The recent settlement between the Saro-Wiwa family, Ogoni and Shell is not so much about an ending. I hope rather it is the start of something new for the Ogoni people as well as for Shell in Nigeria. Settling out of court was not a comfortable or soft option. We wanted an opportunity to prove our innocence and we were ready to go to court.
We knew the charges against us were not true. And we were confident that the evidence would have shown this – that Shell was not responsible for the tragic events of 10th November, 1995. The execution of nine leaders of the Ogoni tribe shocked us all. And we wanted others to see and understand that too.
I am aware that settlement may – to some – suggest Shell is guilty and trying to escape justice. Some newspapers have leapt to that conclusion. But we felt we had to move on. A court hearing would have dragged us backward, dug up old feuds and painful memories, not only for the plaintiffs but for many others who have been caught up in the violence.
In a way, this 13-year-old lawsuit has always been a bitter legacy, potentially undermining any reconciliation initiative, even among the Ogoni people themselves. When the judge, through the court mediation process, asked us to consider making a humanitarian gesture to settle the case, we saw an opportunity to help banish this legacy and advance the process of reconciliation and support a better future for Ogonis – in a way that winning in court may not have done. As Shell’s country chairman in Nigeria, Basil Omiyi, said to me, this was a way of drawing a line under the past. Not forgetting it, but placing it in context and helping us all get on with our lives.
He’s right. There is a generation of Ogoni people who have grown up in the shadow of the violent events of the 1990s. Most are looking for peace. Shell is looking for peace. Not because we want to go back to produce oil and gas in Ogoni land. But because we live and work in the Niger Delta too where 25,000 Nigerian families depend on our operations for their livelihoods – and where we want good relations with all our neighbours.
What does a humanitarian settlement look like? My concern was the thousands who suffered during the violence and turmoil in the 1990s, not just the 10 plaintiffs. This made a trust fund a good option to benefit all Ogoni people. And there was no single view in Ogoni land about this court case, about Shell or Ken Saro-Wiwa. There are many factions who disagree. We had to seek an approach to help everyone move forward together.
The trust fund will hopefully contribute to development in Ogoni land. It will support local initiatives in education and agriculture, small businesses and literacy. It is independent of Shell and the plaintiffs. The trustees will be responsible for ensuring funds reach the greatest places of need. I hope it can make a difference where it matters.
We have continued community investment in Ogoni land, despite the fact we have not produced any oil there for 16 years. Shell-run companies in Nigeria contributed $240m in 2008 in Niger Delta community projects. And of course our major contribution remains to run a decent business there from which 95% of revenues pass to the Nigerian government in one way or another.
So this was not about lawyers winning or losing. Or Shell winning or losing. Our decision was aimed at helping different factions to talk more effectively to each other and to Shell – and to help move along the vital reconciliation process. We are supporting a UN-led survey of Ogoni land to meet environmental concerns. We have promised to clear up any damage from oil spills – whatever their cause. Ultimately, I hope to see oil being produced in Ogoni land again one day. This time, bringing economic opportunity and better livelihoods, not bloodshed.
Brinded is executive director for Exploration and Production at Royal Dutch Shell, at The Hague
Trails Of Natural History
Natural history should be understood here to mean unbiased, undistorted and comprehensive records of all the experiences, including thoughts and deeds, of all creatures that have existed on Earth. Known as Akashic record in some cosmogony, such undistorted blueprints, as they relate to individual human beings, are stored in genetic memory bank which scientists call deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Human blood is the common physical fluid through which this indelible record is encoded and transmitted, generation after generation.
Humans, being endowed with a free will, by which means every individual has the freedom to make personal decisions and choices, are thus provided with a rudder as a navigational tool in the journey of life on Earth. Thus, whatever the contents of the blueprint that an individual comes into incarnation with, the duty and right for a free navigation through life remain as inalienable rights. So, with such rights every individual is daily adding, subtracting, adapting and moving forward, forced by personal experiences to acquire increasing recognition of the true realities of life. Bitter experiences teach better!
Therefore, the genetic memory bank which is borne via everybody’s blood system is a fluid rather than a fixed record, because what we call fate or destiny is alterable, not irreversible. By the exercise of individual freewill, the duty and right of free choices and decisions remain as everybody’s means of disentanglement or further entanglements, in the affairs and bargains of life. To say that everybody bears the trails of natural history, is to affirm that everybody carries the contents of everything pertaining to himself, spanning over thousands of years.
