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Niger Delta : An Open Letter To Oil Companies

EXTRACT: Since this is not going to be a very long letter I intend to address one of you who I assume is the most culpable of the lot. That is the British and Dutch oil interest known as Shell Petroleum Development Company. You are all guilty of the same offences to some degree but Shell is seen as the King Kong of injustice in the region and it deserves special mention and attention in this patriotic letter.

Letter published by The Daily Independent (Nigeria), on Monday 24th July, 2006

By Michael John, [email protected]

Dear Oil Companies,

I am constrained to write you this letter because as a pacifist, I am appalled by the bloodletting in the Niger Delta and saddened by the fact that my fellow countrymen are killing my fellow countrymen because of you. Since this is not going to be a very long letter I intend to address one of you who I assume is the most culpable of the lot. That is the British and Dutch oil interest known as Shell Petroleum Development Company. You are all guilty of the same offences to some degree but Shell is seen as the King Kong of injustice in the region and it deserves special mention and attention in this patriotic letter.

Part of the reason I have always been hesitant to write to you, before now, is because a company has no body to be kicked, no nose to be bloodied and no soul to be damned. I believe you know this too and this informs your policy towards your host communities in particular and Nigerians in general. Another reason for your action might be that you are yet to realise that the world banned slavery and the slave trade in the 19th Century and threw away the myth that some men were superior to others simply because of the colour of their skin. The American Declaration of Independence opens with the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Though Shell is not an American company, neither do they subscribe to these words of wisdom, one expected them to treat Nigerians like they treat Europeans and Americans in their areas of operation in countries there. This way they would have made the protection of the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of members of their host communities a key policy of the company. And they would have persuaded successive Nigerian governments to consider the rights of the locals above commercial oil gains and petrodollars and become agents of peace not destabilisation.

But as I said earlier, oil companies have no soul to be damned, and if they do, I would have stated that they were a sure candidate for hell fire and needed to repent immediately in oil, dust and ashes. Decades ago Iko, an oil-rich community in Akwa Ibom State, protested against the effects of gas flaring from Shell’s activities in the area. They had to be changing their roofs and zincs yearly because of the effects of carbon, not to mention the skin diseases and other health effects and hazards. Their just protest was not met with any mediatory effort on your part, rather you brought in the police and the Iko massacre left about 50 persons dead. That put paid to the Iko crises and business continued as usual with gas flaring, and the cowed Iko people have had to live with this problem ever since.

Recently you had another God-given chance to right this wrong and show yourself as a friend of your host communities but you bungled it. The late dictator, Sani Abacha, had Kenule Saro-Wiwa and others convicted for murder on trumped up charges the European Union representative and other observers claimed would not have secured conviction in court of competent and fair jurisdiction in the world. The Encarta Encyclopedia states thus about the case:

Similarly, a ruthless campaign was mounted against the Ogoni people. The Ogoni live around the Niger river delta. Led by the author, Ken Saro-Wiwa, they protested that exploitation by petroleum company, Royal Dutch Shell since 1958 had ravaged this environment, polluting their farmland and fisheries. Abacha had protesters shot and many of the Ogoni rounded up into detention camps. Finally, in total disregard to international condemnation, Abacha had Saro-Wiwa tried on trumped-up charges and hanged in November 1995.

If Shell had been a people-minded company with a human face it would have been at the head of the campaign to save the life of Ken Saro-Wiwa and this would have created the desired goodwill for it to enter into meaningful mediatory efforts with the host communities. The international community did its best while Shell watched the drama and perhaps believed that the elimination of Saro-Wiwa could stymie the protests in the area. They perhaps believed that he was the soul and spirit of the struggle and therefore decided to let the “law” with all its manifest injustice and the overt judicial murder take its course.

Once again, Shell BP lost a golden opportunity to recreate itself and ended up in the wrong side of history as a company lacking in a community-friendly organisational culture. The popular thinking has tended to be that Shell was guilty of complicity in the judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and this is enforced by the fact that Shell sent a lawyer to all the court proceedings which led to the conviction and condemnation of Saro-Wiwa, as an observer. What was the lawyer observing? My guess is that he was there to monitor how the script was acted and whether the directors of the script (the judge and the other tribunal members) were acting according to the script at hand.

