Royal Dutch Shell Group .com Shell admits blame in Nigeria: "Royal Dutch/Shell has taken responsibility for contributing to the fighting and corruption in oil-rich Nigeria".


Friday, June 11, 2004 Posted: 1401 GMT (2201 HKT)


(CNN) -- Royal Dutch/Shell has taken responsibility for contributing to the fighting and corruption in oil-rich Nigeria.


The British-Dutch oil giant, responding to an independent report, acknowledged that its business activities "inadvertently" fed the conflict in the Niger Delta.


"Government and local communities must take the lead in ending the conflict," said Emmanuel Etoni, Shell's community development manger in the region.


"But as part of an industry inadvertently contributing to the problem, we are also determined to help."


The Niger Delta region, the source of Nigeria's massive oil exports, falls prey regularly to bouts of faction fighting and crime.


"In 2003, we enlisted three internationally-known conflict experts to better understand how our activities are affected by, and contribute to, the conflict," Etomi said.


"Their fieldwork ... highlighted how the conflict makes it difficult for us to operate safely and with integrity, how we sometimes feed conflict by the way we award contracts, gain access to land, and deal with community representatives," it said.


Shell published a summary of the report on its web site.


The report comes as a Nigerian general strike -- called to protest fuel price hikes -- entered its third day. Nigeria's two major oil unions are taking part in the strike. They are threatening to shut down oil terminals and rigs, leading to concerns that the work stoppage could sharply curtail oil exports from Africa's largest producer.


Nigeria is the world's seventh-biggest oil exporter and the source of one-fifth of U.S. oil imports.


Political, religious and ethnic unrest has killed more than 10,000 people since President Olusegun Obasanjo was first elected in 1999, ending 15 years of brutal military rule.


Clashes have taken place between ethnic Ijaw and Itsekiri militants in the western delta.


Since last year, that fighting has killed hundreds and shut wells accounting for between 7 and 25 percent of Nigeria's daily oil production. Oil companies have been hesitant to return to facilities abandoned since last year.


Responding to the independent report on Shell's activities, Etomi said the company would attempt to change its operating, security and community development practices in the region.


Shell accounts for half of Nigeria's oil production of 2.5 million barrels a day.


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