Movimento Mundial pelas Florestas Tropicais

Nigeria: Women at forefront of struggle against oil corporations

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With a population of some 150 million people, the Nigerian economy has been relying for more than 50 years on oil extraction by foreign large corporations – with Shell at the top – in the Niger Delta remote region of mangrove creeks.

The country’s oil production is mainly to feed the energy demands of industrialized countries – it supplies 8.2% of all US crude oil imports.  Oil companies reap huge benefits while most local people bear the environmental burden left by gas flaring and oil spills – 300 major oil spills have poured about 8 million barrels of oil into the once lush area.

The Nigerian organization ERA denounces that an estimated 168 billion cubic meters of natural gas is flared yearly worldwide and 13% of this is flared in Nigeria (at about 23 billion cubic meters per year) in over 100 flare sites emitting a toxic mix of chemicals into the atmosphere.

The operations for oil extraction that pollute the land, water and air leave a sad toll of leukaemia, infertility, still-births, deformed babies, bronchitis, asthma, and other pollution-related diseases. No wonder life expectancy in rural communities in the Niger Delta has fallen to 41 years old.

All this takes place in a context of massive land grabbing by oil corporations and agribusiness that erodes traditional farming practices and communities’ food sovereignty.

But in the land of Ken Saro-Wiwa who roused the consciousness of the people over the environmental injustice in Ogoniland, the women, the foremost victims in the Niger Delta tragedy, have empowered themselves to fight for their future (see WRM Bulletin No 152).

Once again it has been the women who reacted and protested against the unfair distribution of oil industry revenue and the environmental degradation that neglect the communities and leave them bereft. Recently, in the end of August, a group of women from Ugborodo community put siege to the Otumara-Escravos flowstation in Delta State to call attention to their grievance.

The Otumara-Escravos station is a joint venture project between Shell and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation and renders an estimated $800 million profit. The community women, who had earlier seized the Chevron operated Escravos Gas Pipeline project at Madangho, succeeded in halting the oil operations during two days.

Oil extraction, mainly responsible for the present climate crisis, has only brought misery to the Nigerian people. Amidst the present climate crisis, ERA proposal outstands as the appropriate way out. ERA proposes that Nigeria should learn that there is no future in crude oil as the major revenue earner and that it should not make any new oil block concessions.

ERA says: “Let’s leave the oil under the ground.” Indeed it’s the best way to protect biodiversity, it’s the best way to protect the people.

Article based on: “Shell shuts plant in Nigeria as women’s protest expands”, Google/AFP,http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jVIOCDcxqXSnReV6U7A4N4TjxpUA;
“Nigeria: No More Oil Blocks! Let’s leave the oil under the Ground”, ERA/Oilwatch, http://www.oilwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=610&Itemid=224&lang=; “Shell’s Escravos, Otumara flow stations commence operation”, The Nation;thenationonlineng.net/web3/business/energy/11507.html

Source: WRM’s bulletin Nº; 159 October 2010