|September 19, 1997. The Human Rights Action Group (Hr@G) led a protest march to Shell House in Wellington, New Zealand as part of a campaign to draw attention to Shell's involvement in human rights abuses and environmental degradation in Nigeria.|
Inspired by the recent visit to Victoria University by Ogoni activist and leader of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) Ledum Mitee, approximately 60 students made their voices heard on what they believe to be Shell's "systematic complicity" with the crisis in Ogoniland. Chants of, "Shell's greed, Ogonis bleed!" were soon met by Shell spokesperson Roscoe Turner who invited representatives into the building to discuss their grievances. Meanwhile outside, a few protesters scaled the building to erect a large banner as pictured.
Inside, Hr@G presented Turner with an open letter petitioning Shell to become more accountable for their behaviour in Nigeria. Turner replied that Shell in New Zealand had little influence over the activities of their associated company in Nigeria, but he did guarantee that the students' concerns would be communicated back to Shell's Head Office in London.
Robert Ashe, a spokesperson for Hr@G, believes Shell needs to be reminded that there remains strong opposition to their activities in the Ogoni region. "There is now no doubt that Shell has been connected irrevocably with the despoliation of the Ogoni region and was complicit with the Nigerian dictatorship in their brutal repression of the Ogoni people. They now need to work openly with the Ogoni to clean up the environment and take deliberate steps to disentangle themselves from the military government."
Hr@G hopes to maintain the pressure upon Shell in the run-up to the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting(CHOGM). The ultimate fate of Nigeria's position in the Commonwealth will be decided there along with the possibility of imposing sanctions against the military. It was in New Zealand where the last CHOGM took place amidst the executions of Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others. New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Don McKinnon leads the Action Group which will make its recommendation on the fate of Nigeria.
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