Emerging DNA technology will, no doubt, alter many strongly-held belief systems and ideas about human life; including the fact that Earth-life is a shuttle. A child born today is obviously not a new comer on Earth, just as records of such child’s previous embodiments can be readily dug out from the archives of natural history. Efforts in this new direction of exploring the apparently inexplicable mysteries of life are quite expensive to delve into. Pioneers and explorers in that direction seek neither publicity, recognition nor distraction, for obvious reasons, especially where ignorance is bliss.
Prejudice, myopia and conceit stand strongly against progress in this newly emerging DNA technology, not only because it does not offer cash or power, but more because of possible dethronement of many empires. For example, the science of cloning has advanced, veering into transmigratory controversies, with experiments of infusing the blood or breath of some donors or volunteers into a dying person, thus extending life-span. Alteration of personality and consciousness can also be made possible through such controversial practices and experiments. Dangerous aspects of such experiments include the creation of crude monsters as humans, with animal propensities.
Obviously, experiments in this line of research are done under utmost secrecy with intruders visited with ruthless penalties. Defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was noted for carrying out various unconventional research activities, especially in alteration of brain and personality postures. Prisoners of war as well as captured spies and secret service agents became ready guinea pigs for such unconventional brain research activities whereby humans were turned into zombies.
There were a few cases where surviving victims of such experiments later became themselves and took legal actions which had to be halted for security reasons, but with out-of-court settlements made. It also came to light how security vote which is not subject to public audit can be applied for unethical projects. Between 1952 and 1960, records of unethical research projects were systematically destroyed and obliterated, but with the methods of proceedings altered to reflect some semblance of transparency and accountability. Yet, motives for such explorations remain same, which include being a step above, and having an edge over contenders.
Keeping security, national interests and politics of survival aside, it is a healthy practice for individuals, organisations and nations to explore and seek to grasp the realities of life. Neither is it healthy or reasonable to remain caged and boxed up by the doctrines, assertions and dogmas of intellectual humanity and orthodoxy. It is of importance to note that human progress in the recognition of the truth and realities of life has been hindered largely by prevailing human institutions via narrow interpretations of the issues of human existence.
Natural history via carbon dating and DNA technology reveal much that an average person would describe as unacceptable. New fields of academic studies such as regression, anamnesis, altered states of consciousness, etc, which are common in some universities, would be rejected as appropriate in any Nigerian university. It is true that a number of academic studies, including phrenology, had been discredited and expunged from the curriculum, yet there are new emerging disciplines not common in conventional institutions.
It is also true that a number of research or study activities pander to human ego, vanity and tend to serve dark purposes, yet, there are more issues that remain vague and unknown to humans. We cannot doubt the fact that human consciousness is an ever expanding poll, neither can we drink up all the water springing up therefrom. But human dogma and conceit are worse than the impetuous drive to explore unknown realms of life. Galileo (1564-1642) who asserted that the Earth moves round the sun was imprisoned for five years!
Current awareness which is gaining grounds gradually is the fact that trails of natural history is not only real but can be readily explored and downloaded. Everybody is not only a carrier and bearer of the totality of his or her own record of existence, dating thousands of years, but such individual records can be downloaded. Unfortunately, contents of such records can be quite shocking, shaming and unbelievable if made available to the individuals concerned. The phenomenon of stigmata has been an inexplicable mystery to many people, but the truth can be shocking and revealing, of which a 1927 incident ranks high.
Keeping phrenology, palmistry and such stuff aside, the blood of every individual is a personal identity as well as gateway to personal archives. At least the aura radiating from individuals reveal a great deal about people, for those capable of perceiving such radiations. Neither can anyone hide or obliterate his personal identity. One grace which everyone enjoys is the non-disclosure of the contents of individual natural history, so that people would not hang from the fear of what trails them, unseen by them. Wise ones strive diligently to reduce dark burdens.
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer in the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Time For The Needful
As a way of providing a solution to the Boko Haram insurgency that has been bedeviling the country for decades, many suggestions have been made by groups, individuals, including security experts. One of them is that government should declare the group terrorists.
Early in the week, the Katsina State House of Assembly joined in making such call against bandits. That was part of the recommendations of its committee on Security’s investigation into incessant activities of bandits which said that the declaration of bandits as terrorists would give the military, the police and other security agencies the power to deal with them accordingly.
In the words of the Committee chairman, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar: “During our investigation, we realised that the Security Containment Order signed by Governor Aminu Masari recorded a lot of successes in inhibiting the bandits. We have realised that attacks, kidnapping and killing of people by bandits have reduced by about 35 per cent”.
