PHOTO: ED KASHI
The Curse of the Black Gold
After shooting with National Geographic in the Niger Delta in 2007, award-winning photographer Ed Kashi said Nigeria was the toughest place he had ever worked. Kashi returned with striking images of ecological destruction, omnipresent energy companies, and many Nigerians grinding out an impoverished existence. More of Kashi's photographs are on view in "The Curse of the Black Gold," a powerful slideshow co-produced by MediaStorm and Talking Eyes Media. The project is part of a book by the same name edited by UC Berkeley professor and Nigeria expert Michael Watts.
Spotlight: Nigerian Corruption
In this video, Professor Watts, along with Nigerian prosecutor Nuhu Ribadu and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, discuss how corruption has undermined Nigeria's progress.
Oil War: Nigeria
This 2005 feature from Journeyman Pictures explores Nigeria's resource curse. The reporter hears from various stakeholders in the Delta, including rebel leaders, state governors, and Royal Dutch Shell [a major funder of FRONTLINE/World], the energy company with one of the longest and most controversial histories in the region.
Rebels in the Pipeline
Current TV's Mariana Van Zeller and Darren Foster travel across the Delta to investigate a rise in kidnappings, pipeline sabotage, and militancy, and their destabilizing effects on Africa's most populous country.
Seattle-based filmmaker Sandra Cioffi recounts her arrest in the Niger Delta last year while making the documentary "Sweet Crude." She was held for several days before a blitz of media coverage helped secure her release. The segment from Democracy Now! also reports on the militant group MEND (the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) and its recent demands for international mediation in the troubled region.
Aerial view of Total's Amenam Kpono oil platform, 25 miles off the coast of Nigeria in the Atlantic Ocean. PHOTO: Ed KASHI.
Reforming Nigeria's Oil Industry [Subscribers only]
Known for corruption and inept management for decades, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) appeared high on Nigeria's reform agenda in 2007 when president Umaru Yar'Adua took office. For years, transnational energy companies have operated in the Delta under a joint agreement with the NNPC, in a roughly 60-40 percent revenue split between national and oil company interests. This Economist article reports on how Nigeria's oil industry has been mismanaged for years on all sides, and the chances for economic reform while corruption greases every wheel.
Oil Companies on Trial
In a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and EarthRights International, Shell is to appear in a Federal District Court in New York on May 26 to answer charges of complicity in human rights abuses in Nigeria, including the death of environmental activist and author Ken Saro-Wiwa.
During the 1990s, Saro-Wiwa began a peaceful campaign in his home state of Ogoniland in the Niger Delta claiming that the region had suffered from years of ecological damage, poverty and human rights violations due to oil exploration. Shell began drilling in Ogoniland in the late 1950s. Saro-Wiwa was also a vocal opponent of President Sani Abacha, whose military regime marked one of the darkest chapters in Nigeria's history.
After a cursory military trial on trumped-up murder charges, Abacha ordered Saro-Wiwa's execution along with several other activists in1995. Since then, Saro-Wiwa's death has become a decades long international human rights campaign for justice.
The suit against Shell, which has survived more than 10 years of legal challenges, claims the energy company collaborated with the Nigerian authorities and attempted to bribe two witnesses to testify against Saro-Wiwa during his trial. More of the allegations against Shell are outlined on the plaintiff's website, Wiwa v. Shell.
Shell has consistently denied any involvement in Saro-Wiwa's death and accusations that it operated in Nigeria behind a military shield. In a statement on its website, the company contends that during Saro-Wiwa's trial, it pressed publicly for a fair and legal hearing, and appealed against the death penalty warning that the decision would "damage the process of reconciliation" between the Nigerian government and the Ogoni people.
The suit has been filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act, a law that has been used in a number of cases against transnational companies in recent years, allowing non-citizens to seek damages in U.S. courts for alleged human rights abuses, regardless of where in the world they took place.
