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Eco-Crimes: Shell and the Niger Delta

Vast oil-reserves in the Niger-Delta – one of the planet’s most precious wetlands situated at the African West-coast of Nigeria – were discovered in the 1950s, at the end of colonial times, and to this very day contribute to most of the oil wealth of Nigeria.

Throughout the past decades and well into the 2000s, foreign oil-companies showed a dreadful indifference for the well-being and human rights of the locals of this land area, which resulted in a careless and criminal negligence of their pipeline infrastructure, and consequently in an enormously high number of oil-spills.

In line with this despicable lack of concern and delinquent attitude, the hazardous practice of burning around the clock, leaking natural gas has become rampant, thus polluting air quality in many areas to an unbearable extent. The oil conglomerate Shell, by far the biggest player in the Delta and indisputably the main culprit for causing these environmental disasters, never undertook great efforts to attend to the environmental damage it had caused over decades of destruction. Neither has the corrupt military dictatorship of Nigeria who was in place until the 90s and, unsurprisingly, its following rulers in the years to come had too avoided any direct action to redeem this humanitarian and environmental violation. Which begs the question: would the Nigerian governments acted differently had Western companies obliged a humanitarian and ecological standards. Instead, Shell, Agip, Total S. A., Eni and the likes followed the post-colonialist habit of exploit yet another African nation and to unscrupulously collaborate with repressive local military regimes.

Although contamination of soil and water in the Niger-Delta is primarily Shell’s liability, due to its immense political and financial power, the company has managed to successfully and continuously dodge its responsibility and has only admitted to it in small parts and avoided until this very day its moral and legal duty to help the inhabitants of the Niger-Delta clean up their livelihoods; to reverse the tremendous ecological damage in the Delta and to halt the suffering of its people.

By listening to the voices from Nigeria in the following dossier, we hope to raise awareness of a situation in which governments and former perpetrators from the military forces are still powerfully intertwined, making it very difficult to bring justice to the harmed region and its population, and to endow them with the financial means to clean up their precious wetlands. So far it is crystal clear that for the time being Shell is not willing to dedicate itself to clean the Niger-Delta, redeem its historical guilt and help people in the region get out of the impoverishment that was brought upon them by the ongoing destruction of their land throughout the second half of the last century. Yet despite this, the fight for justice and redemption continues to wade through the murky waters and has gained considerable momentum in recent years.