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E-M:/ Rachel #546: Crimes of Shell
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>. RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY #546 .
>. ---May 15, 1997--- .
>. HEADLINES: .
>. CRIMES OF SHELL .
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>CRIMES OF SHELL
>The Shell oil corporation has blood on its hands, and a worldwide
>boycott of Shell products is under way. Two recent reports[1,2]
>on the Shell subsidiary in Nigeria, Africa, have documented
>massive environmental destruction in the Niger River delta
>region, where Shell has spilled some 56 million gallons of oil
>onto farmlands and into community water supplies.[1,pg.45] The
>destroyed land and water formerly provided sustenance for an
>indigenous people, the Ogoni. A recent video confirms these
>reports of Shell's environmental abuse and mismanagement in
>But Shell's crimes are deeper still. When Ogoni activists
>organized to demand that Shell clean up spilled oil, and share
>oil profits more equitably with the Ogoni people, the Nigerian
>military dictatorship --with financial assistance, logistical
>support, and guns provided by Shell[1,pgs.23,43,91-92]
>--conducted a campaign of terror in which at least 1800 Ogoni
>people were murdered, some of them tortured to death.[1,pg.95]
>The Ogoni peoples' struggle against Shell burst into headlines
>November 10, 1995, when the Nigerian dictatorship executed 9
>Ogoni environmental activists, including Ken Saro-Wiwa.
>Saro-Wiwa had received the Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa
>April 17, 1995 in recognition of his environmental work on behalf
>of the Ogoni people. Saro-Wiwa had also received the Right
>Livelihood Award December 9, 1994.[1,pg.95] Both awards are said
>to carry prestige equivalent to the Nobel peace prize. In
>addition to being an environmentalist and community leader,
>Saro-Wiwa was well-known in his homeland, and internationally, as
>a poet and essayist. His last words, just as he was executed
>by hanging, were, "Lord, take my soul but the struggle continues!"
>Within weeks of the executions, Shell contracted with the
>Nigerian dictatorship to build a large liquefied natural gas
>plant, thus sending a signal that it was business as usual for
>Shell and that Shell was continuing to support the military
>According to the World Council of Churches, key witnesses for the
>prosecution at Ken Saro-Wiwa's trial have signed sworn affidavits
>saying they were bribed by Shell to testify against
>Since late 1995, the dictatorship has been holding 19 more Ogoni
>environmental activists, charged with the same crime for which
>the Ogoni 9 were executed. The World Council of Churches
>reported in late 1996 that, "...as a result of the inhuman
>treatment, torture, denial of medical care, starvation and poor
>sanitary conditions, most of the detainees are in very poor
>The Ogoni people --500,000 of them[1,pg.8] --inhabit a
>404-square-mile-area called the Rivers State in Nigeria in west
>Africa. They represent 0.05% of the Nigerian population, so they
>are a tiny minority. Ken Saro-Wiwa compared the Ogoni to other
>indigenous people around the world: the Aborigines of Australia,
>the Maori of New Zealand, and the native people of North and
>South America. "Their common history is of the usurpation of
>their land and resources, the destruction of their culture, and
>the eventual decimation of the people," he wrote.[1,pg.19] Since
>1958, $30 billion worth of oil has been taken from beneath the
>land of the Ogoni, yet essentially zero benefits have accrued to
>the Ogoni themselves. When the World Council of Churches sent
>observers to Ogoniland in 1995, they found no piped water
>supplies, no good roads, no electricity, no telephones, and no
>proper health care facilities.[1,pg.24] Further, they reported
>that, in oil-rich Ogoniland, gasoline is hand-pumped from a
>cement holding tank into large plastic containers, then poured
>into a smaller can with a long neck, from which the gasoline is
>finally poured into a vehicle's gas tank. Such is the state of
>modernization made possible by Shell's post-modern colonial
>Shell, a Dutch company, is the 10th largest corporation in the
>world, and No. 1 in profitability.[2,pg.4] Shell has 96 oil
>production wells in Ogoniland, 5 flow stations (large pumping
>stations), and numerous gas flares which have operated
>continuously for 35 years.[1,pg.31] In addition, Shell maintains
>many high-pressure oil pipelines criss-crossing Ogoniland,
>carrying oil from other parts of Nigeria to the shipping terminal
