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Saro-Wiwa vs Shell Case Settlement

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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

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When Did Journalists Become Police Enemies?

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The pathetic story of John Bibor, a credible Journalist with the Rivers State Government-owned The Tide Newspaper, on the sadistic  brutality meted to him by a detachment of the Nigerian Police from Umuebele Divisional Police Headquarters stationed  at Umuakoru road, Igbo-Etche on Thursday, March 4, 2024, leaves much to be desired.
According to John Bibor, the victim of the police brutality, “I closed from work, got to Igboh Junction and boarded Okada to go to my house at Umuchoko Igboh Etche.
“We got to C S S, Igboh Etche and the Okada man asked me to disembark as the police had cordoned off the road leading to Eze Nweke Palace.
“I stepped down, raised my hands as others were doing without knowing why.
On my way, one of the police officers accosted me, asking me who I was, I disclosed my identity, as a good Nigerian resident in the community.
“On further probing about my identity, I told him that I’m a Journalist but live there. He said journalist, so you are here to tell lies about us and started flogging me with the rubber pipe in his hands.
“He even threatened to shoot me and calling on thunder to fire my generations”.
It beats my imagination to hear that some police men see journalists as potential threats to  them and their duties. The question begging for answer is: Is it because they are not doing the right thing? Is it because the policemen are involved in shady deals, hence, the presence of journalists poses a discomfort to them? I ask because it is said that an innocent person fears no accusations. Journalists as members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, constitute the watchdog of society. They hold Government accountable to the people, and remain the conscience of healthy society. The services of the journalist are so sacrosanct that Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, was one of the world’s earliest political leaders to declare his admiration and advocacy for media governance.
Writing from Paris to Edward Carrington who he sent as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1786-1788, on the importance of Free Press to keep Government in check, the media-friendly Jefferson said quite clearly and with utmost sincerity, “If I had to choose between Government without Newspapers (Media) or Newspapers without Government, I should not hesitate a moment to choose the latter”.
Rather than seeing the journalist as an enemy, a spoilsport and unwanted, the Nigerian Police should see the journalist as a veritable partner in building a society devoid of crime.
The police and the media are like the snail and its shell. They are inseparable pair, separate them they will languish for want of the other. In fact, the professionals the police needed most to collaborate with them to check the spate of crime and criminality in our society, highlight the exploits, achievements and challenges of the Nigerian police are the journalists. The Nigerian Police cannot fight crime and criminality in its complex and multi-dimensional operations, to the exclusion of the media. Journalists remain a strong voice for the police. They share in the pains and gains of the police. The media in a modern society driven by technology is the channel through which the police communicate its activities to the society. And more often than not, journalists have whipped up positive sentiments about the police. The upward review of remuneration of the rank and file of the Nigerian Police cannot be dissociated from the vociferous and resilient reportage of journalists on the plight, hazardous nature of the police encumbered by a peanut and paltry takehome which was a derogation of their essential and invaluable security services to the society.
