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A dangerously simplistic portrait of the Niger Delta

Financial Times

Published: April 13 2009 03:00 | Last updated: April 13 2009 03:00

From Mr Richard D. North.

Sir, Doubtless Shell and its lawyers are well able to make their own defence against charges being levelled at their behaviour in the oil-bearing Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta and their alleged complicity in the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995 (“Shell faces Saro-Wiwa death claim”, April 4).

Still, it is worth pointing out that your reporters paint a dangerously simplistic picture when they write: “Saro-Wiwa mobilised hundreds of thousands of Ogoni people to launch peaceful protests against environmental damage caused by oil companies in the Delta.”

In 1996 I joined a party of journalists invited by Shell to visit Nigeria, and independently talked to as many people as possible in London, Lagos and Port Harcourt. I formed a strong impression that there had been violence from activists and authorities alike.

The Delta was a much more complicated scene than was generally reported in Europe or is implied in your pages. Contrary to suggestions that “the deaths of Saro-Wiwa and the other activists marked a turning point that pushed the region into the violence rampant … today”, it has older and deeper roots in ethnic and regional struggles as they met what has rightly been called “the curse of oil”.

Richard D. North
London SW1, UK
Editor, The Right Sites and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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