>at Bonny.[1,pg.32] In response to growing pressure for reform in
>Ogoniland in 1993, Shell ceased oil production there, but
>retained its network of pipelines carrying oil produced elsewhere
>in Nigeria. (The World Council of Churches finds evidence that
>Shell has not in fact ceased oil production in
>Ogoniland,[1,pgs.31-33] but Shell insists its production wells
>Between 1976 and 1980, Shell operations caused 784 separate oil
>spills in Nigeria.[1,pg.45]. From 1982 to 1992, 27 additional
>spills were recorded. Since Shell "ceased oil production" in
>Ogoniland in 1993, Shell admits another 24 oil spills have
>Shell operates in 100 countries, but 40% of all its oil spills
>have occurred in Nigeria.[1,pg.28] Shell says the spills result
>from "sabotage" but the World Council of Churches reports "there
>has not been one single piece of evidence produced by Shell to
>back up its claims that oil spills in Ogoniland were caused by
>Shell controls at least 60% of all the oil reserves in Nigeria
>and oil accounts for 80% of Nigeria's total revenues and 90% of
>its foreign exchange earnings.[1,pg.44] As a result, Shell is an
>extremely powerful political force in Nigeria. The World Council
>of Churches has described a revolving door --Shell executives
>becoming Nigerian political officials, and Nigerian political
>officials becoming Shell employees.[1,pg.44] However, Shell
>maintains that it has no political influence and cannot affect
>the fate of political prisoners in Nigeria.
>Shell admits to 3000 polluted sites affected by oil operations on
>Ogoni soil. According to the World Council of Churches, Shell
>also admits to flaring 1.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas each
>day for 35 years, causing acid rain in the Niger delta during
>about 10% of the days each year.[1,pg.41] Furthermore, the
>flares produce a rain of fine particles, a cancer-causing soot
>that permeates everything --land water, homes, lungs.
>Shell's environmental abuses in Ogoniland came as a shock to
>observers sent by the World Council of Churches. They wrote,
>"Having followed all the events in Ogoniland, reading all the
>reports and seeing the videos such as DRILLING FIELDS and DELTA
>FORCE3, did not prepare us for the devastation we saw at the
>numerous spill sites we visited," they wrote.[1,pg.24]
>Observers from the World Council of Churches describe a site
>where Shell had spilled oil in 1969: "Even though this spill
>occurred 26 years ago, its devastating impact is still very
>apparent," they wrote.[1,pg.34] "The soil and oil are caked
>together into a thick black crust which covers the area. Liquid
>crude oil is still present in deep crevices (2 to 3 feet deep),
>formed in spots where trees once stood.... The air remains
>polluted by the vapour from the spilled crude oil; this becomes
>particularly noticeable when the south-west wind blows. The oil
>spill seems to have polluted the creek nearby. The oil flowed
>into the body of water and we were told that it can still be seen
>floating on the surface of the creek water that people still
>drink. We were unable to move near the creek as the earth was
>dangerously soggy with a combination of soil, oil, and water....
>It is amazing that so much devastation exists after 26
>Since the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, his brother, Dr. Owens Wiwa,
>has been touring the world describing the Ogoni peoples' struggle
>against the combined forces of Shell and the military dictators
>of Nigeria. Dr. Wiwa, an articulate, soft-spoken physician, was
>himself held prisoner (without charges) by Nigerian authorities
>on more than one occasion.[1,pg.93] He is now a political exile
>living in Toronto, Canada, though most of his time is spent on
>the road, urging people to boycott Shell products.
>In late March of this year, U.S. environmental justice activists
>met in Atlanta, Georgia to discuss environmental justice
>struggles across the U.S. and abroad. Dr. Wiwa gave the keynote
>address. "Our people are dying at the hands of our government
>and Shell Oil," Dr. Wiwa told the assembled activists in Atlanta.
>Dr. Robert D. Bullard, a well-known environmental justice leader
>and author of CONFRONTING ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM: VOICES FROM THE
>GRASSROOTS, told the Atlanta meeting, "the quest for healthy and
>sustainable communities and environmental justice does not stop
>at U.S. borders... we have a moral and ethical obligation to
>direct our collective action and purchasing power to respond to
>Dr. Wiwa and the Ogoni's struggle in Nigeria, just as we
>responded to the oppression of apartheid in South Africa."
