What we’ve been doing on Nigeria since 2012…


In April 2012, Platform launched a new website bringing all our work together.  The website and resource remembersarowiwa.com was archived. Platform’s Nigeria campaign has continued to bring Shell’s evasions and complicity to light in a hard-hitting series of media coups, research reports, and interventions. The current campaign target is to hold Shell to account in acting on the UN Environment Programme’s report ‘Environment Assessment of Ogoniland’ (2011). You can read more about this, with eyewitness testimony from Sarah’s trip to the delta, here. 

To see what Platform has been doing on Nigeria over the past 18 months, check out the blog posts, publications and other media here.          

IRIN news: Gas flares still a burning issue in the Niger Delta

The UN’s humanitarian news network, IRIN has reported on the ongoing health crisis caused by gas flaring in the Niger Delta. The burning off of gas that comes mixed with crude oil is harmful, illegal in Nigeria and has been found to violate human rights. Approximately $2.5 billion of gas is wasted each year, whilst less than half of Nigerians have access to electricity.

Multinational oil companies such as Shell, Chevron, Eni, Total, Addax-Sinopec and Exxon Mobil, and the state owned NNPC continue to flare gas 24 hours a day, seven days a week, causing environmental damage as well as health and human rights impacts for local residents. Shell has flared gas for over five decades and according to official statistics, is still among the worst offenders, along with Exxon-Mobil, Chevron and Eni. 

Continue reading “IRIN news: Gas flares still a burning issue in the Niger Delta”

Hold Shell accountable for human rights abuses in Nigeria

A global coalition of NGOs, human rights monitors, academics and analysts have joined Platform in sending a letter to the Board members of Royal Dutch Shell and Shell Nigeria which holds Shell to account for its role in recent human rights abuses in Nigeria. Below is a short extract from the letter:

Today the US Supreme Court hears Kiobel v Shell, a case that alleges Shell aided and abetted human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by the Nigerian military against the Ogoni people from 1992 onwards. Twenty years later, Shell’s operations in the Niger Delta continue to be linked to human rights violations committed by government forces and other armed groups, as well as result in extensive environmental devastation. Continue reading “Hold Shell accountable for human rights abuses in Nigeria”

Top 7 Resources for Kiobel v Shell @ #SCOTUS

Tomorrow the Supreme Court of the United States hears Kiobel v Shell, a case that alleges Shell aided and abetted human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by the Nigerian military against the Ogoni people from 1992 onwards. The case has significance for the global movement for corporate accountability. The outcome in Kiobel will determine whether corporations can be sued in the US by victims of human rights abuses overseas.
Below is a list of resources which provide essential background information about the case.

1. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR):

Throughout a decade of legal struggle it took to get Kiobel v Shell heard in the Supreme Court, CCR have been a key organisation in bringing the claim. Their website provides a helpful synopsis, timeline and full documentation of the case.

“In 1994, Dr. Barinem Kiobel and MOSOP leaders were detained illegally based on spurious charges, held incommunicado in military custody, tortured, then tried by a special court established by the military government using procedures that violated international fair trial standards… In November 1995, Dr. Barinem Kiobel and the rest of the Ogoni 9 were convicted of murder and executed ten days later.

2. Democracy Now TV interview with Marco Simons, EarthRights International legal director:

3. The Video that Shell doesn’t want you to see:

This video was made by the Shell Guilty coalition in the lead up to the related Wiwa v Shell case in 2009.

4. Ken Saro-Wiwa’s last interview

This was recorded in 1995, the year that writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogoni activists, including Dr. Barinem Kiobel, were executed by the Nigerian military government for their campaigning against Shell’s activities in the Delta.

Saro-Wiwa discusses the Ogoni struggle, the local impact of multinational oil companies like Shell and the implications of activism and politics for his practice as an artist, writer and poet.

