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16/3/01...Woodside take-over: Nigerian refugee tells 'Shell's domination, puppeteering govt, murder'

Friday 16th March 2001 - News release

Woodside take-over: Nigerian refugee tells

'Shell's domination of industry, puppeteering of govt, rampant pollution, political murders'

Today Friends of the Earth, Sydney released a statement from a political refugee "Mary" who has fled oppression by the Shell military-industrial complex in Nigeria.

Mary's statement identifies Shell as a corporate criminal involved in massive destruction of farmland in her homeland in the Niger Delta by way of oil pollution. Mary tells of Shell's funding and supply of weapons to the puppet Nigerian government. Mary tells of Shell's complicity in the murder of subsistence farmers and political opponents of the oil pollution.

Nigeria provides a history lesson for Australia as to the corporate culture of Shell and its disgraceful drive for profits at any cost. For instance:

* Like Australia's north west shelf, in the early stages in Nigeria there were 6 or 7 roughly equal industry stakeholders until Shell swallowed up 90% of the oil industry;

* Like Australia Shell gradually moved in over years with clever corporate PR claiming to work for the "national interest" until the government was economically dependent. Shell then moved to puppeteer local politics using its US$300 billion in global assets to crush political sovereignty;

* Like Australia, Shell constantly claims to be environmentally and socially sensitive despite regular pollution events. Pollution here doesn't compare yet with the Niger Delta but we've had a foretaste in Sydney Harbour (300,000 litre oil spill Shell chartered ship 3/8/99, Neptune Dorada ship of shame oil leak from Australia across Pacific to San Francisco 23rd Sept 2000.)

More contact: 0410 558838

Interview between Friends of the Earth (FoE) and "Mary" a political refugee from Nigeria, March 2001.

[Mary's real name has been changed for her own safety and the safety of her family in Nigeria. Her family has already suffered extreme violence. For similar reasons the actual date and location(s) of the interviewer and interviewee are omitted.]

FoE: You've seen the news about Shell's controversial takeover of Woodside in the Australian press recently. What do you make of it?
Mary: this cartoon is a very good one. [shows the Shell "crocodile" biting the Woodside "kangaroo"] Shell will swallow up the whole thing. It will even lose money to begin with to do this. Then begin to do their exploitation. Become only one or the major company exploiting the oil and gas. Then become very political by funding parties and candidates. In countries where there is no democracy they fund the military.
FoE: They do this in Nigeria?
Mary: Yes. They encourage the military. Fund coups. Indirectly they do this by guise of protecting their own installations and buying weapons. These become weapons of oppression.
FoE: How do you know this besides coming from Nigeria and being a refugee?
Mary: Soldiers have confessed and Shell itself admit they import arms into Nigeria.
FoE: Why did you flee your home country?
Mary: No political power is possible there anymore. Under instructions from Shell anyone who is a threat is destroyed. Because I and others were against their oil operation in our domain - because of the attendant dire environmental consequences - I had to leave.
FoE: Can you give an example of environmental damage?
Mary: Massive oil spillages. Poisonous gases at .......
FoE: What region generally is that in Nigeria?
Mary: The Niger Delta.
FoE: In one place?
Mary: No there is a whole list. Happening 3 or 4 times a year. Every 3 months on average. Very consistent. Sometimes a flood would even go into a house, flood a bedrom 3 feet high. There would be no measures of removing the oil spill. Only to set it on fire, forming a thick crust one to two metres thick.
FoE: The Shell people doing this, are they local people or foreigners?
Mary: lower down they are local Nigerians, but higher up were people from outside.
FoE: For how many years has this been going on that you know of?
Mary: My whole life [Mary is a full grown adult.]
FoE: What about a democratic country like Australia? It couldn't happen here, could it?
Mary: No doubt, under various different guises, Shell would do bad things. There would be sponsorships of parties and donations to campaign funds, sponsorship of sporting activities, look at them in the Olympics. They have so much money. When they put in big money like that, they manipulate the government. The government won't be able to formulate and implement 100 per cent People orientated policies.
FoE: For the Australian People?
Mary: That's right. They will pretend to be very environmentally conscious. There will be environmental projects and scholarships and they will organise conferences.
FoE: As a cover?
Mary: Yeah. Pretend to be conscious of their environmental impact.
FoE: Do they spread propaganda to the rest of the population in Nigeria?
Mary: Yes.
FoE: How big is the whole population?
Mary: 120 or 130 million.
FoE: So large sections of Nigeria are misled about this environmental damage?
Mary: Yeah
FoE: I know your family has suffered greatly. Is your family the only one or are there other families and friends that have suffered violence?
Mary: There is no family that didn't suffer - only the severity varied. Killed, lost property - farm land.
FoE: These are farming people?
Mary: Yes, ancestral land. Their land for hundreds of years. Before ever oil was known, oil was only discovered in the early 1950's. It was first developed in 1958 I think. Now its the whole Niger Delta, even into the towns and on the the roads.
FoE: Why are there so many spills in the Niger Delta?
Mary: Shell operate differently to other countries. They want to maximise profit. This means they operate below acceptable environmental standards. The equipment is used for years and years. It's very old and not replaced. Secondly when they filter the oil all the gases are put straight into the atmosphere. The gases are burnt straight into the atmosphere.
FoE: How do you cope with all this painful experience?
Mary: When there is so much damage and you are completely powerless you can choose to accept ....
FoE: And take positive steps over time?
Mary: Otherwise there is enough for a whole lifetime of despair. You have a choice.
FoE: There's other oil companies besides Shell in Nigeria - do they act the same way, do they take their cue from Shell?
Mary: There are 6 or 7 others but Shell has 90 per cent of the land with oil. Shell licence and allow other companies to create a better impression. The other companies are marginal. They have only 10 per cent. They just make enough to keep their business going.
FoE: Was this always the case?
Mary: No, Shell had to have control.
FoE: In Australia, the north west shelf has several other industry stakeholders. Will Shell do that here too?
Mary: Of course.
FoE: Did you know Shell in Sydney has pipes to the airport and also supplies fuel to the local, state and federal governments here?
Mary: That's important. At the moment petrol prices are affecting the peoples attitude to the government. If they want to get rid of the government they will put the price up so the people are unhappy. If they want to keep the government they will put the price down - even run at a loss so the people like them.

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