A Nigerian court today ordered Royal Duth Shell PLC to pay US$1.5 billion in compensation to the communities in the vicinity of their Nigerian Delta operations. It’s alleged that Shell has caused vast damage to the environment, resulting in lack of sanitary drinking water, death of fish in the waterways, and polluted farm lands. All of this seems undeniable.
However, it’s ironic that the Nigerian political and judicial system is now holding Shell to account, as for decades it would seem that both the Government and the justice system have protected the interests of foreign commercial partners whilst turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the protests of the locals. (Read more here about Nigeria and Shell’s greedy plundering of oil)
As long ago as 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa was peacefully protesting the greed and destruction of Shell in Nigeria. Ken, along with eight colleagues, was charged with the murder of 4 tribal leaders in what was decried as a show trial on concocted charges. On 10th November 1995, Ken was hanged.
But as Ken said in his closing comments to the court, whether he lived or died, history would inevitably reveal the truth.
No matter how spin doctors for Shell and other oil companies may present their story, the facts are unavoidable: Nigeria is sitting on a gold mine of oil, and yet the people are living in abject poverty!
80% of Nigerian Government revenues come from oil, and over half that amount is directly from Shell. However, “countless sums disappear into the pockets of military strongmen in the form of bribes and theft“. Although Shell works predominantly in Ogoniland, which is situated in South-Eastern Nigeria, they employ only 88 Ogoni staff, comprising only 2% of their total workforce in Nigeria.
Shell has been repeatedly accused of funding the Nigerian military, who in turn have used strong arm tactics to suppress all opposition to Shell’s activities.
Is oil, money, and increased profits, a defensible excuse for devastation of millions of people’s lives, destruction of their farmlands, and even execution of their opponents?
Although Shell may now be making some small efforts to improve their performance (this is highly debatable!) the surface has hardly been scratched. Corruption remains rampant in Government, and the poor don’t appear to be seeing any improvement in their situation.
Even worse, militants are now taking matters into their own hands. Nigeria is in the grip of mushrooming violence.
And it all started because a few in positions of power wanted more money and power.
Nigeria Country Analysis