I don’t believe America went to war against Iraq for oil, but that doesn’t mean Big Oil’s hands are clean though. Recently released reports show that on at least two occasions, Shell had paid the Nigerian miltary substantial sums of money and that same military brutally repressed an area that just happened to be protesting Shell.
I won’t recap the struggle of the people of Ogoni against Shell here; suffice to say, there are plenty of websites devoted to the ongoing battle between these two entities going back to the discovery of oil at the Oloibiri Well (pictured above) in 1956. But according to documents, memos, and testimony, Shell was heavily involved, at least in a supporting role, of the brutal supression of the Ogoni by the Nigerian military.
One incident describes Shell trucks, helicopters, and facilities being used to ferry Nigerian soldiers to Ogoni to suppress protesterss, which were often shot at and beat down by the military. Another incident claims that one Ogoni villager was killed, and two wounded when 24 armed soldiers went to retrieve two fire trucks that had been confiscated on behalf of Shell. Documents have also revealed that Shell paid one known militia group over $159,000 as recently as last year, and that this group killed and tortured Ogoni residents.
Other accusations run the gamut from failure to clean up oil spills to refusing to compensate those who suffer due to the spills. Under Nigerian law, oil companies are only responsible for cleaning up oil spills, and need not compensate land owners if the spill was caused by sabotage. So is it any surprise that shell claims 90% of the spills are caused by sabotage? And this is just the stuff we’re hearing about. Who knows how close the oft-overturned Nigerian government and Shell really are and what other atrocities they have committed?
Oil is an ugly business, and Nigeria is one of the many countries suffering in the name of oil extraction. Large companies that sell oil in America should be required to uphold the same environmental laws here as they do abroad because all too often, cost-cutting comes at the sacrifice of environmental and human safety. And that just ain’t right.