Perhaps, why some police men hate journalists is because the latter had refused to give a blind eye or look the other way in reporting the excesses and acts of the police that are inconsistent and counter-productive to their service demands.
The Nigerian Police should know that when journalists write against anti-social behaviour, criminal activities and acts inimical to their duties, they are veritably discharging their constitutional and statutory mandate and obligation. It negates code of ethics for journalists to write in favour of the Police when there is a clear failure  of the men of the Nigerian Police to justify the confidence reposed on them. Truth is the pillar of journalism, to act otherwise is an unpardonable error.
John Bibor is a seasoned journalist of over 20 years in practice, who has always adhered strictly to the principle of objectivity and fairness. He is conscientious, and God-fearing. A diligent and hardworking, John Bibor was twice the “Best Reporter” awardee of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, printers of The Tide Newspapers. The annual Corporation’s Award scheme is designed to enhance productivity by recognising  and motivating hardwork.
So, it must certainly be a case of mistaken identity to identify patriotic and ethics-compliant journalists like John Bibor, to unethical and unprofessional practices.
No doubt, with fairness to my conscience the journalism profession like every  other profession, is fraught and replete with the challenge of quackery. Quacks or gate-crashers are on the prowl, their nefarious activities seem to have overwhelmed the quest for  sanity and respect for ethical conduct and professionalism.They are virtually everywhere like the octopus whose tentacles are spread beyond imagination. Their activities speak volumes of who they are: Sensationalism is their hallmark, their reportage lacks fairness, objectivity and balance. For  them, the end justifies the means; integrity and honesty are alien in their practice.
The presence of the quacks and counterfeit in any profession lends credibility to the fact that there are originals and patriots.
The Nigerian Police should know that the Judas Iscariot in Jesus’ team is not enough to make other apostles suspects or susceptible to insults. It will amount to a fallacy of generalisation when the Nigeria Police treat innocent members of the society on the basis of their haunt for criminal elements of the society.
Trained and professional journalists are good people, they are not criminals. They are help-mates to the Nigerian Police and other security outfits of government.
A synergy with journalists will enable the public appreciate the sacrificial roles of the police. But acts of antagonism, will inevitably strain a good relationship that had existed over time. And the Nigerian Police will suffer loss because “the pen is mightier than the sword”.
The Rivers State Police Command should prevail on the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Umuebele Police Division to call his men to order and render unreserved apology to John Bibor, The Tide Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists and the Rivers State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) for dehumanising an innocent citizen and a patriotic journalist.
The Police Command should commit to build a sustainable synergy with  journalists, so much so that injury to one will be deemed injury to the other. Nation building, crime detection, crime prevention and crime fighting are a function of unalloyed synergy.

