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Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People
FoundersKen Saro-Wiwa
TypeSocial Movement Organization
PurposeIndigenous rights of the Ogoni people
HeadquartersBori, Ogoni, Rivers State, Nigeria
  • Ethnic Minority Rights Organization of Africa (EMIROAF)
  • Federation of Ogoni Women Association (FOWA)
  • National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP)
  • Ogoni Council of Churches (OCC)
  • Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers (COTRA)
  • Council of Ogoni Professionals (COP)
  • National Union of Ogoni Students (NUOS)
  • Crisis Management Committee (CMC)
  • Ogoni Teachers Union
  • Ogoni Technical Association
  • Ogoni Central Indigenous Authority
Legborsi Saro Pyagbara
Award(s)Right Livelihood Award

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, also known as (MOSOP), is a mass‐based social movement organization of the indigenous Ogoni people[1] of Central Niger Delta. MOSOP is the umbrella organization of currently 11 member groups representing more than 700,000 indigenous Ogoni in campaigning for social, economic and environmental justice in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.[2] MOSOP's mandated use of non-violent methods to promote democratic principles assist Ogoni people pursue rights of self-determination in environmental issues in the Niger Delta, cultural rights and practices for Ogoni people.[3]

Founded in 1990 by Ken Saro-Wiwa, Ogoni Chiefs of MOSOP initiated efforts with the Ogoni Bill of Rights.[4][5] Saro-Wiwa led its submission to the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in Geneva.

In 1994, MOSOP, along with founder Ken Saro-Wiwa, received the Right Livelihood Award for their exemplary courage in striving non-violently for the civil, economic and environmental rights of their people'.[6]


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2014)

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People began as a struggle against the exploitation of natural resources of Ogoniland by Shell Oil Company, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, when in 1957 its Nigerian operations, Shell Nigeria, known as Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), struck oil in the Niger River Delta.

Environmental Impact on the Niger River Delta Region

Communities of the Niger River Delta which had sustained their economy on farming and fishing, saw the takeover of their land by multinational oil companies was causing devastating environmental degradation. Saro-Wiwa called it an 'ecological war'.[7]

The Ogoni country has been completely destroyed by the search for oil.... Oil blowouts, spillages, oil slicks, and general pollution accompany the search for oil.... Oil companies have flared gas in Nigeria for the past thirty three years causing acid rain.... What used to be the bread basket of the delta has now become totally infertile. All one sees and feels around is death. Environmental degradation has been a lethal weapon in the war against the indigenous Ogoni people.[8]

—Ken Saro-Wiwa, Interview on Channel 4 (U.K.) on November 15, 1995

Bronwen Manby, then researcher in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, documented in July 1997 that "according to the official estimates of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), based on the quantities reported by the operating companies, approximately 2,300 cubic meters of oil are spilled in 300 separate incidents annually. It can be safely assumed that, due to under-reporting, the real figure is substantially higher: conservative estimates place it at up to ten times higher. Statistics from the Department of Petroleum Resources[9] indicate that between 1976 and 1996 a total of 4,835 incidents resulted in the spillage of at least 2,446,322 barrels (102.7 million U.S. gallons), of which an estimated 1,896,930 barrels (79.7 million U.S. gallons; 77 percent) were lost to the environment. Another calculation, based on oil industry sources, estimates that more than 1.07 million barrels (45 million U.S. gallons) of oil were spilled in Nigeria from 1960 to 1997. Nigeria's largest spill was an offshore well blowout (well drilling) in January 1980, when at least 200,000 barrels of oil (8.4 million U.S. gallons), according to oil industry sources, spewed into the Atlantic Ocean from a Texaco facility and destroyed 340 hectares of mangroves. DPR estimates were that more than 400,000 barrels (16.8 million U.S. gallons) were spilled in this incident."[10]

