In the Hague and London today the faceless shareholders of Royal Dutch Shell will gather for their AGM delighted, no doubt, by profits up 54 per cent and earnings of £18 billion last year. Wonderful.
So how exactly can they not justify sorting out the mess their pipelines have made of the Niger Delta? We’re not talking about some small area of land. It’s about the same size of Scotland and was once a beautiful wetland.
In the 50 years of Shell’s operations, there have been thousands upon thousands of oil spills. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), more than 60 per cent of the people in the region depend on the natural environment for their livelihood. Fish, which remains the staple of the villagers’ diet, have been poisoned, the air has a stench of oil, and the water is stained black from the pollution. Hundreds of thousands of people are affected; many have been pushed deeper into poverty as a direct consequence of the oil pollution.
And now the great and good have sprung to action. Renowned Nigerian musician Femi Kuti has an opinion piece in today’s Times, where he talks about his own memories of the Niger Delta. Patricia Clarkson, of Six Feet Under and The Green Mile fame, has aired her concerns as well. And then of course there was the star of Hotel Rwanda, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, who was in the Mail yesterday livid with the oil giant’s behaviour. All of them are calling on Shell to own up, pay up and clean up. And it’s easy for you to add your own voice, just sign our online petition.
Meanwhile, we’re also keeping a keen eye on what the UK government has been up to in the US. As the Financial Times reports today, it looks like they have been intervening on Shell’s behalf on a US case involving human rights abuses in the Niger Delta. What exactly they are up to and why is far from clear. That’s why we’ve sent off a bunch of freedom of information requests. So watch this space on that one.
Anyway, all that makes a nice back drop for today’s Shell AGM and we’re expecting some difficult questions to come from the floor. Let’s hope the Board listens.
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