Geographers attack Shell attacked over Nigeria

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Environment Correspondent

Angry lecturers will tomorrow seek to dump Shell as a corporate patron of the Royal Geographical Society in protest at the oil giant's behaviour in Nigeria.

The 161-year-old society's annual conference, which began in Glasgow yesterday, will end on Friday with an open meeting at which the execution of the Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa by the Nigerian government will be condemned.

But Fellows of the Society will also vote on a motion calling on it immediately to end Shell's corporate sponsorship, which goes back nine years.

The oil company has been producing oil in Ogoniland and other parts of the Niger delta for more than 30 years. It has been accused of causing severe environmental damage, failing to fulfil its moral obligations to the local tribespeople and being too close to Nigeria's military regime.

Shell is one of four corporate patrons who each pay about pounds 40,000 a year to the 13,000-member society, the largest of its kind in Europe. This and other sponsorship accounts for a tenth of income.

The motion's proposer is David Gilbert, a geography lecturer at Royal Holloway College, London. He says many conference delegates feel "alarm, horror and anger" at November's executions of Mr Saro-Wiwa and eight other people.

"I believe that Shell's environmental and political record in Nigeria makes that company unfit to be the patron of any society claiming to represent practising geographers," he wrote in a statement for fellows.

However, even if the motion is passed it will not compel the society's council - its supreme governing body - to end Shell's patronage. It will only have advisory status.