OIL COMPANIES AND THE OIL PRODUCING COMMUNITIES
The coming of the oil industry has transformed the local economy of the oil producing communities. Although the changes are not as profound as those among previously uncontacted peoples of the Amazon rainforest living in areas where oil has been discovered225—the Niger Delta was one of the first parts of Nigeria to have extensive contact with Europeans, and was profoundly affected by the slave trade (from which some local leaders profited, while other communities in the hinterland were victims), and subsequently exported oil palm derivatives and other local products—the sheer quantities of cash involved in the oil industry cannot but dramatically affect local economic opportunities and power relations between those who lose or gain from those opportunities. In some respects, the oil economy has had beneficial effects, creating job opportunities and educational and infrastructure development in areas which would otherwise likely have been far more marginalized within the Nigerian state. Overall, however, the effects of oil are at best ambivalent, and most local activists argue that they have proved negative for the communities where oil is produced.
Minorities in the Oil Producing Regions
The peoples living in the oil producing communities largely belong to ethnic groups other than the three major groups (Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa-Fulani) that dominate Nigeria. They speak a diverse range of languages and dialects: at least five major language groups are represented in the delta states.226 The largest of these groups are the Ijaw, who collectively form Nigeria’s fourth largest ethnic group but are themselves divided, as a consequence of the difficult territory which they inhabit, into subgroups speaking mutually unintelligible dialects of the Ijaw language (by some definitions thus themselves different languages).227 There areestimated to be approximately eight million people (there are no reliable census data) who would describe themselves as Ijaw, largely living in the riverine areas of what are now Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States, as well as in Port Harcourt, Warri, and other towns on dry land. The division between the riverine and upland areas is of major cultural and geopolitical importance in the debates over the rights of the oil areas.
Other ethnic groups on dry land in what is now Rivers State include the Ogoni, numbering some 500,000 (themselves divided between four separate dialect groups); several groups speaking languages related to Igbo, including the Etche, Ndoni, and Ikwerre; a number of communities speaking dialects falling into a Central Delta language group; the Andoni, who speak a Lower Cross dialect, and others.228 In Delta State are found the Itsekiri (whose language is related to Yoruba), the Urhobo, Edo, Isoko (in the Edo language group centered on Benin), and others. In the Cross River valley toward the Cameroon border, now Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, live the Efik, on the coast; the Ibibio; and, further north, a large number of ethnic groups, some of whose languages are spoken by no more than a few tens of thousands of people: the Willink Commission estimated that there were seventeen major languages and some 300 of lesser importance in the region.229 In addition, there are large numbers of Igbo immigrants into the minority areas, especially to the British-created town of Port Harcourt, while oil is also produced in some areas of the majority Igbo Imo State.
At the time of the Willink Commission representatives of the Ijaw already complained that the particular problems of those living in the creeks and swamps of the delta were not understood, indeed deliberately neglected, by both the regional and federal governments.230 A number of indigenous rulers of the Ijaw coastal communities, many of whom had concluded “treaties of protection” with the British in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, argued that the British should revoke the treaties, allowing them to revert to their previous position of independence, rather than become part of one Nigerian state. The commission rejected this contention, nor did it recommend the creation of a separate state forthe riverine Ijaw areas;231 however, it did recommend the creation of a federal board to consider the problems of the Niger Delta and “to direct the development of the areas into channels which would meet their peculiar problems,” and the assumption of joint federal and regional responsibility for “the development of special areas.”232 Between 1956 and 1959, twelve provinces with provincial assemblies were also created out of the Eastern Region, in a further move to allay the fears of minorities.
Following independence, the federal government passed the Niger Delta Development Act in 1961, establishing a Niger Delta Development Board. The board had powers only to undertake surveys and make recommendations to the federal and regional governments.233 It was based in Port Harcourt, not itself in the Niger Delta “special area.” Despite this gesture, dissatisfaction among the delta peoples remained. In February 1966, shortly after the first coup, and before the outbreak of the Biafra war, Isaac Boro, Sam Owonaro, and Nottingham Dick, leading a group of about 150 youths known as the Delta Volunteer Service, proclaimed a “Niger Delta Republic” intended to comprise mainly the Ijaw.234 The “twelve day revolution” was soon crushed by the Nigerian army and the leaders convicted of treason and sentenced to death; but, with the outbreak of the war, Boro, Owonaro, and Dick were released by Gen. Yakubu Gowon and joined many others in the riverine area in opposing what they perceived as the threat of the Igbo domination in the intended Biafra state. In September 1966, a delegation of “Rivers Leaders of Thought” presented a “Rivers State Memorandum” to General Gowon. In 1967, Rivers State was created, though it could only begin to functionwith the defeat of the secessionists by federal troops in the greater part of the state by September 1968.235
During the civil war, the minority groups of the delta were generally sympathetic to the federal cause, fearing domination in an Igbo state; the government of the secessionist Biafra state accordingly treated minority leaders with suspicion, and many were detained, tortured, even executed. With the defeat of Biafra, and reconstruction of the southeastern region, the minorities were once again integrated into a wider federal system, though demands for greater autonomy and recognition of the role played by the economic resources of the Niger Delta in the national economy continued. With each round of state creation, the Ijaws of the riverine areas made their case, though not until October 1996 were these demands answered by the federal government, with the creation of Bayelsa State out of the riverine areas of Rivers State. The Ijaws in Delta State, however, were excluded from the new government unit, which in any event almost totally lacks the infrastructure and personnel necessary to develop and administer policies for the area. The Bayelsa State capital, Yenagoa, was when the state was created little more than a crossroads, bus terminal and landing stage at the junction of the dry land and riverine areas.
The creation of Bayelsa State has not silenced the debate over revenue allocation to the oil producing communities, and petitions to government continue to demand better terms. Manifestoes by groups such as the Southern Minorities Movement and the Ijaw National Congress were submitted to the constitutional conference of 1994 to 1995. A seminar attended by representatives of the oil companies, NNPC, and leaders from oil producing communities in April 1997 issued a statement recommending that the federal government allocate a percentage of royalties on oil to them, suggesting that “the royalties percentage could be withheld as sanctions for acts of vandalism against properties of oil companies.”236 In March 1998, a meeting called by oil minister Dan Etete among representatives of Royal Dutch/Shell and military administrators of the oil producing statesannounced the creation of a new body, comprising representatives of government, oil companies and host communities, to coordinate provision of social investment in the oil producing areas. The Department of Petroleum Resources was given three months “to work out strategies for achieving observable results.”237 Minority resentment of the federal government and of Yoruba and Igbo domination of the oil industry remains a potent force: with the death of General Abacha and the inauguration of a new transition program, demands for greater attention to be paid to the oil producing communities by the federal government and the oil companies have surged once again.