In another human rights case against Chevron in Nigeria, involving the shooting deaths of two activists at an offshore oil platform in 1998, the company was cleared last year in a federal court in San Francisco. The outcome of the trial is now on appeal.
Separately, Shell is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The oil company first disclosed it was under investigation in its 2007 Annual Report. The ongoing probe involves Shell's dealings in Nigeria with a freight forwarding company called Panalpina. In March 2009, Dow Jones reported that Shell's Chief Financial Officer Peter Voser told reporters at a press conference, "We have started an internal investigation, looking at potential payments made by Panalpina on our behalf to customs [officials] in Nigeria." Shell is one of 11 companies contacted by the DOJ about its relationship with Panalpina and allegations of bribery at Nigeria's ports.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Social responsibility has become a corporate byword in recent years as leading energy companies have developed social, educational and environmental programs as part of doing business in the developing world. These efforts, along with greater transparency, internal reviews, whistleblower helplines, and unofficial websites tracking oil company activity have helped improve the industry's image and practices.
In this video interview with Shell's Nigeria Chair Basil Omiyi, he answers questions about Shell's environmental record in the region and how it operates in a country plagued by violence and corruption. Omiyi calls Shell "a corporate citizen of Nigeria," adding, "We do more good by being present and being part of that solution than to walk away."
Chevron's New Approach to Development
2006 Corporate Responsibility Report
Addressing what it says are "long-standing and complex development issues in the region," Chevron signed a Global Memoranda of Understanding (GMOUs) in 2006 with eight community groups and state governments in the Niger Delta. It is part of Chevron's long-term aim to cede control of community development projects to local governance through a network of Regional Development Councils.
Another view of the slaughter house in the Delta's capital, Port Harcourt. Animals are killed in the open, where blood is spilled into waterways and skins burned by the flames of old tires. The burning produces a constant cloud of thick black smoke.
Delta Suffering from Neglect, Abject Poverty
UNDP Human Development Report on the Niger Delta
This bleak assessment by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) describes the Delta as a region in crisis, "suffering from administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services, high unemployment, social deprivation, abject poverty, filth and squalor, and endemic conflict." The 2006 report also examines the practices of oil companies and the ecological effects of oil spills, gas flaring and the dredging of mangrove forests.
Delta Spills Equivalent of 50 Exxon Valdez Disasters
Niger Delta Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Project
Up to 13 million barrels of oil have spilled in the Niger Delta ecosystem over the past 50 years, representing about 50 times the estimated volume spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989, according to this 2006 report assembled by an independent team of experts from Nigeria, the United States and Britain.
This environmental damage has occurred in a place the report describes as "one of the 10 most important wetlands and marine ecosystems in the world." The study also examines the threatened livelihoods of millions of people who depend on the region's natural resources for survival. These are not only Nigerians, but also many living in surrounding West African countries, who rely on migratory fish from the Delta for food and support.
Oil on the Brain: Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline
In her entertaining book Oil on the Brain, journalist Lisa Margonelli follows the trail of the petro-dollar from her local gas station in Oakland, California, to the oil fields of Texas, Africa and South America. Currently a Fellow at the New America Foundation, Margonelli engages U.S. consumers, pumping an average of 10,000 gallons of gas every second, to pause and consider, "Where does it all come from and at what cost?"
grass valley, USA
Thanks for excellent film on Niger Delta--"rebels in the pipeline" / current TV. If the locals getting treated this badly were in the US, we would not tolerate the oil companies' behavior.
EMMANUEL OWUTAMUNOPIRI - PORT HARCOURT, RIVERS STATE
Acually this collection is correct about the Niger Delta but there is more unknown to us. Please could you send me more about the observance of the tenet of social responsibility and the standard of ethics of accounting in the financial report of oil companies operating in the Niger Delta.
If there is a possibility of peace making amongst these two countries involved it could have been better. So i suggest that these two countries come together and sit as one family as the DESTINED KIDS OF NIGERIA SING and solve their problems and there will be no more conflicts,wars or fighting.