The Multinational Monitor


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Shelling Nigeria

Shell Oil Co. has poisoned parts of Nigeria for more than three decades, according to activists representing the Ogoni people.

"The Ogoni have decided that no more oil will be mined in Ogoniland, as oil mining has brought them nothing but sorrow and poverty," says Ken Saro-Wiwa, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). The Ogoni live in the heart of Nigeria's oil and gas-rich rivers region.

In January 1994, Ogoni villagers ended a blockade of contractors working on a Shell rig that had halted work in the area. In the last year, there have been demonstrations involving over 300,000 Ogonis demanding some type of environmental reform.

Shell, an operator in the joint venture Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), has practically ceased operations in the region because of the conflict.

According to the Nigerian government, between 1986 and 1991, more than 2,700 oil spills took place in Ogoniland. Saro-Wiwa has charged that the natural gas in the region has exposed the Ogoni people to many dangerous pollutants.

An estimated 500,000 Ogoni people live in the coastal region which covers about 400 square miles. The people are forced to import food, because they can no longer eat food grown on the polluted land, The Ogoni people have traditionally been farmers and fishers.

"The fact that there is very little farmland is because the land is densely populated, more than any other reason," says Michael Sternesky, of Shell. "Most of the spills, we found that about 60 percent last year, came from sabotage. They were his [Saro-Wiwa's] people sabotaging the pipelines and making claims for compensation."

Since 1958, an estimated $30 billion worth of oil has been taken from Ogoni land. Saro-Wiwa charges that the Ogoni people have not received anything from the oil companies.

According to Saro-Wiwa, the area's lands, streams and creeks are polluted. The atmosphere is polluted by gas that has been flared 24 hours a day for 35 years in highly populated areas. Mangrove forests have been damaged because of the toxicity of the oil. According to Saro-Wiwa, the rainforest has been cut down by Shell and Chevron, leaving virtually all wildlife dead.

Diamond Duopoly

A federal grand jury indicted the General Electric Company (GE), De Beers Centenary AG and two individuals in February 1994 for conspiring to raise list prices in the $ 500 million a year industrial diamond industry.

The one count indictment charges GE and De Beers, who together account for 80 percent of the industrial diamond market, with conspiring to fix and raise list prices of industrial diamonds worldwide. The indictment also charges that the price fixing scheme was carried out by General Electric manager Peter Frenz and De Beers associate Philippe Liotier from 1991 through 1992.

GE denies the charges. "There has been no antitrust violation by GE or by GE employees," the company said in a statement. "GE will litigate this case and is confident it will prevail at trial."

The government began its investigation two years ago after former GE vice president Ed Russell made allegations of direct price-fixing between GE and DeBeers.

Human-made diamonds, which resemble grains of sand, are used in saws for cutting stone and concrete, drill hits for oil drilling and tools for automotive and other industrial machinery. Federal officials charged that General Electric, Dc Beers, Frenz, Loitier and other unnamed co-conspirators agreed to raise the list prices of sawing, drilling and tooling diamonds by providing advance, detailed information about each other's future price lists and pricing plans through Frenz and Liotier

Exporting Disaster

A U.S. export-import BANK MAN to arrange financing for Westinghouse to complete a nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic is drawing fire from members of Congress and environmental groups.

The power plant would be modeled after flawed Soviet-designed reactors, the environmental groups charge. The Export-Import Bank approved the $317 million loan for the project in January 1994,

The Export-Import bank will guarantee the loan to Citibank, which will give the money to CEZ, the Czech electric utility company, which will in turn contract the work out to Westinghouse.

The nuclear project will be built in the Czech republic of Temelin. The project began in 1986, and is aimed at producing 2,000 megawatts of electric power from twin reactors by 1996. Westinghouse will use an untested and unpredictable combination of Western and Soviet technology, Greenpeace charges.

Representatives Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont and Henry Gonzalez, D-Texas have also expressed concerns about the project.

"This type of reactor could never he licensed in the United States because its design is inherently unsafe," says Petr Hlobil, of the Prague-based Children of the Earth. "If the ExportImport Bank proceeds with financing for Temelin, it will be a clear case of exporting risks considered unacceptable at home."

The Austrian government has already opposed the construction of the power plant. There has also been opposition from within Temelin and neighboring Slovakia.

Czech officials said the Temelin project would continue.

Dana Spiardi, of Westinghouse, says that the International Atomic Energy Agency has cleared the design of the reactor. She says that design is very similar to a type that operates in Western countries.

"It's very feasible to upgrade them," Spiardi says. "Basically, what they've been lacking all these years is sophisticated computer systems, in all the Soviet plants."

- Ben Lilliston

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