Jun 05, 2008

Ogoni: One Polluter Out Next Polluter In

Active ImageAs Shell is leaving Ogoniland after years of exploitation and massive environmental damage  other oil companies are eager to take over the abandoned oil wells. 

Below is an article written by Felix Onuah published by Reuters:

Oil fields abandoned by Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria's Ogoniland in the Niger Delta 15 years ago will be given to oil company this year, President Umaru Yar'Adua said on Wednesday [4 June 2008]. 

Shell closed its operations in the area in 1993 due largely to popular protests over pollution and lack of development. 

The protests were spearheaded by a rights group, the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), whose leader Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed by the then-military government in 1995. 

"There is a total loss of confidence between Shell and Ogoni people," Yar'Adua, who is on a state visit to South Africa, said at a meeting with the Nigerian community in Cape Town. 

"Another operator acceptable to the Ogonis will take over. Nobody is going to gain from the conflict and stalemate, so this is the best solution," Yar'Adua said in a statement. 

A deal has already been reached with Shell to compensate the Ogoni people for degrading their environment, Yar'Adua said. 

Shell said it was yet to receive any official communication on the government's decision to transfer the Ogoni oil wells to another energy company. 

"We have seen media reports today [4 June 2008] ... about government's decision over our interests in Ogoni. 

We can confirm that we have not received any formal notification about this development and are therefore unable to comment further at this time," a Shell spokeswoman in Nigeria said. 

MOSOP had accused Shell of trying to resume oil and gas production without Ogoni consent after a government-backed peace process failed to reconcile the two parties. 

The Anglo Dutch firm had denied the charges and said it only wanted to secure wells that have been dormant since 1993 and its oil pipelines that crisscross Ogoniland. 

Shell had been trying in vain to mend ties with MOSOP and the wider Ogoni community ever since Saro-Wiwa's execution, which portrayed it in a bad light to many environmental and human rights groups around the world. 

Hundreds of placard-carrying villagers staged a protest against Shell in March when MOSOP said the company was trying to force its way back to Ogoniland.