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How Cambridge University students shut down Shell Annual Lecture over Ogoni spills 

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A group of Cambridge University student protesters from Zero Carbon movement recently disrupted an event discussing which had prominent figures such as Upstream Director for Shell, Andrew Brown, in attendance.

The Shell Annual Lecture at Emmanuel College was to be on “the role that traditional oil and gas companies could play in the Energy Transition.”

The group unfurled banners and chanted slogans until university staff relocated the event after 12 or so minutes.

The Zero Carbon movement released a statement on the disruption, thus:

‘’Royal Dutch Shell is a colonial corporation of criminals. It is responsible for the desolation of the Niger delta and the violence, suffering, and poverty of the people who live there. With over 3000 oil spills a year in Ogoniland, more than 85% of the population has been left in abject poverty, denied their right to clean water, food and self-determination, as a result of Shell’s rapacious pillaging of their homeland, and complicity in the corruption of their government. In the face of resistance from the Ogoni people, Shell stands accused of ‘complicity in murder, rape and torture’ and complicity with the Nigerian government when they hanged the Ogoni leaders in 1995. Shell is currently embroiled in the biggest bribery and corruption scandal of an oil company in history, facing trial in Milan over an alleged $1.2 billion in bribes. Last year at the same event, Andrew Brown stated that he was “fundamentally proud” of Shell’s record in Nigeria.

‘’Andrew Brown squirmed last night to defend the indefensible. He claimed that because Shell no longer operate in the Ogoniland, their crimes could be forgotten. Ignoring the fact that Shell’s subsidiaries still operate in Nigeria, the oil will not be cleaned up for decades, and in the meantime the lives and livelihoods of thousands have been ruined. He claimed Shell are investing heavily in renewables. Yet when pressed was forced to admit Shell’s renewable investment was under 10% (it is between 4 and 8%) of their total expenditure. This is a disgracefully low figure in the face of climate breakdown that shows Shell have no place in the energy transition.

‘’How many more spills until Shell is put to justice? How much more suffering until Shell is driven out? How much more corruption before Shell is made to pay for its crimes? We must be clear that these crimes are no accident. Fossil fuel extraction is by its very nature colonial; stealing resources from the Global South to fund the capitalist power of wealthy industrialised nations. The climate crisis is fundamentally built on a system of oppression.

‘’No more. We undertook yesterday’s action in solidarity with the Niger Delta, the Ogoni people, and all who have had to suffer violence at the hands of Shell’s violent extraction. The only way we will achieve climate justice, and the only way we will tackle the climate crisis, is by fighting in solidarity with peoples across the world for total systemic change.

‘’Companies like Shell are running scared. Refusing us tickets despite the empty seats, placing security all over the event, offering pathetic excuses when questioned and swiftly evacuating the event in a mere 12 minutes to avoid more exposure; this is the behaviour of a company that knows its time is up. Together, this is a fight we will win.

‘’To Shell, we send this message: you have no place in our University. We don’t want the interest on your investments, we don’t want your research, we don’t want your oil-stained, blood-money funding. Get out of the delta, get out of Nigeria, get out of our University.
‘’Solidarity with the delta. Power to the Ogoni

Joshua Agbo, who applauded the action of the protesters, commented thus:

‘’After giving a lecture on “Capitalism and Environment” in the Department of Sociology, Cambridge University, with Dr. Thomas Jeffrey Miley, I was invited by one of the Zero Carbon activists to talk more on the Shell’s climate injustices in Ogoniland, Nigeria. Nicholas Hildyard, an environmental activist, and myself spoke on the atrocities of the Dutch-Anglo oil company (Shell) in Ogoniland – exposing the massive corruption going on between the company and the Nigerian Government. ‘’At the end of my talk, a white lady walked up to me to say: “I almost cried when you started talking about the deplorable conditions of the Ogoni people. The power of your language, the image painted of the Ogoni people can make stone shed tears. Your message was clear and moving”. I said, “Thank you”. ‘’To show that the message was clear to the audience, the Zero Carbon activists at the Cambridge University did what even the entire Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) cannot do. At about 00:22am yesterday, I lay in my bed as a result of severe back pains – then, I received a message from one of the large-minded and committed activists in the Zero Carbon House Movement, saying: “Heya Josh, I just thought I’d let you know that the action today was very successful. We shut down Shell’s event, and it was a high profile one too: with one of their foremost chief executives. After about ten minutes of chanting, they decided to clear the room. In good part, thanks to you, following your talk on “Shell’s climate injustices” and the group discussion we had afterwards, we could very much more posit this action in a de-colonial framework”. ‘’Receiving this message from him, my pains literally disappeared. I thank all the young men and women, who came out yesterday to protest against the Shell Executive Meeting, where the fate and exploitation of the “wretched of the earth” were to be decided. These activists are people who, probably, may have never been to Ogoniland before, but following the Gospel of international solidarity, they stood up for the Ogoni people. These activists represent the spirit of courage and deep humanity that knows not to only protest and resist – but to build. ‘’They fill me with pride, joy, and confidence because they always try to breathe some human sense into activism. Your action is a manifesto of profound hope, and may it be an inspiration to many – particularly, the Nigerian Labour Congress that cannot hold the Federal Government accountable, despite obvious reasons to do so.’’