Zik Gbemre

With recent reports that the Dutch oil giant Shell, is determined to continue its work in Russia and will not change its business strategy in the country, despite the sanctions imposed against Moscow by the United States of America (USA) and European Union (EU), it becomes obvious of WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO SHELL – THAT IS, BUSINESS PROFITS OVER HUMAN LIFE AND HUMANITY AS A WHOLE. This is really rather unfortunate! 


The above position of Shell was revealed on Friday July 25, 2014 by representative of Shell’s press service who told RIA Novosti, as posted. In the words of the said Shell representative: “Shell continues to run business in Russia both in the upstream and downstream without any changes. We monitor the situation regarding the sanctions. But so far there have been no changes in either the business itself or in the business strategy,” the source said.


Let us recall that a week earlier, the United States expanded the list of sanctions against Russia, adding the country’s major entities, including Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank, Rosneft and Novatek. According to the post, the companies have been denied access to US financial markets, while the US-based companies and individuals are prohibited from granting loans to them for more than 90 days. Earlier on, the European Union also extended its sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, adding 15 individuals and 18 companies to the blacklist. But despite all of this, Shell has remain resolute in continuing with its business and operations in Russia, regardless of what the world thinks. 


By this singular action, the Royal Dutch oil giant, Shell, is telling the whole world that their businesses and operations are far more important, and the only thing that matters to the company, above the value placed on human life. Shell would rather continue smiling to the banks and turn a blind eye to all the atrocities daily committed by its host country – Russia in Ukraine. It was only last week that we joined voices to reiterate that, “despite anger over downed Jetliner, Europe is shying away from sanctions against Russia.” But now that it seems the EU and the USA are bent on making things difficult for Russia with more sanctions, so as to stop them from their onslaught in Ukraine, Shell that is in the middle of it all, with the Dutch Government, have now made it clear to the world of what is more important to them. This means, no matter the sanctions placed on Russia to dissuade them from continuing with their ill-advised actions in Ukraine, Shell is bent on staying put with their operations in Russia. 


Succinctly, Shell is telling the whole world that they are in full support with the Russia Government on what is happening in Ukraine, and of course, the shot MH17 jetliner. But like we said in our last letter on this issue, the truth is that, in a situation where innocent lives were blatantly cut short by the inter-play of a supposed cold war driven by the excessive tendencies of the Russian Government in Ukraine and parts of Europe, and the Dutch Government and Shell are more interested in saving their self-centered interests, then it greatly questions the integrity of the oil giant that keeps preaching “SAFETY FIRST” in all its operations across the world.


In a situation where about 298 lives were lost, which includes Four Shell employees and 193 citizens of The Netherlands that died in the crash of Flight 17, we are greatly disturbed at the length these big corporate companies and their partners in government would go to just to be on top of their game. Shell as a company often preaches that ‘Safety’ (which focuses on the safety of personnel against injury and loss of life during their operations), is the ultimate goal of all of its operations. And that if a job is considered to be ‘unsafe’ then such a job should be discarded and done away with, no matter how much is involved. But by playing ignorant of the situation in Russia and the loss of countless innocent lives and planes getting shot with missiles, then it means Shell’s SAFETY FIRST slogan and sermons are all a complete sham in all ramifications. When it comes to human lives and business, every corporate entity and government should know where to draw the line. But Shell prefers business profits than human life. With this ‘double-standard’, Shell should just stop preaching to the world about its SAFETY slogans/sermons. There is no point trying to deceive its host countries like Nigeria and others with its SAFETY slogans when they cannot condemn Russia from its recent actions. 


Like we said in our last letter on similar issue, it is also funny that Shell is plying ‘double-standard’ in its operations in other countries like Nigeria when compared to what it does in The Netherlands. For instance, in its regular Integrity Due Diligence (IDD) Audit exercise in Nigeria meant for its registered Vendors/Contractors, Shell (SPDC) clearly stipulates that for every job execution, its registered Vendor/Contractor must first confirm that “none of its owners or directors, nor its employees or associates who will benefit from or take part in the execution or performance of the Agreement, is a Government Official…” That means as a Shell (SPDC) Vendor/Contractor in Nigeria, one should have no ‘relationship with the government’ that will make the latter benefit from the job being executed on behalf of the Shell. In fact, we know of one Prince Chief Okeimute Oviri, the MD/Owner of O & Company Ltd, a registered Shell (SPDC) Contractor who was nearly disqualified because he made some published commentaries on Nigerian politics, not that he was even an elected government official. The question now is, if Shell has and encourages a closely-knitted relationship with its Dutch Government in the Netherlands, how come the situation is different in Nigeria concerning its Vendors? Shell even allows a government official to sit on its board of directors. That is unheard of in other countries like Nigeria where it operates. Perhaps, this is a topic for another day. 


It is appalling and unfortunate that the Dutch Government is not condemning Russia for its devious actions in Ukraine and even against its citizenry, simply because of its economic interests in Russia through Shell. For shying away from this, it simply means the Dutch Government and Shell are aiding and abating broad day light ‘war crimes’ perpetrated by the Russia Government. This is rather unfortunate and we condemn it in all ramifications. 


Zik Gbemre, JP

National Coordinator