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Who Will Mop Up Their Mess? Shell and Chevron Wreak Havoc in Nigeria

"Lord take my soul, but the struggle continues"
Ken Saro-Wiwa, the gallows just before execution, November 10th 1995.
One of the world's most devastating combinations of human rights abuse and environmental destruction is still occurring in the West African country of Nigeria. Who are the culprits? American oil companies, namely Shell and Chevron. These companies continue to spend billions of dollars per year in search of new sources of oil at the expense of biodiversity and indigenous cultures. Ogoni is a land of half a million people in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. While Ogoni's oil wealth has been exploited, and the local people have suffered economic deprivation, the environmental devastation of their land and the discriminatory policies of successive Nigerian governments. The World Trek Team has seen environmental abuses by oil companies before in Guatemala and Peru. While the effects are harmful in every country invaded by the oil companies, the story of human death due to protest has been made poignantly famous in Nigeria.

The plight of the Ogoni became worldwide news in November 1995 when, after 17 months in custody, and a trial that was universally condemned as being a sham, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists were hanged in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Their only crime was their success in exposing the Shell Petroleum Company's role in destroying their land, their society, and their people. Chevron's acts of abuse include the supply of helicopters and other equipment to the Nigerian military regime. The San Francisco-based oil company helped facilitate an attack by the Nigerian government, which left two Nigerian activists dead.

Empowered and inspired by the Ogoni example, other communities in the Delta have been pressing their case. The Ijaw--the fourth largest ethic group in Nigeria, from whose land comes a majority of the country's oil--have been seizing Shell flow stations and local government centers. In various protest campaigns, Ijaw youths have occupied oil platforms and taken company workers hostage.

The pollution levels in the Niger Delta are more than 700 times higher than the legal levels in Europe. Nigerian activists charge that this pollution severely hampers fishing and farming, their only means of livelihood. Oil money provides roughly 80 percent of the dictatorship's revenue. "It is very clear that Chevron, just like Shell, uses the military to protect its oil activities. "They drill and they kill," Nigerian environmental attorney Oronto Douglas told Pacifica. It is an extremely dangerous game that is being played out in Nigeria. American oil companies are paying the Nigeria dictatorial government, which in turn is brutally punishing any Nigerians who protest the oil mining efforts of the companies.

All of this abuse is happening far, far away from most of the young people who will read this article. But even if you live thousands of miles from Nigeria, there are several ways you can help the indigenous people of the Niger Delta. First, think carefully about the ways that you consume oil and fuel in your everyday life: driving or riding in a car; taking a bus; heating your shower and home; and using your stove or oven. How can you reduce the amount of oil you consume? For one, try riding your bicycle or walking, rather than getting a ride or driving a car. If everyone around the world took steps to cut down their oil and fuel consumption, the demand would decline, and companies like Shell and Chevron would hopefully reduce their destruction of oil-rich nations.

Also, you can go to the Project Underground website, and send in a personalized protest against the human rights abuses of the Shell and Chevron corporations. Lastly, please write your support to The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, an organization that demands economic justice, human rights--including the right to choose the use of their land and its resources--and a future free from violence. MOSOP is the democratic voice of the Ogoni people:

Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) Nigeria,
27 Odu Street, Ogbunabali, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Tel/ fax. [+234] 84 230 250


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