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Shell Oil – The Awful Truth

Title Shell Oil – The Awful Truth
Date released (year) 2010
Production company Protect the human
Length 2.30mins
Location Nigeria/   Niger delta
Keywords/tags Oil, natural   resources, civil war
Link to film
Synopsis Shell Nigeria is one of the   largest oil producers in the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. 80% of the oil   extraction in Nigeria is in the Niger Delta, the southeast region of the   country. The Delta is home to many small minority ethnic groups, including   the Ogoni, all of which suffer egregious exploitation by multinational oil   companies, like Shell. Shell provides over 50% of the income keeping the   Nigerian dictatorship in power.
Although oil from Ogoniland has provided approximately $30 billion to the   economy of Nigeria, the people of Ogoni see little to nothing from their   contribution to Shell’s pocketbook. Shell has done next to nothing to help   Ogoni. By 1996, Shell employed only 88 Ogoni (0.0002% of the Ogoni   population, and only 2% of Shell’s employees in Nigeria). Ogoni villages have   no clean water, electricity, abysmal health care, no jobs for displaced   farmers and fisher persons and face the effects of unrestrained environmental   molestation by Shell everyday.
Since Shell began drilling oil in Ogoniland in 1958, the people of Ogoniland   have had pipelines built across their farmlands and in front of their homes,   suffered endemic oil leaks from these very pipelines, been forced to live   with the constant flaring of gas. This environmental assault has smothered land   with oil, killed masses of fish and other aquatic life, and introduced   devastating acid rain to the land of the Ogoni. For the Ogoni, a people   dependent upon farming and fishing, the poisoning of the land and water has   had devastating economic and health consequences. Shell claims to clean up   its oil spills, but such “clean-ups” consist of techniques like   burning the crude which results in a permanent layer of crusted oil metres   thick and scooping oil into holes dug in surrounding earth.Both Shell and the government admit that Shell contributes to the funding of   the military in the Delta region. Under the auspices of   “protecting” Shell from peaceful demonstrators in the village of   Umeuchem (10 miles from Ogoni), the police killed 80 people, destroyed houses   and vital crops. Shell conceded it twice paid the military for going to   specific villages. Although it disputes that the purpose of these excursions   was to quiet dissent, each of the military missions paid for by Shell   resulted in Ogoni fatalities. Shell has also admitted purchasing weapons for   the police force who guard its facilities, and there is growing suspicion   that Shell funds a much greater portion of the military than previously   admitted.

Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8 were leaders of MOSOP, the Movement for   Survival of the Ogoni People. As outspoken environmental and human rights   activists, they declared that Shell was not welcome in Ogoniland. On November   10, 1995, they were hanged after a trial by a special military tribunal   (whose decisions cannot be appealed) in the murder of four other Ogoni   activists. The defendants’ lawyers were harassed and denied access to their   clients. Although none of them were near the town where the murders occurred,   they were convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that many heads of   state strongly condemned for a stunning lack of evidence, unmasked partiality   towards the prosecution and the haste of the trial. The executions were   carried out a mere eight days after the decision. Two witnesses against the MOSOP   leaders admitted that Shell and the military bribed them to testify against   Ken Saro-Wiwa with promises of money and jobs at Shell. Ken’s final words   before his execution were:
“The struggle continues!”


Reviews/discussion See the Centre for Constitutional Rights,   Factesheet on Shell in Nigeria:

Royal Dutch Shell, plc (Shell) began oil   production in the
Niger Delta region of Nigeria in 1958 and has a long
history of working closely with the Nigerian government to
quell popular opposition to its presence in the region. From
1990-1995, Nigerian soldiers, at Shell’s request and with
Shell’s assistance and financing, used deadly force and
conducted massive, brutal raids against the Ogoni people
living in the Niger Delta to repress a growing movement in
protest of Shell.

