Human Rights Records of Multinationals

Human Rights Records Of Multinationals In Nigeria

Chapter 1


From time immemorial man has depended on his environment for all his material needs. Adam and eve for instance survived with the most basic of sustenance and the story is that they lived exclusively on fruits gathered from the Garden of Eden including the forbidden one. This is a classical case of man’s insatiability with just what is immediately available or sustainable.

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It is not necessarily greed or avarice but man’s advancement, increasing needs, and quest for the unknown. The instruction to increase and multiply created new pressures for him. The few fruits he gathered from the garden could not sustain his ever-increasing family. Eden also became too small as a result of his obeying the instruction to increase and multiply, and the need to move to unknown destinations became imperative, where he ran into hostile situations such as excessive cold, heat, other various forms of inclement weather; in addition to unfriendly plant and animal life. Movement from point A to B by foot which was the only option available at the time must have been very painful and slow. Therefore man had to fashion out ways of transportation. This started with rafters made from such materials as papyrus, to dug- out wooden canoes for water transportation; the forerunners of our mass transport system, and a large component of man’s current environmental problems.

Mans development continued unabated until the industrial revolution that completely changed forever the relationship of man with his environment. The creation of the internal combustion engine could be regarded as a major landmark in man’s existence on earth which has facilitated the enormous movement of man, and the reduction of the universe into the proverbial global village. It is in this quest for man to satisfy his needs and wants through modern transportation, accommodation, leisure and several other aspects of human endeavor that has led to unprecedented demand for energy. Energy in the form of wind, water, sun, fossil etc has become a preoccupation of modern life. However, one which appears to have an obviously devastating consequence on man’s environment today is fossil energy the prime mover of man’s various activities. The exploration, extraction and exploitation of fossil fuel have so irreversibly impacted the earth that they are considered as the major causative factors of global warming.

In Nigeria the early exploration of solid minerals which started in 1903 was immediately followed by such exploration for fossil oil. The major international company that was involved in this early exploration was Shell D’Arcy. There is every indication that the native communities where these explorations were going on were completely unprepared for the shock of oil activities. First and foremost, there were no specific existing laws in the Nigerian system guiding such human activities and therefore any attempt at either avoiding disaster or remedying any that occurred was almost completely at the discretion of the operating company. According to the Nigerian Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, mineral exploitation in the country was largely carried out without regards to the adverse effects on the environment or the host communities. It was not until 1946 that the minerals ordinance was enacted with provisions for reclamation of mined out lands. In consequence therefore a unit; mines land reclamation unit was established to reclaim the hundreds of abandoned mines land all over the country which were relics of the colonial mining activities. The same or far worse could be said to be the case for oil mineral exploitation. One must bear in mind that Shell D’Arcy was neither CARITAS nor RED CROSS. In the process of their exploration and indeed exploitation, several incidents of damage to the ecosystem had occurred and there are several unwritten stories of this great damage to the ecosystem. The first mineral act for Nigeria was actually written in 1946 *123) and from all indications it was quite defective and concentrated mainly on Solid Minerals, and what the Nigerian government saw as the revenue that would accrue to the nation. The areas dealing with environmental impact abatement occupied very limited space and importance. It is instructive to mention here that the entire minerals and mining sector which included solid minerals and crude oil mining was under one ministry ab initio. It was only when crude oil took precedence over solid minerals that the two were separated in the 1970s before a full- fledged Ministry of Solid Minerals development was established in 1995 which is the structure as at today.

There have been several reported cases of monumental damage to the ecosystem generally and specifically to farm lands, fishing areas and other water courses in the Niger delta of Nigeria as a result of accidents or carelessness on the part of oil companies in several Niger delta areas such as Ogoni land, the current Bayelsa, Warri axis (Bob, 2005). Such devastation has consistently occurred, with the oil companies either paying lip service to such disaster abatement or actually offering very painfully limited amounts of redress to host communities. One reality is clear; because government either by omission or commission (more of commission) had not been in a position to protect the host communities; and their crying interests, we have had cases of unrest in the Niger delta area. Prominent among these unrests are the Ogoni uprising, and of recent, MEND (movement for the emancipation of the Niger delta) with their negative attendant consequences on the Nigerian nation and her economy. These cases of unrest have been extensively documented and had attracted international attention and sympathy.

