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Role of a hapless Ann Pickard in OPL 245

By John Donovan

During the period that Shell was conniving in setting up the OPL 245 deal, the company had a vice-like grip on the oil wealth of Nigeria and more power than the Nigerian government. This information comes from an analysis of leaked secret US embassy cables.

Ann Pickard, a then senior Shell executive, was directly involved in the OPL 245 deal, and the primary indiscreet source of the secret information.

Extracts below from various publications provide evidence of her role in OPL 245. They are followed by astonishing related extracts from a Guardian newspaper article about the leaked classified cables.

A tale of intrigue involving the Russians and the Chinese.

Pickard was subsequently appointed as Shell VP for Arctic drilling. That proved to be another disaster for Shell shareholders and Shell’s reputation.



Even as far back as January 2009, Strategic Investment Advisor John Copleston wrote to Shell vice presidents Robinson and Ann Pickard, relaying a conversation with a source he described as “my Delta man”: “He spoke to Mrs E this morning. She says E claims he will only get 300m we offering—rest goes in paying people off .” “E” is understood from other emails in the chain to be Etete.

(John Copleston is one of the former MI6 agents hired by Shell as referred to by Shell CEO Ben van Beurden in his wire tapped telephone conversation with Simon Henry)

Extracts from BuzzFeedNews article: SHELL SHOCKS

After Etete cancelled a proposed meeting with Copleston, Shell executive Ann Pickard cautioned: “do not make any effort to sort out his visa with the UK until its [sic] resolved.”

By 2008, Shell executives were reporting back on their dealings with Etete, who they knew wanted a minimum of $1 billion and wanted to deal with Shell. “Etete’s people have made contact with us,” wrote Ann Pickard, then regional executive vice president. “He wants direct dealings with Shell … he wants $1 bn”.

Extract from a leaked classified American Embassy cable dated 26 February 2008

Pickard termed the Chinese a “very serious threat to Shell” in Nigeria. Chinese efforts are ultimately directed at securing known good oil blocks outside of the regular bid process. She believes that Chinese interests are behind the dispute over oil block OPL 245;

Extracts from the Guardian article: WikiLeaks cables: Shell’s grip on Nigerian state revealed

The oil giant Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians’ every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

The company’s top executive in Nigeria told US diplomats that Shell had seconded employees to every relevant department and so knew “everything that was being done in those ministries”. She boasted that the Nigerian government had “forgotten” about the extent of Shell’s infiltration and was unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations.

The cache of secret dispatches from Washington’s embassies in Africa also revealed that the Anglo-Dutch oil firm swapped intelligence with the US, in one case providing US diplomats with the names of Nigerian politicians it suspected of supporting militant activity, and requesting information from the US on whether the militants had acquired anti-aircraft missiles.

Campaigners tonight said the revelation about Shell in Nigeria demonstrated the tangled links between the oil firm and politicians in the country where, despite billions of dollars in oil revenue, 70% of people live below the poverty line.

Cables from Nigeria show how Ann Pickard, then Shell’s vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa, sought to share intelligence with the US government on militant activity and business competition in the contested Niger Delta – and how, with some prescience, she seemed reluctant to open up because of a suspicion the US government was “leaky”.

But that did not prevent Pickard disclosing the company’s reach into the Nigerian government when she met US ambassador Robin Renee Sanders, as recorded in a confidential memo from the US embassy in Abuja on 20 October 2009.

At the meeting, Pickard related how the company had obtained a letter showing that the Nigerian government had invited bids for oil concessions from China. She said the minister of state for petroleum resources, Odein Ajumogobia, had denied the letter had been sent but Shell knew similar correspondence had taken place with China and Russia.

The ambassador reported: “She said the GON [government of Nigeria] had forgotten that Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries.”

The WikiLeaks disclosure was today seized on by campaigners as evidence of Shell’s vice-like grip on the country’s oil wealth. “Shell and the government of Nigeria are two sides of the same coin,” said Celestine AkpoBari, of Social Action Nigeria. “Shell is everywhere. They have an eye and an ear in every ministry of Nigeria. They have people on the payroll in every community, which is why they get away with everything. They are more powerful than the Nigerian government.”

Pickard alleged that a conversation with a Nigerian government minister had been secretly recorded by the Russians. Shortly after the meeting in the minister’s office she received a verbatim transcript of the meeting “from Russia”, according to the memo.

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