Ogoni has suffered and continues to suffer the degrading effects of oil exploration and exploitation: lands, streams and creeks are totally and continually polluted; the atmosphere is for ever charged with hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide; many villages experience the infernal quaking of the wrath of gas flares which have been burning 24 hours a day for 33 years; acid rain, oil spillages and blowouts are common. The result of such unchecked environmental pollution and degradation are that (i) The Ogoni can no longer farm successfully. Once the food basket of the eastern Niger Delta, the Ogoni now buy food (when they can't afford it); (ii) Fish, once a common source of protein, is now rare. Owing to the constant and continual pollution of our streams and creeks, fish can only be caught in deeper and offshore waters for which the Ogoni are not equipped. (iii) All wildlife is dead. (iv) The ecology is changing fast. The mangrove tree, the aerial roots of which normally provide a natural and welcome habitat for many a sea food – crabs, periwinkles, mudskippers, cockles, mussels, shrimps and all – is now being gradually replaced by unknown and otherwise useless plants. (v) The health hazards generated by an atmosphere charged with hydrocarbon vapour, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are innumerable.[5]

—Dr. G. B. Leton, President of MOSOP, addendum statement in the Ogoni Bill of Rights

Mangrove forest is particularly vulnerable to oil spills, because the soil soaks up the oil like a sponge and re-releases it every rainy season.[10]

Water contamination of local water supply resulted in fish kills and ruinous effects on farmland.[11]

A Human Rights Watch interview with Uche Onyeagocha, staff attorney, Civil Liberties Organisation (Port Harcourt), Washington, D.C., May 12, 1995, documented that members of minority groups in the Niger Delta, whose land is the source of over 90% of Nigeria's oil, especially opposed the prevailing revenue allocation formula, under which the federal, state, and local governments had almost complete discretion over the distribution of oil proceeds.[12] 80% of Nigeria's federal government revenue comes from this resource rich region.[13] The World Bank estimates this accrues to only 1% of the general population.[14]

The Ogoni people will make representation to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the effect that giving loans and credit to the Nigerian Government on the understanding that oil money will be used to repay such loans is to encourage the Nigerian government to continue to dehumanise the Ogoni people and to devastate the environment and ecology of the Ogoni and other delta minorities among whom oil is found. The Ogoni people will inform the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity that the Nigerian Constitution and the actions of the power elite in Nigeria flagrantly violate the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights; and that Nigeria in 1992 is no different from Apartheid South Africa. The Ogoni people will ask that Nigeria be duly chastised by both organizations for its inhuman actions and uncivilized behaviour. And if Nigeria persists in its perversity, then it should be expelled from both organizations.[5]

—Ogoni Bill of Rights

Former World Bank Vice-President for Africa, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, gave an estimation of $400 billion of Nigeria's oil revenue that was stolen or misspent from 1960 to 1999.[15] Around 70% of the oil revenues were estimated by a Nigerian anti-corruption agency to have been wasted or lost to corruption. The Nuhu Ribadu led Task Force on Oil Revenue, produced a 146-page study covering 2002–2011. The report validated that "Nigeria lost out on tens of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues over that decade from cut price deals struck between multinational oil companies and government officials cut-price gas, while Nigerian oil ministers handed out licenses at their own discretion. The report alleges international oil traders sometimes buy crude without any formal contracts, and the state oil firm had short-changed the Nigerian treasury billions over the last 10 years by selling crude oil and gas to itself below market rates." The Ribadu report also noted in a ten-year span: "The estimated cumulative of the deficit between value obtainable on the international market and what is currently being obtained from NLNG, over the 10 year period, amounts to approximately $29 billion."[16]

Shell Oil's Greenwashing efforts prompted Friends of the Earth Europe, on May 8, 2007, to file simultaneous complaints in three European countries to the national advertising standards authorities of Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK about Shell's advertisements that depicted the outline of an oil refinery emitting flowers rather than smoke and claimed that it uses its "waste CO2 to grow flowers and [its] waste sulphur to make concrete".[17]

Shell Oil has maintained that the issues of pollution of the Niger Delta is brought about by illegal refining of crude oil, sabotage and theft of oil field infrastructure.[18] Research by Amnesty International, CEHRD and Friends of the Earth provide examples of cases where Shell claimed the cause of a spill was sabotage, but this claim was subsequently called into question by other investigations or the courts. This evidence, which includes video footage of an oil spill investigation where the cause of the spill was changed, by Shell, from "equipment failure" to "sabotage, following the field investigation, has been shared with Shell.[19]