Whoever coined the word “insufferable” must have had an entity like Shell in mind. Not only have you been colluding in these cases of bloodletting, your cold treatment of your summons by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was a manifestation of how little you regard Nigeria and Nigerians as your hosts. Not that Senators are any better than you, because like you, they are living off the fat of the land and while you exploit our oil, they exploit our treasury. But since they purport to represent the people (though the people had no opportunity to vote for them because the Senators had made provisions for their supporters to vote on their behalf), one would have expected you to honour them.

The money awarded to the host communities in a court judgment ought to have been settled by now, but you are contesting it and fighting it in courts of appellate jurisdiction. Which gives one the impression that you actually came for our goods and not our good. You do not flare gas in America or any part of Europe but in Nigeria you do it without even considering the need to compensate the communities who suffer the effects of your flaring. If it were not that you have no soul to be damned you would have known the scripture that says that “you should not do unto others what you would not want them to do unto you.” Which means that if you are not flaring gas in your host countries of Britain and Holland, it is wrong for you to flare gas in Nigeria and what is more? Get protesters killed or harassed for protesting over this.

It has been said the Nobel laureates led by Professor Wole Soyinka will visit the Niger Delta region this month to try and mediate in the crisis. The crisis has tended to be seen as involving the militants and the Federal Government. One disagrees with this and tends to think that this is a problem between a bad tenant and an irate landlord who has decided to take the laws into his hands. The Federal Government has been trying to maintain the peace and ensure that the conflict does not scare away investors and create national insecurity.

When Saro-Wiwa was killed it should have been clear that when a seed dies, it germinates. Saro-Wiwa was killed as a seed and the fruits are the hotheads who range the creeks in military gear with sophisticated ammunition. Their grouse is not against the soldiers or the Federal Government but against the oil companies which they see as forces of occupation. The Federal Government should have responded by commissioning a panel of inquiry into the crisis, to look and proffer solutions to them. Instead, it responded with a show of force and domination as conflict-resolution tool seldom achieves set objectives.

Now Nigerians are killing Nigerians because of a foreign oil interest. It is the same thing as when Europeans were involved in slavery and Africans were killing and selling Africans for the profit of the white man. There might be fighting in the Niger Delta, but I could almost hear laughter in Holland and Britain over the foolishness of Nigerians in killing themselves for them to make profit. Can you please stop this madness?
 

Letter published by The Daily Independent (Nigeria), on Monday 24th July, 2006
By Michael John, [email protected]

Dear Oil Companies,

I am constrained to write you this letter because as a pacifist, I am appalled by the bloodletting in the Niger Delta and saddened by the fact that my fellow countrymen are killing my fellow countrymen because of you. Since this is not going to be a very long letter I intend to address one of you who I assume is the most culpable of the lot. That is the British and Dutch oil interest known as Shell Petroleum Development Company. You are all guilty of the same offences to some degree but Shell is seen as the King Kong of injustice in the region and it deserves special mention and attention in this patriotic letter.

Part of the reason I have always been hesitant to write to you, before now, is because a company has no body to be kicked, no nose to be bloodied and no soul to be damned. I believe you know this too and this informs your policy towards your host communities in particular and Nigerians in general. Another reason for your action might be that you are yet to realise that the world banned slavery and the slave trade in the 19th Century and threw away the myth that some men were superior to others simply because of the colour of their skin. The American Declaration of Independence opens with the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Though Shell is not an American company, neither do they subscribe to these words of wisdom, one expected them to treat Nigerians like they treat Europeans and Americans in their areas of operation in countries there. This way they would have made the protection of the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of members of their host communities a key policy of the company. And they would have persuaded successive Nigerian governments to consider the rights of the locals above commercial oil gains and petrodollars and become agents of peace not destabilisation.

But as I said earlier, oil companies have no soul to be damned, and if they do, I would have stated that they were a sure candidate for hell fire and needed to repent immediately in oil, dust and ashes. Decades ago Iko, an oil-rich community in Akwa Ibom State, protested against the effects of gas flaring from Shell’s activities in the area. They had to be changing their roofs and zincs yearly because of the effects of carbon, not to mention the skin diseases and other health effects and hazards. Their just protest was not met with any mediatory effort on your part, rather you brought in the police and the Iko massacre left about 50 persons dead. That put paid to the Iko crises and business continued as usual with gas flaring, and the cowed Iko people have had to live with this problem ever since.

