Mar 31, 2008

Ogoni: Shell Arrogantly Returns to Ogoniland

Active ImageMovement for Survival of the Ogoni People fears Shell has the intention to restart its oil exploitation without consulting the Ogoni people.

Below is an article written by Biola Azeez published by Tribune:

In the past few days, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Ogoni face-off reappeared in the media with accusations trailing each other. It started this time around with a statement signed by the Information Officer of the Movement for Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Bari'ara Kpalap in which it accused the oil multinational of making secret moves to return into Ogoniland. MOSOP went on to accuse Shell of manhandling Ogoni youths in the process, citing instances in which it had employed the services of "Joint Task Force (JTF) and recruited thugs" to force its way back into the territory it had been forced to vacate 15 years ago.

The issue this time around is nothing different from what the strain in the relationship between MOSOP and SPDC in the last few years had been like. Just like it had always done, MOSOP wasted no time in stating what it feared might be the intent of the oil multinational; restarting oil exploration activities in Ogoniland.

For instance, on Monday, March 10 [2008], MOSOP had shouted that Shell, with the aid of the JTF and recruited thugs, had started operations in some Ogoni communities. […]

"The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) is outraged by confirmed reports of renewed attempts by Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited (SPDC) to commence oil activities without any agreement with the Ogoni people. Their actions have already led to two activists, Messrs. Mr. Amebeobari Dabo and Mr. Ollorwi Dabo being shot at Ebubu-Eleme and an increase in tension across the whole region.

"The moves that SPDC have made in the last couple of days are, incontrovertible steps in resuming oil operations. Shell has for three years stated that it was not interested in resuming oil operations without the consent of the Ogoni people. Yet today, despite a failing peace process we are seeing specific steps being undertaken by force to resume oil operation", MOSOP had alerted in its statement.

In an attempt to clear its name of the allegations by MOSOP, SPDC, through some of its media officers, responded in an online statement, claiming that none of what the Ogoni mouthpiece had said about its activities or intent was true. It recalled that there was an ongoing process that would determine its fate in Ogoniland, adding that it holds no intention of re-entering the land without due permission. It, however, did not maintain some level of presence in some parts of the kingdom, but that it had gone there for a reparatory mission. According to the statement, the presence of Shell in the places where anything that might be linked to it will be found is because it had to secure its deteriorating facilities, which further rot would cause more damage to the environment.

"Following a directive by the Rivers State Government, the SPDC has commenced a programme to secure its wells in Ogoniland which had remained dormant since it suspended operations in the area in 1993. Some 15 wells in Eleme and Tai Local Government areas have been secured in an exercise that is set to be implemented in Khana and Gokana Local Government areas.

"SPDC wishes to assure that the exercise does not amount to any secret resumption of oil production in the area, “ Shell had assured.

But instead of this explanation reducing the heat already generated by MOSOP's alarm, it has worsened it. The attribution to the state government drew negative reactions from the people who wondered when issues that surround oil activities was transferred from the exclusive list to the residual. A statement by the Director of Press Affairs to the state governor, Mr Ogbonna Nwuke, had dissociated the state government from the claim that a permission was granted the company to embark on any form of activity in the area.

This forced the company to issue a fresh statement on the nature of the necessity that took it to the hitherto forbidden realm. The company clarified that the government authority it alluded to in its earlier statement was given in 2006 by the Odili administration and that it was neither lying nor trying to put the new administration in a fix. It also emphasized its claim that it had not and does not hold any plan to use the cover of the night to re-launch activities in Ogoniland. It however made no allusion to allegations of engendering division among the people."SPDC wishes to clarify that it has not returned to Ogoniland to resume Oil and Gas production in the area, nor has it requested or received any permission from the Rivers State Government for that purpose. Rather, following a directive by the immediate past Rivers State administration in April 2006, SPDC commenced a programme to secure its wells in Ogoniland which had been dormant since it left the area in 1993. The first stage of the exercise has seen the securing of 15 wells in Eleme and Tai Local Government Areas.

"The permission for SPDC to commence the programme of securing wells in Ogoniland was given in the aftermath of a pipeline fire at K-Dere early April 2006. Formal permission was conveyed to SPDC in a letter dated April 7, 2006, and advised SPDC to "resume activities for the repair of wellheads, manifolds and damaged pipelines. SPDC wishes to emphasize that the exercise to secure manifolds, wellheads and damaged pipelines is in the interest of safety of people and the environment, and does not, in any way amount to a resumption of oil production in Ogoniland", the statement noted.

However, to MOSOP, the explanations by the oil company was a mere excuse and blatant lies. President of MOSOP in an interview with Sunday Tribune stated that the company lacked credibility when it comes to its relationship with external parties. According to Ledum Mitee, “there is no amount of explanation that could sway the opinion of the Ogoni people about Shell's plot to forcefully re-enter the land through the back door. "Clearly people have seen that this is not a company that can be trusted. They have lied to their shareholders before, they lied to the government, they lied to the people. Any company that lives on lies cannot be trusted".

From the point of view of MOSOP, there seems to be no way out for the company, not even if it has a really genuine intention, even if MOSOP is being sincerely wrong in its view.

In an interview with the Sunday Tribune, Marvin Yoban, National Vice President of the National Youths Council of Nigeria said the dummy being sold to the world about the SPDC presence this time around is not true and it is misleading. He said he was aware of the recent activities of Shell and that it was in no way a return plan. He voiced displeasure about the manner in which leaders of the socio-cultural movement had been blind folding the whole world and have been inflaming the situation of the area.