WikiLeaks Exposes Shell in Nigeria
Shell claimed it had planted staff in all the main ministries of the Federal Government of Nigeria, giving it access to politicians’ every move in the Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable published by the Guardian of London today.
Shell’s top executive in Nigeria told US diplomats that Shell had seconded employees to every relevant department and so knew “everything that was being done in those ministries”.
She also reportedly boasted that the government had “forgotten” about the extent of Shell’s infiltration and were unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations.
The cache of secret dispatches from Washington’s embassies in Africa also revealed that the Anglo-Dutch oil firm swapped intelligence with the US, in one case providing US diplomats with the names of Nigerian politicians it suspected of supporting
militant activity, and requesting information from the US on whether the militants had acquired anti-aircraft missiles.
Cables from Nigeria show how Ann Pickard, then Shell’s vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa, sought to share intelligence with the US government on militant activity and business competition in the contested Niger Delta and how, with some prescience, she seemed reluctant to open up because of a suspicion the US government was “leaky”. But that did not prevent Pickard disclosing the company’s reach into the Nigerian government when she met US ambassador Robin Renee Sanders, as recorded in a confidential memo from the US embassy in Abuja on 20 October 2009.
At the meeting, Pickard related how the company had obtained a letter showing that the Nigerian government had invited bids for oil concessions from China. She said the minister of state for petroleum resources, Odein Ajumogobia, had denied the letter had been sent but Shell knew similar correspondence had taken place with China and Russia.
According to the British newspaper, the ambassador reported: “She said the GON [government of Nigeria] had forgotten that Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries.”
Pickard also said Shell had learned from the British government details of Russian energy company Gazprom’s ambitions to enter the Nigerian market. In June last year, Gazprom signed a $2.5 billion deal with NNPC to build refineries, pipelines and gas power stations.
Shell put a request to the US consulate for potentially sensitive intelligence about its possible rival, which she said had secured a promise from the Nigerian government of access to 17 trillion cubic feet of natural gas ñ roughly a tenth of Nigeria’s entire reserves. “Pickard said that amount of gas was only available if the GON were to take concessions currently assigned to other oil companies and give them to Gazprom. She assumed Shell would be the GON’s prime target.” Pickard alleged that a conversation with a Nigerian government minister had been secretly recorded by the Russians. Shortly after the meeting in the minister’s office she received a verbatim transcript of the meeting “from Russia”, according to the memo.