Urhobo Historical Society


Reasons for Resignation From Shell's

Niger Delta Enviromental Survey

By Professor Claude Ake
Founding Director, Centre for Advanced Social Science (CASS)
Port Harcourt, Nigeria

November, 1995

 Source and Introduction

LONDON, 23 November 1995

Please find attached a news release from Professor Claude Ake outlining his resignation from the Shell Niger Delta Environmental Survey. 
Herewith the Greenpeace response: 
- Paul Horsman, Greenpeace International
We have been expressing concern from the very first time we heard from Shell about this environmental survey.  Today's resignation of one of the most eminent persons on the panel (Claude Ake was to represent the Niger Delta Communities) is a confirmation of our concerns. 
Shell know what to do now in order to protect the environment -- it's time they got on with it instead of using delaying tactics like the "environmental survey".  It must also be noted that this survey was never a full environmental impact assessment of the impact of the oil industry on the Niger Delta.  Shell claims to have carried out such assessments but has never publicly released any of them, despite the many calls from Greenpeace and other organisations to do so.

[Claude Ake is Director of a think tank, Centre for Advanced Social Science (CASS) based in Nigeria. He is laureate of the Nigerian National Order of Merit, Nigeria's most coveted honour.]
Contact:  Cindy Baxter Greenpeace Communications 
++44 171 833 0600


From Claude Ake
Centre for Advanced Social Science (CASS)
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
November 23, 1995
Resignation from the Steering Committee of the Niger Delta Environmental Survey
It is with regret that I announce my resignation from the Steering Committee of the Niger Delta Environmental Survey (NDES) which took effect from November 16, 1995. 
I must confess that the decision to serve on that committee had been a difficult one to begin with, given the oil companies' past record of arrogance, insensitivity to the humanity of host communities and to environmental sustainability.  But in the end I decided to serve, encouraged by Ken Saro-Wiwa, who argued that the NDES could be a window of opportunity for constructive engagement. 
Having decided to serve, I suspended my doubts and tried to believe that the Oil Industry in Nigeria might quite conceivably be willing to live up to its social responsibilities.  As the designated "representative" of the communities in the Committee, I tried to sensitize the Committee to community concerns and to develop a mechanism to facilitate communications between NDES in particular and the Oil Industry in general with Communities.  This was reflected in the fact that at the stake holders meeting in Port Harcourt on October 24, the Ijaw National Congress, Ogbakor Ikwerre, Ogba Solidarity, Ogbakor Etche, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, Oyigbo Forum, Bonny Indigenous Peoples Federation, Ndoni Community Association, Uzugbani Ekpeye and O'Elobo Eleme presented a common position paper on NDES and it was clear that the acknowledged success of the meeting was partly due to the fact that despite their doubts they too felt that something positive could come out of NDES. 
Unfortunately, the realities intruded.  It was clear that NDES did not have the enthusiastic support of the Oil industry.  Apart from that, there was nothing in the posture and practices of the major oil companies, Shell, NAOC, Elf and Mobil, to signal the fact that NDES could be regarded as a forward movement.  Rather as the agenda of NDES developed, it became difficult despite the good number of competent and well-meaning people on the Steering Committee, to expect much from NDES. 
I was already seriously considering resignation before the tragic turn of the Ogoni struggle culminating in the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and his colleagues.  I do not think that the Oil industry in Nigeria, particularly Shell whose crude practices and insensitivity engendered the struggle in the first place, did enough to diffuse the situation. 
Their reaction to the tragedy was more unfortunate still.  They have in effect been assuring everyone who cares to listen that nothing has changed and nothing will change.  I cannot help thinking that even silence would have been better than such unfeeling belligerence.  For, given the rising tide of resentment in the oil producing communities, this posture is bound to be catastrophic for Nigeria and self-defeating for the oilcompanies. 
These circumstances have left me no choice but to resign.  For they have, to my mind, transformed NDES into an unwelcome division and rendered it morally unacceptable. 
Claude Ake

From Claude Ake
Centre for Advanced Social Science (CASS)
Port Harcourt, Nigeria

November 15, 1995
Mr Gamaliel Onosode 
The Chairman
Steering Committee
Niger Delta Environmental Survey
Dear Mr Onosode,

In the light of the demise of Ken Sarowiwa and his colleagues, I have had to rethink NDES.  For me agreeing to serve in the Steering Committee of NDES was a leap of faith.  For if past experience is any guide, there is no reason to assume that the Petroleum industry in Nigeria is the least concerned about the plight of the oil producing countries including their susceptibility to environmental hazards and it was not reasonable to fear that NDES might be a cover-up.
In the end I decided to serve and allow for the possibility that the Petroleum industry in Nigeria might have finally recognized the need to reconcile the profit motive with social responsibility.  I have always felt that until this reconciliation is achieved, the oil producing communities will be increasingly alienated and hostile and all stake holders will suffer in a rising tide of violent conflict.  This is why I have been trying to initiate dialogue between them.  The distinguished representative of the Oil companies in the NDES Steering Committee can testify to these efforts.
Unfortunately the efforts did not succeed and conflict escalates with unfortunate consequences.  It is clear now that NDES is too late and does not represent a change of heart.  To begin with, it does not enjoy the enthusiastic support of the oil industry at large.  Clearly there is nothing in the recent performance of the  oil companies notably Shell, NAOC, Elf and Mobil to suggest that NDES is associated with increasing sensitivity to the plight of the oil producing communities.  It is telling that as the tragedy unfolded in Ogoniland, Shell, whose perceived insensitivity engendered the conflict in the first place did not intervene forcefully for conciliation.  And when the disaster occurred, Shell expressed regrets but pointedly stated, according to the British press, that it was not considering any change in
its current practices.
Considering the tragic enormity of recent happenings, and the  crisis of conscience arising from them, NDES now seems to my mind diversionary and morally unacceptable.  By all indications, what we need now is not an inventory of pollutants, but to look ourselves in the face, reach down to our innermost resources and try to heal our badly damaged social and moral fabric.
Please be so kind as to accept my resignation
Yours sincerely,
Prof. Claude Ake