On November 10, 1995, nine Ogoni leaders (the “Ogoni
Nine”) were executed by the Nigerian government after
being falsely accused of murder and tried by a speciallycreated
military tribunal. Those executed were internationally
acclaimed environmental and human rights activist Ken
Saro-Wiwa, prominent youth leader John Kpuinen, Dr.
Barinem Kiobel, Saturday Doobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel
Gbokoo, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate and Baribor Bera. The
detention, trial, and executions of the Ogoni Nine were the
result of collusion between Shell and the military government to suppress   opposition to Shell’s oil operations in Nigeria. The Center for   Constitutional Rights (CCR),
EarthRights International (ERI) and other human rights
attorneys sued Shell for human rights violations against the
Ogoni. The case will go to trial on May 26, 2009 in
federal court in New York City.


Shell acquitted of Nigeria pollution charges

The case involved five   allegations of oil spills in Nigeria, four of which were quashed by the court

Fiona Harvey, environment   correspondent, and Afua Hirsch, The Guardian, Wednesday   30 January 2013 11.31 GMT:

Plaintiff Nigerian farmer Eric Dooh showing   his hand covered with oil from a creek near Goi, Ogoniland, Nigeria.   Photograph: Marten Van Dijl/EPA

Shell was acquitted in a Dutch court on Wednesday morning of most of the   charges against it for pollution in Nigeria, where disputed oil spills have   been a long-running source of contention between the oil company, local   people and environmental campaigners.

The case involved five allegations of spills in Nigeria, and   four of these were quashed by the court. On the fifth count, Shell was   ordered to pay compensation, of an amount yet to be decided.

The case was brought in the Netherlands because of Shell’s dual   headquartership, being both Dutch and British, and was brought by four   Nigerian farmers co-sponsored by the international green campaigning group   Friends of the Earth.

In a statement, Friends of the Earth Netherlands said: “This   verdict is great news for the people in lkot Ada Udo who started this case   together with Milieudefensie [Friends of the Earth Netherlands]. But the   verdict also offers hope to other victims of environmental pollution caused   by multinationals. At the same time, the verdict is a bitter disappointment   for the people in the villages of Oruma and Goi – where the court did not   rule to hold Shell liable for the damage. Fortunately, this can still change   in an appeal.”

Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa programme director, said:   “Clearly it’s good news that one of the plaintiffs in this case managed   to clamber over all the obstacles to something approaching justice. However,   the fact that the other plaintiffs’ claims were dismissed underscores the   very serious obstacles people from the Niger Delta face in accessing justice when   their lives have been destroyed by oil pollution.”

Shell’s subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria,   said the main cause of oil spills in the country was from people taking oil   for illegal refineries. Mutiu Sunmonu, managing director of SPDC said:   “We welcome the court’s ruling that all spill cases were caused by   criminal activity. Oil pollution is a problem in Nigeria, affecting the daily   lives of people in the Niger Delta. However, the vast majority of oil   pollution is caused by oil thieves and illegal refiners. This causes major   environmental and economic damage, and is the real tragedy of the Niger   Delta.”

He added: “SPDC has made great efforts to raise awareness of the   issue with the government of Nigeria, international bodies like the UN, the   media and NGOs. We will continue to be at the forefront of discussions to   find solutions. For SPDC no oil spill is acceptable and we are working hard   to improve our performance on operational spills. In the past years we have   seen a decline in operational spill volumes. These spills, however, were   caused by sabotage and the court has, quite rightly, largely dismissed the   claims.”

The case turned on whether Shell was responsible for the spills, through   negligence and a failure to invest in proper safety systems of the kind that   are required in developed countries, as the campaigners alleged, or whether –   as Shell argued – the spills were mainly the result of local people   attempting to steal oil from pipelines.

It is understood that the court took the view that four of the spills   were caused by sabotage, as people tried to extract oil for their own   purposes. In the case of the fifth, the finding was that Shell had been   negligent in failing to prevent such sabotage.

But the farmers and green campaigners are expected to appeal against the   verdict to a higher court.

