Brief facts on Ken Saro-Wiwa’s murder, Ogoniland

Ken Saro-Wiwa, one of nine Ogoni community activists executed after an unfair trial in 1995.
Ken Saro-Wiwa, one of nine Ogoni community activists executed after an unfair trial in 1995.

Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues were killed in 1995 by the Abacha government.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, an Ogoni leader, writer, and activist, was born on October 10, 1941.

The Abacha junta accused Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others of killing four Ogoni chiefs who were on the opposing side of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP.

Mr. Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues were subsequently arrested, accused of the killings and tried by a special military tribunal. Though they denied the charges against them, they were imprisoned for over a year before being found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.

They were hanged on November 10, 1995 by the Abacha regime for what many believe was largely because  of Mr. Saro-Wiwa’s strong stance in pursuit of the rights of the Ogoni people.

Their execution led to Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations, which lasted for over three years.

The Royal Dutch Shell and Brain Anderson, Head of its Nigeria Operations, were believed to have connived with the military government on Mr. Saro-Wiwa’s trial and execution.

The company denied the allegations, despite testimonies stating otherwise, and it agreed a $15.5 million out-of-court settlement in favour of the families of the victims in 2009, saying however that the payment was not a concession of guilt, but a gesture for peace.

The cases were brought under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 statute giving non-U.S. citizens the right to file suits in U.S. courts for international human rights violations; and the Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows individuals to seek damages in the U.S. for torture or extrajudicial killing, regardless of where the violations take place.

A United Nations report titled “UNEP Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland” and submitted to the Federal Government in August last year showed how 50 years of crude oil operations in Ogoniland had caused severe environmental pollution to the Rivers State community.

Part of the observations of the UNEP scientific assessment was the presence of benzene in wells in Nisisioken Ogale area of Ogoni at a level over 900 per cent higher than the accepted World Health Organisation guidelines.

The report also made recommendations for the immediate clean-up of the community with a takeoff fund termed “Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland,’ with an initial sum of $1billion to be contributed by Shell Petroleum Development Company, the Nigerian Government, and other oil companies operating in Ogoniland.


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