Social and Economic Conditions in the Oil Producing Communities Today
Despite the vast oil wealth of the oil producing areas, the Niger Delta region remains poor—though detailed, accurate data on the economic situation do not exist. GNP per capita is below the estimated national average of U.S.$260, and is lower still in the riverine and coastal areas. Unemployment in Port Harcourt, the capital of the region, is at least 30 percent. Education levels are below the national average, already low: approximately three quarters of Nigerian children are believed to attend primary school, and national adult illiteracy is estimated at 43 percent, but in parts of the delta attendance at primary school drops to less than a third and illiteracy is presumably correspondingly higher (this is by contrast to the position at independence, when the delta still benefitted in terms of western education from its earlier contact with European missionaries).238 The poverty level is exacerbated by the high cost of living: the influx of people employed in the well-paid energy sector has made Port Harcourt and the other urban areas of the region among the most expensive in Nigeria. The oil sector employs only a small percentage of the workforce: a labor aristocracy of high wages surrounded by a great mass of un- or under-employed.
The state governments report that only 20 to 25 percent of rural communities and 45 to 50 percent of urban areas have access to safe drinking water; in all likelihood this is an overestimate. Proper sanitation is available to less than 25percent of the population; in Port Harcourt, the region’s biggest city, there is no city-wide sewage system. This situation is common to much of Nigeria but worse in the delta regions, where it is additionally exacerbated in the areas of regular flooding. Water related diseases are widespread and probably the “central health problem in the Niger Delta.”239 State programs for immunization of children have declined drastically in recent years: in Rivers State 85 percent of children were immunized in 1989, dropping to 15 percent in 1991; in Delta State 80 percent of children were immunized in 1990, dropping to 40 percent in 1993.240 As in the rest of Nigeria, electricity supply from the national grid is erratic; in any event, most of the riverine and coastal areas are not connected to the grid, and depend on kerosene stoves and lamps or private generators for power.
In Rivers, Bayelsa, and Delta States, estimated on the basis of the 1991 census to have a total population of up to seven million, about 70 percent of the population lives in rural delta communities.241 While overall population densities are not high, because of the high percentage of land not suitable for settlement, densities per habitable area are very high. Higher flood levels, projected as a result of upstream dam siltation, threaten to increase densities still further in those areas. Higher population densities have in turn increased the human and economic impact of seasonal inundations during which periods water levels can rise eight to ten meters above their lowest dry season levels.
Local population growth coupled with the influx of people from other parts of Nigeria, pushed by pressure on land elsewhere or pulled by the economic opportunities offered by the energy sector, has put serious pressure on agricultural land. New roads built by the oil companies to access their facilities are swiftly followed by agricultural development and settlement. As a result of pressure on land, farmers are forced to shorten the periods during which fields are allowed to lie fallow; fertilizers are not available to the great majority of farmers. Reduced sedimentation, caused by the construction of dams, is also believed to have contributed to decreased fertility. Yields have declined as a result: in the oil producing communities decreases in yield have often coincided with the beginning of oil production, and are usually attributed to the activities of the oil companies, though it is difficult to disentangle the different causes.242
Several hundred thousand people make a living through fishing. Fish catches in the delta region are believed to be well above sustainable levels, though statisticsare unreliable.243 Most fishing is carried out on a small-scale basis by self-employed fishermen and women using wooden canoes, rather than by commercial enterprises; however, commercial trawlers do operate offshore. The dams on the Niger and Benue Rivers and their tributaries have contributed to declining fish stocks, by reducing floods and nutrient inputs. Local fishermen complain at reduced catches in recent years, and attribute the decline to pollution from oil operations—both oil spillages and other effects such as increased turbidity of the water caused by dredging or traffic of large motor-powered craft. Again, lack of proper research makes it difficult to evaluate the overall contribution of hydrocarbon pollution to declining fish catch. In individual cases, however, oil spills can kill large numbers of fish in a small area. While spills in the open sea or in large creeks in tidal areas disperse fairly quickly, oil spilled in freshwater swamps or affecting fishponds in forest areas is confined to a small area. Moreover, although the effect of fish kill as a result of a spill can be mitigated by fishing elsewhere in the sea or large creeks, where access is usually open for those fishing from a particular community, the effect of a spill can destroy much of the livelihood for those affected in the freshwater swamp, where fishing areas and fishponds belong to particular families.
The forests of the Niger Delta of all types provide important sources of food and income to local communities. Mangrove has over seventy major uses: non-timber forest products collected from the mangrove forests include medicines, dyes, thatching, and food species as diverse as monkeys or periwinkles. In the freshwater swamp forests, raffia palm, mango, ogbono (bush mango; a common food ingredient in the local diet and sold across Nigeria), land snails, and other products are all significant.244 Destruction of “undeveloped” forest is thus as important to local communities as destruction of cultivated land.
Oil Company Relations with the Oil Producing Communities
Shell’s statement of general business principles recognizes “society” as one of the five groups to which Shell companies owe a responsibility (the others are shareholders, customers, employees, and those with whom they do business). Shell companies “take a constructive interest in societal matters which may not be directly related to the business,” and “provide full relevant information about their activities to legitimately interested parties, subject to any overriding considerationsof business confidentiality and cost.”245 Chevron’s statement on “mission and vision,” which it calls “The Chevron Way,” commits Chevron to be “Better than the Best,” a philosophy which means, amongst other things, that “communities welcome us.” Chevron companies stated aim is to “Communicate openly with the public regarding possible impact of our business on them or the environment,”246 to “establish an enduring and mutually beneficial relationship with the people,” and to be the “petroleum company of choice in Nigeria.”247 Chevron supplied Human Rights Watch with a range of publications produced in Nigeria, apparently aimed at informing local communities about their operations. Mobil, Agip, and Elf did not supply us with any similar company policy document, either on international or national policies; previously acquired copies of Mobil’s policies on business ethics and related matters do not refer to policies on community relations.
