Whats at the other end of the pipeline?
Do you drive? Do you fill up at Shell? Do you own shares in Shell? Does your pension fund invest in Shell? Do you know about the British government’s policy towards companies like Shell which are based in the UK but operate overseas?
Allegations about the damage done to the environment and to local people’s human rights by the oil industry in the Niger Delta are not new – local people have been trying to hold Shell and the other oil companies operating there to account for years. The campaign for justice for Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight other men who were executed with him in 1995 recently reached an out of court settlement with Shell which does at least indicate that multimational companies can’t evade liability for human rights abuses altogether.
Today Amnesty has published a new report which gives a very damning verdict on how more than five decades of oil exploration and extraction has caused environmental damage which has seriously violated the basic human rights of hundreds of thousands of people in the Niger Delta to have clean food, clean water, clean air and the ability to earn a livelihood.
We find that the crux of the problem is that when oil spills occur – and a recent count said there are more than 2,000 sites that need treating – local people can’t get a fair hearing over how it happened and how it should be cleaned up and compensated. Because the Nigerian government refuses to effectively arbitrate between the oil companies and local people, the communities are often left to accept whatever verdict the oil company itself comes up with.
For example – when a huge oil spill happened at a place called Bodo creek in Ogoniland last August, pouring into the swamp for weeks and killing fish, local people’s access to food, water and their livelihoods was devastated. Shell is still disputing what happened and by May this year the spill had still not been cleaned up. To add insult to injury however, some Shell employees did bring a few boxes of food aid to local people in early May this year but it was so miserly and inadequate that local people rejected it as “insulting, provocative and beggarly”.
Shell and the other oil companies would simply not be able to conduct their operations this way if they were operating in the UK.
The Nigerian government, which has earned an estimated $600bn in oil revenues since 1960s, needs to get serious about bringing in effective independent regulation of the oil industry. And Shell and the others need to clean up their mess, be more transparent about their operations and accept effective regulation from the government – rather than lobby against it.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.