Last night coalition partners SpinWatch released fresh revelations in The Independent on Sunday exposing how Shell financed Nigerian military crackdowns on the minority Ogoni people and detailing new evidence to suggest Saro-Wiwa was framed by the military. This stream of revelations has emerged following a year of dedicated research into the evidence amassed against Shell for the human rights lawsuit Wiwa v Shell, which was settled last year. Andy Rowell and Eveline Lubbers wrote:
The evidence also reveals that the notorious military commander Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Okuntimo, whose troops were implicated in murder and rape, was in the pay of Shell at the time of the killings and was driven around in a Shell vehicle.
One of the key witnesses due to testify was Boniface Ejiogu, Lt-Col Okuntimo’s orderly in the Internal Security Task Force, a coalition of army, navy and police. Mr Ejiogu testified to standing guard as victims were raped and tortured while Lt-Col Okuntimo was in command. Asked if he ever saw his commander receive money from Shell, he said he witnessed it on two occasions.
Mr Ejiogu described in detail how, just days before the Ogoni elders were murdered, he drove with Lt-Col Okuntimo to Shell’s base in Port Harcourt, where the officer received seven large bags of money. “I was there when other soldiers were carrying the Ghana Must Go bags,” he testified. The bags were so heavy the soldiers had difficulty carrying them, and one fell open. “The thing opened,” Mr Ejiogu said. “I saw it was money in bundles. He said, wow, this is money. I say, yes man, it is money.”
The payments coincided with the killing of four Ogoni elders, raising further questions about the nature of Shell and the Nigerian military’s campaign against Ken Saro-Wiwa.
MrEjiogu also offers compelling evidence as to who may have murdered the four Ogoni elders at a meeting on 21 May 1994. Saro-Wiwa was due to speak but was turned away by the military. Mr Ejiogu said he heard Lt-Col Okuntimo tell his task force commander to “waste them… in the army you waste them is when you are shooting rapidly”.
Within 24 hours Saro-Wiwa was arrested and charged with the murders. It was implied that he had had the elders killed because of their moderate stance on Ogoni issues. Despite an international outcry, he was hanged in November 1995, following a sham trial described by the then British prime minister, John Major, as “judicial murder”.
A Shell spokesman said yesterday: “Allegations concerning Okuntimo and Shell are not new. There is a lack of any credible evidence in support of these allegations. Shell Petroleum Development Corporation and Shell at the time spoke out frequently against violence and publicly condemned its use.”