The oil companies have formal structures through which their relations with local communities are supposed to be channeled. SPDC’s official policy is that contacts with the oil producing communities are conducted through Community Relations Committees, consisting of the chief, elders and “representatives of relevant groups.”248 Shell also claims that “Many SPDC employees are themselves members of communities in the oil producing regions, where they live and work. SPDC is therefore well aware of the problems affecting the communities of the Niger Delta.”249 SPDC first began to appoint community liaison officers in 1992, and attributes a drop in the time taken to resolve disputes to their appointment.250 There are about twenty community liaison officers in the eastern division, and presumably a similar number in the western division. Though their appointment represents a recognition of the need for better communication with thecommunities, the liaison officers have, however, been appointed from among Shell’s technical staff, and do not have specialized training in development issues. They receive only a few weeks of training maximum, sometimes as little as one week. From all accounts, they show little interest in changing their approach from the past.251
Mobil, stating that “Mobil cares for all its publics, particularly the communities,” claims to have had “an enviable and unrivaled policy on community relations for many years.”252 Mobil says it has public relations committees in all of the four communities closest to its operations (Eket, Esit Eket, Onna, and Ibeno, in Akwa Ibom State). Mobil has also recently established a public relations committee in Bonny, where a terminal for its Oso natural gas project is being constructed. According to Mobil, “The committee members are elected by their respective communities. The committees are responsible for sampling opinions from their communities to determine what projects they want Mobil to carry out. The projects are prioritized and discussed with Mobil External Affairs staff. Projects are executed based on our community relations budget.”253 Residents of the areas where Mobil operates, however, criticize the public relations committees for being “packed” with Mobil contractors, turning themselves into “employment agencies, contract conduits and distortion and bribe-stricken organizations.”254
Similarly, Chevron states that, “As a matter of course, we hold quarterly meetings with community representatives. ... Chevron has no hand in the selection of community representatives. Communities elect their representatives at Town Hall meetings and forward their names to us. Most communities hold elections every two or three years. ... We also hold town hall meetings and public enlightenment forums on a regular basis.” Chevron’s “Community RelationsOfficers are recruited based on their academic qualifications and experience in relationship building. More than 75% of our Community Relations staff come from host communities.”255 Despite these efforts, Chevron admitted to Human Rights Watch, in the context of a particular incident of hostage taking, that “We have restricted our operational activities in the Ilaje area [Ondo State] because of the great difficulties in reaching meaningful and lasting agreements with the communities.”0
Elf “has created the positions of Community Relations Officers, who are EPNL permanent staff and are dedicated to the host communities and project sites. These officers have proven experiences, having interacted with these communities for nothing less than 10 years. They also possess a good knowledge of the company and its operations. In addition they have opportunities for external training courses. EPNL deals primarily with host families, Community Development Committees and ... Consultative Committees. We also dialogue with elders, youth organizations and environmental agencies. EPNL discusses development projects / community affairs with the consultative committees. Each representation to this committee is selected by the various host communities. It has a two year tenure.”1 Elf further maintains that its community relations policy “meets the fundamental basis for enabling work environment by: (I) being proactive; (ii) identifying with the needs and aspirations of host communities i.e. the provision of socio-economic infrastructure; (iii) being conscious of the need to protect the environment; (iv) close collaboration with government agencies, community leaders, youth organizations, etc; (v) principles of dialogue.”2
It is Human Rights Watch’s understanding that Agip has similar structures. However, Agip’s response to our correspondence did not supply information requested on community relations structures.
Despite the stated policies of some of the oil companies, the oil companies and their contractors are typically perceived as arrogant and dismissive by local communities. Those who negotiate with the communities are frequently described as unsympathetic or hostile, and in allegiance with local chiefs and contractors. A chief in Obite village near the Elf’s gas project, asked by the community to negotiate with C&C Construction, a contractor to Elf, for development spending in the village, complained that it was impossible to fix a meeting with thecompany’s representatives.3 Another man, from Egbema village in Rivers State, part of whose land had been taken to form the nearby Agip compound, complained that “At times they invite us to discuss our problems with them, but when we go there they take us for a joke.”4 The headquarters of the oil companies in Port Harcourt are difficult to gain access to without an appointment; perhaps understandably from the point of view of the oil companies, yet increasing the impression of inaccessibility from the point of view of the communities. Oil company workers at remote flow stations typically live on barges in virtual isolation from local communities, obtaining their food, water, and other supplies from company suppliers rather than local retailers. Roads to oil facilities often, if not usually, bypass nearby villages; leading to great resentment when, as is often the case, the road to the flow station is tarred while the road into the village remains a dirt track. If oil workers fall sick, they are airlifted to company hospitals in Port Harcourt or Lagos; the local people, meanwhile, have little or no health care available to them other than traditional remedies.
As a government inquiry concluded in January 1991, there is “a lack of meaningful contact and consultation between the Oil Company/Companies and the Communities in which the Oil Companies operate and therefore lack of understanding between both parties. Where there is such lack of understanding there is always confusion, disorder and all that makes for disturbances.”5
It is a constant complaint of communities that they have no permanent staff working for the oil companies and that not enough casual labor is used. The oil companies respond that it is not possible to employ community members without appropriate qualifications within the company, while there are only a limited number of jobs available, including casual labor. Their perspective is that “Many youths who do not have the required skills erroneously believe that it is their birth right, coming from an oil producing area, to be employed by an oil company or its contractor.”6
It is the stated practice of oil companies and their contractors to hire unskilled workers on a temporary basis from the communities where construction work or other projects are being carried out. Skilled workers are in principle hired “onmerit.” The companies also point to scholarships they fund to enable local community members to get the necessary training. Community members point out, however, that scholarships are usually allocated to those in favor with the individuals in charge of awarding them, often members of the local elites who benefit from oil company activity, and that they are mostly restricted to primary school level. Furthermore, due to the system of patronage that operates, even those with qualifications often do not have opportunities to seek permanent employment with the oil companies, since they have few contacts among senior staff.
Over the last two decades successive Nigerian governments have allowed the country’s infrastructure to decline. Roads are poorly maintained and potholed; the national electricity grid provides intermittent power, at best; water and sewerage systems are in such poor condition as to threaten the population’s health; and education and health facilities are understaffed and in disrepair. The Niger Delta is no exception to this state of affairs. Although there are some initiatives by OMPADEC, or by the state administrations, these are woefully inadequate to provide even for basic needs of the inhabitants of the region; as they are elsewhere in Nigeria. While blaming the military government and its civilian allies for this state of affairs, the people of the delta also feel that the oil companies have a responsibility to develop the communities in which they work, a responsibility separate from and not alternative to that owed by the government.
