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DELTA #3 2/12
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- Subject: DELTA #3 2/12
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- Date: Sat, 1 Nov 1997 23:49:44 GMT
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RENEWED ACTION AGAINST SHELL
Non-violent protest specifically targetting Shell elsewhere in the Niger
Delta began just as the Warri crisis subsided.
Told by a Nigerian court at the end of June to pay 30 million naira
($350,000) compensation for a 1982 oil spill from the trans-Forcados
pipeline, the company refused to pay, saying that the spill had been caused
by sabotage and that it would appeal against the judgement. It also claimed
to have cleared up the oil spill.
But environmentalist Uche Onyeagucha told DELTA that Shell's increasing use
of the word 'sabotage' is simply a ploy to avoid paying compensation to
communities suffering the effects of spills from the rusting equipment and
pipelines. Shell has not initiated any sabotage claim in court, and
furthermore, the oil spill was only cleaned up 'Shell-style' - that is,
ineffectively and irresponsibly. Appeals are likely to take many years.
The four affected Ijaw communities, Sokebolou, Obotobo, Ofoegbene and
Ekeremor Zion from the Burutu local council area in Delta state, gave Shell
an ultimatum to leave the oil producing area by July 8, or be forced out.
Local newspapers said the communities also complained that Shell had not
provided local people with any benefits from the 75,000 bpd it extracts from
their land. "Shell must go if it does not change her shameless stand of
disregard for the goose that lays the golden egg in this nation," ThisDay
quoted the Ijaws as saying.
Hours before the deadline expired, the leader of the community was arrested
by the State Security Service (SSS). "Worried that the said payments will
encourage other legitimate compensation demands, Shell has alerted the
security forces and this morning Mr Matthew Eregbene has been whisked away,"
said a spokesman for the Niger Delta Oil-Producing Communities Development
Organisation (NIDOPCODO). Shell denied involvement.
Chief Eregbene was released the next day.
According to Nigeria Today, it is believed that Shell had offered to pay 5
million naira to community leaders to settle the matter. Locals are reported
to have reminded their leaders never to consider compromising the interests
of the community, and the bribe was rejected. After meetings with Shell and
the military, however, the communities decided to put any action on hold.
A further meeting on July 28 between Shell and the communities failed
because the company tried to pressure the communities through locals who had
contracts with Shell, according to NIDOPCODO. They "were hand-picked and
brought to the venue by Shell to create confusion."
Having waited 15 years for the initial court case to go through, and now
facing an appeal of any number of years, the communities are demanding that
there is no further extraction of oil from the wells in the area until the
determination of the appeal.
At a press conference in Nigeria, Shell insisted on continuing with the
appeal and refused to stop extraction. Further spills have since continued
to occur. Environmental Rights Action (ERA) supported the communities'
demands, saying, "We appeal to Shell to stop all oil and gas production in
the four communities as it proceeds on appeal." The activists warned that
unspecified action would be taken against the company.
Oil producing communities unite at rally
In a gathering which cut across ethnic divisions, over 1000 people from
across the Niger Delta rallied on August 17 at the remote village of
Aleibiri in Bayelsa state, site of a pollution incident that Shell has
refused to clear up.
Repeated requests by the Aleibiri community to address the pollution on its
land, caused by a spill six months ago, had been met by intimidation from
armed military and mobile police, according to a community representative.
In a highly significant development for the Niger Delta, a new non-violent
environmental and minority rights movement, 'Chicoco', was formally launched
at the rally. Chicoco is named after the rich soil that helps sustain life
in the Delta area, and its representatives from across the Delta demanded
immediate action from Shell on oil spillages and called for the company to
leave the area.
The rally was attended by hundreds of local people and representatives of
communities from Rivers, Delta, Edo, Akwa Ibom and Ondo states, uniting
different ethnic groups who all suffer from environmental rights abuses by
oil companies, particularly Shell. Chief Augustine Anthony for the host
community welcomed all the delegates, saying that their community was home
to "all other peace-lovers, especially those from other parts of the Niger
Those from outside the area arrived in canoes, singing what translates as:
"We are tired of this oppression. We say no to Shell. We say no to hell,"
according to the Guardian newspaper in Lagos.
Chief Anthony said, "The struggle for justice for people will be realised in
my lifetime. For 40 years we have bore the pains of pollution, the brutality
of the unjust system. We shall unite to fight for equality, fairness and
justice. The time is now. You are welcome."
MOSOP spokesman Patrick Naagbanton urged the people to stand firm and be
consistent in fighting for their rights. Other messages of support came from
MORETO (the Movement for Reparations to Ogbia), the Women's Liberation
Movement in Ijaw, Environmental Rights Action, the Democratic Alternative,
and Oilwatch International (Africa).
Spokesman for Chicoco, Oronto Douglas, called for the "solidarity of all oil
communities in the Niger Delta," and said that pressure on Shell was being
stepped up "to compel the oil companies into very serious dialogue beyond
the realm of public relations that has been the hallmark of these
And he added, "If they do not accept the path of dialogue we will close down
the flow-stations and if they hide under a military cloak to repress us then
we will resist."
