Memorial sculpture to murdered activist seized at Lagos port by Nigerian Customs

Customs chief was on tribunal that condemned Ken Saro-Wiwa to execution; Shell stands accused of conspiring in the killing. Ken Saro-Wiwa, Ogoni writer and environmental justice activist, was executed by the Nigerian military almost 20 years ago, on 10 November 1995. According to court documents, Shell had bribed key prosecution witnesses in the trumped-up murder case against Ken. Commissioned by Platform-London as a memorial to Ken in 2005, the sculpture was destined to be permanently installed in Bori-Ogoni for the 20th year anniversary of the execution.

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and NGO Social Action have not been allowed any visit to the sculpture. The groups’ statement quotes a customs official as saying that the sculpture had ‘political value’ due to a quote from Saro-Wiwa inscribed on its side: ‘I accuse the oil companies of practising Genocide against the Ogoni’.

A report by the UN’s Environment Programme has called on Shell to clean up the devastation caused by oil drilling in the Niger Delta. Shell has thus far failed to start the clean up . Despite years of exploitation of crude in the region local communities are still experiencing devastating impacts of pollution including loss of farms to oil-soaked soil and families drinking water with high levels of carcinogens leading to health problems, and militarised security at oil sites . In 2009 Shell paid out $15.5m to settle a court case in which it was accused of collaborating in Saro-Wiwa’s killing .

Suzanne Dhaliwal, campaigner for Platform and Director of UK Tar Sands Network, said “Mobilisations for environmental justice forced Shell to back off in the Arctic and the Tar Sands.  This is exactly what the international community is calling for in Nigeria. No longer can Shell stall on the essential work to clean up Ogoniland and the rest of the Niger Delta. We urge the Nigerian government to release the Bus today so that the people of Ogoniland can receive this gift of solidarity. The Ogoni 9 will not be silenced with the seizure of the bus. We will stand alongside the people of Ogoniland for the environmental justice that they lived and died for.”

The Ogoni people requested that the sculpture be gifted to Nigeria after 9 years of inspiring solidarity across the UK, highlighting the role of Shell in the ongoing devastation in Ogoniland.

Sokari Douglas Camp CBE, the artist who created the sculpture nine years ago , said “I made the bus in good faith as an educational tool and to raise awareness of the plight of the Ogoni people. It’s a deep shame that the Bus has been seized. I urge for the release of the ‘Living Memorial’ to Ken and the other Ogoni 8  so that this gift from allies in the UK can create a space to reimagine the future of Nigeria. This is a call for freedom of expression to both honour the people who have fought for justice in Ogoniland and the people struggling for justice today.”