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Armed Resistance in the Niger Delta: SHELL CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!

May 12, 2013
tags:#Africa, #environment, #environmental damage, #Niger-Delta, #oil, #oil leak, #Royal Dutch Shell, #Shell
by:Jack Bicker
"I fish every day to feed my children. I fished all weekend but there are no fish, so I can't raise my children... So I'll drop this net and pick up the knife... so that they remember us in this bush where we live and where they drill our oil."

These were the words of a father living in the Niger Delta, outraged and exasperated at the disregard in which he is held by the oil companies who he holds responsible for ruining the ecology surrounding his local community.

International oil giant Shell's activities in the Niger Delta are well documented and have been the subject of international discussion, criticism and high-profile campaigning over recent years. And yet, a situation exists in which local groups continue to protest that their way of life has been devastated by an international company extracting local mineral wealth that seems only to enrich government officials and company executives; those who are far removed from the daily realities and environmental disruptions associated with a life lived in the shadow of numerous unwelcome oil wells.

According to the World Bank, oil represents 97% of Nigeria's total export revenue, and 80% of public revenue. Currently, oil exports account for around $50bn of income a year, and yet 70 million people in Nigeria live on less than $1 dollar a day.

Amnesty International estimates that 60% of the population of the Niger Delta "depend on the natural environment for their livelihood", and yet so extensive is the environmental damage caused by oil extraction activities in the area, that the United Nation's estimates that it will take 30 years to fully clean up.

Artist Mark Boulos' 2008 film All That is Solid Melts Into Thin Air juxtaposes two very different perspectives of the oil trade, simultaneously projecting images of traders at Chicago's Mercantile Exchange on the one hand, and disgruntled residents of the Niger Delta on the other.

Listening to the testimony of the residents, we are not only given an insight into the desperation caused by the destruction of their local way of life, but are also introduced to the armed resistance that Shell's treatment of local people has elicited. Chillingly, the video closes with a member of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta declaring,

"We Declare War on Everything that is White!"

Bearing in mind that the UN's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that  "the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples will enhance harmonious and cooperative relations... based on principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, non-discrimination good faith" it is not unreasonable to suggest that rather than rejoicing over the recent increase of regional oil production resulting from heightened levels of security in the region - as reported by Bloomberg last year - the international community should instead demand that the profits of the powerful cease to be placed over and above the right to life exercised by those who - other than through their violence - rarely have their voices heard. In this case, as in most others, fairness rather than force is the better route to achieving a lasting peace.

Article written by:
jack bicker
Jack Bicker
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