"I don't think anything will grow there in the next 20 years. Nothing planted will grow. The land is wasted. Oil kills everything."
[A resident in Bodo, Ogoniland, Niger Delter, told Amnesty International, May 2011].On 20 April 2010, what became widely known as the "BP oil spill" took the world by storm. It all started when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 people in what has been termed the "largest oil spill in US history." The role of the media, pressure from environmentalists and bold action by the Obama administration culminated in BP, the oil company involved, setting aside a huge sum of money - $20 billion - to compensate victims. One year after the disaster, BP had spent more than $13 billion on clean-up their mess. [Source]. Elsewhere, in a "forgotten" part of the world, thousands of people and businesses affected by oil spills are not that "lucky" to have wide media coverage of their plight and a government that protects them. In the Niger Delta, an oil-rich region in Nigeria, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, is getting away with oil spills that have reportedly harmed thousands of people and destroyed their livelihoods.
According to a report (in PDF format) by Amnesty International, there have been two "major" oil spills that have disrupted the lives of 69,000 people in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Three years after the spills, Shell has failed to clean up the mess and compensate the victims. This is a far-cry from the situation in the Gulf of Mexico where BP was forced to setup a compensation fund and clean-up within months.
Amnesty International USA reports that the lives of thousands of poor Nigerians, including farmers, fishermen and people who trade fish, have been "directly affected" by the oil spills of August and December 2008. Oil pollution poses a health risk in the region.
Shell's failure to clean up the oil spill violates international standards, Nigerian law and the right to health and safety of thousands of Nigerians affected by the oil spill.
Shell has violated its corporate social responsibility in the Niger Delter. In the words of Amnesty International USA, the company should own up and pay up to clean up the Niger Delta.
The administration of President Goodluck Jonathan should emulate the bold and swift action taken by the Obama administration against BP, and restore the rights and livelihood of Nigerians in the affected region.
According to Amnesty International USA, "significant responsibility for the ongoing human rights abuses in the Niger Delta rests with the government of Nigeria" and "substantial responsibility also rests with Shell."
African leaders should do more to protect their people from violations perpetrated by big oil and mining corporations.
You are encouraged to take action to help restore the economic, social and cultural rights of victims of Shell oil spills in Nigeria. Tell Shell to "own up, pay up and clean up their mess." Sign a petition by Amnesty International USA addressed to the Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell.
Side note: The next time you stop at a Shell gas/petrol station to buy fuel or lubricants for your car, remember that the company has contributed enormously to environmental damage and human suffering in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, and is reluctant to clean up and compensate victims. If you care about human rights and the environment, and dedicate time to read more about Shell and its operations in the Niger Delta, precisely in Ogoniland, you'd be so outraged that you'd reconsider fueling your car at Shell.