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Wikileaks: Shell “Infiltrated” Nigerian Government

Ben Amunwa - Remember Ken Saro Wiwa

One diplomatic cable from the Wikileaks has sparked a public relations disaster for Shell Nigeria. Following the frontpage story in The Guardian this Thursday, Shell’s vice-like grip on Nigeria has been exposed.

The leaked cables are highly revealing. Shell executive Ann Pickard boasts about infiltrating the Nigerian government with informants, and describes how Shell “knew everything” in “the relevant ministries”. There are no surprises here for Niger Deltans, as Ogoni activist Celestine Akpobari points out:

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.

The story is having a real impact. Shell has issued strong denials, claiming that the statements made by its own executive and reported verbatim by the US Ambassador are “untrue, false and misleading”. But the cable tells a different story – it shows a company dominating a nation and abusing its power. Fifty years after “independence” from colonial rule, Nigerian government institutions are widely exposed to corporate exploitation. And both the Nigerian government and the oil multinationals should come under intense pressure for the dire consequences they have imposed on local communities.

The story also raises further questions about Shell’s complicity in ongoing human rights abuses by government security forces, corruption and the executions of Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists. Did Shell really do “everything they could” to stop these atrocities taking place? As cablegate continues, I hope we will see some more answers.

For an excellent summary of the background, watch this Al-Jazeera News broadcast:

NewsReel: all the latest coverage.

BBC World Service Newshour: (at 44 mins), [available until Dec 16 2010]

FT, Shell knew ‘everything’ in Nigerian ministries,

CNN, Cable: Shell has infiltrated Nigerian government ministries,

Radio Netherlands Worldwide: includes interview with activist Sunny Ofehe,

The Telegraph, WikiLeaks: Shell ‘knows everything’ about the Nigerian government

CBS, WikiLeaks: Shell Oil Infiltrated Nigerian Gov’t,

Daily Mail, WikiLeaks: Oil giant Shell ‘more powerful than Nigerian government’ and infiltrated every office,

Royal Dutch Shell, WikiLeaks: Royal Dutch Shell Nigerian Espionage,