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Laureates petition Buhari, urge govt to exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa, eight other Ogoni leaders

Twenty-seven Right Livelihood Laureates sent a petition to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, November 10, 2020, demanding the exoneration of 1994 Right Livelihood Laureate Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight other Ogoni leaders executed 25 years ago.

Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

The Ogoni Nine were hanged on November 10, 1995, by Nigeria’s military regime for protesting Shell’s destructive environmental practices in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Laureates like Nnimmo BasseyDaniel EllsbergVandana Shiva and Bianca Jagger, among several others, signed the petition.

The petition reads:

Your Excellency,

On November 10, 1995, 25 years ago, 1994 Right Livelihood Laureate Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogoni patriots were hanged by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha following a kangaroo trial that received world-wide condemnation. Prior to his execution, Ken Saro-Wiwa and his activities had become pivotal in the Nigerian environmental justice movement.

Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed along with the eight Ogoni leaders: Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel and John Kpuine. Twenty-five years later, and despite recantations by witnesses who testified against the activists declaring that they had been bribed with money and job offers by Shell, justice has still not been served.

Since the entry of the oil giant Shell into Ogoniland, the company has been in dispute with the Ogoni people who protested non-violently against the destruction of their environment on which they depended for farming and fishing. The frequent oil spills in Ogoniland and elsewhere in the Niger Delta have been estimated to be equal to an Exxon Valdez oil spill every year, contaminating the water and soil of the communities. Thousands of impacted sites in the Niger Delta remain to be properly remediated to this day, even when they have been officially certified as cleaned.

In response to the devastation of the Ogoni environment, Ken Saro-Wiwa led the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) to bring international attention to the ecological crisis, including through an Ogoni Bill of Rights issued in 1990. Unable to continue waiting for a response that never came from the government or from Shell, MOSOP conducted a peaceful protest involving 300,000 Ogoni people and declared Shell persona non grata in Ogoniland in early 1993.

The Abacha regime arrested, imprisoned and sentenced Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight Ogoni leaders to death under highly questionable circumstances. They were executed on November 10, 1995, several days before the appeal period elapsed. The hanging of the Ogoni Nine in 1995 was a culmination of the cruel crimes that were being committed against the Ogoni people as a result of extractive activities in their territory.

We realise that your government has commenced the cleaning of the Ogoni environment following the August 2011 report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that showed that the Ogoni environment was extremely polluted. That report validated the claims of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa and others that the situation must be remedied.

We, the undersigned Right Livelihood Laureates from across the world, believe that after 25 years of silence in the face of injustice and cruelty meted out to Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight other Ogoni leaders. We urge you to use your good offices to:

  • Posthumously exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni leaders of a crime they did not commit and provide their families with adequate, effective and prompt reparations.
  • Take all necessary steps, in consultation with relevant local communities, to ensure the protection, promotion and fulfilment of the Ogoni people’s human rights, including their right to a safe, healthy environment.

This will be a clear statement that you embrace your human rights obligations and have the interests of the Ogoni people, whose territory is a metaphor of ecocide, at heart. Justice for Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight others would be a sign that you are committed to bringing justice for the environment, not just in Ogoniland, but everywhere.

Most respectfully,

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