A similar call had been made by both the federal and state lawmakers in the recent past, asking President Muhammadu Buhari to declare bandits terrorists and enemies of the state in accordance with the law, so that the military will be decisive and firmer in dealing with them.
An online dictionary, vocabulary.com, defines a terrorist as someone who uses violence, mayhem, and destruction — or the threat of those things — to coerce people or countries into taking a certain action.
Section1(2) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2011, is explicit on what should be regarded as terrorism in Nigeria: “(2) In this section ‘act of terrorism’ means an act which is deliberately done with malice, aforethought and which: (a) may seriously harm or damage a country or an international organisation; (b) is intended or can reasonably be regarded as having been intended or can reasonably be regarded as having intended to (i) unduly compel a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act; (ii) seriously intimidate a population; (iii) seriously destablise or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an internal organisation; or (iv) otherwise influence such government or international organisation by intimidation or coercion and (c) involves or causes as the case may be an attack upon a person’s life which may cause serious bodily harm or death;
(i) kidnapping of a person (ii) destruction to a government or public facility, a transport system, an infrastructural facility including an information system, a fixed platform located on a continental shelf; a public place or private property, likely to endanger human life or result in a major economic loss; (iii) the seizure of an aircraft, ship or other means of public goods transport and diversion or the use of such means of transportation for any of the purposes in paragraph (b) (iv) of this subsection, (v) the manufacture, possession, acquisition, transport, supply or use of weapons, explosives or a nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, as well as research into, and development of biological and chemical weapons without lawful authority, (vi) the release of dangerous substance or causing fire, explosions or floods, the effect of which is to endanger human life; (vii) interference with or disruption of the supply of water, power, or any other fundamental natural resource, the effect of which is to endanger human life…” Any person who engages in any of the aforementioned should be called a terrorist.
The question then is, has Boko Haram or bandits as government would rather they be called, not been doing virtually all that is listed in the Act? They have carried out and continue to carry out unprecedented destruction of both human lives and property, kidnapped hundreds of people, including school children, many of who are still being held in captivity, destroy train tracks and put the lives of hundreds of people in danger, they have shot down a military jet, killed many military men, many schools in some northern states have remained closed for several months because the authorities cannot guarantee their safety, people are being prevented from accessing their farms leading to prevailing food shortage in the country.
Just last Sunday, the former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Director of Protocol, Alhaji Sagir Hamidu, was reported killed and scores of other travellers kidnapped on Kaduna-Abuja Road. Yet we remain comfortable pampering the apparent networks of sophisticated criminals with soothing names – armed herdsmen, kidnappers, criminals, bandits and so on, even when their onslaught is adjudged more devastating than the activities of a freedom fighting group from the South-Eastern part of the country that had long been proscribed by the federal government.
The reluctance of the federal government in declaring the bandits as terrorists, dealing with them the way they deserve is seen by many as the reason for the boldness of the criminals in daily carrying out their criminal activities. Banditry, kidnapping and terrorism have become big business in Nigeria both for the sponsors and those in the actual act. Report has it that the Nigeria Air Force has stated that they cannot deploy the Super Tucano jets recently acquired on bandits but only on terrorists in accordance with their agreement with the United States of America who sold them to Nigeria.
Not a few concerned Nigerians will, therefore, want to know why the government finds it difficult to do the needful. Is the government afraid that labelling the bandits, Boko Haram, herdsmen or whatever they are called, terrorists may lead to some greater consequences for the nation as postulated by their self-appointed spokesperson, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi? Could it be that the president is hesitant because he is from the same region with those engaged in these terrorism acts as being insinuated?
Nigeria is currently on fire because of the activities of the bandits. Known and unknown gunmen are making life hellish for the citizens and the time for President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation and all those who have any role to play in proscribing the bandits to put sentiments aside and do the expected in the interest of the nation and the citizens. The insecurity situation in the country is not insurmountable if our leaders are sincere and willing to deal with it. This I believe.
By: Calista Ezeaku
Having participated in an international conference recently, one is in a position to share with fellow Nigerians what it takes to build a nation without making any noise about it. Emphasised at that conference was the fact that ego and vanity stand in the way of effective national development, of which politicians are in the forefront as hindrance in the task of identification of talents and abilities. The theme of that conference was the collaboration between the public and private sectors of the economy with universities, for an effective nation- building; tripartite partnership!
