The Dutch Lower House recently conducted a hearing into Shell’s activities in Nigeria, due in part to the ZEMBLA broadcast ‘Shell’s Dirty Oil’ of June 2010. Members of the Lower House asked ZEMBLA reporter
Thomas Blom to recount his experiences in Nigeria, where Shell has been drilling for oil for over fifty years. Oil spills have seriously contaminated arable land and fishing waters. The people are sick and tired of it. Rather than create prosperity for the inhabitants of the Niger Delta, Shell brings impoverishment and fans the flames of local conflicts. ZEMBLA filmed Shell’s practices and spoke with the local people.
1.5 million tons of oil has polluted farming land and marshes
For weeks, the eyes of the world were fixed on the Gulf of Mexico, where BP attempted to stem an oil leak deep in the ocean. Meanwhile, the Niger Delta, the southernmost tip of the country, has been the victim of an oil disaster for half a century. Since the oil companies began to hunt for oil there, an estimated 1.5 million tons of oil has seeped into arable land and into the marshes. The pollution continues unabated. The people want it to end and are venting their anger on Shell. The international Anglo-Dutch oil company makes billions in profits, but is accused of sacrificing environmental and human rights. ZEMBLA went to the Niger Delta to witness Shell’s activities.
Kingsley Chinda, environmental commissioner of the Nigerian province Rivers State, is unequivocal: ‘The people are enraged by the how oil companies operate.’ We find examples throughout the entire Niger Delta. In the village Jk4, village chief B. Ulolo shows us the twentieth spill in a year, caused by one of Shell’s old, faulty pipelines. In Goi, a village in the heart of the vulnerable Delta region, river banks are thick with raw oil, while resident Eric Barizaa claims that Shell believes that they’ve cleaned up the mess. Fish have disappeared, as have the mangrove woods. Drinking water is tainted, and the village children play in oil-contaminated water.
A community torn apart
Hundreds of kilometres away, we stumble upon an abandoned village. 15,000 inhabitants have left, only a handful remain. These people tell us how conflicts broke out because Shell did not distribute its payments throughout the community, but instead gave handouts to a number of individuals. The dangers of their strategy are evident – the community was torn apart. And Shell is aware of this, claims former Shell adviser S. Braide: ‘They have been told about this during a number of meetings.’ This is also confirmed by an internal report drafted in 2003. The conflict escalated, resulting in scores of fatalities. The village has been reduced to a ghost town while, right next to the village, Shell continues to pump for precious oil. Kingsley Chinda: ‘Let them make profit in a humane way. Lives are more valuable than profit.’