So Shell’s finally been given its marching orders by the Nigerian Government, after many bloody years of pollution, repression and conflict with local communities.
The Nigerian President announced the decision last night, having given up trying to broker a peace deal between the despised oil company and the traumatised locals. ‘There is’, said President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, ‘a total loss of confidence between Shell and the Ogoni people’ so the multinational must pack its bags and leave before 2009.
I can’t help but wonder whether this summary ejection may also have been prompted by the company’s somewhat cheeky demand of US$3bn in order to meet the Nigerian Government’s deadline of stopping gas flaring by the end of the year. Surely the company should be paying to minimise its own pollution? Especially since it’s not short of a bob or two: Shell smashed the British record for company profits last year, making a not-so-cool $27.5billion.
But let’s see the bigger picture. Good riddance to Shell. The multinational has brought nothing but misery to the region. The Nigerian Government is promising that the company will simply be replaced by ‘another operator acceptable to the Ogonis’. Who knows how much choice the Ogonis will be given in practice, especially as Nigeria produces a dizzying 2 million barrels of the skyrocketing black stuff a day. I wonder if an ‘acceptable’ oil company even exists?
But I’m an optimist, and so right now I’m enjoying imagining that this could be a glimmer of a chance for the Ogoni people to resist the entry of a new tormentor and begin the long task of reclaiming their environment…