Ken Saro-Wiwa / Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People
( 1994 , Nigeria )

...for their exemplary courage in striving non-violently for the civil, economic and environmental rights of their people.

The inconveniences which I and the Ogoni suffer, the harassment, arrests, detention, even death itself are a proper price to pay for ending the nightmare of millions of people...


Ken Saro Wiwa (1941-1995) was a member of the Ogoni tribe of some 500,000 people, living in densely populated Ogoniland in south-eastern Nigeria. He studied at the University of Ibadan and in 1973 he began to write books and articles and produced television programmes. He wrote 27 books and in 1994 received the Fonlon-Nichols Award for excellence in creative writing.

Contact

MOSOP
6 Otonahia Close
Off Olu Obasanjo Road
Port Harcourt, Rivers State
NIGERIA

http://www.mosop.org/

Biography

Ogoniland has produced US$30 billion worth of oil for Nigeria, mainly through a joint venture in which the government is a majority partner, with Shell the largest private partner (30%). The oil production has resulted in very severe pollution of Ogoniland. To combat these effects, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) was set up in 1990, as the umbrella organisation for a number of broad-based organisations addressing the needs of Ogoni women, youth, churches, teachers, students and other professionals.

MOSOP has formulated two sets of demands: one directed to the Nigerian government, one to the Shell Corporation. The first of these were set out in the Ogoni Bill of Rights, drafted by MOSOP in 1990, which expressed Ogoni determination to secure their political, economic and environmental rights.

With regard to Shell, Saro-Wiwa demanded that the company bypass the central government, engage immediately in environmental impact assessments of its past activities and raise its standards to best practice.

Shell’s response in 1994 was to cease production in Ogoniland.

In January 1993, to mark the start of the UN Year of Indigenous People, 300,000 Ogoni people demonstrated peacefully in favour of their demands, but the Nigerian government responded to the Ogoni mobilisation with brutal repression. In a military occupation that lasted more than four years, over 1,000 people were killed and many more were made homeless, refugee …

Ogoniland has produced US$30 billion worth of oil for Nigeria, mainly through a joint venture in which the government is a majority partner, with Shell the largest private partner (30%). The oil production has resulted in very severe pollution of Ogoniland. To combat these effects, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) was set up in 1990, as the umbrella organisation for a number of broad-based organisations addressing the needs of Ogoni women, youth, churches, teachers, students and other professionals.

MOSOP has formulated two sets of demands: one directed to the Nigerian government, one to the Shell Corporation. The first of these were set out in the Ogoni Bill of Rights, drafted by MOSOP in 1990, which expressed Ogoni determination to secure their political, economic and environmental rights.

With regard to Shell, Saro-Wiwa demanded that the company bypass the central government, engage immediately in environmental impact assessments of its past activities and raise its standards to best practice.

Shell’s response in 1994 was to cease production in Ogoniland.

In January 1993, to mark the start of the UN Year of Indigenous People, 300,000 Ogoni people demonstrated peacefully in favour of their demands, but the Nigerian government responded to the Ogoni mobilisation with brutal repression. In a military occupation that lasted more than four years, over 1,000 people were killed and many more were made homeless, refugees or were imprisoned without trial.

Saro-Wiwa was arrested several times in 1993, when he was adopted by Amnesty International as a Prisoner of Conscience and became MOSOP President. In May 1994 he was arrested again. The pretext for his arrest was that Saro-Wiwa had incited youth to murder four Ogoni politicians. After a trial, which was condemned by international observers, and described as judicial murder by the then British Prime Minister, Ken Saro Wiwa and eight of his colleagues were executed on November 10th 1995.

Since the change in Nigerian government in 1998, MOSOP has been able to meet openly and there has been acknowledgement by government and oil companies of the acute lack of development in the Niger delta. More reluctant attention has been paid to the environmental damage done by oil exploration: as of mid-1999, no substantial action had been taken by the government, and MOSOP continued to demand that Shell conduct an environmental assessment of Ogoni and clean up the effects of its operations.

In 2004, following slow pace of progress/response by Shell and the government on the Ogoni decade of non-violent campaign, pockets of youths from the Ijaw ethnic nationality facing a similar situation like the Ogonis, decided to violently seize oil platforms thus disrupting oil production activities. This led to a very brutal reaction occasioned by heavy military campaign in the Niger Delta region, but forced the government to opening up discussions on environmental rights and resource allocation – the basic ingredients of MOSOP’s agenda.

MOSOP still requires local as well as international support in dealing with what they call “a ground swell of an unholy alliance between the political class and transnational oil corporations.”

 
 

FAQ about MOSOP

asked in 2005 answered by Batom Mitee

1. How have the circumstances of MOSOP’s work changed since the end of the dictatorship and what has been the focus of your work in recent years? 

Not much has changed since the return to democratic governance in 1999. The response to Ogoni demands is still very slow. Oil companies still operate with poor environmental records blaming their activities on enabling legislation. However, human rights violations have been reduced by over 50 % of late.
Our present focus is to lobby or pressure the national parliament into reviewing the disempowering and outdated law on oil operation in Nigeria.

2. How strong is the international response to MOSOP’s activities today?

The international response is presently getting weaker. It seems the focus of international pressure was just to get Nigeria under a civilian dictatorship.
Once the Nigerian leader started wearing a civilian dress, international pressure decreased not minding whether the ingredients of democracy are present. Evil oil practises are yet to change and there is increasing pressure in this regard.

3. How do Nigerians regard Ken Saro-Wiwa today? Is he well known in Nigeria?

Ken Saro-Wiwa is well known all over Nigeria today. Even though he was hanged along with others on the allegation of formenting trouble, people now see it as a decoy of scuttling the Ogoni struggle.
The present government has released his bones for proper burial and sometimes sends representatives to attend the annual MOSOP remembrance activities.

4. What is the relationship between Shell Oil Company and the Ogoni people today?

Since 1994, Shell was declared persona non grata in Ogoni land. Active oil operations by Shell are yet to return to Ogoni land. Shell has not been sincere in all negotiations and the Ogoni people were pleased with the national government to call in another oil company to exploit oil in Ogoni. The Government is yet to carve in because Shell wields enormous pressure and control over the government.

5. For the past 10 years, Shell abandoned oil activities in Ogoniland, what is the situation now?

Shell actually vacated active operations but their oil wells and ageing equipments are still there. The Ogoni people are very happy without oil activities because for 40 years no visible economic improvement has come from oil.
Rather carefree exploitation has led to the disruption of fishing and farming activities thus exacerbating poverty. Farmers no longer struggle for farm land with oil operations that have no direct benefit to the villagers. Military presence and human rights abuses are also reduced.

6. What effect has the RLA had on your work?

At a time when the Ogoni non violent revolution was little known internationally, the RLA came as a booster. It created immediate international recognition, which led to much support and co-operation. Several foreign journalists managed to visit Ogoniland, which led to better understanding of the combat of trial and judicial murder of the Ogoni. It also subjected the activities of Shell Oil Company to local as well as international scrutiny.

Publications

Publications by Ken Saro-Wiwa

Silence Would Be Treason – Last Writings of Ken Saro Wiwa. Edited by Ide Corley, Helen Fallon and Laurence Cox. With a foreword by Nnimmo Bassey. Published by the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), 2012.

Read extracts of the book.

Sozaboy. Longman African Writers, 1995.

Read what Die Zeit, a German newspaper, writes about this book and why it still worth reading today.