On this day in 1995, a famous Nigerian playwright, film producer and director, human and environmental right activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, along with eight others from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop), were executed in a highly controversial circumstance by the Nigerian military junta of Gen. Sani Abacha.
MOSOP is the umbrella organization of currently 11 member groups representing more than 700,000 indigenous Ogonis in campaigning for social, economic andenvironmental justice in the Niger Delta.
The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People began as a struggle against the exploitation of natural resources ofOgoniland by Shell Oil Company, a subsidiary of the Royal Dutch Shell, when in 1957 its Nigerian operations, Shell Nigeria, exploited and polluted Ogoni land through spillages.
On May 21, 1994, four Ogoni chiefs, all on the conservative side of the divide within MOSOP over strategy, were murdered.
The then Rivers State Military Administrator Lt. Col. Dauda Komo blamed the killings on MOSOP.
Troops led by Major Paul Okuntimo of Rivers StateInternal Security, who claimed to be “searching for those directly responsible for the killings of the four Ogonis”, engaged in terror operations against the general Ogoni population.
Amnesty Internationalcharacterized the policy as deliberate terrorism by government against her own people.
By mid-June, 30 villages had been completely destroyed, 600 people had been detained, and at least 40 had been killed.
An eventual total of around 100,000 internal refugees and an estimated 2,000 civilian deaths were recorded.
On June 11 1995, Saro-Wiwa’s passport was confiscated at Lagos airport, preventing him from traveling to Vienna to represent MOSOP at the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights.
On November 10, 1995, nine activists from the movement, Barinem Kiobel, John Kpunien, Baribor Bera, Saturday Dobee, Felix Nwate, Nordu Eawo, Paul Levura, and Daniel Gbokoo along with playwright and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hanged 10 days after being convicted by the Nigerian government on charges of “incitement to murder” of the four Ogoni leaders.
His death provoked international outrage and the immediate suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth of Nations as well as the calling back of many foreign diplomats for consultation.
The Unite Nations, which monitored the trial of Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni Nine, observed that the returned verdict did not follow any known local or international standard.
Compelling new evidences suggested that the Nigerian military had killed the four Ogoni elders whose murders led to the execution Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995 mainly as a means to set the group up.
The evidence also reveals that the notorious military commander Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Okuntimo, whose troops were implicated in other crimes, was in the pay of Shell at the time of the killings and was driven around in a Shell vehicle.