In a video posted today on the BBC News website, the BBC’s International Development Correspondent Mark Doyle is shown in a helicopter, bullet proof vest atop of the foreign correspondent’s uniform–the baby-blue shirt, ‘flying low’ over what Doyle describes as “possibly the largest crime scene in the world.” Invited by Shell, and accompanied by some of its engineers, Doyle is flown over pipelines in Southern Nigeria where evidence of local siphoning is clear; home-made refining pits that Doyle describes as ‘cauldrons’ (without irony), and thick black smoke are visible from the aerial images. Doyle repeatedly uses the words ‘illegal’, ‘stealing’ and ‘hacking’, while offering almost no context as to why the locals are reclaiming some of the resources.
The only explanation — ‘the people here are poor’, and of course, invoking the easy stereotype of Nigerian politics- corruption; “the suspicion is that there are some quite senior politicians who are involved in this illegal activity.” Doyle does also makes reference to the fact that while oil is being sucked from these areas, very little money is being put back into the local communities, but this point gets no further explanation at all. But of course, being on the invitation of Shell, Doyle wasn’t about to extend his context any further, only briefly admitting at the very end of the report, that while the locals are creating pollution, yes, Shell admits, their activity causes pollution too. It’s a shocking neutered piece of reporting on an issue that is so clearly generated and exacerbated by the relentless and irresponsible activities by multinational companies in Nigeria. It’s all the more shocking, given that less than 24 hours ago, The Guardian and many other newspapers reported that the huge spill in the Niger Delta in 2008, was ’60 times greater’ than the amounts claimed by Shell at the time, according to documents obtained by Amnesty International.
This BBC news piece is shamefully biased and propped up by Shell’s need to deflect attention, to try and present the local Nigerian population as ‘the problem’. All this, while they face legal action from 11,000 Bodo residents in the Delta, whose lives were devastated by the 2008 spill. The case will come to trial in London, later in 2012.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on this history and the struggles of Delta people against the oil companies and the rentier Nigerian state, including the hanging of Ken Saro Wiwa, the writer and prominent Ogoni leader and eight other leaders, by General Sani Abacha’s regime (in which Shell Oil was implicated), we would recommend the following: the speeches and writings of Saro Wiwa, his letter from prison and his final words before a military tribunal); the words of his son, Ken; Akin Omotoso’s fictionalizing of the events; the work of eminent geographer Michael Watts (here, here, and here for examples); and the photographs of Ed Kashi.