Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the continent’s leading oil producer. The hydrocarbon comes mainly from the Niger River Delta region. The population living near the area suffers from inhumane contamination of their environment, the fault of the exploitation of the oil companies and the official repression of any form of resistance. Revenues from oil extraction constitute more than 98% of what Nigeria receives in foreign exchange. Oil extracted from the region accounts for around 50% of Nigeria’s GDP. In addition, the development of the gas subsectorIt is unstoppable, and has made the country an international benchmark as a producer of this resource. However, 75% of the population of the Niger River Delta lives below the poverty line. Thousands of people were victims of mass killings committed when the conflict over control of oil broke out in the late 1990s, as well as in 2003 and 2004.
What is the Niger Delta like?
The Niger River Delta stretches over 75,000 square kilometers in southern Nigeria. According to the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), some 30 million people live there organized in groups, most of the time no more than 5,000 individuals. The area’s wealth of natural resources is the greatest in the country: the jungle configures a landscape of agricultural lands, forests and aquifers, with great value in biodiversity. A biodiversity threatened since the sixties, when oil exploitation began.
The US oil company Chevron has an oil terminal in the town of Escabros. Nearby is Ugborodo, an Itsekiri community that demonstrated in 2005 protesting that the company had failed to fulfill its commitment to provide them with jobs and development projects. The army fired at them. They killed one man and wounded at least thirty others.
Oil in Niger
As if all the above were not enough, oil spills are constant in the area. Since 2006, more than 3,000 oil spills have been registered in the Niger Delta , most of them at facilities of international oil companies. Since the beginning of oil exploitation in the 1960s, more than 1.5 million tons of crude oil have been spilled into the Niger Delta.
The country took over the oil wealth, but the inhabitants of the area have not gotten any improvement in their lives. Rather the complete opposite. The UN Environment Program (UNEP) wrote in a report that the Niger Delta is marked by government neglect, poverty, unemployment and conflict. Many people are forced to drink contaminated water and to cook and wash with it. “Sometimes we have to row four hours to get to a place where the river is not so polluted. Some fish we catch smell like oil,” a fisherman from the Niger Delta tells experts at the human rights organization Amnesty International, who published a year ago a report on the effects of oil pollution for the inhabitants of the Niger Delta. ” oil industry destroys the basis of their livelihood, “conclude Amnesty International experts. Many of the extraction facilities are more than 40 years old, poorly maintained and more likely to cause spills.
The Niger Delta supplies 40% of America’s crude imports. Life expectancy in their rural communities, half of which do not have access to safe water, has dropped to just over 40 years in just two generations. The inhabitants blame the oil that pollutes their lands. “It’s like heaven and hell. They have everything. We have nothing. They throw our petitions in the trash. They are the cause of all our problems. If we protest, they send soldiers. They sign agreements with us and then ignore us. We have university graduates who are hungry, unemployed. And they bring people from Lagos to work here. ” These are the words of Eghare WO Ojhogar, head of the Ugborodo community living in the Delta state.
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