>Asked recently what Americans could do to help the Ogoni people,
>Dr. Wiwa gave four recommendations:
>1. Boycott Shell. Do not buy ANY Shell products.
>2. Encourage selective purchasing contracts, such as the one now
>in force in Oakland, California. Last fall the Oakland City
>Council passed a city-wide ordinance prohib-iting the city from
>doing business with Nigeria. Dr. Wiwa is urging all city
>councils to adopt selective purchasing laws to prevent their city
>from investing in or trading with Nigeria OR ANY COMPANIES
>CARRYING OUT BUSINESS IN NIGERIA.
>3. Pressure Congress to impose sanctions against Nigeria, just as
>the U.S. has recently done against Burma for human rights abuses.
>4. Contact the president of Shell's U.S. subsidiary: Philip J.
>Carroll, Shell Oil Company, P.O. Box 2463, Houston, TX 77252;
>(800) 248-4257; fax (713) 241-4044.
>Mr. Carroll may respond that Shell's U.S. subsidiary has nothing
>to do with what's happening in Nigeria. But 10% of Shell's
>profits come from its U.S. operations, so the U.S. subsidiary has
>major clout with its Dutch parent corporation. Refusal to
>exercise that clout is a moral failure. Up to now, Mr. Carroll
>himself has blood on his hands, in our view.
>Even if Mr. Carroll cannot understand the moral argument, you
>could tell him you will be boycotting Shell's products until they
>clean up their environmental mess in Nigeria and fully compensate
>the Ogoni people for past damages and injustices. Mr. Carroll
>will certainly understand the meaning of "boycott."
>To get breaking news about the campaign to end Shell's
>environmental and human rights abuses in Ogoniland, you could
>join the internet discussion group, Shell-Nigeria-action. To
>subscribe to the list, send email to email@example.com with
>the message: subscribe shell-nigeria-action <your email address>.
>To post information to the list, address your message to:
>For further information, contact:
>1) Dr. Owens Wiwa: firstname.lastname@example.org
>2) Stephen Mills at Sierra Club in Washington, D.C. Telephone
>(202) 675-6691. Mr. Mills has organized a petition campaign that
>could use more volunteers.
>3) Ann Leonard, Essential Action, P.O. Box 19405, Washington, DC
>20036. Telephone (202) 387-8030. An important source of
>What is the top priority? BOYCOTT SHELL.
> --Peter Montague
> (National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)
> Deborah Robinson and others, OGONI, THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES
>(Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches, December, 1996).
>Available from World Council of Churches, P.O. Box 2100, 1211
>Geneva 2, Switzerland; telephone (+41) 22 791-6111; fax: (+41) 22
> PEN Center USA West, FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS, SHELL AND
>NIGERIA (Los Angeles, California: PEN Center USA West, March,
>1997). Available from: PEN Center USA West, 672 South Lafayette
>Park Place #41, Los Angeles, California 90057; telephone (213)
>365-8500. PEN is a worldwide association of professional writers.
> The most recent video, DELTA FORCE, is available for $10 from
>Ann Leonard, Essential Action, P.O. Box 19405, Washington, DC
>20036. Telephone (202) 387-8030.
> Ken Saro-Wiwa, A MONTH AND A DAY: A DETENTION DIARY (London:
>Penguin Books, 1995). Ken Saro-Wiwa, ON A DARKLING PLAIN (Port
>Harcourt, Nigeria: Saros International Publishers, 1989). Ken
>Saro-Wiwa, OGONI MOMENT OF TRUTH (Lagos, Nigeria: Saros
>International Publishers, 1994).
>Descriptor terms: shell; petroleum industry; boycotts; nigeria;
>ken saro-wiwa; owens wiwa; africa; oil; videos; ogoni people;
>ogoniland; indigenous people; world council of churches;
>netherlands; oil spills; fine particles; air pollution; robert
>bullard; oakland, ca; philip carrol; ann leonard; stephen mills;
>Environmental Research Foundation provides this electronic
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> --Peter Montague, Editor
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