By Agence France-Presse
A Dutch court on Wednesday 23 March 2022 rejected a case brought by four Nigerian widows against oil giant Shell over their husbands’ execution by the military regime that ruled their country in the 1990s. They accused Shell of involvement in the arrest, detention, prosecution and eventual execution of their husbands, who opposed the group’s exploitation of oil resources in Ogoni, Southern Nigeria.
The widows’ complaint alleged that Shell had been involved in corrupting witnesses in the trial of the so-called Ogoni 9, who in November 1995 were convicted by a military tribunal for involvement in the murder of four Ogoni leaders. But the Dutch court ruled that their position was based on interpretation and supposition and that they had no evidence to back their accusations.
Witnesses had testified to the court that they had signed pre-prepared statements and had been coached to incriminate the defendants in return for the promise of payments and jobs. They said they had been told that the money they received came from Shell.
But “the statements are largely based on assumptions and interpretations of the witnesses and are not specific enough to be able to conclude that the money they have stated actually came from (Shell)”, said a court statement.
Whatever abuses had taken place during the trial, there was no evidence that Shell had any knowledge of or role in what had happened, the court concluded. Esther Kiobel, the widow of the Barinem Kiobel, brought the action with the support of Amnesty International. Her husband was executed on November 10, 1995 along with eight other activists. Among them was the Nigerian writer and campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa, who led the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).
All the defendants insisted they were innocent of the charges against them and rights organizations including Amnesty have argued that their trial was a sham.
In another development, President Buhari has assured his countrymen that the Dangote fertilizer plant would export to U.S., India and Brazil. The president says with the Dangote fertilizer plant Nigeria will soon end dependence on imported products.
In a press release made available to journalists on Tuesday 22 March 2022, Buhari declared that Nigeria’s dependence on imported products in the agriculture sector would soon be a thing of the past with the inauguration of Dangote Fertilizer Plant, which has an installed capacity of 3.0 million metric tones of Urea per annum. Speaking at the commissioning of the plant in Ibeju Lekki, Lagos State, the President said the plant would further advance Nigeria’s drive towards achieving self-sufficiency in food production, create jobs, increase the inflow of foreign exchange and accelerate economic growth.
He commended the Chairman, Board and Management of Dangote Industries Limited for their business initiative in conceptualizing and building this plant, which is the second largest in the world. The President expressed confidence that the investment in this plant will replicate the Group’s earlier exploits in the cement sector, where Dangote Cement holds the enviable record as our continent’s largest cement producer, with footprints in ten other African countries.
‘‘This new plant is a renewed testament to the widely acknowledged patriotism of Alhaji Aliko Dangote and the leadership of Dangote Industries Limited. It also demonstrates their commitment to the socio-economic development of our country and the well-being of our people. The Group’s investment in integrated cement plants, spanning the value chain from quarry to ‘bagging, has effectively ended Nigeria’s dependence on imported cement products. Along with the several other subsidiaries, Dangote Industries Limited has created thousands of jobs across Nigeria. It is the second biggest employer of labour in this country, after the Federal Government. This is very pleasing because job creation by private sector operators is vital to security as it takes thousands of youths off the street,’’ he said.
On other benefits of the plant, the President expressed delight that with the commencement of exports to other countries including the United States, India and Brazil, Nigeria is already gaining extensively in earnings of foreign exchange from the excess production of, and export from, the plant. He noted that coming on stream of the plant had created huge opportunities in the areas of job creation, trade, warehousing, transport, and logistics, which would, in turn, create significant wealth, reduce poverty, and help in securing the future of the nation. ‘‘In the agricultural sector, another focal point of our economic policy, we expect a boom as fertilizer is now readily available in greater quantities and better quality.
Many Nigerians who hitherto practiced subsistence farming because of non-availability of necessary inputs can now take up agriculture as a business. We expect the rise of a new breed of agropreneurs who will add value to farming and make the nation self-sufficient in food production,’’ he said.
President Buhari used the occasion to reassure Nigerians that his government is focused on providing an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, pledging continuity in improving infrastructure, power and security as well as enacting relevant laws and regulations to drive investments in the economy.
Dangote Fertilizer Plant
‘‘We are partnering with the private sector, through a tax credit scheme, in the rehabilitation of roads across Nigeria under Presidential Order No. 7.
‘‘As we know, good roads contribute to easy movement of goods and services across the nation, thus reducing the cost of doing business and improving productivity.
‘‘We are also rehabilitating our railway lines and building new ones to lessen the burden on our roads and create more effective multi-modal transportation networks,’’ he said.
‘‘I look forward to coming back to inaugurate the Refinery and petrochemical plant later in the year.
‘‘Projects of this magnitude and complexity require the support and collaboration of many persons and organisations. I am grateful to all of them.
‘‘In particular, I would like to commend the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Development Finance Institutions and the Local and Foreign Commercial Banks that have supported the investor to make these projects a reality,’’ the President declared.
Lauding Mr Dangote for helping to rebrand Nigeria through his mega investments across Africa, President Buhari said:
‘‘He has fueled job-led growth and transformation of several African economies. I am proud of his contribution to affirming Nigeria’s leadership status in the continent, and I wish him many more successes in the future.’’
After the historic inauguration, President Buhari inspected the Group’s 650,000 barrels per day Petroleum Refinery and 900,000 tonnes per annum Polypropylene Plant sited within the Dangote Free Trade Zone Complex.
In his remarks, Mr Dangote said the fertiliser complex, which occupies 500 hectares and built at a cost of $2.5 billion will drastically reduce the level of unemployment and youth restiveness in the country, through generation of direct and indirect employment.
”Agriculture accounts for over 20 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP, and the country is a leading producer of various agricultural commodities. The sector has the potential of becoming the biggest source of income for our Nation, providing employment and raw materials for industries.
”However, low fertilizer usage has been a major reason for low productivity in the sector. It is common knowledge that non availability of the product, in quantity and quality, rather than affordability, is the primary constraint to the use of fertilizer.
”Our goal is to make fertiliser available in sufficient quantities and quality for our teeming farmers assuring greater agricultural output,” he said.