The oil companies claim that they are caught between the oil producing communities and the federal government, with the communities demanding that the oil companies provide development assistance for them since the federal government, which is properly responsible, has not done so. The federal government has also made statements that the oil companies should share responsibility for development in the areas where they operate: in April 1997, for example, oil minister Etete stated that oil companies should be “socially responsible citizens,” and “oil companies’ profits should be reinvested in these communities to alleviate the negative impact of their operations.”7 A government-backed judicial inquiry concluded that Shell “does not owe any legal obligation to the ... Community to provide any socio-economic or social amenities,” but emphasized that the company was obliged to pay “adequate compensation for lands acquired for oil operations and for crops and trees on such lands; to pay adequate compensation for damage done to farms by oilspillage/blow-out; to pay adequate compensation for pollution of water, rivers and streams by oil spillage and such other liabilities as may be stipulated by law.” Instead, “the compensations paid for these deprivations are just pittance, meagre pittance, on which the people cannot subsist for even six months, and they become frustrated with life.”8
Although the oil companies maintain that they should not be responsible for development projects in the oil producing areas, they nonetheless claim to spend substantial amounts of money for the benefit of the local communities, in addition to what they see as already adequate compensation paid for damage caused by oil operations.
SPDC claims to have had an “active community assistance programme” for more than twenty years, although this program involved fairly small amounts of money until recently.9 Increasing community unrest led to strategy reviews of SPDC’s community relations in 1992 and the adoption of its first formal five year “Public Affairs Plan.”10 The plan, clearly developed as a crisis response to the pressures being put on Shell domestically and internationally by the campaigns of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), resulted in the expansion of SPDC’s community assistance program and the appointment of a new Health, Safety, Environment and Community Affairs manager. From a level of U.S.$330,000 in 1989, according to Shell, the community assistance budget rose to U.S.$7.5 million in 1993 and to more than U.S.$36 million in 1996.11 Shell states that its “choice of development projects is essentially based on the needs of the people and in agreement with their communities,”12 and that, during 1997:
the company provided 71 classroom blocks—thereby putting a roof over the heads of more than 12,500 children. It sponsored 252 science teachers in 51 schools in rural areas, which these teachers would otherwise have avoided. It played a major role in providing training, organising logistics, supplying syringes, needles and vaccines for the immunisation of more than 300,000 children against childhood diseases. It donated drugs to treat outbreaks of cholera in Ogoniland, and inBayelsa State. The 14 hospitals supported by the company in the Eastern Division treated some 40,000 outpatients, admitted some 3,000 patients, delivered around 600 babies, undertook almost 300 surgeries, and treated over 15,000 children in Infant Welfare Clinics.13
Local activists and community members counter that these projects are achieved more on paper than in reality, and that much of the money supposedly spent in fact goes missing, leaving substandard facilities of little use to the communities, such as hospitals without water or electricity.14
Mobil claims to have spent an average of U.S.$8 million annually on community development projects between 1994 and 1997.15 Between 1990 and 1997, Chevron Nigeria Ltd reports that it spent approximately U.S.$28 million on community development and other assistance to its host communities, as “agreed to by the communities and requested of us by the people.”16 All the oil companies undertake development projects in the communities in which they operate, rather than in the oil producing region in general; Mobil, which operates mostly offshore, spends its development budget in the four closest local government areas. Elf’s annual budget on development projects is stated to be U.S.$4.5 to 5 million per year.17 Agip claims to have invested “more than U.S.$2.5 million a year” over the past ten years in its “Green River Project,” and to have provided infrastructure and development projects, as well as educational scholarships.18
However, the money spent on “development” in the delta has been largely misspent. In practice, according to community members, contractors, and oil industry employees spoken to by Human Rights Watch, much development spending gets diverted into the pockets of oil company employees or local contractors or chiefs, or is spent to pay off those who might otherwise be troublemakers. While school buildings have been erected, and water pumps and pipes installed, much of the money has gone to waste. There is little evidence of the development of a proper plan for development in consultation with local communities as to what their real needs are. In each community the effect has been to create an elite group which has benefitted substantially from the presence of the oil companies, and a great mass of people who have seen only damage to their livelihood. Wholly inappropriate development projects abound, such as an SPDC fish processing plant in Iko, Akwa Ibom State, far from any potential markets, without electricity to provide cold storage, and without any suitably qualified local people to run the plant. It stands empty, like many other projects. Nearby is a small hospital, also built by SPDC, which has no running water and no toilet; and no patients on the day Human Rights Watch visited it (though there was a nurse present, and the building did appear to be in good repair generally). Virtually every community in the delta has a non-functioning water or electricity scheme or other project sponsored by one or other of the oil companies or by OMPADEC and since abandoned. Alternatively, a large and expensive project such as a jetty is provided, not because it is a community priority, but because a large contract provides opportunities for equally large rake-offs.19
Not surprisingly therefore, communities remain dissatisfied despite the large amounts disbursed: research carried out for SPDC in its areas of operation in the Niger Delta found that 84 percent of the respondents felt that oil company activities adversely affected the economies of the host communities and 69 percent felt that there was a high level of deprivation and neglect.20
In recent years, Shell has changed the language it uses from “community assistance” to “community development” and has engaged in a review of the company’s development program. Shell reported to Human Rights Watch that:
An overall audit of all projects carried out in the past five years has been recently completed. This audit was independently verified by the international audit firm of KPMG: 47% of the projects were fully successful in meeting the needs of the communities, and a further 35% were partially successful in doing so.21
The success of the projects, as evaluated in this audit, varied by the type of project undertaken: 58 percent of water projects, for example, were judged unsuccessful, and only 18 percent fully successful; by contrast 73 percent of agricultural projects were deemed fully successful, and only 2 percent unsuccessful.22 Human Rights Watch has not itself collected data to enable it to evaluate the audit. No other oil company operating in Nigeria has reported any similar reevaluation of its development spending.