Igbiki Benibo

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Being Nigerian And Its Contradictions

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On the average, Nigeria is good. Its people are a bunch of good bananas: only a few rotten ones give the whole bunch a bad look and that particular rotten smell. Nigeria ideally is one of the best places to live in. It is not a police State like so-called Western democracies. In Nigeria, you can urinate anywhere and not get fined or arrested, you can get a ladder and climb the power poles and effect a change of power phases. That is, if the problem is not from the nearby power transformer which anybody can repair with dry wood. In Nigeria, you can set traps inside your compound and catch birds and roast them to taste and not be afraid that you are at Piccadilly Square in the UK with some stern-looking cops harassing you for animal rights violation. We still beat kids with cane despite having parents that want to be more European than Europeans.
We as a nation need to restore national pride: a lot of us have lost hope in the system, the structure, the leadership. With each passing day, it is becoming obvious that Nigeria may be just an empty plastic cup, too light to hold a cup of coffee cold or hot.  There are enough solutions to Nigeria’s multi-dimensional and hydra-headed problems, enough to fill an American Congressional Library, well prepared by committees, panels, commissions and bodies of experts. Name the field or area and I will refer you to a paper, a report that should ordinarily have solved that problem a long time ago. For example, how many times have we removed subsidies without removing subsidies?
What happened to Vision 2010? I was writing this in 2008. By then we were working on a vision 2056 for constant electricity supply and it is 2024 now. Alas, we still lack vision of who we are and what we want to be in terms of electricity. A committee like that with a long name was supposed to provide palliative measures due to the rise in petroleum prices, till date it died a natural death. It is another 15 years and we are not only discussing palliatives but looting them with reckless abandon that our students die in stampedes for them. There have been reports upon reports that if properly handled would have made Nigeria number one in most things, if not everything.
In recent times, we have been reminded of the successes of Malaysia, a success that was championed and achieved simply because of purposeful leadership; leadership that had the confidence of the governed.
That leadership brought about economic prosperity, industrial strength, intellectual pride and dynamism. We have discussed Singapore and for us the only thing that has poured is how our best brains and not so best have become caregivers in the UK and pouring into Canada and other places that were nowhere in the map of economic discussion only two/three decades earlier. When a nation barely commits one percent of its GDP on education, it will have a poor university system. We all weep at the situation but no one really thinks about how we can have national competitiveness when the level of investment in human capital is abysmally low.
A new Nigeria cannot unfold, with fast paced infrastructural development, rapid push in human resource development, healthcare delivery, when the numerous universities and polytechnics enrol almost two million students yearly and graduate around 600,000 people, out of which 95 percent  are unemployable. Today’s Nigeria lacks education, health and development. With all the wealth, we are breeding terrorists, frustrated young men, sad mothers, senior citizens that daily curse the nation because we have refused to give them their dues. Is it not intriguing that this is Nigeria, the rich, poor, and everybody cry and laugh almost at the same time; the difference is the swing of the pendulum. Being a Nigerian requires a tricky trait, despite the Soyinkas, Achebes, Anyaokus, Maitamas, Balewas, Ziks, Awos, Sardaunas, and many, too numerous to call. There is a distinction between being a Nigerian and wanting to be a Nigerian. The Nigerian big man makes a law, those wanting to be Nigerian or already big men proceed immediately to look for a way to break the law, exploring loopholes and escape clauses like the Immunity clause used for stealing.  Ordinary citizens do it their own way; they jump queues with no excuse, they do u-turns on an expressway, stop in the middle of the road to say hello to a long-lost friend without parking. Correct them, and they will abuse your dog.  Who wants to be a Nigerian?  It takes a lot. You have to be noisy, music is not danceable if it is not loud; big is sweet and good.   How can one understand the Nigerian and want to be one, when in power he loves affluence and will do anything to stay-put. In religious matters, he will fake it; in business, his cheques will bounce. In the civil service forget the noise of ‘servicom’, your files will miss and only reappear at the right price. A Nigerian will ban the importation of lace fabrics, yet his wives, concubines and mistresses will die the day they cannot wear one.
In Nigeria, you need to understand how a complainant can suddenly become a suspect and in the end a witness, yet still land in jail for a crime that was committed against him.  The pain of this essay when it was originally written is that despite all the exhaustive bad traits that we battle every day, Nigerians abound in their millions that want to be Nigerians for the right reasons. And it still has not changed.
Those Nigerians are not easily understood because they will not give bribes, all their actions are in line with tradition, society’s good norms and rationality. They are old now and most times reside in rural areas, although a few still stay in urban areas. They are generally good and detribalised; they believe in the principle of live and let live. These Nigerians are neither the bottom power women nor the moneybag men. They strive daily to remain patriotic and committed to the Nigerian dream despite the reality, they are disciplined and are hardworking, and they battle the stark reality that as patient dogs they may never have any bone left.  These Nigerians suffer from the Nigerian experiment because of the larger majority’s inability to curb greed, and to be fair and rational towards other people’s perspectives, opinions, positions and interests. Our monetised society too has done  more harm than good to us. Do you now understand Nigeria, are you a Nigerian, do you want to be a Nigerian?.

Charles Dickson
Dickson, PhD, is Team Lead, The Tattaunawa Roundtable Initiative.

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Culture Of Flattery And Encomium