Under Nigerian law the operating company is responsible for cleaning up oil spills from its facilities, even if the spill is the result of third-party action. Therefore, the human and environmental impact of Shell's failure to properly clean up pollution cannot be defended by reference to illegal activity that, allegedly, caused the oil spills.[19]

Because of the oil-related suffering of the Ogoni people, governmental neglect, lack of social services, and political marginalization, these concerns were placed in the context of Ogonis as "a separate and distinct ethnic nationality". On this basis they sought autonomy, environmental protection, control of a fair share of the revenues from their resources, and cultural rights (such as the use of their local languages).[20]


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2014)

In 1970, Ogoni Chiefs and Elders of the Ogoni Divisional Commission (W. Nzidee, F. Yowika, N. Ndegwe, E. Kobani, O. Nalelo, Chief A. Ngei and O. Ngofa), submitted a petition[21][22] to the local Military Governor as a formal complaint against Shell, then operating a joint venture with BP. It brought notice that the company was "seriously threatening the well-being, and even the very lives" of the Ogoni.

Shell's response was that the petition was an attempt to place development and other responsibilities on the company and that the "contentions ... bear little relation to what is actually taking place".[22]

In July, there was a major blow-out at the Bomu oilfield in Ogoni, which continued for three weeks, causing widespread pollution and outrage. P. Badom, of the Dere Youths Association, issued a letter of protest citing:

"Our rivers, rivulets and creeks are all covered with crude oil" wrote the Dere Youths Association, "We no longer breathe the natural oxygen, rather we inhale lethal and ghastly gases. Our water can no longer be drunk unless one wants to test the effect of crude oil on the body. We no longer use vegetables, they are all polluted."[23]

The Iko people wrote to Shell in 1980 demanding "compensation and restitution of our rights to clean air, water and a viable environment where we can source for our means of livelihood".[24]

In 1987, when the Iko once again held a peaceful demonstration against Shell, the notorious Mobile Police Force (MPF), locally known as "kill-and-go" was called, and 40 houses were destroyed, with 350 people made homeless by the MPF's attack.[24]

In August 1990, the Ogoni elders signed the Ogoni Bill of Rights, which rang for "political control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people, control and use of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development, adequate and direct representation as of right for Ogoni people in all Nigerian national institutions, and the right to protect the Ogoni environment and ecology from further degradation".[24]

MOSOP was the outgrowth of these protest demonstrations in the Delta. Goodluck Diigbo, a journalist, was the National President of the National Youth Council of Ogoni People, NYCOP. Saro-Wiwa had charged him with the responsibility of establishing seven of the ten affiliates that made up MOSOP. Before the affiliates came into being, Ken Saro-Wiwa who initiated the idea of MOSOP had attracted a mix of educated Ogoni elites and chiefs, including its first president Dr. Garrick Barile Leton.[25] Chief E. N. Kobani became vice president of MOSOP.

MOSOP succeeded in organizing its first efforts with the 1990 Ogoni Bill of Rights addressed to the Government of the Federal Republic and the People of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida, the former military president of Nigeria and members of the Armed Forces Ruling Council, but received no reply to its demands for autonomy. The Ogoni lists their concerns: political autonomy to participate in the affairs of the Republic as a distinct and separate unit (by whatever name called), provided that this autonomy guarantees political control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people; the right to control and use a fair proportion of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development; adequate representations, as of right, in all Nigerian national institutions, and the right to protect the Ogoni environment and ecology from further degradation.[5]

The Niger Delta was brought to international attention with the protest at Shell's facility in the Umuechem community of Etche, east of Port Harcourt, Rivers State on October 30 and 31, 1990. Shell specifically requested the presence of the MPF.[24] This incident saw approximately 80 unarmed demonstrators killed and the destruction and severe damage of 495 houses by the Nigerian Mobile Police.[26]

