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Nigerian Rights Abuses: Mobil Shareholders Seek Investment Review

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11 August, 2005ICEM News release No. 23/1998

Shareholders are pressing US-based oil multinational Mobil to review its investments in Nigeria in the light of continuing human rights violations there.

Two institutional shareholders announced today that they will be tabling a human rights motion at Mobil's annual shareholders' meeting on 14 May. In particular, they want the company to push for the release of two detained Nigerian oilworkers' leaders.

The Mobil shareholders' move is a further step in the world trade union campaign to free Milton Dabibi, General Secretary of oil and gas workers' union PENGASSAN, and Frank Kokori, General Secretary of oil and gas workers' union NUPENG.

Kokori has been detained without trial in Nigeria since 1994 and Dabibi since January 1996. Both are in poor health, and their condition is reported to be deteriorating rapidly. They are still being denied access to the medical care that they need. They are also barred from contact with lawyers and with their unions, which are being run by government-imposed administrators. Dabibi and Kokori are both recognised by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience.

The two Mobil shareholders tabling the motion are Franklin Research and Development Corporation, a US-based socially responsible investment firm with 500 million US dollars in client assets, and the Service Employees International Union Master Trust. They have jointly filed a resolution asking the Mobil board of directors to review and develop guidelines for company investments in countries where "there is a pattern of ongoing and systematic violation of human rights; a government is illegitimate; there is a call by human right advocates, pro-democracy organisations or legitimately elected representatives for economic sanctions; and Mobil's long-term financial performance may be potentially threatened by international criticism, economic sanctions and boycotts by consumers and local governments."

The resolution notes that all of these factors are in place in Nigeria. Mobil is in direct partnership with the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and has made payments, including royalties, fees and taxes, to the military government. The resolution further notes that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found Nigeria in violation of internationally-accepted labour standards and has demanded the release of union leaders Frank Kokori and Milton Dabibi and others held incommunicado without charge or trial.

Last week, the ILO voiced "outrage" over Nigeria's continued flouting of basic labour rights. The ILO, a UN agency in which the world's unions, employers and governments are represented, has now set up a special commission to investigate worker rights in Nigeria, notably the situation of the imprisoned trade unionists.

"It is past time for Mobil to take action on behalf of Kokori and Dabibi," said Andrew Stern, President of the 1.1-million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU). "Reports from Nigeria indicate that these union leaders are very sick and may die in jail." Mobil, he insisted, must "use its influence with the Nigerian government to seek the release of the duly elected leaders of its Nigerian employees."

"Mobil's complete lack of action on human rights in Nigeria has exposed the company to considerable business risk," said Simon Billenness, senior analyst of Franklin Research and Development Corporation. "Until democracy is restored there, Nigeria provides an unstable business climate."

The two shareholders have a combined investment in Mobil Corp. of 49,500 shares, worth more than 3.9 million US dollars.

Leading the world trade union campaign to free Dabibi and Kokori is the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), to which PENGASSAN, NUPENG and the SEIU are affiliated.

The ICEM has called for full UN economic sanctions against Nigeria, including an oil embargo, unless the ILO commission is permitted to enter the country and Dabibi and Kokori are released without further delay. Meanwhile, the ICEM is maintaining its own preparations for targeted action against Nigerian oil exports into a number of key countries - including the USA, which is the biggest importer of Nigerian crude (see ICEM UPDATE 20/98).

The inclusion of the shareholder resolution on Mobil's proxy statement follows meetings on this issue between senior Mobil management, institutional shareholders and other concerned organisations.

Corporate human rights policies have already been discussed at the global level between the ICEM and a number of multinationals, including Shell.