WHEN I hear of Shell’s profits I remember the suffering of the Nigerian people and of people throughout the world whose economies are enslaved to the oil companies. In Nigeria it is the Ogoni people, whose plight was championed by writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who have been hit most. But there are many other similar communities in our country.
Oil from Ogoniland has provided approximately $35 billion to the economy of Nigeria, but the people have gained nothing.
Far from a blessing for us, oil is a curse which means only poverty, hunger, disease and exploitation for those living in oil-producing areas. Ogoni villages have no clean water, little electricity, few telephones, abysmal health care, and no jobs for displaced farmers and fishermen. They also face the effects of unrestrained environmental degredation by Shell everyday.
Shell has worked hand-in-glove with successive Nigerian governments, however undemocratic they are, however brutal their regime.
We have not forgotten that in 1995 nine activists, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hung by the Nigerian government for daring to criticise the operations of Shell and for campaigning against them. When the leaders of the most powerful countries meet, they often talk of the poverty of the Third World. They even mention a bit of debt relief for some.
But they then go and embrace the businessmen who are responsible for the theft from the Third World. You cannot “care for Africa” and at the same time stand four-square behind Shell and the rest of the rapacious multinationals who beggar us.