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Date: Thu, 9 Nov 95 2:49:39 CST
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From: Soren Ambrose <ambr@midway.uchicago.edu>
To: NUAFRICA: Program of African Studies Mailing List <nuafrica@listserv.acns.nwu.edu>
Subject: Saro-Wiwa: Urgency/Pipeline Project

TO: NuAfrica
FROM: Soren Ambrose University of Chicago & Chicago 50 Years is Enough Campaign

Saro-Wiwa: Urgency/Pipeline Project

From the Chicago 50 Years is Enough Campaign, 9 November 1995

Nigeria: Political Situation

Nigeria is currently under military rule by one of the most brutal and repressive dictatorships in the world. General Sani Abacha's government has been in power for two years and in that time has compiled a remark- able list of human rights violations. It has banned the legislative process and news publications, including the country's most-respected newspaper, and has imprisoned innumerable journalists for printing stories portraying the government in a bad light.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, Environmental and Minority Rights Activist

Ken Saro-Wiwa, recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize and a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, and in addition a prominent author, columnist, and TV producer, is the latest victim of General Abacha's special brand of justice. A member of the Ogoni minority group of the Niger River Delta in southeastern Nigeria, Ken has in recent years led the Ogonis' battle to win compensation for 30 years of unconscionable devastation of their homeland by oil companies (particularly Shell) exploiting one of the richest reservoirs of oil in Africa earning $30 billion in profits. The Ogoni still live without piped water, elec- tricity, adequate roads, schools or medical services. They have also had to endure 24-hour-a-day gas flaring, which creates a huge amount of light, heat, and noise around the clock.

In response to opposition to such activities, the Nigerian government has placed Ogoniland under a brutal martial-law regime and killed hundreds of Ogonis in terror campaigns.

Saro-Wiwa and the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) began to publicize Shell's environmental crimes around the world, and drew attention to the neglect of minority groups' rights within Nigeria. This made him very unpopular with a succession of Nigerian governments. Thus when four pro-government Ogoni elders were killed, Saro-Wiwa was arrested and charged with inciting the killings, even though he was far away from where they occurred.

On October 31, after being held under exceptionally harsh conditions for over a year, Ken was found guilty and sentenced to death, along with several other Ogoni men. Because his case was tried by a special military tribunal, he is not permitted to appeal the verdict, though the Provisional Ruling Council must confirm the sentences.

Amnesty International has declared Ken a Prisoner of Conscience, and his case has also been taken up by Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, Human Rights Watch/Africa, and many other international non- governmental organizations. The governments of Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and several other countries have expressed their distress at his unfair trial and harsh sentence.

*World Bank/IFC Set to Finance Shell-Backed Gas Project in Niger Delta* Amidst the international uproar about Ken's case and the Ogoni cause, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a little-known arm of the World Bank (and also its fastest-growing component, making loans to private sector concerns so they will invest in the Third World), is seriously considering financing another disastrous project for the area: a 132-mile pipeline through a fragile and already-scarred wetland region for a gas plant. Currently the plan is to run the pipeline through Ogoniland, but political pressures may force its re-location. However, the other likely sites are just as environmentally treacherous and pose as much of a threat to the ethnic groups who live alongside the Ogoni.

The project is to provide a $100 million loan and $80 million in equity to a newly created company, Nigeria LNG, which is jointly owned by the Nigerian government (49%), Shell, Elf, and Agip (49%). If the project goes ahead, the IFC will own 2%. Shell would be the managing entity for the project, despite its environmental and human rights record in the area.

The local community, which has not be adequately consulted about the project, is opposed to it because the company has not addressed commu- nity needs, environmental contamination, or compensation issues. Most believe that going ahead with the project as currently planned would contribute to the social unrest in the region.

Some of the critical decisions for the project, such as the exact routing of the pipeline and the determination of which ethnic groups will be impacted, have not been finalized and will not be for a couple of years. Nevertheless, the IFC intends to make a decision about this project without that crucial information!

Within the next few weeks (before the U.S. Thanksgiving), IFC Manage- ment will decide whether or not to support the project. They would like to see it go to the Board of Directors for a final decision by the end of November.

A Crucial Moment for Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni, and the Niger Delta

That Ogoniland--the very place that Ken has fought to save from further destruction--is in peril at exactly the same time the world learns of his death sentence provides an occasion for carrying on Ken's work at the same time as we work to save Ken's life. While the world is ready to listen to the root causes of his imprisonment, we must alert deci- sion-makers to the impending intensification of the tragedy of the Niger Delta.


1. Write letters to ask that the IFC withdraw from this project because of Shell's human rights violations and denigration of Nigeria's environment.

Address letters to:

Mr. Jannik Lindbaeck James Wolfensohn
Executive Vice President President
International Finance Corp. World Bank Group
1850 I Street, NW 1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433 Washington, DC 20433

2. Contact the Clinton Administration and ask that the Administration come out strongly against this sentencing and demand the release of Saro-Wiwa and the others. The United States has political pull with Nigeria, particularly given that the U.S. consumes 70 percent of Nigeria's oil. Specifically, we are asking that Clinton call General Abacha of Nigeria, denouncing the verdicts and warn that if these people are put to death, it will have profound political ramifications.

Fax a letter or call:
Anthony Lake
Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
National Security Council
Washington, DC 20506
tel: 202-395-3000 fax: 202-456-2883

3. Send a letter to General Abacha, the military ruler of Nigeria, asking for Saro-Wiwa's immediate release, citing the international condemnation this sentencing has received. Demand also an end to martial law in Ogoniland.

Fax letter to:
General Sani Abacha
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
c/o The Nigerian Ambassador to the United States
Nigerian Embassy
1333 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
fax: 202-775-1385

4. Send a letter to Shell denouncing their role in the Ogoni situation and asking for Shell to come out strongly for the release of the wrongly accused. No less an authority than the *Washington Post* editorial page believes Shell is the most likely party to hold sway over Gen. Abacha in this case.

Fax letter to:
Phillip J. Carroll, CEO
Shell Oil Corporation
One Shell Plaza
P.O. Box 2463
Houston, TX 77252
fax: 713-241-4044

Further information:

Andrea Durbin, Friends of the Earth-U.S.: 202/783-7400, x. 209; <foedc@igc.apc.org> Soren Ambrose, Chicago 50 Years is Enough Campaign: 312/324-1502; <ambr@midway.uchicago.edu>; <soren@igc.apc.org>