Letter: Execution of Saro-Wiwa flouted justice

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Sir: As a former Shell geophysicist, I have to say that Richard North's article defending Shell's role in Nigeria is so riddled with holes it's difficult to know where to start.

The underlying truth is that our consumer capitalist society is so dependent on fossil fuels that in its greed to extract them, environmental and social concerns have been downgraded. The mounting effect of externalising these costs will undoubtedly rebound on us unless we shift soon to a sustainable way of life which utilises renewable energy sources.

The only reason that Shell "necessarily deals with authorities of which it strongly disapproves" is because the company group puts profits above ethical principles. Moreover, Shell's argument that if it were to pull out of Nigeria then "someone less committed would go in" is morally indefensible. The same excuse is made with no validity by Western companies and governments in justification of arms sales to oppressive regimes.

For North to move from an admission that "100 flares waste a resource equivalent to a quarter of France's gas demand" to the contention that locals benefit because the flares "constitute free light and a means of drying root crops such as cassava" is breathtaking in its crassness.

Shell spends less than 0.5 per cent of its profits on community projects. As for Nigerian government funding of the local communities, Shell as much as admits in North's report that the political structure ensures that the locals of the Niger delta do not, indeed cannot, benefit from Shell's activities there.

It's time the Royal Dutch/Shell Group lived up to its own statement of general business principles in its Nigerian operations. This statement includes the promotion of "measures for the protection of health, safety and the environment for all who may be affected directly or indirectly by their activities". If Shell cannot uphold this then it should withdraw from Nigeria.

Dr DAVID CROMWELL

Southampton

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