Shell: Guilty or Not Guilty?


When I read the article on Shell last week I didn’t think I had a strong commitment to one side. I realized that the article was a little bias and because of that I took everything it said with a grain of salt. But once we began class discussion I found myself consistently taking Shell’s side. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Saro Wiwa had pulled Shell into the middle of a political nightmare between the government and Ogoni people. I understood that Shell was involved in the oil business and because of this there was an element of overlap with the Nigerian government, but I had never gotten the impression that their relationship with the government was anything more than the absolute minimum. In class I had argued that Shell did not involve themselves in the politics (and according to the case this was true).

Because of this I set out on a mission this week to defend Shell and its devotion to its business practices. When I stumbled upon this blog in my research, I began to see my devotion to Shell crumble. http://2012indyinfo.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/shell-oil-paid-nigerian-military-to-put-down-protests-court-documents-show-world-news-the-guardian/ (author Laura Tyco).

Recent developments in the form of court documentation now reveal that in the 1990s Shell routinely worked with the Nigerian government and mobile police to suppress resistance to oil activity. They paid the military to stop peaceful protests and helped plan raids on villages suspected of participating in such activity. After reading this my heart sank. Evidence like this proves that Shell’s involvement with the Nigerian government was not just business. They willingly choose to involve themselves politically, and because of this I believe they should have taken a much more active role in the trials (which resulted in the execution of Saro Wiwa and others). Their decision to remain passive, in my opinion, can mean one of two things.

  1. That they agreed with the verdict to execute Saro Wiwa and other protestors.
  2. That they were too cowardly to take a position publicly against the verdict because it was not worth the risk.

Honestly, I am not sure which one is worse.

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5 Responses to Shell: Guilty or Not Guilty?

  1. KCasty says:

    I completely agree with your intitial reaction to the Shell case. While I also realized that the case was obviously presenting an overwhelming amount of evidence in Shell’s defense, I felt badly for Shell. In the case, Saro Wiwa is presented as using Shell as a pawn in its much larger scheme to capture the attention of the Nigerian government, and this explanation seemed absolutely plausible and truthful. It appeared as though Shell was doing its best to improve the community in the area through its various programs such as providing salaries for nurses and teachers. However, apparently I, along with others in the class, fell victim to not only the case’s misleading portrayal of information, but also Shell’s deception. Now that I know that Shell was indeed connected with Nigeria’s corrupt government, I have definitely changed my opinion on the matter, and while the actions of Saro Wiwa were extreme, I now understand in part why he took the actions that he did.

  2. Hey Kelly, I think this post is a great summary of Shell’s involvement in the conviction of Saro Wiwa case and poses a great question of the company’s motivations for staying silent. I had just assumed that the company was staying silent because they were too scared to speak up in fear that they would create hassle/trouble for themselves, but due to the further details you provided regarding Shell’s actions I think they may have been more actively allowing the execution of the activists.

  3. jwhite17 says:

    I definitely think that post adds a lot of value to our discussion of Shell. I had also assumed that Shell had not been underhanded in its dealings with the Nigerian government. This shows that Shell is not the innocent bystander that it claimed to be, and therefore not justified in its stance in the Saro Wiwa trials. While theoretically I think that Shell should not be involved in the proceedings of a sovereign nation, if they had used their connections in the past in underhanded manners then they should also be able to justify using them for “good” measures. I feel they were hypocritical in light of this new information.

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