Ken Wiwa, Nigerian author and activist, dies at 47

Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Gone, far too soon.

“The president of Nigeria has joined politicians, environmental activists and others to pay tribute to Ken Wiwa, the Ogoni leader and critic of Shell and other western oil companies in the Niger delta, who has died from a stroke in London.” Read the full story in The Guardian.

“Educated in Nigeria and Britain, Mr. Wiwa moved to Canada in 1999 and became a writer-in-residence at Massey College in the University of Toronto. He wrote features and columns for The Globe and Mail and was twice nominated for a National Newspaper Award….He wrote for many other international media, including The Guardian and the New York Times, and produced and narrated radio and television documentaries for CBC and BBC.

“Mr. Wiwa returned to Nigeria in 2005. Believing that he could help Nigeria more effectively by working within the government, he served as a special assistant to three Nigerian presidents, including Goodluck Jonathan, with whom he worked closely. He worked as a special assistant on issues such as conflict resolution, reconciliation and international relations. Much of his work focused on the Niger Delta, still plagued by the environmental disasters that his father had tried to prevent.” Read the full story in The Globe and Mail.


Shell Shareholders at Risk from Billion Dollar Nigerian Oil Scandal, says Global Witness

shell oil barrel

Following is a press release from Global Witness:

Shell‘s role in a billion dollar corruption scandal in Nigeria poses significant hidden risks for investors, Global Witness said at the company’s 2015 AGM. The warning comes as the oil major is lobbying the UK and US authorities to undermine the implementation of new transparency laws which would consign such secretive deals to history.

The corruption at the heart of the deal deprived the Nigerian state of over U.S. $1.1 billion, triggered investigations by authorities in three countries, and could potentially lead to Shell and its Italian partner Eni losing access to the oil block.


Deepwater Horizon spill: Five years later, endless problems

The oil slick as seen from space by NASA's Terra satellite on 24 May 2010

The oil slick as seen from space by NASA’s Terra satellite on 24 May 2010

Five years have passed since BP’s Macondo well exploded leading to the largest offshore spill in U.S. history. The story of the Deepwater Horizon spill no longer draws much media attention, but the problems have not gone away.


Teodoro Nguema Obiang loses his Malibu mansion

Exterior of Malibu home U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement A 2011 photo provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers shows the exterior of the Malibu home of Teodoro Nguema Obiang, the second vice president of Equatorial Guniea.

Exterior of Malibu home — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
A 2011 photo provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers shows the exterior of the Malibu home of Teodoro Nguema Obiang, the second vice president of Equatorial Guniea.

It may be a drop in the bucket, but the Obiang family will forfeit personal property in the U.S. as part of a corruption settlement.

From the Los Angeles Times:

In a settlement filed in U.S. district court in Los Angeles, Equatorial Guinea Second Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang agreed to give up a $30-million house with a view of the ocean, a collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia and other property, including a Ferrari, to settle corruption claims by federal prosecutors.

The settlement with Obiang, who is the son and heir apparent to the nation’s president, is part of an expanding Justice Department effort — officials call it the “Kleptocracy Initiative” — to crack down on corrupt foreign officials who steal money and use it to live the high life in the U.S.


Oil vs. fishing in Ghana — the conflicts continue

Takoradi fishing port. Photo by Christiane Badgley

Takoradi fishing port. Photo by Christiane Badgley

It has been ages since I’ve posted anything here (more on that below), but it seems that nothing much has changed — at least not for the fishing communities of Western Ghana. I first reported on conflicts between fishermen and Ghana’s new oil industry more than three years ago. Since then, oil exploration and drilling have increased, and the situation for fishermen has deteriorated. In the last few months three reporters have contacted me to talk about conflicts between fishing and oil.


Tullow’s tax disclosures torpedo Big Oil’s campaign for secrecy

Tullow Oil from Ghana to Uganda. Photo by Christiane Badgley

Tullow Oil, Ghana. Photo by Christiane Badgley

From Global Witness:

UK oil company becomes the world’s first extractive firm to publish revenue payments to governments by project

March 24, 2014

The UK company Tullow Oil today became the world’s first extractive firm to publish details of its revenue payments to governments broken down by each project the company operates worldwide. The disclosures, released today in Tullow’s annual report, show the taxes, royalties, licence fees and other public revenues generated by the company’s operations across 21 countries – 14 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa – for the years 2012 and 2013.

