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NIGERIAN YOUTH CHALLENGE OIL COMPANY AND GOVERNMENT - Oread Daily

It has been reported today that more than twenty persons were shot 
and wounded last weekend in Nigeria when soldiers opened fire on 
youth trying to seize an oil flow station at Ojobo, Burutu local 
government area of Delta State. Youth leaders from the troubled town 
issued a statement alleging that over 20 of their kinsmen have been 
gunned down by soldiers on the orders of Shell. 

The youth had been at loggerheads with the Shell Petroleum 
Development Company (SPDC) over the oil multi-national's community 
relations policies and practices. The youths and others in the 
community said the Anglo Dutch oil firm (Shell) and its agents were 
not fair to the community considering the amount of oil drilled from 
their land and rivers. Despite their communities accounting for the 
bulk of Nigeria's daily output of some 2.5 million barrels, most of 
the residents of the region live in crippling poverty. 

Elders of the community were said to have been meeting with 
representatives of Shell and a contracting firm, Parker Drilling 
with a view to "resolving" the differences in a Memorandum of 
Understanding (MOU).  However, many younger members of the area took 
exception to the oil company's position in the negotiations.

Shell's corporate external relations manager, Don Boham, confirmed 
the incident but explained that the shooting occurred on the rig 
which the youths forcefully occupied. "They occupied the rig 
belonging to Parker Drilling and demanded immediate commencement of 
community development projects, a review of the Memorandum of 
Understanding (MOU) as well as direct dealing with service 
contractors to review work contract for six of their members," said 
Boham.

There have been frequent clashes between youths agitating for more 
welfare packages for their communities from oil companies and 
members of the Joint Task Force which is made up of members of the 
armed forces and which was set up by government to guarantee 
security of operations by the firm.

The youths have time and again accused government of neglecting 
their communities which suffer degradation and environmental damage 
as a result of oil drilling while the people who live in the area 
lack basic amenities and employment opportunities.

To drive their points home, the youths have resorted to taking 
expatriates working at drilling sites as hostages and occupying rigs.

Earlier this month, Amnesty international (AI) released a 
report "Nigeria: Are Human Rights in the Pipeline?" which said that 
the Nigerian government had failed to protect human rights during 
oil exploration and production is fuelling human rights abuses in 
the Niger Delta. The 59-page report examines practices of several 
transnational corporations (TNCs) including the Shell Petroleum 
Development Corporation (SPDC) and the Nigerian Agip Oil Corporation 
(NAOC). It presents three case studies illustrating how TNCs made 
decisions for various projects without consulting members of the 
community -- who then faced dire environmental consequences, the 
seizure of their land without adequate compensation, or violence or 
intimidation as a means of assuring their silence.

The report considers the rights to seek, receive and impart 
information from and about TNC environmental assessments; the right 
to an adequate standard of living; the right to live free of 
contaminated water, toxic wastes and the adverse affects of oil 
spills; and the right to an effective legal remedy and redress. In 
Nigeria asserting these rights, or even simply living in the region, 
can lead to ill-treatment by security forces, or even death.

AI's calculations, based on local and international media reports, 
show that the number of people killed in the Delta, Rivers and 
Bayelsa States in 2004, including incidents in late August, could be 
as many as 670, and that as many as 1,000 were killed in the Niger 
Delta in 2003. While some deaths were due to intra- or inter-
communal violence and the proliferation of illegal small arms, many 
can be attributed to excessive force on the part of state security 
forces  forces those TNCs utilize to protect company employees and 
resources.

The report acknowledges that TNCs have not been a strictly negative 
force in the region. As a result of the government's failure to 
provide essential services, such as heath, education and access to 
drinking water, oil companies have funded a wide variety of 
corporate social responsibility projects. However, while voluntary 
and often philanthropic, AI has concluded that these activities have 
at times been designed more to ward off potential political risks to 
TNC operations. Regardless of motive, such activities are often 
carried out without consideration of environmental or social impact, 
creating an environment ripe for community conflict and subsequent 
human rights abuses, when only those closest to the companies 
benefit.

"Ensuring universal access to basic social amenities remains the 
responsibility of the Nigerian State," explained Salil Tripathi, 
Economic Relations Researcher for AI. "The responsibility of 
transnational corporations lies in ensuring that the areas they have 
voluntarily accepted to service are adequately provided for and are 
provided without discrimination."

The United States is the largest export market for Nigerian oil. 
Amnesty International believes that Nigeria, as Africa's leading oil 
producer, has a responsibility to set standards that can be applied 
throughout the region. Sources: News24 (South Africa), This Day 
(Lagos), CBC, CorpWatch

To view the Oread Daily go to 
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/OreadDaily/ 
Subscribe to the Oread Daily at OreadDailysubscribe@yahoogroups.com 
Contact the Oread Daily at dgscooldesign@yahoo.com


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