London Evening Standard: Sir Philip to be quizzed over Nigeria
By Jake Lloyd-Smith,
27 March 2004
SIR Philip Watts, the Royal Dutch/Shell chairman ousted over the company's reserves scandal, will next month be called to answer legal questions over the energy giant's activities in Nigeria.
Shell was hit with a class-action lawsuit in the US in September 2002, seeking unspecified damages on behalf of about 50,000 Ogonis, the people who inhabit the oil-rich delta region of the West African State.
The suit alleges that the Ogonis suffered human-rights abuse at the hands of the country's government. It further alleges that Shell 'engaged in militarised commerce in a conspiracy with the former military government of Nigeria'.
The complaint cites a litany of alleged abuse, including extra-judicial-murder, crimes against humanity-torture, rape, forced exile and the deliberate destruction of private property.
Shell spokesmen have repeatedly rejected the allegations in the lawsuit, which was brought by a Philadelphia-based firm, Berger & Montague. But lawyers have persisted.
'We're depositioning Mr Watts on 16 and 17 of April in London,' a lawyer for the group told reporters. Watts ran a Shell development company in the Nigerian delta region in the 1990s. Depositions are legal statements taken from those involved in a dispute ahead of any trial. The Ogonis have long complained that not enough money raised from the oil extracted from their homeland has been used to benefit local communities. There have been violent clashes between residents and Government forces over the years .
Shell's Nigerian unit says it also believes that 'in the past, not enough oil revenue has been returned to the oil producing areas for developmental purposes'. But it adds the company cannot dictate how its contribution to State funds should be allocated.
Berger & Montague is also one of several legal companies to have filed fraud class-action claims against Shell over its reserves accounting debacle.