5.       Counting the Cost

What is the relationship right now between oil companies and the escalating violence committed by government forces and other armed groups in the Niger Delta? Platform’s new report reveals how Shell and its contractors have fuelled conflict in Nigeria through substantial support to government forces and payments to armed militant groups

Platform’s project to create a Living Memorial to the Ogoni 9 in London. The Remember Saro-Wiwa site is a loaded with detailed background information, cultural events, blogs, podcasts and more.

7.       Opinion: Ka Hsaw Wa, LA Times

A powerful opinion piece from co-founder and executive director of EarthRights International. Ka Hsaw Wa talks about his work on the Doe v Unocal case exposing corporate complicity in Burma, the significance of Kiobel and the need for victims of corporate abuses to obtain remedies:

“Shell is arguing that corporations are not responsible for human rights abuses under such circumstances [operating in Nigeria]; that individual employees who are complicit in torture, summary executions and other crimes against humanity can be held liable, but not corporations.”

The Big 3: oil co’s and legal cases this month

Three of the world’s biggest private oil companies face landmark legal actions this February. Here is a brief run down of the main cases, what they are about and why they matter.

1. US v BP

At the centre of the legal fallout from BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010 is a  complex civil trial which begins on 27 February. The trial will determine who is to blame, how much should be paid in damages and penalties and who should pay them. BP is one of a number of defendants, alongside Transocean (owner and operator of the rig) and Halliburton. There are over 120,000 claimants involved, from Gulf Coast fishers to the US government, and a massive 72 million pages of documents. The trial, heard before a Judge Carl Barbier without a jury, is expected to last all year.The future of the UK oil company could yet unravel in the legal vortex surrounding the Gulf of Mexico spill, with still more cases being added to this sizeable civil claim. According to the Guardian, charges of gross negligence over the accident, which claimed the lives of 11 workers, have not been ruled out. On 14 February, BP lost a separate case brought by share holders on the New York Stock Exchange. A District Court in Houston found that BP must face charges of fraud for misrepresenting its ability to address a major oil spill.

2. Kiobel v Shell

Filed in 2002, this case charges Shell with complicity in human rights abuses and crimes against humanity in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta between 1992 and 1995. Shell is accused of aiding and abetting the Nigerian military to commit violations a widespread and systematic campaign of torture, extra-judicial executions, prolonged arbitrary detention, and indiscriminate killings constituting crimes against humanity. Dr. Barinem Kiobel was among the 9 Ogoni activists executed by the Nigerian military regime on 10 November 1995, with the alleged collaboration of Shell. Esther Kiobel, Dr. Barinem’s widow, is one of the claimants. For more details and documents visit the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Wiwa v Shell an earlier lawsuit founded on the same allegations was settled out of court in June 2009 for $15.5 million (see the videos below). Continue reading “The Big 3: oil co’s and legal cases this month”

Video: Chevron rig blazes off the coast of Nigeria

This disturbing video from Al Jazeera shows what’s left of Chevron’s KS Endeavour gas rig, which exploded on 16 January 2012. Over 20 days later the site is still ablaze and the intense flames and plumes of smoke can be seen from the nearby fishing village. Local community activists released this footage:  

Continue reading “Video: Chevron rig blazes off the coast of Nigeria”

Legal Oil, Ethical Oil and Profiteering in the Niger Delta and the Canadian North

In this guest blog post, Professor Anna Zalik of York University Canada explores how governments and multinationals criminalise protest and gloss over the environmental injustices of oil extraction.

Q: What does the Canadian Government’s fury at opponents of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline have to do with the Nigerian ‘legaloil’ campaign?

A: Both positions are about justifying private profits and criminalizing protest. Continue reading “Legal Oil, Ethical Oil and Profiteering in the Niger Delta and the Canadian North”

In pictures: Chevron rig still burning in Nigeria

On 16 January, between 4.30am and 5am, Chevron’s KS Endeavour drilling rig exploded six miles off the coast of Nigeria after the company lost control of the gas well. Two workers were reported killed. Ten days on, the fire continues to burn.

