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DELTA #3 7/12
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- Date: Sat, 1 Nov 1997 23:51:12 GMT
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Resolution 10, the shareholder resolution presented to Shell's AGM to
improve the company's performance and accountability on environmental and
human rights issues, was surprisingly victorious in its defeat. The Board
recommended voting against the Resolution, put forward by the Ecumenical
Council for Corporate Responsibility and backed by the Pensions and
Investment Research Consultants, PIRC, on the grounds that only it can be
responsible for policy. and its monitoring.
The ECCR had called for a director to be appointed to implement
environmental policy, that there should be internal procedures to monitor
policy and external review and audit of policy, and funally that there
should be regular reports to shareholders on the above and on Nigeria. 5% of
the total shareholding voted for the Resolution. And it wasn't just one or
two 'responsible' investors and a few dozen single shareholders who voted
for it: 17% of the company didn't support the board.
Media coverage of the Resolution was excellent. The Times wrote 'Shell wins
vote but loses ground to green lobby' and in the Netherlands even
conventional shareholders present at the meeting backed Milieudefensie and
so it was clear to the press who had won.
Institutions which would normally have deferred to the Board had discussions
with the company The process of the Resolution strengthened those within
the company and in other companies that want change for the better, with
environmental and human rights issues on the agenda.
An open letter addressed to shareholders and signed by dozens of
environmental and human rights groups worldwide called on Shell to help free
the Ogoni 20 and to cancel plans to drill appraisal wells on the land of the
Kugapakori and Nuhua peoples. It demanded an end to its efforts to resume
operations in Ogoni, and a suspension of work in Peru.
An Independent Annual Report was launched at the AGM by Project Underground
and Rainforest Action Network. Titled 'Human Rights and Environmental
Operations Information on the Royal Dutch / Shell Group of Companies', and
covering Nigeria and Peru, the report details the gap between Shell's PR
spin and the reality on the ground. For Nigeria, it examines the
environmental impact of the company, with new data on oil contamination of
water, and addresses community manipulation, activist coercion, and the
nature of the Shell Police.
Business principles in the air
In March Shell issued a new set of business principles that called for
respect of human rights "in line with the legitimate role of business."
Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) wrote that it remains
sceptical about Shell's new General Business Principles as long as the
company rejects independent monitoring of its environmental performance. It
quoted the newly-published Environmental Rights Action monitor report, which
evidenced that Shell's practice in Nigeria lags far behind its promises.
Details of exactly how Shell will act according to its principles, and how
it will monitor this, were hazy.
Double high standards
Despite a humiliating defeat for the Tory Party in Britain this May, it is
clear that capitalism will continue for the immediate future. The incoming
Labour Party believes that an ethical foreign policy is consistent with
industrialism and the profit motive. On the day that he announced a 12-point
'ethical foreign policy', Foreign Secretary Robin Cook also gave the
go-ahead for the sale of Hawk jets to the Indonesian regime for use in East
Timor. Arms fairs selling torture equipment are also allowed to continue
despite massive protests.
Former chair of BP Lord Simon is now Minister for Competitiveness in Europe
in a fairytale wedding of corporate and government interests. Growing
environmental awareness in the 'West' has brought individuals and groups
together with a common aim to help extricate culture from the clutches of
the unsustainable fossil fuel industry. Several grassroots gatherings have
started to bring an appreciation of the industry's strategic role, and a
growing number of actions are challenging it. Larger groups such as
Greenpeace are fighting the corporations at the Atlantic frontier and
pushing for an end to the fossil fuel age itself. Many have a strategic
focus on the forthcoming Climate Change Conference in Kyoto, Japan, this
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The Pace Environmental Law Network has made public for the first time the
environmental laws of Nigeria. The details can be found at:
Fortune magazine's list of the world's 500 biggest companies showed that the
most profitable company on the list was Anglo-Dutch 'oil colossus' Royal
Dutch/Shell Group, which earned $8.9 billion on $128.2 billion in revenues.
All new Shell men
Jennings has been replaced by Moody-Stuart as Chairman, and Anderson leaves
Nigeria to Van den Berg.
THE GRAND TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY
It seems that Abacha's promise to the world to hand over to civilian rule
very soon may not have been genuine after all. He has tampered with the
timetable of the transition process to help ensure his self-succession as
civilian president or to provide time for whatever else he may be planning.
Elections for governorship have been postponed till October 1998, when
presidential elections are supposed to take place, while those for the
legislature are scheduled for December 1997.