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Recordings of inconsistent statements made by Late General Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, in a state of delirium on his death-bed, far away from his country, were interpreted to be pieces of advice to the living, particularly African leaders. Also, are late American General Obregon, was quoted to have said, close to his death, that the enemy to fear is not the one that threatens you, but the one that flatters you. One of the best detectives the Nigeria Police ever had, who was buried recently, once said that he wept for the Nigeria Police.
Sadly, one clever form which mischief takes in any society is the flattery of rich, powerful and successful individuals. When Idi Amin said repeatedly: “Don’t listen to praise singers”, nurses attending to him feared that “the General was out of his mind”. But the message is valid and pertinent, especially for Nigerian political leaders. Flatterers may be full of venom and envy even when they heap praises and encomium on leaders, in expectation for some attention or favour. Sadly, Nigerian brand of politics has evolved this culture of flattery and encomium.
Studies in the art of successful leadership, show that self-effacement is a major distinguishing feature of good leadership. Self-effacement also goes along with a strong feeling of shame. Thus, praises and flatteries become unbearable injuries to reputable leaders. Like every form of slavish addiction, the misleading and deadening effects of flatteries soon drive those who succumb to them into self-destruction. Praise singers and flatterers rarely mean well, but their services are often sought and utilised by some leaders who long for the limelight, even when they have little to offer the masses.
Nigerian leaders should learn the lesson that a leader is at his best when people rarely know that he exists, because, successful leadership requires some privacy for the purposes of communion and reflections.
Next to privacy is self con troll or restraint as a powerful tool in leadership. These qualities are demonstrated through shunning publicity and the limelight or being addicted to praises and encomium even when he makes some spectacular achievements. It is usually those who have little to offer the masses while in office, who encourage the activities of professional praise singers, as a mean of diverting attention away from their deficiencies.
Governance is so demanding that the task requires utmost degree of privacy, so as to have the right condition for inner guidance. What time or inclination would a serious –minded leader have to carouse with money-bags and flatterers longing for recognition or favour? With the management principle of 20:80 or Pareto’s law, good leaders delegate 80 per cent of duties to capable subordinates, and then focus on 20 per cent of most critical functions or duties. The culture of adulation, fawning and encomium is deliberately fostered as a political gimmick to hoodwink the masses and as a narcotizing tool.
When General Yakubu Gown (rtd) became a student in a British University, those who interacted with him then would testify that he learned the lesson of avoiding flatterers and praise singers. He also absorbed the lesson of self-effacement.
Military regime introduced a culture of “settlement” in the nation’s politics as a means of perpetuation of power; but that culture took the form of fawning and sycophance by politicians. At the back of it lurked sinister goals and intents, usually clothed in cosmetic geniality. Do you trust politicians?
Some of the results of politics of intrigues and duplicity, include the fact that “father and son” could be armed with a dagger, hidden away in a cloak, even when having a chat or meal. A former head of state unwittingly revealed the culture of Nigerian politics, saying: “If you can’t beat them, join them”. Thus a formidable power structure can be approached, via two strategies, namely: willing submission, or by treachery, via flatteries and fawning. Those who sell out their constituencies for private personal gains, remain prey to the fury of embittered masses, but often resort to creating factions and use of paid agents of flatteries.
The axiom that a chain is as strong as its weakest link would mean that the pride and power of any nation lie in the willing loyalty and commitment of the masses, without a minority segment haggling with power. Thus real political power lies with the often ignored and downtrodden masses who are made to become pawns in power politics. Difference between politics that focuses on the biting needs of the masses and one that caters for the flambuoyant lifestyle of a minority power holders, is always clear to know. Use of clever strategies to maintain a stability in a state of gross inequilibrium, usually end in failures.
Another form of use of adulation as a tool of governance, is the installation of a clever fraud or cult which caters for only loyalists and praise singers. This system of exclusion seeks to reduce the masses to the position of beggars, so that loyalty can be bought with “palliatives”. Thus those who refuse to be bought over into the camp of “caterpillars of the commonwealth”, would continue to suffer in poverty. This system of exclusion and fawning in the business of governance has been responsible for some of the lingering challenges in the country; neither would it end soon.
Sadly, elders of political parties, leaders of thought and even traditional rulers, have been known to join in the league of attention-seekers and praise singers, for the wrong reasons. The rate of endless commendations and encomiums showed on public figures should not continue, especially where issues of public concern and interest, make partisanship a wrong step to take. Those who do great deeds for the well-being of humanity rarely look for applause, acknowledgement or reward, because their works speak for them. Truly, he is well paid that is well satisfied; which is the quality of great leaders.
It is a great satisfaction to kindle some light where there is darkness, and do something to alleviate sufferings and then leave the scene unrecognised and unsung. But Nigerian philanthropists would require television coverage to record their deeds. How can a nation develop where people are obsessed with praises, the limelight and self-adulation? Nigeria should map out dignified directions that can inspire the citizens towards noble deeds, in silence, without looking for praises. Those who long for the limelight and count their worth, are beggars.
Going back to General Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, his last days and dying declarations carry some food for thought. Without disparaging him and his achievements, the fact that he warned leaders against praise singers when a leader is in power, would mean that the futility of such vanities dawned on him, even though late in his life. The praise singers he referred to in dying utterances included local and foreign advisers, consultants, contractors, witch-doctors and meddlers in the seat of power. Nigerian leaders should learn that power is an aphrodisiac; an equivocator!
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

By: Bright Amirize

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