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The Ogonis are one of many ethnic groups in the Niger Delta. Members of their community have long called for a greater share of revenue from oil production on their land.
Operations of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) are concentrated in the Niger Delta, where the estimated 500,000 Ogonis are one of 40 ethnic groups.
The Ogonis make up less than 2% of the Niger Delta population and occupy less than 1% of its area.
A group of Ogoni leaders, including writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, established the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) in 1990.
They campaigned for political self-determination, a greater share of oil revenue from the government and ownership of the oil beneath their land.
This coincided with a rise in violence in the region and increasing threats to SPDC staff and attacks on facilities.
SPDC withdrew from Ogoni Land in 1993 to protect its staff.
No oil has been produced in the area since then, although one main oil pipeline still passes through the territory.
In 1994 four Ogoni chiefs were murdered by a mob.
Ken Saro-Wiwa – who had become president of MOSOP in 1993 – was accused of complicity in the murders.
He and eight other Ogonis were found guilty and condemned to death by the Ogoni Civil Disturbance Tribunal.
They were executed on November 10, 1995, despite worldwide protests.
Shell was shocked and saddened that appeals for clemency – including by Shell – were ignored.
In November 1996, the Center for Constitutional Rights of New York filed a civil suit in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York against Shell, alleging complicity in the executions of the nine men.
The case was due to be heard in 2009.
On June 8, 2009, Shell and the plaintiffs agreed an out-of-court settlement of $15.5 million.
This included money for a trust fund to benefit the Ogoni people and a compassionate payment to the plaintiffs and the estates they represent, as well as covering plaintiffs’ costs and fees.
Shell has always regarded the allegations as “false and without merit” and agreed to settle, in part hoping to aid the process of reconciliation in Ogoni Land.