Early 1990s and The Ogoni Crises

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On May 21, 1994, four Ogoni chiefs (all on the conservative side of a schism within MOSOP over strategy) were murdered. Saro-Wiwa, head of the opposing faction, had been denied entry to Ogoniland on the day of the murders, but was then detained in connection with the killings. Rivers State Military Administrator Lt. Col. Dauda Komo did not wait for a judicial investigation to blame the killings on "irresponsible and reckless thuggery of the MOSOP element".[29]

Led by Major Paul Okuntimo of Rivers State Internal Security, who claimed to be "searching for those directly responsible for the killings of the four Ogonis", witnesses say that they engaged in terror operations against the general Ogoni population. Amnesty International characterized the policy as deliberate terrorism. 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 was recorded.[30]

Mid 1990s and the Execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni Nine

See also: Ogoni Nine

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Ken Saro-Wiwa, N. G. Dube and Kobari Nwilewas were arrested in Port Harcourt in Rivers State in southern Nigeria on June 21, 1993. Following their arrest, Ken Saro-Wiwa, N. G. Dube and Kobari Nwile were first transferred to Lagos, then to Owerri in Imo State and finally to Port Harcourt where they are currently in prison. The three were charged on 13 July 1993 under the Criminal Code of Eastern Nigeria in connection with their activities on behalf of the Ogoni community. Charges on six counts relating to unlawful assembly, seditious intention and seditious publication. Bail was not set and all three remanded in custody until September 20. On June 11, 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.[31]

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.[32] In the final address to the military-appointed tribunal, Saro-Wiwa concludes the responsibility of Shell Corporation and its actions as war crimes against the Ogoni People:

I repeat that we all stand before history. I and my colleagues are not the only ones on trial. Shell is here on trial and it is as well that it is represented by counsel said to be holding a watching brief. The Company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come and the lessons learnt here may prove useful to it for there is no doubt in my mind that the ecological war that the Company has waged in the Delta will be called to question sooner than later and the crimes of that war be duly punished. The crime of the Company's dirty wars against the Ogoni people will also be punished.

Excerpt from: Trial Speech of Ken Saro-Wiwa  – via Wikisource.

An anonymous interview revealed a first hand telling of that day and the events that took place;

“Everywhere was quiet and then on the morning of May 21st ... as we woke up in the morning most of the Ogoni communities were filled with soldiers and mobile policemen armed with sophisticated weapons. We don’t (sic) know why they just came, it was only when four prominent Ogoni sons were killed later in the afternoon of that day that we inOgoni ever knew that there was a grand design to cause disturbances in Ogoni in order to create an excuse for the government to send in more troops”[33]

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.[34] According to the Nigerian Medical Association's President, these were the fastest executions in the West African nation's history.[35] Nigerian human rights activists and opposition groups had longed urged the Commonwealth and the United States to impose economic sanctions on the Nigerian government. This they argued was the opportune time to "turn the screws on" Nigeria's military government by boycotting its oil. The United States, which buys half of Nigeria's oil, declined through a press statement.[36]

Compelling new evidence suggests the Nigerian military killed four Ogoni elders whose murders led to the execution of the playwright and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995. 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.[37]


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2014)

On January 4, 1998, Ogoni national day, the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force (RVISTF), arrests dozens of activists and raided several villages.[38]

Saro-Wiwa vs. Shell

On November 10, 2014, MOSOP President Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, at the 19th anniversary commemoration of the "Ogoni Martyrs" held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, called on the federal government to clear the late activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and the other nine Ogoni people executed by General Sani Abacha's government for murder. Pyagbara recalled that the UN, 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.[39]

