“No form of society can be reasonably stable in which the majority of the people are not fairly content. People cannot be content if they feel that the foundations of their lives are wholly unstable”.- James Adams (1878 – 1949).
THAT Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, is a major stakeholder, player and partaker in the petroleum industry remains a cardinal fact. Shell is synonymous with the petroleum industry in Nigeria. It is the initium-et-finis and the locus classicus of the petroleum industry and it constitutes the structural matrix on which the petroleum sector and subsectors lie.
In 1903, seismic, geological, geophysical and engineering data acquisition, processing, detoxifications and interpretation revealed the presence of minerals in Nigeria. Oil exploration began in Nigeria in 1908. Exploration efforts were truncated in 1914 up till 1918 during the First World War. It was again punctuated in 1939 up till 1945 during the Second World War. And in 1956 before Nigeria got her independence in 1960, Shell-British Petroleum, Shell-BP, discovered oil at Oloibiri and it became commercialised in 1958.
Shell’s efficiency and modern drilling equipment complemented by other multinational oil companies immediately increased production from a mere 5,000 barrels per day in 1958 to 17,000 barrels per day. By independence in 1960, it increased astronomically to 340,000 barrels per day up till 1966. This progressive increase in production was checked in 1967 because of the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War (1967 – 1970). But by 1970 daily production had reached one million barrels per day. A peak production level of 2.6 million barrels per day was achieved during the second quarter of 1979. OPEC quota, the vagaries of price index, youth belligerency, communal riots, militancy and technical problems have led to fluctuation in production levels since 1980.
Consistent with the principles of mercantilism, Shell strove to fundamentally maximize profit through the increasing of its production levels, also to justify the joint venture partnership with the Nigeria National Petroleum Company, NNPC, which is 60-40 percent. Shell realising that it cannot be an Island unto itself got involved covertly and overtly in communal activism. This was aimed at providing amenities for the communities and areas in which it operated.
In fairness to Shell, it actually provided developmental aids in form of schools, hospitals, roads, employment, town halls and scholarships for and to the people in its areas of operations. But in the wake of the new renaissance in Warri and its environs and nay the Niger Delta, facts have come out to show that Shell is subsumed in the histrionics and deceit of multi-sectoral underdevelopment of the people and their communities.
Shell collects substantial commercial revenue but ploughs back little to the people. Shell’s exploration and exploitation has precipitated ecological devastation, bio-diversity toxicity, environmental pollution, fauna degradation and seismographic despoliation on every facet of the lives of the people.
The people are asking, what has Shell done for us? What has Shell got to show for over 46 years of its operations in our towns and villages? The youths have a right to take their destinies in their own hands, as it looks as if Shell’s Machiavellian diplomacy and its divide and rule strategy has pitched the people – Ijaws, Isokos, Urhobos, and Itsekiris against themselves. The elders against the youths, the youths against the elders and the youths against themselves, while Shell sits idly by luxuriating in the mutant scenario. The only response we got was a “relocation threat” which has been carried out, anyway.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, came into being on April 1, 1977 by a merger of the defunct Nigerian National Oil Corporation, NNOC, and the former Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources. The statutory instrument, Decree No. 33 of 1977, which established the Corporation, created a public organisation which would on behalf of the government, adequately manage all aspects of the Nigerian petroleum industry, from exploration for crude oil and natural gas, through their production to their sale as crude oil and natural gas, and refining or processing of crude oil and natural gas to produce petroleum products and other derivatives both for domestic consumption and for export.
It is also the responsibility of the NNPC to supervise the activities of oil companies and service companies operating in the Nigerian petroleum industry (both foreign and indigenous), particularly those in which government has participatory interest (Shell) and the statutory regulation of all activities of the nation’s petroleum industry. In laconic terms NNPC is the “policeman” of the petroleum industry.
To make for effective administration, NNPC (Holding Office) was compartmentalised into subsidiaries with various statutory responsibilities; some of the subsidiaries are the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Ltd., NPDC, Integrated Data Services Company Limited, IDSC, Pipelines and Products Marketing Co. Ltd, PPMC, Warri Refinery and Petrochemicals Company Ltd, WRPC, Nigerian Gas Co.,NGC, NAPIMS and Directorate of Petroleum Resources, DPR.
If NNPC and its various subsidiaries were doing or carrying out their statutory functions, Shell wouldn’t have made such egotistical calculations as divesting and relocating from Warri because of what it perceive to be a hostile working environment, which it ironically has been creating over the years. If NNPC, especially, the inspectorate and directorate units of DPR and NAPIMS, was doing its jobs, Shell wouldn’t have put Warri, its environs, environment and the totality of the Niger Delta into petulant dehumanisation and having the audacity to declare economic antagonism, masqueraded as relocation and divestment, against the people.
It actually takes two to tango and Shell will concede the obvious fact that it has been playing on the intelligence of the people. This new dawn of awareness has precipitated a recrudescence of political and economic renaissance. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Shell’s gamut of prevarications, diplomatic ventriloquisms and kangaroo dramas have turned full circle. Shell has become the Frankenstein of its own monster.
In his address to the Institute of Directors, Brian Anderson, who was until June 1997 the Managing Director of Nigeria’s Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited observed that “the world around us is changing rapidly; liberalisation, globalisation and technology are three powerful forces at the global level shaping the future.
Mr. BOBSON GBINIJE, a social critic, wrote from Warri, Delta State.