A new report has found that Shell fuelled human rights abuses in Nigeria by paying huge contracts to armed militants. The report, called Counting the Cost, is published by Platform and a coalition of NGOs and featured in todays UK Guardian.
The report, uncovers how Shell’s routine payments to armed militants exacerbated conflicts, in one case leading to the destruction of Rumuekpe town. There are four oil companies operating in Rumuekpe including Shell. In July this year I visited Rumuekpe and spoke with a large group of women activists from the town. The women explained how the towns people were terrorised by competing militants which led to the estimated deaths of 60 people. Eventually the whole population had to run from the town leaving behind their homes, properties and farms. What is left is a ghost town and on the day we visited, the women and ourselves were fearful that we were being watched and it was too dangerous for us to stay for any length of time or walk through the town center.
Shell also continues to rely on Nigerian government forces who have perpetrated systematic human rights abuses against local residents, including unlawful killings, torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. This has been further exacerbated in recent years by war lordism across the region which has particularly led to violence against women, rape and forced prostitution. The women of Rumuekpe and Okrika Town pointed out that those towns where there were no oil companies were free of militarised and environmental violence and people were able to live in peace.
What writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa dubbed the “slick alliance” between oil multinationals and the Nigerian military is alive and harmful as ever. Shell’s operations remain inextricably linked to human rights violations committed by government forces. The Nigerian government, driven to keep oil revenues flowing and working in close partnership with oil multinationals, has heavily militarised the Delta. Shell alone has hired over 1,300 government forces as armed guards. For communities, the impacts have been devastating and are in addition to ongoing environmental damage from oil spills and gas flaring.
Commenting on the report, Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth International said:
“Shell’s obligations are clear: it must clean up after decades of devastating oil spills, end the illegal practice of gas flaring and compensate the victims of human rights abuses in Nigeria. It is unacceptable that Shell continues to deny responsibility, while pushing communities deeper into poverty and fuelling destructive conflicts.”
“Shell’s divisive practices have led to daily human rights violations in the Niger Delta,” added Geert Ritsema from Friends of the Earth Netherlands. “Many of the victims have no access to justice and cannot afford to take the oil giant to court. Lawsuits in Nigeria can take decades to resolve and the remedies are often inadequate. Yet Shell must be held accountable for its environmental destruction and complicity in human rights abuses in Nigeria, and home governments like the UK and Netherlands must ensure that remedies are available and accessible to the victims.”