Pollution – Spills
Pollution – Gas Flaring
Ten years since the death of Saro-Wiwa and the Niger Delta is today on the brink of disaster. The Delta is awash with arms and a serious conflict could occur. Decades of under-development, pollution and corruption have created severe hardship and a sense of hopelessness for many.
The people of the Delta endure poverty, pollution and conflict despite the billions in oil revenues that have been extracted from their land.
Following the executions in 1995, Shell, the oil industry and many transnational corporations announced new policies and procedures. These were aimed at repairing the public image of big business so badly tainted by Ken Saro-Wiwa’s struggle and the damage in Nigeria and elsewhere. Shell’s slogan became ‘Profits and Principles’.
But, 10 years on, the façade of corporate social responsibility is nowhere more exposed and challenged than in the polluted, impoverished and conflict-torn villages and towns of the Niger Delta.
Nigeria’s oil resources have gone to waste. The estimated US$350 billion earned from oil by the government between 1965 and 2000 did little to alleviate poverty in Nigeria and, according to many studies, actually exacerbated deprivation through the opportunities it provided for corruption and abuse. Nigeria is among the 15 poorest countries in the world and 70% of its people live below the poverty line.
While all of Nigeria has suffered from this waste, the oil producing regions of the Delta have borne an even greater burden. The pollution of air, land and water has been ceaseless for over 45 years. Conflict has plagued the region as the powerful few vie for the spoils from oil.
As traditional livelihoods of fishing and farming have been decimated by oil spills and precious little development has resulted from oil revenues, so the growth of disaffection and criminal activity has spread throughout the region.
Millions of barrels of oil are being stolen from the leaking infrastructure, providing funds for a widespread escalation in armed violence and political corruption. Over 1000 people per year are dying in armed conflict in the Niger Delta today.
The foreign oil companies blame the government. But the people see the government and the companies as inseparable sources of their problems – the companies work with the government at every level.
The pollution, underdevelopment, corruption and abuse that the people of the Niger Delta endure has not decreased in the last ten years – it has increased. The change to a democratic government in 1999 has brought little benefit. Gas flaring continues and there are frequent oil spills.
Meanwhile, over 2 million barrels of oil a day are pumped from the region providing more than US$100 million a day to be shared between the companies and the government. In 2005, the world’s major oil companies announced record profits. In the Niger Delta today there are plenty of profits – for a few – but precious little sign of any principles.