Outreach across the Delta is currently building the movement, and further
rallies of up to 50,000 people are being planned as more communities want to
be associated with the Chicoco movement. "The killing of Ken has brought
about the emergence of a lot of radical environmentalists across the Niger
Delta," said Uche Onyeagucha from Oilwatch.
'Enough is enough': the birth of Chicoco
"Chicoco is the organic soil commonly found in the Niger Delta. It is on it
that the mangroves grow. It is also home to a variety of sea food. The soil
protects the shoreline and it is used by the people to build dwellings and
protective embankments, and to reclaim degraded lands. To the people of the
Niger Delta, Chicoco is a balm."
"Now is the time to reclaim our destiny and humanity. We must defend our
eco-system and means of subsistence from further devastation and looting." -
The birth of the Chicoco movement marks the beginning of new chapter in the
politics of the Niger Delta. The oil companies and federal government have
often managed in the past to use divide-and-rule tactics to keep groups
fighting amongst themselves, or to rely on the indifference of one group
regarding another's plight. MOSOP fought alone within the Delta, but its
example had begun to be emulated as early as 1993. Chicoco is a new basis
for Delta-wide resistance, putting the environmental message clearly with
the political framework. The rally at Aleibiri successfully brought together
people from different areas and different ethnic groups, creating the
potential for mass united action.
According to its literature, "The Chicoco Movement is a representative mass
organisation for the defence of the rights of the ethnic minority
nationalities in the oil rich Niger Delta area... a proclamation of the
struggling unity of these ethnic nationalities against our common
oppressors." These are seen as the Nigerian State and the Nigerian elites
from both North and South, along with "their transnational oil corporation
"The Chicoco Movement is the expression of the historical struggles of the
peoples of the Niger Delta area at the present time for social justice,
corporate social responsibility, resource and environmental control, and
Chicoco says it recognises and supports the struggles of all nationalities
and groupings within Nigeria in their struggle for survival, welfare and
development, and calls for co-operation. It specifically acknowledges the
poor conditions of oil workers and the "muzzling" of the unions, and is "now
set to promote a new spirit of solidarity between the peoples of the Niger
Delta and the oil workers".
*An end to the ecological devastation of the Niger Delta by transnational
oil companies and the Federal government
*Reparation and compensation to the peoples of the Niger Delta for the
damage done by reckless oil and gas exploitation activities
*An immediate demilitarisation of the Niger Delta communities and an end to
the use of oil companies' private armies
*Respect for the fundamental human rights of our people, particularly the
rights to freedom of expression, association and conscience, and the
immediate release of all prisoners held in connection with the demands of
the oil-producing communities
*The abrogation of all obnoxious laws like the Oil Minerals Act (1969) and
the Land Use Act (1978) that rob our people of the right to control our land
and mineral resources for sustainable development of the area
*The stopping of the ad hoc creation of new Local Government Areas and states.
*A new democratic Nigerian constitution recognising and enshrining the right
to self-determination for the nationalities of the Niger Delta, with the
unity of Nigeria preserved by a genuine and just federation of ethnic
*An independent Sovereign National Conference composed of elected
representatives of all the organisations of the people, including minority
nationalities, workers, students, youth, women, military formations, etc, to
discuss the basis and nature of the new Nigerian union, particularly how it
affects resource distribution and ethnic nationality
Aleibiri / Yenagoa, Niger Delta, Nigeria
(Adapted from 'The Chicoco Movement... Reclaiming Our Humanity', 'Enough is
enough: a message from the Niger Delta', and from personal interviews.)
Shell / government reaction to Chicoco
Privately Shell has expressed its concern at these recent developments, and
has started thinking about what it can do about key individuals involved.
The company still thinks that if it can 'take out' or make a deal with
certain people then the problems will go away. It cannot and will not
appreciate that it needs to change its performance and show respect to the
people of the Niger Delta.
The military won't accept its lifeline being threatened and cannot
understand the difference between self-determination and secession. Of
course, with such an incompetent running of the country there are some
feelings of secession, but the main issues in the Delta are freedom from
pollution, freedom from repression, and the right to self-determination so
people can control their own lives and resources.
Soldiers from the Operation Salvage taskforce attacked the fishing village
of Ekeremor-Zion on September 30, killing one and arresting 58 others.
According to witnesses, 14 houses and 20 boats were destroyed. The attack
came at the same time as another on Ogbe Ijoh market which killed three and
has led to more militarisation and people fleeing Warri town.
The army claims that four soldiers were kidnapped last month, with one found
dead later. The arrests are meant to be in connection with this incident.
Many believe the kidnappings and the death did not happen and that they just
provide an excuse for military attacks on the people of the oil producing
communities who are prepared to stand up to Shell. The army stated that the
soldiers were on 'illegal duty'.
Part 2/12 of DELTA #3 will be sent to you again shortly to include an
embargoed article - 'Shell's Secret History' - written by environmental
journalist Andy Rowell.
DELTA: News and background on Ogoni, Shell and Nigeria
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