The Effect of the Oil Economy on Community Politics
The corruption pervading the Nigerian political system applies not only to the sums of millions of dollars that can be involved at federal level, but feeds down into each community in the delta, where oil money flows into the hands of local elites in the same way as it does to national elites. Contractors working in the oil industry report that oil company employees in middle management routinely take a percentage of the value of a contract, effectively selling the contract to the highest bidder—rather than the lowest, according to the usual practice of tendering. This system applies equally to development projects as to contracts directly connected to the construction or management of oil facilities: in 1995, a European Shell executive was quoted anonymously in the London Sunday Times as stating “I would go so far as to say that we spent more money on bribes and corruption than on community development projects.”23 Local contractors, often traditional leaders, in turn take their own percentages before passing a share of the benefit of the oil money to their own supporters; and so on down the chain. A small elite in each oil producing community thus becomes rich, and is prepared to tolerate the inconveniences of oil company presence—such as environmental pollution—for the sake of continued financial gain.24
Because of this relationship, oil companies are always able to show that some members of the community support their presence. In response to questions raised by Human Rights Watch relating to the Gbaran oil field, for example, SPDC carried out its own investigations, which resulted in letters from local traditional leaders copied to Human Rights Watch acknowledging payments made by Mife Construction (Nig) Ltd (the contractor for SPDC) toward the cost of annual festivals. Shell stated that “since the inception of the project, the overall relationship between the community and MIFE has been cordial.”25 Shell also states that the company has been invited by some local leaders to resume its production in Ogoni, closed since major protests took place in 1993.26 Similarly, Chevron stated, in correspondence with Human Rights Watch about a May 1998 incident when its Parabe platform, offshore from Ondo State, was invaded by about 200 youths, that it has always dealt with representatives appointed by the local onshore communities who “completely dissociated themselves” from the group known as “Concerned Ilaje Citizens” responsible for occupying the platform and warned Chevron against dealing with them. Local activists stated to Human Rights Watch that the representatives cited by Chevron are contractors and others who have always cooperated with the oil company.27
Those traditional leaders and contractors who benefit from the presence of the oil companies have every interest in their operations, even if the majority of the people do not. Where respect for such traditional leaders has not completely broken down, as happened in Ogoni, they often act as intermediaries between the oil companies and the general population in the event of protest, assisting in the resolution of disputes. Nevertheless, it is also clear that the great majority of the inhabitants of the oil producing communities regard the oil industry with hostility, regarding it as destructive and exploitative, and deeply resenting the wealth of those in the industry or with contacts to it, compared to the poverty of those who live close by. Those who are excluded from the system of mutual financial benefit between local elites and oil company staff become increasingly resentful of their exclusion, and protests involving closure of flow stations, hostage taking, oroccupation of company property result.28 There is a clear correlation between such protests and subsequent provision of development projects, and many community members feel that protests are therefore the only way to get heard.29 Alternatively, individuals hope that if they are able to attract enough attention they may finally be offered a contract or other sweetener: they are thus themselves coopted into the system.
The presence of oil has also exacerbated political disputes in the delta region over territory or other rights. While territorial disputes in the delta predate the discovery of oil, and while they continue in other parts of the Nigerian federation, it is undoubtedly the case that many of the conflicts between neighboring communities in the delta are fueled by the presence of oil. Even though the oil industry is blamed for a range of ills and for not doing enough for the areas where it operates, communities are also aware of the potential benefits of having a pipeline travel through their land or a flow station, and the opportunities for compensation payments and contracts that will result even if the cash input only reaches a few. Hence, disputes between communities which have been latent can be stirred up by the suggestion that an oil installation is planned, as well as by damage caused by oil pollution.30
In a document written in response to allegations over its role in the Ogoni crisis, Shell directly addressed this issue, stating that:
[The problems of the Niger Delta] include the provision of basic infrastructure such as water, electricity, health and education; and land and mineral rights. They are further complicated by the resurgence of ethnic conflict between different communities and ethnic groups—conflicts which, in Nigeria, unfortunately have a long history. These ethnic conflicts have been well documented by the Nigerian media. They report that the reasons behind the conflicts are, to a large extent, disputes between neighboring communities over territory. SPDC is in no way involved in such conflicts. It is totally unjustified to suggest that Shell, by virtue of endeavoring to carry out its legitimate business of oil exploration and production, is in some way responsible for such conflicts or the level of the Nigerian government’s response to them because of its need to maintain oil production.31
Human Rights Watch documented the involvement of Nigerian soldiers in attacks on the Ogoni by a neighboring ethnic group, the Andoni, during the height of the Ogoni crisis. The attacks were apparently designed to punish the Ogoni for their resistance to oil production and to justify a security crackdown to maintain “law and order” and, hence, oil revenues.32
Oil production generates conflict on a lesser scale on a regular basis. For example, at Elele-Alimini, in Rivers State, a spill occurred from the SPDC Mininta-Rumuekpe pipeline on May 8, 1997. The oil spilled onto land belonging to two local families, on which a third family from a neighboring village had by tradition rights to keep fishponds. The oil destroyed a large area of forest and the fishponds within it. In discussions over the incident, it was reportedly alleged by Shell to one of the landholder families that the spill had been caused by sabotage carried out by the tenant family, though no evidence was put forward, and tensions between the two villages had risen as a result.33 Similarly, in July 1997, two rival factions in Igwuruta, Ikwerre local government authority, Rivers State, were reported to have clashed over the award of contracts by SPDC, causing other residents to flee their homes.34 On February 23, 1998, communities in Onna local government authority,one of the communities affected by the Mobil oil spill of January 12, were reported to be split between factions disputing the right to be acknowledged as the legitimate negotiators for the people of the area.35 In September 1998, in the Ilaje-Ese-Edo local government area of Ondo State, at least fifty died and thousands were displaced in armed clashes between Ijaw and Ilaje communities laying competing claims to Apata, an oil rig area located between them. Soldiers and police were deployed to the area by the military administrator of Ondo State, Col. Moses Fasanya.36
Local community members regularly assert that the oil companies use the award of contracts or development projects in a deliberate effort to divide the communities among and within themselves and thus rule them without serious challenge to their operations. Whatever the intentions of the companies, division and conflict within and between communities can often result from or be exacerbated by their presence.
The Warri Crisis
One example of the oil industry being caught up in and contributing to a conflict, and ultimately to violent military or police action, was the “Warri Crisis” of 1997. Since before independence there have been tensions surrounding the arrangements for the government of the region surrounding Warri, the second most important “oil town” after Port Harcourt: in part, these conflicts arose from British mismanagement or deliberate attempts to play one ethnic community off against another.37 Like Port Harcourt, Warri is on the border between the dry land and riverine areas of the delta. Warri itself is claimed by the Itsekiri, a small ethnic group claimed by some to be of Yoruba origin. To the north, on land, are the Urhobo, related to the Edo-speaking peoples of Benin City. To the south, in the swampy riverine areas, are members of the “Western Ijaw.”38
Violence flared up in Warri in March 1997, over the issue of the relocation of a local government headquarters from Ogbe-Ijaw, an Ijaw town, to Ogidigben, an Itsekiri area. Similar local government relocations, carried out as part of the rearrangement of state and local government in General Abacha’s “transition program” supposedly designed to restore civilian rule, caused violent clashes in other parts of Nigeria. From March to May, widespread clashes continued, in which hundreds of people died on either side.
