The president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People [MOSOP] said his group welcomes the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a dispute between the Ogoni people and Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company.
The high court justices agreed Monday to hear a federal appeal by a group of Nigerians who alleged that shell was complicit in torture, wrongful deaths and other human rights abuses committed by Nigerian authorities against environmental campaigners during the 1990s.
MOSOP President Ledum Mitee said the decision sends the right message that Shell must be held to account.
“It is quite a refreshing news coming at this time, and I think it sends the right message that clearly, even though there have been delays in getting there, but at least we can see light at the end of the tunnel that someday Shell will be held to account,” he said.
Mitee said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision also comes at an opportune time, especially as the Ogoni people prepare to commemorate the anniversary of the death of writer and human rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, has been executed in Nigeria despite worldwide pleas for clemency.
Nigeria’s military rulers in 1995 ordered the execution of Saro-Wiwa and eight other dissidents after being found guilty of involvement in four murders.
Saro-Wiwa said at his trial that the case was designed to prevent members of his tribe, the Ogoni, from stopping pollution of their homeland and getting a fair share of oil profits.
“In the next three weeks or so we will be talking about the anniversary of the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni martyrs, and one of the things he [Saro-Wiwa] said was that the day of Shell will come where they will be held to account. And so coming at this time is quite a refreshing and encouraging news for us,” he said.
Mitee said the Ogoni people’s only wish is for Royal Dutch Shell to be made to pay whatever damages are due the Ogoni people for the degradation of their environment.
He expressed regrets that successive Nigerian governments have failed to listen to the non-violent voices of the Ogoni people.
“Recently the United Nations environmental program released a report in which government asked to commit themselves to do certain things to at least clean up the Ogoni environment. But as I speak nothing has been heard from the government,” he said.
Shell has denied all allegations, including that it enlisted the help of the Nigerian armed forces to suppress resistance to oil exploration in Ogoni land.
Mitee said Shell’s continued denial can only prolong the Ogoni people’s agony.