"There is a total loss of confidence between Shell and the Ogoni people", and so "another operator acceptable to the Ogonis will take over. Nobody is gaining from the conflict and stalemate, so this is the best solution..."In a stunning move that is sure to gain the goodwill of the Niger Delta, President Yar'Adua announced that Shell will no longer operate in Ogoniland. Yar'Adua announced this information while talking to a gathering of members of the Nigerian community in South Africa. The Ogoni people, who witnessed environmental and health devastation as a result of oil operations in their region, have hailed this announcement and are in support of Yar'Adua's decision. The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), a group of which the late-great Ken Saro Wiwa was a member and key leader, called the announcement, "a bold step that stands the brightest chance of quickening the resumption of oil activities in Ogoni."
- Nigerian President, Umaru Yar'Adua
Shell abandoned its oil fields in Ogoniland in 1993 due to the irreparable relationship between the company and the people of the land who protested the companies operations. The Nigerian Government has repeatedly told the company to resume work in the area, but it has refused. The government even threatened to withdraw the company's operating license if it did not resume operations by the end of May 2008. Consequently, those oil fields will soon be controlled by a new company which Yar'Adua says will be announced by the end of the year. Once this new story broke, Shell informed the media that it was not informed of this decision.
A GOOD SIGN
I personally believe that this move by President Yar'Adua is a positive sign of good faith to show to not just the Ogoni or the Niger Delta, but the entire nation of Nigeria that this administration will not only listen to the people but will also do what is necessary to solve the problematic unrest of that very important region.
When Yar'Adua became President, he offered an olive branch to the Delta and it was well received, resulting in a ceasefire announcement from MEND which I hailed at the time. That move by Yar'Adua spurred a tremendous amount of hope in Nigerians of all ages, tribes, religions and political leanings. I daresay that this current announcement and the support it has received from Ogoniland, MOSOP and apparent Yar'Adua spokesperson, Ken Saro Wiwa, Jr. will also serve to provide hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that in due time there will be a halt in the rash of violence that has held the Delta, and the entire nation, hostage.
ANOTHER GOOD SIGN
I am hearing that the United Nations will indeed release Nigerian born Ibrahim Gambari to head the special Niger Delta Summit Steering Committee. This should further convince all necessary parties to the issues of the Niger Delta that this administration plans to address the problems decisively.
I, for one, extend a hearty hand clap to Yar'Adua for taking a step that from a first glance reinforces his administration's commitment to the protection of average Nigerians and their interests. On this day, with regard to the Niger Delta, there are nothing but good signs.
Hattip to Dr. U for the heads up on this story.
UPDATE (6/23): It appears that Gazprom and some Chinese oil companies are in the running to replace Shell in Ogoniland.
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