The Truth about Shell Oil
Shell Nigeria is one of the largest oil producers in the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. 80% of the oil extraction in Nigeria is in the Niger Delta, the southeast region of the country. The Delta is home to many small minority ethnic groups, including the Ogoni, all of which suffer egregious exploitation by multinational oil companies, like Shell. Shell provides over 50% of the income keeping the Nigerian dictatorship in power.
Although oil from Ogoniland has provided approximately $30 billion to the economy of Nigeria, the people of Ogoni see little to nothing from their contribution to Shell’s pocketbook. Shell has done next to nothing to help Ogoni. By 1996, Shell employed only 88 Ogoni (0.0002% of the Ogoni population, and only 2% of Shell’s employees in Nigeria). Ogoni villages have no clean water, electricity, abysmal health care, no jobs for displaced farmers and fisher persons and face the effects of unrestrained environmental molestation by Shell everyday.
Since Shell began drilling oil in Ogoniland in 1958, the people of Ogoniland have had pipelines built across their farmlands and in front of their homes, suffered endemic oil leaks from these very pipelines, been forced to live with the constant flaring of gas. This environmental assault has smothered land with oil, killed masses of fish and other aquatic life, and introduced devastating acid rain to the land of the Ogoni. For the Ogoni, a people dependent upon farming and fishing, the poisoning of the land and water has had devastating economic and health consequences. Shell claims to clean up its oil spills, but such “clean-ups” consist of techniques like burning the crude which results in a permanent layer of crusted oil metres thick and scooping oil into holes dug in surrounding earth.
Both Shell and the government admit that Shell contributes to the funding of the military in the Delta region. Under the auspices of “protecting” Shell from peaceful demonstrators in the village of Umeuchem (10 miles from Ogoni), the police killed 80 people, destroyed houses and vital crops. Shell conceded it twice paid the military for going to specific villages. Although it disputes that the purpose of these excursions was to quiet dissent, each of the military missions paid for by Shell resulted in Ogoni fatalities. Shell has also admitted purchasing weapons for the police force who guard its facilities, and there is growing suspicion that Shell funds a much greater portion of the military than previously admitted.
Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8 were leaders of MOSOP, the Movement for Survival of the Ogoni People. As outspoken environmental and human rights activists, they declared that Shell was not welcome in Ogoniland. On November 10, 1995, they were hanged after a trial by a special military tribunal (whose decisions cannot be appealed) in the murder of four other Ogoni activists. The defendants’ lawyers were harassed and denied access to their clients. Although none of them were near the town where the murders occurred, they were convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that many heads of state strongly condemned for a stunning lack of evidence, unmasked partiality towards the prosecution and the haste of the trial. The executions were carried out a mere eight days after the decision. Two witnesses against the MOSOP leaders admitted that Shell and the military bribed them to testify against Ken Saro-Wiwa with promises of money and jobs at Shell. Ken’s final words before his execution were:
“The struggle continues!”