Photos courtesy of Morris Alagoa at ERA/FoE Nigeria. Continue reading “In pictures: Chevron rig still burning in Nigeria”

Chevron oil rig explodes off coast of Nigeria; 2 killed

On Monday 16 January at 4.30 to 5am, Chevron’s KS Endeavour drilling rig burst into flames, approximately 6 miles off the coast of Nigeria. Two workers are reported missing. The gas rig is still said to be burning for the second day running and is reported to have partially collapsed into the ocean. The cause is as yet unconfirmed, but early reports indicate that the explosion was partly the result of a failed blow out preventer (BOP), with parallels being drawn to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Nigerian state oil company, NNPC, speculated that Chevron’s drillers lost control of gas pressure when equipment failure led to a “gas-kick”. Continue reading “Chevron oil rig explodes off coast of Nigeria; 2 killed”

Shell’s Bonga oil spill hits Nigerian communities

Click on the image to view the full video from NTD

Shell’s major oil spill at the offshore Bonga facility in Nigeria is threatening the livelihoods of at least 13 different coastal communities, reports Reuters. As thick crude oil continues washing up on Nigeria’s shoreline, Shell is denying responsibility and claims that “non-Bonga oil” from a third party spill is to blame. A local resident from Bisangbene told the Vanguard newspaper that Shell’s Bonga spill had ruined livelihoods in the fishing village. Mr. Goodnews Gereghewei said:

our occupation is predominantly fishing and our fishermen have withdrawn from the sea because of the massive oil spill due to fear of being roasted alive since they fish mostly at night with local lamps.

The oil spill has coated beaches “in a film of black sludge with a rainbow tint,” sparking angry local protests.

So far, the environmental impact has also killed fish, contaminated drinking water and damaged local fishing boats. Nigerian officials have suspended fishing off the coast due to the threat of heavy oil contamination from Shell’s Bonga spill. Fishers from Akwa Ibom in the eastern Niger Delta have also been affected. A second leak has also been confirmed on Shell’s onshore Nembe pipeline.

How much oil was spilled?
Nigeria’s oil spill monitoring agency, NOSDRA, believes that Bonga is the largest reported offshore spill since 1998. According to Shell, “less than 40,000” barrels of oil spilled into the ocean. However, in the absence of independent verification, we simply do not know how much oil was spilled. Scientists at US based Sky Truth have used satellite images and other data to estimate that the spill could be around 58,000 barrels; that’s almost 50% higher than Shell’s original figure.

It is important to dwell on this for a moment, because historically, offshore marine spills are the largest source of oil spilled in Nigeria. In 1979, a rupture at Shell’s Forcados terminal spilled 570,000 barrels into the estuary and creeks. That’s more than double the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster. But despite the huge risks involved in offshore drilling, many marine spills in Nigeria go unreported. On the high seas in the Gulf of Guinea, far from the eyes of regulators and environmentalists, routine spills, discharges, leaks and waste dumping occur with impunity. This is not a problem unique to Nigeria; crumbling rigs and leaking tankers are a common problem in the UK North Sea, for example.

The difficulty of monitoring Nigeria’s offshore spills is further compounded by the fact that companies like Shell under-report the frequency, size and impact of oil spills.[1] There are several possible reasons for this. In the case of the Bonga spill, Shell will doubtless want to avoid potentially huge compensation claims from the large number of local residents in the 13 villages who say they are affected. The upshot is that Shell has an incentive to withhold crucial data, such as how many barrels of oil were actually spilled.

Until the volume of the Bonga spill and its impacts are independently verified, it is entirely reasonable to question Shell’s figures. The spill could be bigger than Shell has so far admitted, and the oil hitting the shore could belong to Shell’s Bonga facility. Shell should not be the only one taking samples of the crude oil on the coastline for analysis. This task should to be done independently, with full oversight of the Nigerian regulators.

[1] Between 1998 – 2009, Shell, which accounts for approximately 50% of Nigeria’s oil production, reported an average of 41,000 barrels spilled per year. However, independent studies estimate that the total volume of oil spilled during this period averaged around 115,000 – 200,000 barrels per year. See Rick Steiner (2010): Double Standards, p15.

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