EN203, Spring 2013
The Blight Of The Niger Delta
Nigeria is the most populated African country, and since 1958 to present day the country of Nigeria has been under environmental and social assault. The Royal Dutch/Shell Group,
Exxon Mobil, TotalFinaElf, and Chevron-Texaco oil companies have depleted the delta of the Niger River, also known as the Oil Rivers due to its high concentration of oil in the southeast region of the country. Over 80% of the oil extraction in Nigeria is in the Niger Delta (Wiwa, 2000). The oil in the Niger Delta provides 20% of all of Nigeria’s GDP, approximately 65% of revenue, and 95% foreign exchange rates (CIA’s World Factbook). In fact Nigeria has become the leading gas flaring country in the world (Friends of the Earth, 2004). Yet Nigeria is still one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the world, due to over 60% of its inhabitants living below the poverty line (CIA’s World Factbook).This is seen in the tribe of the Ogonis’ homeland. It has 100 oil wells, two refineries, a petrochemical complex and a fertilizer complex while the Ogoni people do not even have electricity or running water (Gedicks, 2001, 46). Similarly most tribes people in the area are in such poor living conditions that for heat they use wood, and candles for light. This is such a problem because the Niger Delta is home to many minority ethnic groups, including the Ogoni, as well as vast forests and animals that are unique to the Nigerian Delta ecosystem, that suffer severe exploitation by the multinational oil companies.
Tribe after tribe of the Niger Delta have watched as their traditional fishing and farming livelihood be desecrated by the extraction of oil and gas. This is because the extraction of oil and gases produces gas flares which contain toxins that contaminate the air; many of the tribes people suffer from respiratory problems because of the pollution and are plagued with asthma and bronchitis without the ability to get medications to treat it. If that wasn’t distressing enough, according to a study conducted by the US government in 2010, its was found that “the flares contribute to acid rain and villagers complain of the rain corroding their buildings. The particles from the flares fill the air, covering everything with a fine layer of soot.”(Environmental Distress In Third World Countries, Article 19). Villagers also are constantly bombarded with rip-roaring noise from the constant flares and drilling. Aside from the environmental aspect of the depletion of the once beautiful Nigerian Delta, there is a daunting fear of the dictatorship that runs Nigeria is paid by the oil companies that are drilling in the Niger.
An example of this is that Shell Oil provides over 50% of the income keeping the Nigerian dictatorship in power; in turn the Nigerian government pillages tribes all along the Niger Delta to insure that the tribes people do not rebel against the oil companies (Niger Delta: Crimes Against Peace and Justice). Those who protest are either convicted on false charges and/ or are executed. Aside from Shell Oil, Chevron-Texaco has destroyed the traditional local economy. They run pipelines though gardens and villages. To be sure that the pipelines and flares are not disturbed by the locals, Chevron leases helicopters to the Nigerian military to attack and quell protestors. An example of this injustice is found in 1990 in the region of Umuechem, a large community located on the Delta. The villagers protested to stop oil companies destroying the land they lived on and were met with Chevron helicopters, “... the people in the village of Umuechem protested oil pollution of their homeland, and were set upon by the notorious Mobil Police (known locally as the “Kill and Go) who bombarded the village, killing more than 100 people, as they looted many homes. The survivors were forced to leave their homes.(United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) release, May 2002). The tribes people’s fate…