During the violence, six Shell flow stations were seized by a number of youths on March 22, and 127 SPDC staff held hostage. A seventh flow station was later also closed down. Shell’s output in Nigeria was cut by some 210,000 bpd.39 Three people were reported injured during an incident on Monday March 24, although the SPDC staff were eventually released unharmed in stages, the final batch on Thursday March 27. In late April, it was reported that a number of SPDC flow stations in Ogidigben were seized by youths, this time demanding compensation from SPDC for their grievances, again forcing Shell to stop production for several days. As a result of these disturbances, Shell declared the suspension of its exports from its Bonny terminal for several days from April 1, 1997, on grounds of force majeure,40 and again from April 29 till May 28, 1997, of some cargoes from its Forcados terminal, announcing that there would be delays of several days in loading.41
A task force was appointed to handle the crisis, headed by Brigadier General Karmasche.42 A dusk to dawn curfew was imposed in March for several weeks, and a fast navy attack ship sent to the area in April. Soldiers were also deployedin Warri town in late April to restore order.43 The Warri refinery was closed for several days during May, when the violence prevented vessels from reaching the port, although it reopened when the navy provided escorts for ships loading refined products: the chief of defense staff, Maj. Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (now head of state), assured oil companies that ships moving in and out of Warri would have “adequate protection.”44
The Delta State government under Col. J. Dungs appointed a commission of inquiry into the conflict, chaired by Justice Alhassan Idoko, which met during June and July. Mr. Chukwudozie Okonkwo, a representative of SPDC, was reported on June 25 to have confirmed to the commission in his oral testimony that SPDC had given the youths _100,000 (U.S.$1,111) “to look after the flow stations” during their occupation.45 Shell confirmed to Human Rights Watch that a sum of _100,000 had been paid, to “people from the community” who were asked to guard the facilities while Shell staff were not present, and were accordingly paid “the equivalent of the money the company would have paid its security personnel at the stations.”46 Shell stated repeatedly that the Warri crisis was nothing to do with oil production, but rather that “Shell was just there. Invading oil installations was seen as a good way of bringing attention to protesters’ demands.”47 “The hostages were released when SPDC agreed to pass on the demands of those holding the staff hostage (for the local government headquarters not to be relocated) to the authorities.”48
However, the commission also heard a number of allegations from representatives of the Ijaw and Urhobo communities that both SPDC and Chevron unfairly favored the Itsekiri community in handing out contracts and employment opportunities; in particular, channeling benefits through the Olu of Warri, Atuwatse II, the Itsekiri leader.49 Shell responded to this allegation by referring to its competitive tendering process, under which “award of contracts is based on value for money, reflecting cost, technical competence, and ability to deliver on time,among other criteria.”50 In meetings with Human Rights Watch, Shell has also stated that in case of complex technical tasks, it can be difficult to find local contractors able to carry out the project to the required standard. Whatever the truth of the allegations, which are certainly plausible given similar allegations raised in communities across the oil areas, it is clear that the possible financial reward connected to contracting to the oil industry, in an otherwise impoverished region, has great potential to exacerbate tensions between different communities, thus contributing to the level of violent clashes between neighboring villages or ethnic groups in the delta region.
Violence continues in the region to
leading to clamp-downs by the authorities: the military task force
deployed.51 In October 1998, a curfew was
in Warri town by the new military administrator, Navy Commander Walter
Feghabor, after at least five people were shot dead in clashes between
Ijaws and Itsekiris and a large number of houses set on fire; violence
nevertheless continued, with attacks on leaders of each community.52
225 See Judith Kimmerling, Amazon Crude (New York: Natural Resources Defense Council, 1991).
226 In addition to members of the Igboid and Yoruboid language groups, Ijoid, Edoid and Delta Cross dialects are represented.
227 Ijaw (sometimes spelled Ijo), has four main groups of dialects, each of which may itself be considered a language (that is, speakers within the dialect group cannot understand speakers of another dialect group, though they can, generally, understand other dialects within the group): Eastern Ijaw (including Kalabari, Bile, Okrika, Ibani and Nkoro); Nembe-Akassa; Izon (including Bumo, Oporoma, Olodiama, Eastern Tarakiri, Basan, Apoi, Ikibiri, Ogboin, Ekpetiama, Kolokuma, and Gbanrain, all spoken in Yenagoa local government area); and Kabou, Western Tarakiri, Tungbo, Oiyakiri, Kumbo Mein, and Iduwini, all spoken in Sagbama local government area); and InlandIjaw (including Biseni, Okodia, and Oruma). This categorization is already a simplification of the situation on the ground. E.E. Efere and Kay Williamson, “Languages,” in E.J. Alagoa and Tekena N. Tamuno (eds.), Land and People of Nigeria: Rivers State (Port Harcourt: Riverside Communications, 1989).
229 Willink Commission Report, chapter 5, paragraph 4.
230 Ibid., chapter 6, paragraph 18; chapter 7, paragraphs 14-19.
231 In the delta area the idea of a Rivers State took concrete form from 1953, with the formation of the Council of Rivers Chiefs, later renamed the Rivers State Congress and then Rivers Chiefs and Peoples’ Congress. In 1957, the Niger Delta Congress (NDC) was formed as a political party, under the leadership of Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, prominent in the Rivers State movement. The NDC formed an alliance with the Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC), as support against the majority southern parties. A parallel movement existed for the creation of a Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers (COR) State, as a more viable alternative. V. Reggie-Fulaba and A.I. Pepple, “Regional Government,” and Ben Naanen and A.I. Pepple, “State Movements,” both in Alagoa and Tamuno (eds.), Rivers State.
232 Willink Commission Report, chapter 14, paragraph 28.
233 Alagoa and Tamuno (eds.), Rivers State, introduction.
234 In October 1998, the name of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force was resurrected by a coalition of youth groups involved in the closure of flow stations and demanding increased investment in the oil producing regions.
235 For the first fifteen months of its existence, the Rivers State government functioned in internal “exile.” With the mid-1967 restoration of federal control over Bonny, on the Atlantic coast, the governor of the new state, Navy Lt. A.P. Diete-Spiff, established a civilian administration in Bonny under a sole administrator, Ken Saro-Wiwa, later to lead the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People.
236 Reuters, April 27, 1997. While Human Rights Watch does not take a position on the percentage of oil money that should be paid to the oil producing areas, we note that this suggestion would imply that whole communities would be held hostage for individual acts of sabotage, perpetuating many of the injustices that exist today.
237 Reuters, March 13, 1998; text of Nigerian TV broadcast, March 13, 1998, as reported by BBC SWB, March 24, 1998.
238 World Bank, Defining an Environmental Development Strategy, p.2-3; World Bank, World Development Report 1997, Table 1; see also, Uche Onyeagucha, Oronto Douglas, and Nick Ashton-Jones, The Human Habitat of Port Harcourt (Benin City: Environmental Rights Action, 1995). The northern state of Sokoto, however, has fewer schools per capita than Delta or the old Rivers State. Environmental Resources Managers Ltd Niger Delta Environmental Survey Final Report Phase I, Volume I, p.164.
