA) has it that the oil company, which happens to be the foremost in Nigeria for over 50 years, have been using heavily armed soldiers to clear the Ebubu Eleme oilfield in Ogoni. The corporation is also said to be engaging in other activities villagers believe could be oil extraction against the people?s wishes.
Community sources said that, for the past several months Shell has been in Ebubu Eleme and has particularly been working in locations one and two of the oilfield. The Ebubu community members have complained that the company hasn?t consulted them regarding what it?s doing or intends to do. The fear of possible oil resumption isn?t the only concern this community has. Sources also said that, before this new development and in the past three months, $hell?s oil tankers have been coming into the oilfield with heavy military escorts late night and going out after what villagers alleged to be oil-lifting from wells has been completed.
Based upon the foregoing, AFCRC-USA is demanding that Shell respect the wishes and fundamental rights of the people of Ogoni, especially Ebubu in this circumstance. Under international law, which Nigeria, Shell?s host country is part, indigenous peoples rights are to be respected, implemented and protected by states and their allies which include business partners such as $hell.
In short, Article 8 subsection 2 (b) of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that, ?States shall provide effective mechanisms for the prevention of, and redress for any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources.?
Therefore indigenous people of Ogoni have inalienable right to their land, territories, economic and otherwise resources and right to consultation regarding whatever activities or business planned by government, its agencies and business partners. Land owners have to agree and be compensated accordingly before and when agreed upon economic or otherwise endeavors are or about to be operational. Unless agreed otherwise and based upon optional opportunities created or settlement reached. It?s against international and most domestic laws-including natural doctrines for anyone, government, groups or corporations and institutions to force on other persons and community or indigenous peoples land/property without due consultations and agreed upon formula.
As such AFCRC-USA demands that Nigeria follow the path of peace and desist from creating or supporting, allowing clandestine criminal activities capable of stirring fear, breaching the peace and causing avoidable crisis and bloodbath in Ogoni or any other part of the country. Nigerian government should respect itself and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it?s signatory and other international Conventions, including the Indigenous Peoples Rights it agrees to abide by being a member of the United Nations.
In addition, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) report of August 4, 2011 is clear on the danger Ogoni faces due to Shell and government pollution in the region. At the moment it isn?t clear what Shell and the Nigerian government are doing to intervene in the emergency situation in Ogoni, the anticipated cleanup exercise, restoration of land and people through sustainable development. These issues and truth will not go away. So taking holistic approach to solving the problems and making plans to prevent further occurrence should be Shell and government?s concerns and initiatives. The answer isn?t attempting to start oil business as alleged when the previous mess hasn?t been attended and the people they?ve milked so much money from live in squalor.
Shell Oil should note that it vowed when it?s stopped from operating in Ogoni about 1993, for environmental degradation, human rights violations (which include economic/livelihood deprivation) not to return to Ogoni for oil extraction unless by the people/MOSOP?s consent. We ask that Shell respect its own vow, consult with the people in a respectful and collaborative manner, get the community involved as also affirmed and protected by international law, and keep open its activities to allay fears, suspicions and misconceptions capable of heating up the Ogoni community.
AFCRC-USA demands that Shell and the government should immediately withdraw all alleged soldiers from the oilfield and communities. It should allow the media access to whatever it?s doing in the oilfield to reassure the public that it?s open, respectful and commit to its own principle of honesty, integrity and respect.
According to Shell?s position on its Website, ?We are judged by how we act ? our reputation is upheld by how we live up to our core values honesty, integrity and respect for people. Our eight Business Principles are based on these core values and indicate how we promote trust, openness, teamwork and professionalism, and pride in what we do.?
Consequently, Shell must live by its own words, respecting the rights of the Ogoni people and treat the people as humans. Anything short of the above will open room for doubt, suspicion and confusion which will point to the question, why should Shell deny open access and is using the military if there is nothing sinister it?s hiding; that?s if it isn?t extracting oil against the wish of the people?
Finally, only corporate and government openness, better and honest, timely and consistent communication, respect and fair treatment or justice can save the day. These and other people-based, positive and civilized actions can bring relative peace, security and progress to Ogoni, Nigeria and Shell Oil in this region. Such peace and progress shall, of course, affect the world like unrest or crisis has also done.