Recently you had another God-given chance to right this wrong and show yourself as a friend of your host communities but you bungled it. The late dictator, Sani Abacha, had Kenule Saro-Wiwa and others convicted for murder on trumped up charges the European Union representative and other observers claimed would not have secured conviction in court of competent and fair jurisdiction in the world. The Encarta Encyclopedia states thus about the case:

Similarly, a ruthless campaign was mounted against the Ogoni people. The Ogoni live around the Niger river delta. Led by the author, Ken Saro-Wiwa, they protested that exploitation by petroleum company, Royal Dutch Shell since 1958 had ravaged this environment, polluting their farmland and fisheries. Abacha had protesters shot and many of the Ogoni rounded up into detention camps. Finally, in total disregard to international condemnation, Abacha had Saro-Wiwa tried on trumped-up charges and hanged in November 1995.

If Shell had been a people-minded company with a human face it would have been at the head of the campaign to save the life of Ken Saro-Wiwa and this would have created the desired goodwill for it to enter into meaningful mediatory efforts with the host communities. The international community did its best while Shell watched the drama and perhaps believed that the elimination of Saro-Wiwa could stymie the protests in the area. They perhaps believed that he was the soul and spirit of the struggle and therefore decided to let the “law” with all its manifest injustice and the overt judicial murder take its course.

Once again, Shell BP lost a golden opportunity to recreate itself and ended up in the wrong side of history as a company lacking in a community-friendly organisational culture. The popular thinking has tended to be that Shell was guilty of complicity in the judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and this is enforced by the fact that Shell sent a lawyer to all the court proceedings which led to the conviction and condemnation of Saro-Wiwa, as an observer. What was the lawyer observing? My guess is that he was there to monitor how the script was acted and whether the directors of the script (the judge and the other tribunal members) were acting according to the script at hand.

Whoever coined the word “insufferable” must have had an entity like Shell in mind. Not only have you been colluding in these cases of bloodletting, your cold treatment of your summons by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was a manifestation of how little you regard Nigeria and Nigerians as your hosts. Not that Senators are any better than you, because like you, they are living off the fat of the land and while you exploit our oil, they exploit our treasury. But since they purport to represent the people (though the people had no opportunity to vote for them because the Senators had made provisions for their supporters to vote on their behalf), one would have expected you to honour them.

The money awarded to the host communities in a court judgment ought to have been settled by now, but you are contesting it and fighting it in courts of appellate jurisdiction. Which gives one the impression that you actually came for our goods and not our good. You do not flare gas in America or any part of Europe but in Nigeria you do it without even considering the need to compensate the communities who suffer the effects of your flaring. If it were not that you have no soul to be damned you would have known the scripture that says that “you should not do unto others what you would not want them to do unto you.” Which means that if you are not flaring gas in your host countries of Britain and Holland, it is wrong for you to flare gas in Nigeria and what is more? Get protesters killed or harassed for protesting over this.

It has been said the Nobel laureates led by Professor Wole Soyinka will visit the Niger Delta region this month to try and mediate in the crisis. The crisis has tended to be seen as involving the militants and the Federal Government. One disagrees with this and tends to think that this is a problem between a bad tenant and an irate landlord who has decided to take the laws into his hands. The Federal Government has been trying to maintain the peace and ensure that the conflict does not scare away investors and create national insecurity.

When Saro-Wiwa was killed it should have been clear that when a seed dies, it germinates. Saro-Wiwa was killed as a seed and the fruits are the hotheads who range the creeks in military gear with sophisticated ammunition. Their grouse is not against the soldiers or the Federal Government but against the oil companies which they see as forces of occupation. The Federal Government should have responded by commissioning a panel of inquiry into the crisis, to look and proffer solutions to them. Instead, it responded with a show of force and domination as conflict-resolution tool seldom achieves set objectives.

Now Nigerians are killing Nigerians because of a foreign oil interest. It is the same thing as when Europeans were involved in slavery and Africans were killing and selling Africans for the profit of the white man. There might be fighting in the Niger Delta, but I could almost hear laughter in Holland and Britain over the foolishness of Nigerians in killing themselves for them to make profit. Can you please stop this madness?

royaldutchshellplc.com and its sister websites royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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