Exoneration, not a Pardon, for Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 Other Ogonis Murdered in 1995: Media Statement
On the 22 nd of October 2021, a select group of Ogoni leaders attended a parley at State House
with President Muhammadu Buhari. Among other issues, the President stated that the ‘federal
government will consider the request for the grant of pardon to finally close the Ogoni saga’.
The President made this commitment to ‘consider’ a pardon immediately after he declared that
“the unfortunate incidents of the early 1990s leading to the loss of lives of distinguished sons of
Ogoni land and the collateral judicial processes are indelible in our memories’.
Based on the above, it is important to note that no civil society organization in Nigeria has
asked for a presidential ‘pardon’ for Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel
Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine, who were
unjustly murdered by the Sani Abacha dictatorship. The 9 were denied the opportunity to
appeal their sentence and were hurriedly executed amidst tremendous international pressure
including sanctions against Nigeria.
What we have consistently demanded is an admission that the quasi-judicial process which
resulted in the conviction of the Ogoni 9 was a mockery of justice orchestrated by the military
government with the active collaboration of Shell to quell community demands for resource
and ecological justice. What we continue to demand is the complete exoneration of Ken Saro-
Wiwa and the Ogoni 8. It is also important to note that the President’s suggestion of granting a
‘pardon’ is tantamount to saying that the 9 were guilty and rightly executed.
We deem the proposal to ‘consider’ a pardon for Ken Saro-Wiwa and his comrades insensitive
and offensive to their memory and that of other victims of environmental injustice. We also
consider it a denial of the need to bring closure to the thousands of Ogonis who were victims of
government-driven repression characterized by murders, rape, torture and forced exile.
The President also used the opportunity of the parley to state that the Nigerian Petroleum
Development Company Ltd (NPDC), had been granted license to re-open and operate OML11. It
is pertinent to recollect that in 1993, Shell was forced to abandon its OML 11 operations
located in Ogoni and pull out of the area. This was the direct outcome of passionate but
peaceful campaigns by the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) led by Ken
Saro-Wiwa. MOSOP had called the attention of the world to the poverty, neglect and
environmental destruction which decades of oil exploitation had bequeathed on the Ogoni
people. MOSOP had also demanded fairer benefits to the Ogoni people from oil wealth, as well
as remediation and compensation for the ecological damage caused by the reckless activities of
oil companies. These have still not been addressed.
In 2007, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) carried out a scientific assessment of
the impact of oil pollution on parts of the Ogoni environment. The report of UNEP indicated massive
soil and water contamination in Ogoniland, which has significantly compromised sources of livelihood
and was slowly poisoning the inhabitants. So alarmed was UNEP about the findings that it
recommended that inhabitants of the area immediately stop using water from all their traditional
sources, while the government was to immediately commence a clean-up exercise which could take
up to thirty years. It was only about 3 years ago, that the government began actual clean-up with a
new agency called HYPREP. It is therefore shocking that while the clean-up is ongoing, the
government is prioritizing the restarts of oil extraction in the same area being cleaned up, with all its
We also know for a fact that the level of soil and water contamination in other parts of the oil
producing areas of the country are similar to Ogoni or worse. The ecological disaster in Ogoniland
provides a cue for the government to take actions towards the clean-up of the entire Niger Delta.
It is important to reiterate that proposing an unnecessary ‘pardon’ for the Ogoni nine, seemingly in
exchange for support to reopen OML 11, is in bad faith and capable to breeding conflict. If the
President is interested in reversing the injustice which the murder of the Ogoni 9 represents, the
appropriate action is to exonerate the Ogoni martyrs and apologize to the Ogoni people. We also
advice the President to institute strategies for a regionwide clean-up of decades of environmental
pollution which has stolen the people’s livelihood and poisoned them.
This statement is signed and endorsed by;
1. Nnimmo Bassey Health of Mother Earth Foundation
2. Ken Henshaw We the People
3. Celestine AkpoBari Peoples’ Advancement Centre
4. Chima Williams Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
5. Abiodun Baiyewu Global Rights
6. Umo Isua Peace Point Development Foundation
7. Philip Jakpor Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa
8. Iyingi Irimagha Gender and Development Action
9. Olumide Idowu International Climate Change Development Initiative
10. Tijah Bolton Policy Alert