Tomorrow is the Shell AGM: the show case of the company’s year. Shell will be under fire from investors over corporate pay, but its record in Nigeria should be the real reason the company is in the spotlight.
In the Hague, the main venue for Shell’s main AGM, the oil company’s top brass will be out in force to put a gloss on the company’s recent poor financial performance.
The headlines are all about Executive pay: The Association of British Insurers has issued an “amber top” alert to its members about its concerns while one of the top 10 Shell investors has already said privately that it would vote against the company’s remuneration report.
Aside from “fat cat” oil barons, the main protests will be against Shell’s record in Nigeria. For many people executive pay is a secondary concern. At the AGM, Shell’s senior executives will have to answer charges of being complicit in environmental devastation – constant pollution and gas flaring in Nigeria.
The scrutiny of Shell’s record in Nigeria will only get worse next week, when, in a New York court room, Shell faces charges of complicity in Ken Saro-Wiwa’s murder and other abuses. This is only the first legal action Shell faces. In the Netherlands, Friends of the Earth and Nigerian plaintiffs are bringing an action over repeated oil spills in the Niger Delta.
There is no doubt that that if Saro-Wiwa was alive today, the Niger Delta would be a different place. His advocacy of non-violent protest could have stopped the descent into armed chaos. With a timing that is beyond ironic, the violence in the Delta has escalated just in time for Shell’s AGM and the trial in new York.
A spokesman for the main militant group – the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) – has warned of an impending and “all out civil war” in response to attacks over the weekend by the military.
Getting reliable information from the Delta is notoriously difficult, but the BBC are now reporting that the Ijaw National Congress claims that 1,000 civilians have been killed in the recent violence by the armed forces, who were accused of indescriminarly killing and bombing innocent civilians.
This is just more needless violence fuelled by oil, the curse of Africa. The Niger Delta, once the jewel in the Shell Group’s crown, is now it is a bleeding, bloody thorn in its side.