Shell is accused of widespread spills across the regions of Nigeria   where it operates, but the allegations in question concerned incidents in   Goi, Ogoniland, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom.

“There is an atmosphere of celebration here – the community feels   that some justice has been done,” said Ken Henshaw, a Niger Delta   activist from campaign group Social Action which has closely followed the   case. “A precedent has been set, it has been made known that shell can   be liable for damages and loss of livelihood.”

“We didn’t win all the cases, but we won one, and that one is a   precedent,” Henshaw added. “We are prepared to appeal the other   ones. Shell tries to give the impression that the oil spills are caused by   sabotage, but we are convincied that it was not sabotage. It is the result of   equipment failure and neglect on the part of Shell.”

“We are emboldened by this victory, we feel confident that we will   definitely succeed on appeal. This is a major threshold, now that we have   crossed it, we can bring more claims. The communities who have had their   lives ruined by oil companies now feel galvanized to take action.”

Plantiffs from Ikot Ada Udo, Akwa Ibom State, whose case was successful,   said they were now looking forward to compensation for their loss of livelihood.

“We were successful today, and I am happy, I know that the judgment   has been divinely directed,” said Elder Friday Akpan, 55, from the Ikot   Abasi area of Akwa ibom state, whose 47 catfish farms were destroyed   following pollution from an oil spill, a claim which the court upheld as   caused by a breach of Shell Nigeria’s duty of care.

“The fishes died completely. I was confused because it left me   completely empty,” Akpan added. “I did not have some money to pay   school fees for my twelve children, and nothing to allow me to earn my   livelihood again. Debts I had borrowed I could not repay. There was nothing   for me. I was finished.”

One lawyer involved in the case said that it was right to see it as a   victory.

“There are positives and negatives from this case,” said Prince   Chima Williams, head the legal affairs department at the Environmental Rights   Action group. “It is positive in the sense that the court has found   Shell liable for the environmental destruction in Akwa Ibom State. It is   positive because it means that Nigerian citizens can now drag Shell to court   in Holland for its actions and inactions in their communities.”

“The negative aspect is that the court refused to agree with us   Shell’s negligence caused the other oil spills. Because we disagree with the   court on that position, and that is why our first priority now is going to be   to appeal the judgment,” Williams added.

The case has cast a spotlight on the power which Shell wields in Nigeria,   amidst allegations that the Nigerian authorities would not have enforced the   judgment had the case been brought in local courts.

“Shell do not admit mistakes,” said Akpan. They would not obey   a judgment in a Nigerian court. When they know that the judgment is in   Holland it’s better.”

“We considered all the options and the history of litigation in   Nigeria before deciding to take the case to Holland,” said Williams.   “We could not have confidence in the judiciary in Nigeria because,   coming from our experience, when the judiciary gives a judgment, the   enforcement of that judgment by the executive becomes a problem.”

“Shell is a very stubborn company, and in Nigeria, in some   situations, it is more powerful than the Nigerian government,” Williams   added.

Activists believe that the case will have a longer-term effect on   attitudes within communities affected by oil spills in Nigeria.

“In the long run a case like this will promote self-help among   communities, because they know that if they know they can go to court in   Holland, they can obtain a judgment that will be complied with, from which   they can reap the benefits” said Williams.

The level of damages is yet to be determined. “In the case itself we   didn’t make specific demands for an amount, so the next step will be for the   community to assist the court with an assessment of the actual loss that   should be compensated,” said Williams.


Links to other resources Watts, M. (ed) (2008) Curse of the   black gold: 50 years of oil in the Niger Delta. New York:   Powerhouse.

Protect the   Human:

     8:34           The Video Shell Oil Desperately Doesn’t   Want You to See
     4:50           The people of Nigeria versus Shell   (English)

     9:31           Ken Saro-Wiwa: his last interview, part I

     3:07           Gas Flares, Oil Companies and Politics In   Nigeria.
     22:38           Oil War
     8:52           The Awful Truth


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