All pro-democracy activists and opposition parties say that the transition
program is a farce. Ayo Obe, president of the Civil Liberties Organisation
said, "The entire transition programme is a sham," copying previous
transition programs that got nowhere. Former US ambassador to Nigeria,
Walter Carrington, noted how amazing it is that in the most politically
dynamic country in Africa there is no-one willing to stand against Abacha.
The general has the power to dissolve any of the political parties which
will stand 'against' him (they are his parties but there is the risk of
disobedience) and can sack any elected government chairman. "He gives
himself new powers whenever he feels like it to make sure he is fully
provided for," said a spokesperson for the Democratic Alternative.
Government sponsored rallies are taking place, diligently reported by the
official media, especially state television, and front groups have been set
up to support the process (one enthusiastic group is called 'Youth Earnestly
Ask For Abacha 98'). All government ministers and a growing number of chiefs
from around the country have been pledging their loyalty for Abacha, saying
he can successfully "unify the military and civilian constituencies". Just
after his release from detention in April, former oil minister Dan Etiebet
changed his politics and declared support for the party likely to put the
new president forward, the growing United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP), and
several other potential rivals have also agreed not to stand against him.
Politician and minister of transport in the Second Republic, Alhaji Umar
Dikko, said in August, "I will support Abacha any time, any day".
There are still some opponents and former colleagues of Abacha who are
openly against his plans, however.
Exactly what other soldiers want is not clear, and although at the end of
September army leaders pledged support for Abacha if he decides to seek
election next year as a civilian, he certainly does not have full support
for civilian president from this crucial constituency (Nigeria has had more
coups than any other country). To hold on to power instead of handing over
to a democratically-elected civilian government (difficult when an estimated
7000 political opponents are in prison), he could set up a 'national
security Council' made up of senior officers to supervise 'further
transition' to civilian rule, set up a transitional government, perhaps even
with Abiola as head, or even set up a government of national unity.
Whichever approach is used, the choice no doubt depends on his analysts'
view of the most successful way to try and neutralise opponents and divert
calls for sanctions as he consolidates a different form of rule.
During the 1993 Guardian Lecture in Lagos, Claude Ake said, "It is difficult
to think of anything that the military can usefully do to promote democracy
or development except to disengage from politics." This sentiment was echoed
in a New York Times editorial on August 6 this year: "Nigeria's military
will find it easy to contribute to democracy at home. It need only go back
to its barracks."
At the grassroots in Nigeria, support for the transition process was shown
graphically in major towns of Osun State where not one registration for the
new voters' register was recorded. In Lagos and in Oyo State, officials
recruited by Necon, the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria, did not
even turn up for work.
Catholic bishops at their September conference in Oyo, Akwa Ibom state,
criticised military intervention in politics and told Abacha not to contest
next year's presidential poll. The general can easily weather comments by
bishops, but his plot to succeed himself may be thwarted by action taken at
a much higher level: the Anglican Bishop of Akure told journalists in August
that "Abacha's candidature will not be approved by God".
In July in the US, the Nigerian government's corporate-backed 'Vision 2010'
committee gathered Nigerian apologists to plan strategies for redeeming
Nigeria's external image. But relations with the US and other countries have
been strained. Walter Carrington, then US ambassador in Nigeria, criticised
Nigeria's human rights and transition program. Abacha said his
administration was "absolutely perplexed and confused at the attitude of the
American government", and a few days later decided it wanted Carrington's
diplomatic immunity withdrawn in order to question him over the many bomb
blasts that have hit Nigeria. Just before a meeting between the Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group, CMAG, and Nigerian dissidents in London in July,
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook also criticised Nigeria's lack of democracy,
human rights abuses and corruption, and recommended that its suspension from
the Commonwealth should continue. The Nigerian government replied that such
comments were "hostile and definitely unhelpful to the improvement of
relations." Then, angry at South Africa's role in "anti-Nigerian propaganda"
at the Commonwealth, Nigeria's information minister Dr Walter Ofonagoro
called South Africa "a white country with a black head of state", enraging
the African National Congress.
In an interview with the Financial Times as the CMAG meeting began in July,
the Foreign Office minister responsible for Africa, Tony Lloyd, said that
Britain would not accept a victory by Abacha unless flaws in the poll
process were remedied. "At the moment it is flawed. We know that the process
of establishment of political parties has been so one-sided as to guarantee
that there will be one serious candidate...[resulting in] the transition of
General Abacha to President Abacha. We cannot accept that." A wide
registration of parties was required for the transition program, he said.