Tullow’s voluntary disclosures are being released in advance of a new EU law, due to come into force in the UK in 2015, that will require EU oil, mining and logging companies to publish their payments to governments on a project-by-project basis. These detailed disclosures will enable citizens in economically poor but resource-rich regions to monitor public revenues worth hundreds of billions of dollars and hold governments to account for how the money is used.


Better late than never: Cameroon renegotiates pipeline transit fees


After ten years of operations, Cameroon has finally managed to renegotiate the paltry transit fees it collects on the Chad-Cameroon pipeline.

Cameroon will now receive 618.02 CFA francs ($1.30) per barrel of oil, up from 194.91 CFA francs. Since 2003 Cameroon was collecting less than U.S. 45 cents per barrel, a rate that was not linked to inflation or to the price of oil. Nor was the rate subject to regular review. Even the current rate, $1.30 per barrel, is low, but it will at least be raised every five years based on the rate of inflation.

The quantity of oil coming down the pipeline will soon increase as Niger has signed an agreement to use the pipeline. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the operator in Niger, will also use the pipeline for its Chadian operations. Exxon Mobil has not disclosed how much CNPC will pay to use the pipeline.

Read more:

Pipeline Tchad-Cameroun: Le droit de passage passe de 194 FCFA à 618 FCFA par baril

Niger awards second oil permit to CNPC, plans exports


What will it take for Ghana to investigate the surge in whale deaths?

more dead whales

Photo: Friends of the Nation

An unusual number of dead marine mammals have been washing ashore in Western Ghana since 2009. Friends of the Nation and other local groups have reported the beached whales to the government and the local EPA office. The government has not investigated and the cause of the deaths remains a mystery. Locals point out that dead whales started appearing in 2009, coinciding with offshore drilling. Many suspect a connection between the whale deaths and Ghana’s oil industry, but without any studies people can only speculate.

Two years ago I wrote about Ghana’s oil industry for the Center for Public Integrity and included information on whale deaths:

Dead whales

In Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana’s “Oil City,” activists from Friends of the Nation work with the communities closest to offshore drilling operations. In two years of monitoring on behalf of local residents, the group’s Kyei Yamoah, has noted an increase in whale deaths. “A whale washed ashore in October, bringing the total number of dead whales on our beaches since late 2009 to eight,” Yamoah said.


Marine mammals continue to wash ashore in Ghana’s Western Region

October 21st, 2013: the 19th marine mammal to wash ashore in Ghana's Western Region since 2009.

October 21st, 2013: the 19th marine mammal to wash ashore in Ghana’s Western Region since 2009. Photo: Friends of the Nation


From Friends of the Nation, Takoradi, October 23, 2013

The washing ashore of marine mammals in Ghana is still not stopping. On October 20 and 21, 2013, two more mammals were found dead at the coast of Asanta in the Ellembelle District in the Western Region. These carcasses present the 18th and 19th incidents respectively within the last four years. Citizens in the coastal areas are trying to correlate these unfortunate events to the offshore oil and gas, since the production started around the same period (2009). Two dead mammals after each other within just two days caused a shock amongst locals. People in the coastal community are asking for answers.


Chad’s oil: 10 year anniversary, nothing much to celebrate

Deby thumbs up

A crowning achievement! October 10, 2003

It was on October 10th 2003 that Exxon Mobil and its partners officially inaugurated the Chad-Cameroon Oil Project. The press release marking the event was positively jubilant:

Addressing inauguration attendees, Morris Foster, president of ExxonMobil Development Company, said, “It is with great pride that I am here today to celebrate this tremendous accomplishment with everyone who has been involved in the Project. I want to personally thank President Deby and President Biya for their support along with important contributions of our co-venturers, Petronas and ChevronTexaco, and the World Bank Group for their commitment to this Project.

“Today we celebrate not only what was achieved during the construction but Esso, as operator, also celebrates the manner in which it has been accomplished,” Mr. Foster added. “We maintained our long-term focus on this project over 27 years of effort and changes in the consortium, increased the known oil reserves to commercial levels and helped turn a vision in 1976 into a reality. We believe this project will help prepare a brighter future for the citizens of Chad and Cameroon, and I am proud we are part of it.”


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