EMAIL FROM MR CHARLES WIWA, SECRETARY, NATIONAL UNION OF OGONI STUDENTS, 14 July 04
Sir Alfred Donovan,
US CLASS ACTION LAW SUIT AGAINST ROYAL DUTCH PETROLEUM COMPANY AND SHELL TRANSPORT AND TRADING COMPANY p.l.c. CIVIL NUMBER 02 CV 7618
I am sorry to learn of the litigation brought by Shell against Dr Huong. I do however agree that it may provide a further opportunity to focus attention on Shell’s activities.
I have some idea of how Dr Huong feels because I was myself victimised by Shell (and the Nigerian Government). I am one of the Plaintiffs in a class action law suit, civil number 02 CV 7618, in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, which has now been given consent to proceed. Berger & Montague P.C. a leading class action law firm based in Philadelphia is acting for my fellow Plaintiffs and me. Sir Philip Watts was deposed in London in April 2004 in connection with our law suit.
I have supplied below some extracts from the CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT including paragraphs relating to myself and two fellow Plaintiffs, Bishop John-Miller and his son, Anslem John-Miller: -
Paragraph 2. Ogoniland is an area of 650 square kilometres located in the Niger delta area of Nigeria, within the area administratively known as Rivers State, with a population of approximately 500,000. Oil was discovered in Ogoniland in 1956 and a consortium led by Shell received the contract to development and extract the petroleum products. Since Shell started operations in Nigeria, Ogoniland has yielded approximately $30 billion in oil revenue. In response to peaceful Ogoni protests against the severe environmental consequences of Shell’s oil development, Shell knowingly instigated, planned, facilitated, and cooperated in unprovoked attacks by the Nigerian military, including the Mobile Police and the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force (“ISTF”) against the unarmed residents of Ogoniland, resulting in extrajudicial killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, crimes against humanity, rape, forced exile and the deliberate destruction of private property. Shell financially supported the operations of these military units directly and indirectly, including the purchase of ammunition for the Police.
Paragraph 3. The movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and its leader Ken Saro-Wiwa attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the dispute with the Government and Shell. When these negotiations failed, MOSOP organized non-violent protests to bring public attention to the plight of Ogoniland. In response, Nigeria established the Ogoni Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal (the “Special Tribunal”), a military tribunal, to supervise and administer extra-judicial punishments on persons in Ogoniland deemed to be threats to public order. Defendants bribed prosecution witnesses to secure false testimony and otherwise cooperated with the Special Tribunal which meted out punishments to hundreds of persons. Ken Saro-Wiwa, Dr. Barinem Kiobel, John Kpuinen and other Ogoni leaders were executed following summary proceedings before the Special Tribunal in 1995.
Paragraph 4. Defendants knew, should have known, or recklessly disregarded that the consequences of their collaboration and cooperation with the Nigerian military would include the violent acts that occurred. But they were willing to aid, participate in and facilitate those acts in order to profit from Ogoniland’s proven oil and gas reserves.
Paragraph 7. Plaintiff Bishop Augustine Numene John-Miller (“Bishop John-Miller”) is an Ogoni, a citizen of Nigeria and a resident of the United States. In October 1995, Bishop John-Miller, along with other religious leaders, was designated to meet with government officials in an effort to negotiate a peaceful resolution of Ogoni grievances relating to the impact of oil exploration. On October 28, 1995, when he arrived for the meeting, Bishop John-Miller and other members of his delegation were detained without charge. Bishop John-Miller was incarcerated in a small cell with 23 other inmates. He was flogged daily with the notorious “koboko” whip and denied food, water and sanitary facilities. The local military commander, Major Obi, informed Bishop John-Miller that he and other religious leaders were in detention because they allowed their churches to be used for MOSOP meetings. Bishop John-Miller was released on November 25, 1995, and suffered severe abdominal pain, rashes, and other injuries for more than a year thereafter. In April 1996, during the course of a United Nations fact finding mission to Ogoniland, Major Obi arrived at Bishop John-Miller’s house with a truckload of soldiers. Major Obi told Bishop John-Miller’s wife that the ISTF would severely injure Bishop John-Miller if he cooperated with the United Nations mission. Under orders from Major Obi, Bishop John-Miller’s wife was beaten and their household ransacked. Bishop John-Miller fled Nigeria to the United Nations Refugee Camp in Benin under threat of murder and was later granted asylum by the United States Department of State.
Paragraph 8. Plaintiff Dornubari Anslem John-Miller (“Plaintiff John-Miller”) is an Ogoni, a citizen of Nigeria and a resident of the United States. He is the son of Bishop John-Miller. Plaintiff John-Miller organized and led peaceful protests against Shell and the repressive Nigerian military presence in Ogoniland. Several of these protests against Shell’s presence in Ogoniland were confronted by the Nigerian military which fired upon the demonstrators. Plaintiff John-Miller visited Kaa and Kpean in August 1993 and he saw Shell helicopters conducting reconnaissance and transporting military forces to attack the villages. Plaintiff John-Miller was forced to flee from the area for his life. Subsequently he was targeted for execution for his political activities. He was beaten and his life was repeatedly threatened by Nigerian military authorities. He arrived in the United States on September 17, 1996, from the United Nations Refugee Camp in Benin where he sough sanctuary from the military authorities in Nigeria.
Paragraph 9. Plaintiff Charles Baridorn Wiwa (Plaintiff Wiwa) is the nephew of Ken Saro-Wiwa and is an Ogoni, a citizen of Nigeria and a resident of the United States. Plaintiff Wiwa was active in the National Union of Ogoni Students as chairman of the constitution drafting committee. He was arrested on January 3, 1996, for organizing a protest against Shell and the Nigerian government. Upon his detention, he was taken to the Bori Market where his captors clubbed, horsewhipped, kicked and beat him for nearly two hours in front of a huge crowd including his mother, sisters and other relatives. Government soldiers took him to the Kpor Military Detention Camp in Gokana where he was tortured through daily whippings and threats were made against his family. After 5 days in the detention camp he was transferred the State Intelligence Bureau in Port Harcourt. He was formally charged before the Magistrate Court 2 in Port Harcourt with unlawful assembly. He was released on bail and thereafter abducted by Government agents. They threatened his life if he remained in Nigeria. Plaintiff Wiwa fled Nigeria and was granted refugee status. Plaintiff Wiwa filed a complaint against the Government of Nigeria with the African Commission on Human Rights & Peoples’ Rights for the violations of international law alleged herein. On November 15, 1999, the African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights concluded its examination of the facts and found the Federal Government of Nigeria in violation of Articles 5, 6, 7(1)(c), 12(1), and (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
END OF EXTRACTS FROM THE CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT
You may be interested to know that Dornubari Anslem John-Miller, who is President of the National Union of Ogoni Students, is on record as stating: "Shell has ruined our land and our lives. Shell used Nigerian military forces to burn our villages and slaughter innocent men, women and children in a failed attempt to silence our peaceful protests. It is finally time to bring Shell to trial for planning, financing and supporting the systematic violation of human rights perpetrated against the Ogoni people in Nigeria."
The aforementioned Plaintiffs and I are willing in principle to provide sworn Affidavits in due course for the lawyers representing Dr Huong. I feel sure other fellow Plaintiffs will be prepared to do likewise, although I cannot speak for them.
In the meantime, please give Dr Huong my personal best wishes in his battle with the Royal Dutch Shell Group.