Yesterday a campaign was launched, called ShellGuilty. It is intended to stop Shell’s on-going gas flaring in the Niger Delta and to campaign for justice for the Ogoni people.

The campaign highlights many of the issues that will come to trial next month in New York, in WiwavShell, including Shell being accused of complicity in Ken Saro-Wiwa’s murder.

One of the issues Ken Saro-Wiwa campaigned about was gas flaring. For years Shell has been saying that it will stop flaring in Nigeria.

For years, despite the promises, gas flaring has continued. Deadlines have come and gone like ships in the night. And still the company flares, lighting the night sky, continuously. Last year, Shell conceeded that it needed a further $6 billion to put out the flares from its 1000 wells.

So it does not look like it will be ending flaring anytime soon as it has just had its budget cut. Shell vice president for Africa, Ann Pickard said that Shell’s subsidiary in Nigeria the Shell Petroleum Development Company’s (SPDC) budget for 2009 is now just over one third of what it was three years ago.

“Unfortunately the organisation we had three years ago was designed for a 6.6-billion-dollar SPDC budget. (But) in 2009 the SPDC budget is about 2.4 billion dollars,” she said.

“We have a difficult year ahead of us,” Pickard adds. “With the drop in oil prices, our survival depends on controlling our costs,” she added. Shell’s partner in SPDC, the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), she noted, is still not in a position to finance its share of the joint ventures

This means Shell had to grant a bridging loan to NNPC in early 2009 as an interim measure. “We are trying to keep the industry sound and running, protect the assets, keep production flowing with this bridge loan … to tide us over to the future.”

All this means is that what money there is around will just try and keep the oil flowing not switch the gas flares off. But as Shell fights for its own survival in Nigeria, the communities argue it puts their’s at risk.

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