239 World Bank, Defining an Environmental Development Strategy, p.71.
240 Ibid., p.70.
241 Ibid., p.2.
242 Ibid., p.16.
243 Moffat and Lindén, “Perception and Reality,” p.529.
244 Environmental Resources Managers Ltd, Niger Delta Environmental Survey Final Report Phase I, Volume I, p.131.
245 Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies, Statement of General Business Principles (London and The Hague: Shell, March 1997).
246 Chevron, The Chevron Way, (San Francisco: Chevron, 1995).
247 NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture, Community Development Philosophy (Lagos: Chevron Nigeria Ltd, November 1997).
248 SPDC, PAGE Fact Book, 1993 section 3.1.1.
249 Shell International Petroleum Company, Operations in Nigeria (London: May 1994).
250 According to Shell, stepped up efforts to improve relations with communities resulted in a drop in the volume of oil of which the delivery was deferred due to community disturbances, from 6.6 million barrels in 1995 to 1.1 million barrels in 1996; the length of time taken to resolve community disturbances fell from seventeen days in 1995 to five days in 1996. However, the widespread disturbances of 1997 and 1998 may well have reversed this decline. SPDC, People and the Environment: Annual Report 1996; Human Rights Watch meeting with SPDC, Port Harcourt, July 28, 1997.
251 Ibid., and interviews with individuals and nongovernmental organizations involved in negotiations with Shell. For a general overview of Shell’s community relations and other issues, see Doris Danler and Markus Brunner, Shell in Nigeria (Lagos and Cologne: Bread for the World, August 1996).
252 Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited letter to Human Rights Watch, February 10, 1998. Since Mobil’s operations are mostly offshore, it is much less exposed to the community protests that have affected Shell or to sabotage.
253 According to Mobil, development projects include provision of health care facilities and potable water, construction of roads, electrification, building and rehabilitation of schools, support for teachers and doctors in schools, clinics and hospitals, and scholarships for tertiary institutions. Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited letter to Human Rights Watch February 10, 1998.
254 Human Rights Watch interviews, July 8, 1997; Martin Usenekong, “Dilemma of Public Relations Committees,” Pioneer (Uyo), February 13, 1998.
255 Chevron Nigeria Ltd letter to Human Rights Watch, March 11, 1998.
0 Chevron Nigeria Ltd letter to Human Rights Watch, June 29, 1998.
1 Elf Petroleum Nigeria Ltd letter to Human Rights Watch, May 8, 1998.
3 Human Rights Watch interview, July 4, 1997.
4 Human Rights Watch interview, July 4, 1997.
5 Report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Umuechem Disturbances (Port Harcourt: Rivers State Government, January 1991).
6 Chevron Nigeria Ltd letter to Human Rights Watch, March 11, 1998.
7 James Jukwey, “Nigerian Troops Head to Oil Town to Restore Order,” Reuters, April 23, 1997.
8 Rivers State Government, Report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Umuechem Disturbances.
9 Shell International Petroleum Company letter to P.V. Horsman, Oil Campaigner, Greenpeace, October 20, 1993.
10 SPDC, PAGE Fact Book 1993, section 6.1.
11 Ibid., section 6.6; SPDC, People and the Environment: Annual Report 1996.
12 Shell International Ltd letter to Human Rights Watch, February 13, 1998.
13 SPDC, “Response to Environmental Rights Action (ERA) Monitor Report No. 3, Shell and Community Support in the Niger Delta,” 1998.
14 Environmental Rights Action, “Report to the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility,” April 1998.
15 Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited letter to Human Rights Watch February 10, 1998.
16 The individual projects planned for 1998, according to Chevron, included ten blocks of six classrooms each, five three-bedroom bungalows for teachers, three science blocks and laboratories, three secondary school dormitories, five steel boat-landing jetties, three town halls and civic centers and water projects in nine communities. Chevron states that there are other health and agricultural projects that will begin in 1999 and future years. Chevron also has a “youth skills acquisition training project” for youths from its host communities. Letter from Chevron Nigeria Ltd to Human Rights Watch, March 11, 1998.
17 Elf Petroleum Nigeria Ltd letter to Human Rights Watch, May 8, 1998.
18 Nigerian Agip Oil Co Ltd letter to Human Rights Watch, July 7, 1998. Details of the Green River Project were not supplied.
19 According to a report for the Niger Delta Environmental Survey: “In the eyes of the community, causes of dissatisfaction include the following complaints:
· contracts are sometimes awarded to opinion leaders/chiefs in the oil producing communities who collect contract fees and abandon the project sites,
· some opinion leaders/chiefs collude with contractors to falsely certify job completion in order to share a percentage of the contract sum to the detriment of the community,
· oil companies sometimes initiate and execute ill-defined projects which may quickly be abandoned or vandalised by people in the community including influential individuals who then blame the oil companies in order to mobilise their communities in fresh demands for projects,
· projects are overvalued to obtain kickbacks,
· not all the community assistance projects may get to the target communities,
· the projects may not have been initiated by the people,
· the dubious or corrupt role of opinion leaders/chiefs who collude with others to cheat or defraud companies,
· the projects are not economically viable, self-sustaining or easily maintained, so that they break down soon after installation and commissioning, and
· projects are initiated and executed without consultation with the benefiting community (e.g. the case where items of hospital equipment were provided whereas the community has no health institution).”
Environmental Resources Managers Ltd, Niger Delta Environmental Survey Final Report Phase I, Volume I, p.228.
20 Environmental Resources Managers Ltd, Niger Delta Environmental Survey Final Report Phase I, Volume I, p.226, citing a 1994 report for SPDC (emphasis added).
21 Shell International Ltd letter to Human Rights Watch, February 13, 1998.
22 The audit reportedly involved some 60 personnel, who visited 425 projects (45 percent of the total listed) across Shell’s operational area and completed questionnaires designed to assess their success. KPMG’s verification of this exercise was based on field visits carried out between October 13 and 27, 1997, to 181 projects split between Shell’s east and west divisions. SPDC, SPDC Community Assistance Projects Review 1992-1997 (Lagos: SPDC, November 1997).
23 “Shell axes ‘corrupt’ Nigeria staff,” Sunday Times (London), December 17, 1995.
