Julius lhonvbere ALAN POGUE ernment that depends eighty-five to ninety percent on oil revenues. And Shell is the biggest of the oil companies. It was into a partnership with the Nigerian National Oil Corporation, the NNPC…. So Shell could have stopped this whole thing degenerating right at the beginning. They had a meeting with Ken Saro-Wiwa at one point. They asked him to present a list of demands, which he did. Then they did not respond to it. So it is not as if MOSOP [the Movement for Survival of the Ogoni People] was not ready to negotiate with Shell. They were ready to negotiate with Shell. In fact, the whole purpose of MOSOP was to negotiate with Shell and get some compensation to rectify the damages that had been done for decades. So when they were arrested and jailed for such a long time, Shell was in a position to pressure the government to say that this wasn’t good for business. “It’s going to create a bad image ‘ for us internationally. It’s going to affect our operations. I think you should let him go. We will dialogue, we will negotiate.” They would have been able to reach some agreement with themsomething that would have cost them much less than what they are losing since they haven’t been producing oil in Ogoniland. Is there anything that would suggest that Shell was aware the Abacha regime was going to come to power? I don’t have any evidence that they were aware that this government was going to come to power. But like any major corporation in a very unstable political environment, I assume that they would have done their political risk analysis of Nigeria. And any person who took a careful look at the structure of the Nigerian military in 1993 could easily project it….It was in the papers. Before he came to power it was published that Abacha was going to carry out the coup….Shell has not distanced itself from the government. It has given full support to the government. And the letter from [Major] Okuntimo to the state governor clearly demonstrateswhen he called for more inputs from the oil companies, financial inputs to facilitate the operations; when they talked in April about the need for ruthless military operations to ensure the continual operation of the oil companiesthe linkage [was made] between oil interests and the attacks on these communities. On the simplest level, the government would not be there if it were not for the oil companies? That is true. Shell has ninety-five oil wells in Ogoniland. It is not the only place they produce oil in Nigeria, but the difference is that Ogoniland was the first place where Shell and the government confronted an articulate, mobilized, organized and visible opposition to environmental abuse. It was also the first community in Nigeria where the oil companies and the Nigerian government confronted a popular leadership that had international visibility. Because the internationalization of the Ogoni crisis was a significant embarrassment to the government. Is the tactic of internationalizing domestic conflicts that have international implications a model that will be used more? And isn’t that what is happening with FreeportMcMoRan? There is no doubt that given the end of the Cold War and the increase in globalization in the world economyas well as the new disposition of the developed countries and international NGOs towards democracy, empowerment, accountability, good gover nance, transparency in governmentinternationalizing a struggle would be one of the easiest ways to get governments to behave…. With all its repression in Malawi, [the government] could close the radio station, it could ban the newspaper, but it couldn’t control the fax machines. People have learned in many parts of the world what I tell my students: That there is a significant difference between the American government and the American people. The American government always knows the truth, but prefers to stay away from the truth until it is impossible to [avoid it]….But the American people, if they know and if they can break through the barriers of narrow and filtered information you get from the major media houses, which don’t tell you what is going on, they have always responded positively. Do you thing the U.S. will establish an oil embargo? It will eventually have to, because, the choice is very clear. The U.S. either does it now or very soon it will be sending fifty thousand or a hundred thousand American soldiers to Nigeria. And Somalia will seem like child’s play, compared to what is going to happen in Nigeria. Because a single ethnic group in Nigeriatake the Yorubashas the financial capacity to mobilize ten times the firepower of all the warlords in Somalia. They have money, they have international connections, this is a large community….When the U.S. eventually intervenes, it will cost it much much more, in terms of lives and money, to restore order there. It’s cheaper and easier to do it now. Shell International has sent us descriptions of schools they have built and other public works projects funded by the oil companies. How much of that have you seen? I don’t deny that there a few things the company is trying to do. But what we have to measure is whatever they have done in these communities has come through a lot of struggle. I cannot remember them doing anything without communities either sabotaging their installations, women demonstrating, young people taking over their plants, their offices, elites threatening court actions, engaging in some action which would embarrass the government and the 10 JANUARY 12, 1996
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