See also


  1. ^ "Ogoni". Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. March 25, 2008. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  2. ^ "Ogoni: Oral Intervention on the Human Rights Situation of States and Territories threatened with Ex". Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  3. ^ "About Us - Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)". Archived from the original on April 25, 2010. Retrieved May 27, 2009.
  4. ^[dead link]
  5. ^ a b c d "Ogoni Bill of Rights" (PDF). Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  6. ^ "Ken Saro-Wiwa / Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People". The Right Livelihood Award. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  7. ^ Trial Speech of Ken Saro-Wiwa . November 10, 1995 – via Wikisource.
  8. ^ Nixon, Rob (January 1996). "Pipe Dreams: Ken Saro-Wiwa, Environmental Justice, and Micro-Minority Rights" (PDF). University of Wisconsin-Madison. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 20, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  9. ^ "Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC)".
  10. ^ a b Manby, Bronwen (January 1999). "The Price of Oil". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
  11. ^ "Nigeria, The Ogoni Crisis, Vol. 7, No. 5". Human Rights Watch. July 1995. Retrieved December 15, 2014.
  12. ^ "Nigeria: The Ogoni Crises". Human Rights Watch. July 1995. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  13. ^ "Nigerian Economy". Embassy of Nigeria, Stockholm Sweden. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  14. ^ Kretzmann, Stephen; Noouruddin, Irfan. "Drilling into Debt - An Investigation into the Relationship Between Debt and Oil" (PDF). Oil Change International. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  15. ^ Soniyi, Tobi. "Nigeria: U.S.$400 Billion of Oil Revenue Stolen, Says Ezekwesili". Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  16. ^ "Exclusive: Nigeria loses billions in cut price oil deals - report". Reuters. October 24, 2012. Archived from the original on December 22, 2014. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  17. ^ "Shell's misleading ad: complaint submitted: Oil refineries emit smoke not flowers" (Press release). Friends of the Earth Europe. May 8, 2007. Archived from the original on October 20, 2007. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  18. ^ "Shell in Nigeria - The UNEP Report" (PDF). SpDC, SNEP and Shell Nigeria Gas. April 2014. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  19. ^ a b "No Progress". Amnesty International. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  20. ^ Rwomire, Apollo (2001). Social problems in Africa: new visions. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 83–85. ISBN 978-0-275-96343-9.
  21. ^ "Ken Saro-Wiwa, Excerpts from Saro-Wiwa on Shell in Ogoni".
  22. ^ a b Ken Saro-Wiwa. "Shell in Ogoni 1992 (Excerpt)". Retrieved December 21, 2014.
  23. ^ "About MOSOP". MOSOP. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  24. ^ a b c d e f Andrew Rowell; Stephen Kretzmann; Lowenstein Nigeria Project, Yale Law School (November 1, 1996). "All for Shell: The Ogoni Struggle - A Project Underground Report". Archived from the original on December 21, 2014. Retrieved December 21, 2014. Alt URL
  25. ^ Okafor, Obiora Chinedu (2006). Legitimizing human rights NGOs: lessons from Nigeria. Africa World Press. pp. 39–41. ISBN 978-1-59221-286-6.
  26. ^ Manby, Bronwen (January 1999). "The Price of Oil". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved December 15, 2014.
  27. ^ "Nigeria, The Ogoni Crisis, Vol.7, No.5". Human Rights Watch. July 1995. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  28. ^ a b "Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People". Archived from the original on December 21, 2014. Retrieved December 20, 2014.
  29. ^ Videotape, press conference, Port Harcourt, Nigerian Television Authority, May 22, 1994.
  30. ^ Ayodele, Thompson (July 28, 2008). "Nigeria: Deriving Benefits From Oil Revenue".
  31. ^ "UA 238/93 - Nigeria: health concern / legal concern: Ken Saro-Wiwa, N. G. Dube, Kobari Nwile". Amensty International. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  32. ^ "Ken Saro-Wiwa". The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  33. ^ (Delta Force, 1995). ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  34. ^ "Hopes on the Horizon_Africa in the 1990s_Nigeria". PBS. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  35. ^ "Nigeria suspended from Commonwealth". CNN. Retrieved May 13, 2010.
  36. ^ "Nigeria suspended from Commonwealth". CNN. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  37. ^ Rowell, Andy; Lubbers, Eveline (December 5, 2010). "Ken Saro-Wiwa was framed, secret evidence shows". Retrieved December 20, 2014.
  38. ^ Chinwo, Ernest (January 12, 1998). "MOSOP Calls For Urgent Action" (Press release). Africa Retrieved December 20, 2014.
  39. ^ Chinwo, Ernest (November 11, 2014). "Nigeria: Clear Ken Saro-Wiwa, Others of Murder, MOSOP Urges Govt". Retrieved December 16, 2014.