24 Local government in Nigeria is carried out by local government authorities (LGA) which are responsible for local facilities and infrastructure. Each LGA is headed by a chairman, who is advised by councilors. Local government elections were held in March 1997, as part of the discredited “transition program” of Gen. Sani Abacha, and those elected had little legitimacy. (See Human Rights Watch/Africa, “Transition or Travesty?”) Following the death of General Abacha, local government councils were dissolved and civil servants appointed to manage their business, pending fresh elections under the program announced by his successor, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar: elections for new local government councils were held on December 5, 1998. In addition, different ethnic groups and communities in Nigeria have traditional leaders or chiefs chosen according to their particular traditions, as they have evolved over the years in symbiosis with colonial and independent central governments. These traditional leaders are also recognized by the federal or state governments, according to a scheme developed by the British under the system of “indirect rule” through local leaders, and may be paid a small stipend, which varies by the seniority of the particular title. In the Niger Delta chiefs are generally chosen within communities by partly consultative processes, though descent is also a factor. Their status is thus somewhat ambivalent: while they receive recognition from government, they also have some genuine respect within communities, though this can be jeopardized by a too-close relationship with, for example, the oil companies. In general, however, there is palpable distrust of traditional leaders and other “elders” within communities from the “youths” who are excluded from this system butmay have more education and are anxious for power relations to be democratized at local level.
25 Letter from Shell International Ltd to Human Rights Watch, February 13, 1998.
26 MOSOP alleges that many Ogonis have been forced to sign statements indicating that they want Shell to resume production in Ogoni; even so, it is clear that some Ogonis, those who stand to benefit, do want Shell to return.
27 Letter from Chevron Nigeria Ltd to Human Rights Watch, June 29, 1998; interviews with members of Environmental Rights Action.
28 “Internal divisions within the community also seem to have increased, most frequently between the youths and the chiefs, between youths and the community urban and local elites, between youths and professional claims agents and the community, as well as between different youth groups.... Thus in most cases, the conflict is directed against the chiefs who are seen as the focal point of authority and patronage.” Environmental Resources Managers Ltd, Niger Delta Environmental Survey Final Report Phase I, Volume I, p.230. While the term “youths” usually refers to young men, it is also used to refer in general to those who are not part of the patronage system, and can include individuals well into middle age.
29 Environmental Resources Managers Ltd, Niger Delta Environmental Survey Final Report Phase I, Volume I, p.230.
30 “Inter-community conflicts had occurred frequently even before the exploitation of petroleum. However, they have become much more rampant since oil exploitation started. The conflict is usually over land where petroleum is found, or where there are other forms of oil-related installations. Virtually all neighbouring villages in the Niger Delta where oil has been found have experienced such conflicts. Such conflicts are usually settled in the courts of law or through violence. There is considerable evidence that most of the court cases between villages in the area are related to this dispute over oil rights.” Ibid., p.258.
31 Shell Briefing Note, Operations in Nigeria.
32 Human Rights Watch/Africa, “The Ogoni Crisis: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria,” A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol.7, no.5, July 1995.
33 Human Rights Watch interviews, Elele-Alimini, July 11, 1997.
34 Joseph Ollor Obari, “Rival Groups Clash Over Shell Contracts,” Guardian (Lagos), July 16, 1997.
35 “Oil Spill Largesse Tears LGA Apart,” Pioneer (Uyo), February 23 to March 1, 1998.
36 Onyema Omenuwa, “Riverine War in Ondo,” The Week (Lagos), October 5, 1998; AFP, September 29, 1998; Alex Duval Smith, “Nigerian warriors seek spiritual aid as oil discovery stokes land dispute,” Guardian (London), October 8, 1998.
37 Environmental Resources Managers Ltd, Niger Delta Environmental Survey Final Report Phase I, Volume I, p.148.
38 In 1952, the traditional leader of the Itsekiri, previously known as the Olu of Itsekiri, was given instead the title of Olu of Warri, thus implying—positively in the eyes of the Itsekiri and negatively in the view of the Urhobo and Ijaw—rights of control not only over the Itsekiri, but also over the other ethnic groups living in the Warri area. The change of title provoked riots in Warri. The 1957 Chiefs’ Law (Cap. 19), however,excluded Ijaw areas from the Olu of Warri’s authority. During the investigations of the Willink Commission, the Itsekiri argued that the Warri administrative district, which they regard as their ancestral territory, should be excluded from the proposed Mid-West State and included in what was then the Ondo Province of the Yoruba Western Division.
39 Reuters, March 27, 1997. During the same period, villagers protesting a merger of two communities into one local government area in Bayelsa State closed five flow stations in Nembe Creek. In May 1997, youths occupied the same five flow stations in Nembe again forcing Shell to stop production. Reuters, March 28 and May 13, 1997. In July 1997, SPDC reported that the Warri River flow station, abandoned during the Warri crisis, had been vandalized, and 80 percent of the facility destroyed. Reuters, July 11, 1997.
40 Roland Gribben, “Shell Delays Oil Exports after Nigerian Protests,” Daily Telegraph (London), April 2, 1997.
41 Reuters, May 5, 1997.
42 Energy Compass, vol.8, no.32, August 8, 1997.
43 James Jukwey, “Nigerian Troops Head to Oil Town to Restore Order,” Reuters, April 23, 1997.
44 Radio Nigeria, May 2, 1997, as reported by BBC SWB, May 6, 1997.
45 Nigeria Today, June 25, 1997. Human Rights Watch has attempted to obtain a copy of the report of the commission, which was presented to Col. Dungs, but has been unable to do so.
46 Shell International Ltd letter to Human Rights Watch, February 13, 1998.
47 Oil and Gas Journal, March 31, 1997.
48 Shell International Ltd letter to Human Rights Watch, February 13, 1998.
49 Oma Djebah, “At the Commission, Endless Claims over Warri,” Guardian (Lagos), July 2, 1997.
50 Shell International Ltd letter to Human Rights Watch, February 13, 1998.
51 In September 1997, at least three people died in a raid by soldiers on an the Ijaw community of Ekeremor Zion, and fifty-eight were reported arrested, while substantial damage was done to the village. The clashes apparently resulted from the kidnapping by youths of four soldiers from the Warri task force during the previous month; one of the soldiers was reported to have been later found dead, and his colleagues carried out an indiscriminate reprisal raid. Environmental Rights Action later ascertained that some of the soldiers involved in the raid had been dismissed and others jailed by the military authorities. Reuters, October 1, 2 and 3, 1997; Radio Kudirat Nigeria, October 2, 1997 (Nigerian opposition radio), as reported by BBC SWB, October 2, 1997; Environmental Rights Action “Shell’s Airport at Osubi”; communications from Environmental Rights Action to Human Rights Watch. Franklin Atake, a retired judge and spokesman for the Itsekiri ethnic group, was detained for five days in October 1997 by the military administrator of Delta State.
52 AFP, October 22 and 23, 1998.
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