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Netherlands Slams FG Over N’Delta Crisis …Shell Won’t Quit Region- Official

The TIDE

At a historic public hearing at The Hague, Netherlands, the country’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Bert Ronhaar, defended the operations of oil multinational, Shell, in the Niger Delta, saying the Nigerian government should be held responsible for past crises in the oil rich region.

The envoy also said corruption was killing the country’s oil industry.

The investigative hearing on Shell’s operations in the Niger Delta was organised by the Economic Affairs Committee of the Dutch Lower Parliament (Tweede Kamer) following reports on abuses of best practices by Shell and its failure to clean-up spill sites in the Niger Delta.

Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in Nigeria is a subsidiary of the Royal Dutch Shell, with headquarters in The Hague.

Ronhaar said as a deliberate policy, Shell was becoming more open in its operations in Nigeria and that the greater blame for the situation in the Niger Delta should be dumped on the Nigerian government, which he said benefited more from the joint venture relationship with oil firms.

According to him, corruption had made doing business in Nigeria very difficult compared to other countries in Africa. “From my perspective, Shell is not responsible for the conflict in the Niger Delta. The Nigerian government should be held responsible. Ninety-five per cent of the profit from the joint venture between Shell and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) goes to the government.

“SPDC exploits 75 per cent of the oil and gas in Niger Delta. So, it is understandable if it faces greater challenges in the region. But Shell is doing a lot in its host communities regardless of the criticisms against it.

“Nigeria is a very difficult country to work in compared to other countries in Africa. There is a lot of corruption in Nigeria,” Ronhaar said.

President of Shell Netherlands, Mr Peter de Wit, however, described Nigeria as a very important country in Africa whose economic potential cannot be underestimated. Contrary to reports, he maintained, Shell was not thinking about quitting the Niger Delta. “Nigeria will determine the future of Africa and Shell is determined to be a part of that future. We have many highly successful projects in Nigeria and it is a very important economy. Shell is not thinking about quitting Nigeria or the Niger Delta,” he said.

Also speaking, the Executive Vice President of Shell Sub-Sahara Africa, Mr I. Craig, said between 2008 and 2010, 88 of its personnel were kidnapped in the Niger Delta. Kidnapping, militancy and corruption, he noted, had frustrated the company, forcing it to scale down its operations even though it has not lowered its standard.

Responding to a question on when Shell would end gas flares in the Niger Delta, Craig dithered, saying the security situation was a big challenge.

“Despite our commitment, SPDC has not been able to reduce gas flares because of the security challenges. It all depends on how well the amnesty programme succeeds. All I can say is that ending gas flares would be as soon as possible,” he said. The oil giants, however, got serious bashing from majority of the parliamentarians and non-governmental organisations at the hearing for failing to observe best practices in the Niger Delta and accused it of double standards.

In his presentation, Nigerian-born President/Founder of Rotterdam-based Hope for Niger Delta Campaign (HNDC), Comrade Sunny Ofehe, described the public hearing as a decisive moment for the Niger Delta people and that a lot of stakeholders were waiting for the outcome.

Ofehe urged the parliament to be resolute in its investigation because from experience, Shell and other multinationals would try to scuttle the process. The Nigerian government was, however, not represented. It was gathered that the Nigerian embassy in The Netherlands queried why the hearing was held in the country and not in Nigeria.

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