Result of the recently concluded Anambra State Governorship election can serve as a peg for what the conference sought to promote in modern Nigeria, namely: excellence. Common drives and predilections of the average human being were examined, which included the desire to be heard and seen, even when there is little to offer humanity in terms of lasting values. Next to that predilection is the tendency to feel hurt or bitter that someone else is doing better, in spite of throwing one’s weight about and seeking for recognition. Sour-grape syndrome!
‘Silent builders’ was a term used for the few unassuming people in every society who would serve with conviction, commitment and patriotism, but without seeking for recognition, acclaim or monetary rewards, as prime motive for serving. Late Captain Elechi Amadi (rtd) raised this issue long ago when he said that the Nigerian society rarely places value on hard work, naked honesty and sacrifices. Therefore, playing to the gallery and hypocrisy became the norm in Nigerian public life. We want to rise and shine!
Every society on Earth is in a fluid state, with nothing static, but progressing either forward or backward, of which three factors force changes to take place. Those three factors are rapid growth in human population, human aspirations and human knowledge. Population increases bring pressures on available resources, forcing everyone to hustle and strive to survive. Increasing human aspirations force every adult to make some impact in the society, which can be in a positive or negative way, with human ego playing a role. And then rapid increase in human knowledge forces everyone to adapt and adjust to the demands of the moment. For example, computer literacy is a driving force in modern knowledge.
Then come human failures, of which indolence or the inability to rise up to what current challenges demand, of every individual, count as vital causes of human inequality. Thus, humans can be classified into two broad groups, namely: conservative and progressive groups of people. While the conservative elements would live and want to stay put on past glories, achievements and ideas, there would be progressive people who would explore new challenges, in spite of uncertainties and sacrifices demanded. Surely, inequalities exist among humans, arising from how people face challenges and exert personal abilities. Parasites also exist!
While some people would want to run too fast and bite more than they can chew at a time, there are also those who would be more calculating, cautious but forward-looking. For those who stand still and want to be served or told what to do, there is always a choice to rise to what the current situation demands, or stand still even when they can move.
A major challenge for the average Nigerian at this moment is, as Alex Haley would say: “either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you”. What then is the reality? The stark reality is that every adult Nigerian is on his own, owing himself the duty to think and choose for himself, with a personal conviction and value that can ennoble rather than debase life. If Anambra voters can reject bribes to sell their votes and personal convictions, then there is hope that all Nigerians are not for sale. Those who choose to be bought and sold like commodities may wake up at their own time.
Silent builders, as depicted in an international conference, are mature and unassuming citizens of any nation whose values, actions and reactions to issues are not teleguided by the clamour of the masses, myopic interests or the lure of material gains. Silent builders are those who, like the last president of apartheid South Africa, recognise that there is tomorrow and yet another tomorrow and, therefore, remember that the bread we cast upon the sea returns to us after many years. Unfortunately, there are many leaders, including those in the ecclesia, who would not remind us that life is a shuttle, whereby we reap everything we sow.
Despite available opportunities for rapid changes, of which international conferences are ready means of acceleration of human consciousness, many people choose to remain conservative and bask in past glories. It is particularly important to highlight the fact that institutions which obstruct rapid human progress are political, ecclesiastical and academic structures, where conservatism and myopic interests predominate. Radicalism may not be the answer, neither would remaining fixated in a boxed position help matters.
Without asking for a consultancy fee, one is offering Nigerian authorities key issues stressed as vital in nation -building. Without inviting foreign consultants and Nigerian experts in diaspora, the following steps can be explored. The Nigerian public and private sectors should combine efforts from the university community to work out a road map for this country. If we can keep politics, personal ego, vanity, conceit and certificate-based claims aside, it would be possible to extract the best and unrecognised and untapped abilities from among Nigerians. It is true that some conservative people would kick against this move.
Real knowledge and expertise are not the exclusive preserves of the academic industry; rather, private industries through practical experiences, have much to offer the Nigerian economy. From agriculture to zoology, expertise and excellence abound in the private sector, but the conceit of bureaucracy and arrogance of the academia would not want to consult the private sector as partners in nation- building. Through practical experiences but with no certificate to show for it, there are Nigerians who are in a position to add great value to the academic sector. But silent builders would not want to be rubbished, mocked and humiliated by bureaucrats and egg-heads! They are not beggars!
Silent up-builders are usually unassuming, humble and sensitive people who place more value on their personal conviction and missionary zeal than on publicity and monetary gains. When approached or consulted in a proper way, some of them would want to help, but not without the condition of not wanting to be dragged into toxic politics. They may volunteer to teach university students on part time, if no one would be more interested in what certificates they have!
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer in the Rivers State
University, Port Harcourt.
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