Wednesday, The Guardian broke the story buried in the piles of diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks of how Dutch Royal Shell boasted to the Americans that the company had infiltrated the Nigerian government, and was able to monitor the government in order to protect the company’s oil interests in Nigeria.
According to The Guardian, “... Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians' every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.
The company's top executive in Nigeria told US diplomats that Shell had seconded employees to every relevant department and so knew "everything that was being done in those ministries". She boasted that the Nigerian government had "forgotten" about the extent of Shell's infiltration and was unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations.”
After the news broke, CNN reported Shell’s spokesperson, David R.J. Williams disputed the Guardian’s article saying "The Guardian's assertion that Shell has somehow infiltrated the government of Nigeria is absolutely untrue, false and misleading."
The revelation of how deeply embedded Shell was in the Nigerian government was relayed from Shell’s Vice President, Anne Pickard to US Envoy to Nigeria, Robin Sanders last year, reported UPI. The Nigerian government has said the revelations were simply an opinion, not the truth.
African activists say the leaked cable demonstrates Shell’s iron grip on Nigeria’s vast crude petroleum resources, reported All Africa. Celestine AkpoBari, a Programme Officer for Social Action Nigeria told All Africa, "Shell and the government of Nigeria are two sides of the same coin. Shell is everywhere. They have an eye and an ear in every ministry of Nigeria. They have people on the payroll in every community, which is why they get away with everything. They are more powerful than the Nigerian government."
Dr. Levi Ajuonoma, speaking for Nigeria’s National Petroleum Corporation told All Africa "Shell does not control the government of Nigeria and has never controlled the government of Nigeria. This cable is the mere interpretation of one individual. It is absolutely untrue, an absolute falsehood and utterly misleading. It is an attempt to demean the government and we will not stand for that. I don't think anybody will lose sleep over it."
Some analysts have said instability in Africa has deterred business interests, Nigeria, no stranger to such tumult, has attracted Shell said George Jedrzej Frynas in a paper published in 1998, because Nigeria offered the company higher profits than other African nations. While Shell also enjoyed “a dominant market position” in the country, Fryer noted “...the structural perspective illuminates the interconnectedness of Shell with state structures in Nigeria that may tie the company to Nigeria. Shell established a first mover advantage in the 1950s, since Nigeria was a British colony until 1960 and British oil companies were given preferential treatment. After independence, Shell managed to penetrate state structures which helped to hedge political risk in the country.
Shell’s continued insistence in drilling crude petroleum in Nigeria has been the source of global controversy, particularly after the families of nine Nigerian anti-oil activists sued the company for violating human rights, reported BBC. Saying the company had done nothing wrong, the corporation settled with the families out of court, paying out $15.5 million in compensation. The nine activists had been put to death by the Nigerian government.
According to Amnesty International, Shell began drilling for oil in Nigeria in 1956. The corporation now operates on over 31,000 kilometers of land in the country. Amnesty said “The oil and gas sector represents 97 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange revenues and contributes 79.5 per cent of government revenues.” The Amnesty report goes on to state, “The oil industry in the Niger Delta comprises both the government of Nigeria and subsidiaries of multinational companies such as Shell, Eni, Chevron, Total and ExxonMobil, as well as some Nigerian companies.”
The Guardian had received the information as part of a new release of embassy cables obtained by Wikileaks.
The Guardian, WikiLeaks cables: Shell's grip on Nigerian state revealed: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/dec/08/wikileaks-cables-shell-nigeria-spying
All Africa, http://allafrica.com/stories/201012090118.html
BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8090493.stm
Amnesty International, NIGERIA: PETROLEUM, POLLUTION AND POVERTY IN THE NIGER DELTA: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR44/017/2009/en/e2415061-da5c-44f8-a73c-a7a4766ee21d/afr440172009en.pdf