"If the international community had supported action against Nigeria when
the opposition movement called for it then this military junta wouldn't have
stabilised as much as it has," said Oche Onyeagucha from the Democratic
Alternative. Although the CMAG meeting resulted in no specific further
measures against Nigeria, the opposition used the opportunity to call for
more pressure: "Concerted action by the international community, and by this
I mean real sanctions, can bring about the desired effect," said Senator
Abraham Adesanya, acting chairman of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO).
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this October in
Edinburgh, opposition groups are calling for continuing suspension of
Nigeria from the Commonwealth, or outright expulsion. Nigeria has violated
all the conditions set by the Commonwealth in 1995 to avoid expulsion,
including reaching democracy within two years. Ledum Mittee, acting
president of MOSOP, toured major Commonwealth countries in August and
pressed for action. But Nigerian opposition groups have complained that the
Commonwealth bodies hardly listens to them: CMAG, for example, refused to
meet them while in Nigeria. Activists also note that the ousted Sierra Leone
president is participating at CHOGM while the president-elect of Nigeria,
M.K.O. Abiola, still languishes in jail. They complain that the
international community is happy to support Nigerian-led ECOMOG troops
backing the people against military coupists in Sierra Leone while Nigerian
opposition groups, fighting their own illegal military regime, receive very
little support. Perhaps Shell knows the answer.
One body which formerly abstained from comment has found the courage to
speak out. Africa Confidential reported on July 4 that at the June summit of
the Organisation for African Unity in Harare "OAU Chairman Robert Mugabe
replied [to a host of questions about Sierra Leone] by denouncing coups
everywhere, emphasising that OAU support for peacekeeping in Sierra Leone
did not mean support for Nigeria's undemocratic regime. Even some West
African governments, usually respectful of Nigeria, pointed to the
discrepancy between peacekeeping and Nigeria's own record on human rights
and democracy." Mugabe added that "The Continental Body has not accepted all
that is happening in Nigeria and is monitoring the transition process."
The Joint Assembly of the European Union and the African-Carribean-Pacific
Organisation (ACP-EU) has also spoken out. Meeting in March, it condemned
the Abacha regime, called once again for an oil embargo, and urged the
Commonwealth to exclude Nigeria from its next summit.
Opposition to the Nigerian regime has been growing at many levels in the
United States, the greatest consumer of Nigerian oil.
On June 4, US Republican Donald Payne introduced HR 1786, 'The Nigeria
Democracy Act' into the US Congress to impose the first economic sanctions
against the regime. In addition to endorsing the limited sanctions already
imposed by the Clinton administration, the bill would also ban new US
corporate investment in Nigeria until there is real progress towards
democracy. The bill's other key provisions include:
*A ban on U.S. arms sales
*Denial of visas to member of the military government
*A ban on direct air travel between the U.S. and Nigeria
*Denial of U.S. economic aid except for human rights and democracy programs
*A freeze on the personal assets of members of the regime
*US opposition to loans from the IMF and the World Bank
The American Committee on Africa welcomed the bill, with ACOA President Rev.
Wyatt Tee Walker saying, "There can be no business-as-usual with a regime
that is brutalising 100 million African people." By the end of September the
Bill had 37 co-sponsors (31 Democrats and 6 Republicans).
The Nigerian government, in conjunction with Shell, lobbied hard to defeat
similar legislation in the last Congress. The Washington Post reported that
Nigeria spent more than $10 million in the US on lobbying and public
relations efforts in the year following the execution of the Ogoni Nine. At
the beginning of this year, the head of Conoco calledon the oil industry to
wage a major political push to change US sanctions policy, and the group USA
Engage, a coalition of US companies, trade groups and think tanks, was soon
set up to lobby against unilateral sanctions.
The 1000 member US conference of mayors passed a resolution at their annual
conference in San Francisco in July calling for Nigeria's military
government to restore democracy, respect human rights and release political
A national advocacy day for Nigerian democracy was organised in
mid-September by The International Roundtable on Nigeria (IRTON), a
coalition of environmental, human rights, labour, religious, African
American and Nigerian democracy organisations. The groups met in Washington
DC to demand a return to democracy, an end to human rights violations and an
end to environmental devastation in Nigeria. They briefed people about the
Nigeria Democracy Act and lobbied the US Congress to take a strong stand on
By early October the Clinton administration was looking at the possibility
of further sanctions - but not the oil embargo which would make a
significant difference. US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, speaking
from Africa, said, "I think we'll be starting a round of consultations with
Commonwealth countries and our European allies to see if we can find support
for taking further action.'' Nigeria Today reported that earlier this year
the United States was discussing with African countries and European allies
in a bid to apply targeted collective sanctions against Nigeria but was told
that was "not the right time," according to a senior US official.
