SHELL OIL COMPANY CULPABLE IN ESTHER KIOBEL, ET AL V. ROYAL DUTCH PETROLEUM COMPANY, ET AL
The corporate human rights abuse case, Esther Kiobel, et al V. Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company Plc., coordinated by the National Union of Ogoni Students' USA in 2002 makes its way to the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court presided over by Justice John Roberts will adjudicate in the case on Tuesday February 28, 2012 after reviewing an earlier decision by the Appeal Court.
The epoch making case started nine years ago when the National Union of Ogoni Students', USA drew the attention of the Ogoni community to the monstrous, outrageous and heinous human right abuses committed by Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company in Ogoni in the 1990s. They sort a Class Action Law Suit against Shell Oil Company in a New York court through a Philadelphia law firm, Berger & Montague, P.C.
Some of the claims were; violation of customary international law for human right abuses, corporate bullying, aiding and abetting the Nigerian government in committing genocide against the Ogoni people, bribery and corruption, aiding and abetting raping of Ogoni women as well as racial environmental practices. The plaintiffs sort recourse through the U.S. Alien Tort Statutes of 1789 which “allows United States courts to hear human rights cases brought by foreign citizens for conduct committed outside the United States.” Although the case was not classified, we commend all witnesses and those whose effort made it possible for this case of torture, rape, extra-judicial murder to proceed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the 1990s when Nigeria waged a war of ethnic cleansing and committed genocide against the ethnic Ogoni in Nigeria's delta region, Shell Oil Company, one of Nigeria's Oil exploration and exploitation partners supplied Barrett rifles and ammunitions to Nigerian Police, transported Nigerian soldiers in helicopters in aid of military operations that ended- up sacking thirty-three Ogoni villages. As if this was not enough culpability, during the trials of Ogoni leaders including Ken Saro Wiwa (on trump-up charges), Shell Oil Company bought plaintiffs and hired attorneys to advise those prosecutions witnesses in the case and also sat at court hearings during the trial of Ogoni leaders. Following the corporate and state sponsored conspiracy, Ken Saro Wiwa, Africa's foremost environmentalist and eight of his environmental compatriots were put to death through the hangman's noose without an opportunity for appeal. And above, they were buried in mass grave.
In the aftermath, Shell Oil Company provided Cash and vehicle to Col. Paul Okuntimo, head of the dreaded and brutal Rivers State internal Security Task-force that murdered and massacred over 4000 Ogoni people. As if these were not enough meddling in Nigeria's internal affairs, Shell Oil Company continue to stand as an impediment on Ogoni threshold blocking the least demand of the Ogoni people including the creation of Bori State for the people of Andoni, Eleme, Ogoni, Nkoro, Opobo, and Oyigbo within Nigeria. In addition, in a British Newspaper, Sunday Times of London, Sunday June 17, 2001, Shell Oil Company admitted hiring the British Intelligent Spy company, Hakluyt to spy on green movements including MOSOP, the Ogoni environmental movement. It is imperative to note that the Ogoni people did not sue Shell Oil Company because of their business ventures in Nigeria but because of heinous crime, including unethical double business standards and criminal business practices that cannot be tolerated anywhere in the western hemisphere.
To summarize the ordeal of the Ogoni people in just physical suffering and persecution is an understatement as we have seen that the suffering of the people speaks to the general challenges of double standard and disparity in treatment and judgment meticulously managed by Nigerian government and Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company. The argument from Shell Oil Company and Nigerian government that “Federal courts are powerless to hold corporations accountable under the Alien Tort Statutes for even the most egregious violations of international law” claiming that the case will create diplomatic conflict, amount to intervention into other nations internal affairs, or create an unfriendly business climate” are a total act of fantasy as it is despicable.
Beside the issues of human rights violation shadowing Shell Oil Company at the moment, that of environmental clean-up and remediation for 55 years of Oil spillages in Ogoniland is also a stain as it is yet to be addressed. Scientific report released by the United Nations Environmental Protection (UNEP) after a 14 months study of Ogoni environment is shocking. The report released after a study of over 200 oil spill locations, survey of over 122 kilometers of pipeline right of way, review of over 5000 medical records, analysis of over 4000 samples, and consultation with over 23, 000 persons is mind bugging as it revealed that Ogoni nationality may be extinct because of benzene contaminants from Shell Oil exploration activities in Ogoni.
The Ogoni people envisage that Esther Kiobel et al, V. Royal Dutch Shell will be the foundation for justice and equity for their cause as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also be bedrock on how corporations conduct business operations guided by the Reverend Leon Sullivan's Global Principles of Social Responsibility. The Sullivan principles call for corporate support for universal human rights, equal opportunities; respect for freedom of association, level of employee compensation, training, health and safety, sustainable development, fair competition, and working in partnership to improve quality of life.
The Ogoni historic lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court will also lean credence to the fact that corporations like Shell Oil Company should have no leverage to mastermind havoc, infiltrate governments, sponsor spies, violate human rights, and operate business with total recklessness, racketeering, and impunity as is common practice in Nigeria; without liabilities.
In conclusion, the National Union of Ogoni Students' USA belief in the maxim that justice is universal and what is unknown to us is whether justice could be separated from its universality. Since justice is inseparable from its universality, the Ogoni people are confident that Esther Kiobel, et al will receive justice in the United States Supreme Court. Also, we use this opportunity to express our thanks to all supporters of the Ogoni Struggle and people of goodwill for keeping the Ogoni struggle alive.
Mr. Baridakara Sunday
(Public Relations Officer)
For: The National Union of Ogoni Students' USA