Rights group grooms student lawyers on combating incidents of torture
Ejiofor Alike in Lagos and Alex Enumah in Abuja
Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has denied a report by the Amnesty International alleging that a cache of thousands of internal documents suggested that the Anglo-Dutch oil giantâ€™s complicity in crimes committed by the Nigerian military in the 1990s.
The Amnesty Internationalâ€™s report had accused Shell of repeatedly calling for military intervention against peaceful protests in the oil-producing Ogoniland in Rivers State.
The London-based organisation said Shell knew military intervention was likely to prompt human rights abuses.
Amnesty urged Nigeria, the UK and the Netherlands to begin criminal investigations into Shellâ€™s role in the crimes.
But in response to Amnestyâ€™s allegations, Shell has denied any wrong doing, describing the allegations as false and without any merit.
â€œThe allegations cited in your letter against (Royal Dutch Shell) and [Shell Nigeria] are false and without merit. (Shell Nigeria) did not collude with the military authorities to suppress community unrest and in no way encouraged or advocated any acts of violence in Nigeria. In fact, the company believes that dialogue is the best way to resolve disputes. We have always denied these allegations, in the strongest possible terms,â€ said the Anglo-Dutch oil giant.
A spokesperson for The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), Mr. Bamidele Odugbesan, has also re-echoed the companyâ€™s position, saying the executions of Saro-wiwa and others were carried out by the military administration
Odugbesan said in a statement yesterday that Shell had also appealed to the Nigerian government to grant clemency, which was turned down.
â€œWe have always denied, in the strongest possible terms, the allegations made in this tragic case. The executions of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his fellow Ogonis in 1995 were tragic events that were carried out by the military government in power at the time. We were shocked and saddened when we heard the news of the executions. Shell appealed to the Nigerian government to grant clemency. To our deep regret, that appeal, and the appeals made by many others within and outside Nigeria, went unheard,â€ Odugbesan explained.
â€œSupport for human rights in line with the legitimate role of business is fundamental to Shellâ€™s core values of honesty, integrity and respect for people. Amnesty Internationalâ€™s allegations concerning SPDC are false and without merit. SPDC did not collude with the authorities to suppress community unrest and in no way encouraged or advocated any act of violence in Nigeria. We believe that the evidence will show clearly that Shell was not responsible for these tragic events,â€ Odugbesan added.
Meanwhile,Amnesty International (AI) yesterday took the campaign against human rights abuse and torture to the university community in Abuja and environs, hoping to enlist students into the war against the menace.
Country Director, Amnesty International, Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, used the occasion to call on Nigerians to support the body in its efforts to eradicate the act and or culture of torture in Nigeria.
Ojigho, who was speaking at a symposium and moot court competition held at the BAZE university, Abuja, emphasised that torture as a tool of getting information from suspects under detention is not only out of fashion but is against the provisions of the constitution.
She described torture as a cruel and inhumane treatment inflicted on the victim not only by security officials on suspects under detention but include all those other inhumane and harmful treatment meted out to others.
â€œThe idea of this symposium is meant to be both an informative and educative session whereby people in society, particularly the students who are in this university and others in Abuja, who are participating today to have an idea of what torture means and why it is important for it to be abolished and why it is important for it to be criminalised in Nigeria.
â€œThere is no need to torture people either physically, mentally or psychologically. This is against the law and a violation of a human rights,â€ she said.
The Country Director advised security operatives to devise other means of getting information from suspects in their custody instead of inflicting pain or harm.
She called on victims of torture to always speak out, noting that their silence is not only justifying violence but encourages perpetrators to continue in the act.
â€œIn trying to find solutions to our problems, itâ€™s not by inflicting pain or harm. We need to use other methods like negotiations, persuasion, in order to find solutions to problems.
â€œWe are increasingly justifying violence in our country, meanwhile, there are other ways we can achieve our objectives.
â€œVictims of torture have to recognise that what has happened to them is wrong, itâ€™s not a fault of their own, and that they should speak out and report this incidents.
â€œMost often than not, they think that no one would believe them, so your first point of contact is a medical person, a hospital, a nurse, a doctor, Who can at least document what has happened to you and follow it up by finding an NGO nearby,â€ she said.
Ojigho said the moot competition which would be between the law faculties of ABU Zaria and UNILAG is to give a practical example of what happens in a case of someone who has been tortured and how the law can take its course.
On her part, Coordinator, â€˜Stop Torture Project in Nigeria and Partnership with Universities,â€™ Onyinye Onyemobi, said AI decided to involve youths and students from Nigerian universities because the organisation is convinced of their relevance in eradicating the menace from the Nigerian society.
â€œHuman rights defending is not just for Amnesty International alone, it needs the combined efforts of both young people, professionals, civil society groups as well as the media to be able to combat the act,â€ she said.