Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People

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The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) is a campaigning organization representing the Ogoni people. Ogoniland is situated north-east of Niger Delta.[1] MOSOP's mandate is to campaign non-violently to: promote democratic awareness; protect the environment of the Ogoni people; seek social, economic and physical development for the region; protect the cultural rights and practices of the Ogoni people; and seek appropriate rights of self-determination for the Ogoni people.[2]


The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People has struggled against the degradation of their lands by Shell in Nigeria. MOSOP was an offshoot of another Ogoni organization and only metamorphosed into MOSOP based upon a study of the republican struggle in Northern Ireland. Reference is made to this in a speech by Goodluck Diigbo, Ken Saro-Wiwa's confidant. Goodluck Diigbo, a journalist, was the National President of the National Youth Council of Ogoni People, NYCOP. Saro-Wiwa had charged him with the responsibility of establishing seven of the ten affiliates that made up MOSOP. Before the affiliates came into being, Ken Saro-Wiwa who initiated the idea of MOSOP had attracted a mix of educated Ogoni elites and chiefs, including its first president Dr. Garrick Barile Leton,[3] Chief E. N. Kobani became vice president of MOSOP.

MOSOP initiated its efforts with the 1990 Ogoni Bill of Rights, addressed to the federal government. The Bill reads like a model statement before a mediator. It lists their concerns: oil-related suffering of their people, governmental neglect, lack of social services, and political marginalization. These concerns were placed in the context of a self-definition: the Ogonis as "a separate and distinct ethnic nationality." On this basis they sought autonomy, environmental protection, control of a fair share of the revenues from their resources, and cultural rights, such as the use of their local languages.[4]

Beginning December 1992, the conflict escalated to a level of greater seriousness and intensity on both sides. It was in this phase of the conflict that overt violence was applied on the large scale by the Nigerian government. Diigbo, who had survived seven attempts on his life as he administered day-to-day affairs of MOSOP said in February 2002 at the Indigenous Peoples Global Conference, IPGC held at the United Nations, New York that: "Ogoni was boxed in, stuck with nonviolence and had no resources to weather the violent storm instigated by Shell and the government. We risked instant extermination, if we, the Ogoni people had dared to resort to violence. We were barricaded by excessive violence. Violence tempted us to respond and watched over us to dare. Let me admit that we were incapabable of violent self-defence, so we dared, but without recourse to violence." The collision course between the two parties was set with an ultimatum to the oil companies (Shell, Chevron, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company) which demanded some $10 billion in accumulated royalties, damages and compensation, and "immediate stoppage of environmental degradation," and negotiations for mutual agreement on all future drilling. If the companies failed to comply, the Ogonis threatened to embark on mass action to disrupt their operations. By this act, the Ogonis shifted the focus of their actions from an unresponsive federal government to oil companies actively engaged in their own region. The bases for this assignment of responsibility were the vast profits accrued by the oil companies from extracting the natural wealth of the Ogoni homeland, none of which were trickling down to the Ogoni.

The national government responded by banning public gatherings and declaring that disturbances of oil production were acts of treason. In spite of the ban, MOSOP went ahead with a massive public mobilization on January 4, 1993. The event, called the first Ogoni Day, attracted about 300,000 people in massive festivities, the largest mobilization of the Ogoni ever conducted. Over the next month as the mobilization continued, one Shell employee (out of thousands) was beaten by an Ogoni mob. As a security measure, Shell Petroleum Development Company withdrew its employees from Ogoniland. This action had very mixed consequences. Oil extraction from the territory has slowed to a trickle of 10,000 barrels per day (1,600 m3/d) (.5% of the national total). However, because the withdrawal was a temporary security measure, it provided the government with a compelling reason to "restore order": resume the flows of oil from Ogoniland and of oil money to national coffers.

On May 21, 1994, four Ogoni chiefs (all on the conservative side of a schism within MOSOP over strategy) were murdered. Saro-Wiwa, head of the opposing faction, had been denied entry to Ogoniland on the day of the murders, but was then detained in connection with the killings. Rivers State Military Administrator Lt. Col. Dauda Komo did not wait for a judicial investigation to blame the killings on "irresponsible and reckless thuggery of the MOSOP element".[5]

The occupying forces, led by Major Paul Okuntimo of Rivers State Internal Security, claimed to be "searching for those directly responsible for the killings of the four Ogonis." However, witnesses say that they engaged in terror operations against the general Ogoni population. Amnesty International characterized the policy as deliberate terrorism. By mid-June, 30 villages had been completely destroyed, 600 people had been detained, and at least 40 had been killed. An eventual total of around 100,000 internal refugees and an estimated 2,000 civilian deaths was recorded.[6]

On 10 November 1995 nine activists from the movement, among them the playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hanged by the Nigerian government on charges of "incitement to murder". The Commonwealth, which had pled for clemency, suspended Nigeria's membership in response.[7]

The Human Rights Watch published report: The Ogoni Crisis: A Case-Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria, 1 July 1995,[8] contains further details of the repression against Ogoni People and MOSOP in the early nineties.

Ogoni Day observances and protests were held under military occupation on January 4, 1996. Five or six protesters were killed in the town of Bori.[9]


  1. ^ Ogoni Bill of Rights 1990 and as revised August 26, 1991
  2. ^ "About Us - Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)". Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  3. ^ Okafor, Obiora Chinedu (2006). Legitimizing human rights NGOs: lessons from Nigeria. Africa World Press. pp. 39–41. ISBN 978-1-59221-286-6. 
  4. ^ Rwomire, Apollo (2001). Social problems in Africa: new visions. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 83–85. ISBN 978-0-275-96343-9. 
  5. ^ Videotape, press conference, Port Harcourt, Nigerian Television Authority, May 22, 1994.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Nigeria suspended from Commonwealth". CNN. Retrieved 2010-05-13. 
  8. ^ Human Rights Watch, The Ogoni Crisis: A Case-Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria, 1 July 1995 (accessed 10 November 2011).
  9. ^

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