In May, city sanctions against Nigeria were adopted by Amhurst and Cambridge
in Massachusetts. The sanctions restrict city business with companies that
deal with Nigeria. New Orleans, New York, Oakland and St Loius have also
adopted ordinances and resolutions to the same effect. Jennifer Davis of The
Africa Fund said that "City sanctions against apartheid helped bring freedom
to South Africa. Now city sanctions can support the Nigerian people in their
struggle for democracy."
In 1989 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against Vancouver's resolution to
exclude Shell Canada from city contracts over the apartheid issue, causing
problems for many city government who wanted to support democracy in South
Africa. This year the City of North Vancouver discussed not buying Shell
products and informally instructed it's staff, leaving nothing for Shell to
challenge. Shell Canada held an exclusive contract of $3m to supply gas and
diesel fuel to the City of Vancouver which expired on May 31, 1997. It was
not renewed, due in part to intensive lobbying from the Ogoni Solidarity
Shell suffered a lot of negative publicity when the City of Oakland Council
became the first city in the US to pass binding sanctions against the
Nigerian regime last year. The company tried to bribe its way into the
public's good books this summer by trying to give over $2m for training at
City of Oakland Unified School. Activists lobbied against the proposal and
although the School postponed its decision it later accepted the funding.
At the same time the City of Berkeley passed a selective purchasing law
requiring it to stop doing business with businesses invested in Nigeria,
namely Shell, Mobil and Chevron.
The County of Alameda in California unanimously adopted a selective
purchasing and divestment resolution against Nigeria on September 30. The
Free Nigeria Movement, who have supported such sanctions across the US,
report that unconfirmed estimates value the direct economic impact of the
Alameda sanctions as somewhere in the range of $200 million and above in
lost revenue." Especially affected are Coca-Cola, Chevron, Shell and
Motorola. Alameda County includes the cities of Berkeley and Oakland.
A debate about boycotts has been seen locally and nationally as a result of
the above successes. Education of the public through churches, schools, the
media and several new Ogoni Freedom Centres is also building the foundations
for pressuring the US and Canadian governments into serious action.
Heavily armed police burst into a party being held in honour of outgoing US
ambassador Walter Carrington at the end of September, threatening to shoot
one speaker and ordering the foreign guests, including Carrington, to leave.
It was "the most surrealistic experience I have had here yet," he said. "The
leader of the police unit could be heard saying loudly on his hand-held
radio, 'Sir, we have located the place, the US ambassador is here, and we
are going to break up the meeting.'" Earlier squads of riot police had
stopped the ambassador entering the original venue and human rights and
pro-democracy groups had been forced to change location.
Police appeared while Senator Abraham Adesanya, acting chair of NADECO, was
speaking. They snatched the microphone from him and pointed guns at those
present, according to Nigerian newspapers. "Shoot us, shoot if you dare!''
Chief Gani Fawehinmi is reported to have screamed at the police. South
African High Commissioner George Nene said, "South Africa never had it this
The US filed a 'strong protest', which led not to an apology but to the
Nigerian minister for special presidential affairs, Alhaji Wada Nas,
verbally attacking Carrington. Agence France-Presse reported the Minister as
saying, "His stay in Nigeria must be described as four years of waste during
which nothing was accomplished between the two countries in economic,
cultural, or political terms." (He must have forgotten that the US buys 40%
of Nigeria's oil.)
Carrington replied that "This is a country that I have been coming to since
1959, so I have been able to see the years of boom and bust here," he said.
"This is a country richer in human resources than almost any place I can
think of, and it is rich in natural resources too. And yet Nigeria is a
country ranked by the United Nations as one of the poorest places in the
world, and ranked by some as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
"As a black American, this deeply saddens me. This is a place that should be
one of the leading countries in the world. But until they are able to
resolve the problem of allowing the people to choose their leaders
democratically, I am afraid they are not going to be able to realise this
The Nigerian ambassador for the US eventually apologised but by October a
new resolution condemning the treatment of Carrington and calling for
increased sanctions was introduced by the US Congress.
Within the same week 100 armed police stormed a party in Lagos being held to
celebrate the birthday of detained human rights campaigner Frederick
Fasehun, chair of the Campaign for Democracy.
Ayo Obe of the Civil Liberties Organisation said ''The group of policemen
who broke up the receptions included a recently formed squad set up to deal
with violent crimes. But they are being used as a political weapon." Chief
Gani Fawehinmi criticised the action and noted that "Sani Abacha had his own
birthday party yesterday and no one disrupted it. I see no reason why this
party should be disrupted."
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