Blood, Sweat, Tears and Oil: The mistreatment of the Ogoni People by Royal Dutch Shell
and the Nigerian Government
Nigeria, located in West Africa, is a densely populated nation of over 100 million people. Since the nation’s independence from Britain in 1960, the country has been in the hands of various leaders ranging from religious to staunchly militant. Nigeria is the sixth largest producer of crude oil in the world and it has one of the largest deposits of natural gas (Wiwa, 2001). Oil accounts for ninety five percent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earning and one-fourth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product comes from oil. A large percentage of this oil is located in the Niger Delta.
The Niger Delta, located in eastern Nigeria, is the third largest wetland in the world covering 70,000 square kilometers and accounts for 7.5% of Nigeria’s land mass (www.nddconline.org). About twenty million of Nigeria’s one hundred million people reside in the Niger Delta and forty different ethnic groups live in the region. Oil development by large industries, such as Shell, and lack of support from the Nigerian government has left many people in the Niger Delta at a severe disadvantage. Most notably the Ogoni people, who are the minority in the region, have suffered from devastating exploitation. Oil was discovered in the Ogoni region in 1958 and after an estimated 900 million barrels with an estimated value of $30 billion were extracted in the area, there is very little to show for it in the Ogoni community.
Economic loss, environmental loss, exploitation and murder are all direct consequences of the occupation of major oil companies, namely Shell, in the Ogoni region. This paper aims to bring to light the struggles of a people who have been silenced and examines the history of government corruption in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta. The movement to speak out against the injustices endured by the Ogoni people are also chronicled along with the resolutions to date that have been reached in the Niger Delta in order to ensure that the cycle of wrongs suffered by indigenous peoples does not occur again.
Shell and the Nigerian government
Oil was first discovered in the eastern region of the Niger Delta in 1956. With the country still under British rule, Shell teamed up with the British Petroleum Company to open up the Nigerian oil fields and became the Royal Dutch Shell. For nearly a decade the joint venture produced 367,000 barrels of oil per day. After Nigeria gained its independence from the British, Shell ensured that the Nigerian government would have a share in the company. With oil production going on in the eastern region of the country, it was only a matter of time until politics began to revolve around the resource.
Oronto Douglas, Nigeria’s leading environmental human rights lawyer, said it best when he noted in the book Where Vultures Feast that “Oil is the stuff of contemporary Nigerian...