Nigeria: Justice for Saro-Wiwa’s Ogoni people after 13 years

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Royal Dutch Shell has opted to settle out of court in a case of oppression, environmental degradation, human rights violations, and murder against the people of Ogoni in Southern Nigeria: The oil giants have pacified the locals with the sum of US $15 million, ahead of a trial due next week in the United States.

Prominent Writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, and seven other environmental activists had formed a group in 1990 to show the world the environmental damage Shell’s drilling was causing in the Niger Delta.

But Mr Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues were reprimanded and hanged in 1995. Villagers who also protested for the safety of their environment were killed.

The family members of those killed and the people of Ogoni claimed that Shell participated in security sweeps in parts of Ogoniland, hired government troops that shot at villagers who protested against a pipeline, and helped the government capture and hang Mr. Saro-Wiwa and seven of his colleagues.

The relatives of the victims have chased the oil giants through the courts for 13 years. However, Shell insists it did nothing wrong and said the offer of $15 million was part of a process of reconciliation.

“This gesture also acknowledges that, even though Shell had no part in the violence that took place, the plaintiffs and others have suffered. While we were prepared to go to court to clear our name, we believe the right way forward is to focus on the future for Ogoni people, which is important for peace and stability in the region.” Shell official, Malcolm Brinded, said.

The lawyers of the Ogoni people have vowed that a large chunk of the money would be put into a trust to benefit the people of Ogoniland, where Mr Saro-Wiwa died to protect. Ken Saro-Wiwa’s son, Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr, believes that his father would have been happy with the result.

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