Much as one would say that the extant laws guiding the exploration and exploitation of crude oil in the country have undergone serious reforms, several factors outside the laws have come to further exacerbate an already difficult situation. Opinion is that while the existing laws are not extremely favorable to host community existence and indeed the entire ecosystem, other human failings in the Nigerian system have lent their weight to inflicting extensive pain on host communities of oil producing areas. The most hurting has been positively identified as “corruption”. The oil companies are 100% profit making organizations. Therefore in this system where a gift of a gold watch and a cup of coffee, could easily make a minister whose job includes enforcement of extant laws to look the other way while operating bodies break all the existing laws, these oil companies naturally found it easier to side track national laws in order to operate at maximum profit while inflicting untold pain and hardship on host communities.


The primary objective of this paper is to broadly examine the interaction between multinationals and the host countries in which they do business from a human rights perspective. For the purpose of this discourse, I will limit my case studies to three prominent multinationals in Nigeria, which are Shell, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil. As earlier stated, some of these industries present a huge number of dangers and in many cases extremely hazardous consequences for employees, inhabitants of certain communities and indeed the environment particularly their effect on flora and fauna. While some of these dangers presented may not be committed intentionally, some individuals are nevertheless made to suffer less than desirable conditions, in the hands of company security agents all of which border on human rights violations. Therefore in this paper, positive and the negative roles played by the multinationals will be examined in order to help assess their human rights records properly. As an integral part of this research also, extant laws, covenants and treaties if any that these multinationals have signed regarding their operations within the country will be examined, as well as the company`s operational guidelines.

Organization Of Dissertation

Chapter 1 is basically concerned with the introduction. For the purpose of this work however, the next chapter will give a brief overview of the country and the history of oil exploration in Nigeria as well as a discussion of the major concept which is human rights from the perspective of several scholars. Chapter 3will focus mainly on the human rights performance of these multinationals (negative and positive), beginning with their corporate social responsibility and how well they have behaved in host communities and abided by their business principles. The forth chapter then will solely be focused on the spillover effects of the activities of the multinationals and as such the reaction of the host communities and the Nigerian government in general. The fifth chapter will be the conclusions and recommendations.

Research Question

1. What are the human rights records of multinationals in the oil industry in Nigeria specifically shell, chevron, and Exxon Mobil?

2. How well have these companies kept to their public statements and operating principles?

Chapter 2

This chapter will give an overview of the country and a brief history of its oil exploration and exploitation in the country, vis a vis, the definition of human rights as defined by several scholars.

Overview Of Nigeria

Nigeria is undoubtedly the most populous nation in Africa with an estimated 140 million people. The nation comprises 36 states and one federal capital territory. Nigeria is also blessed with vast agriculture and mineral resources which include, but not limited to cocoa, cassava, coal, bauxite, tin, tantalite, iron ore, limestone, gold, many precious metals/stones, and most importantly crude oil. Despite being one of the major producers and exporters of oil in the world and also a member of the OPEC, the country has continued to experience endemic poverty and strife notwithstanding the abundance of the above mentioned. All of this can directly be linked to corruption and mismanagement of funds by the ruling elites, with billions of dollars being made each day by major multinationals in diverse joint venture agreements with the government owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Bob (2005, p.59) argues that “Nigeria`s highly centralized, notoriously corrupt and ethnically riven political system have made it possible for the country`s leaders both military and civilian to siphon most of the revenue from oil”. This institutionalized corruption has almost always been implicated in serious cases of human rights violations. *MITCHELL. According to several authorities including the, US state department, among others, oil exploration and exploitation have often precipitated gross human rights violations, citing several cases of extrajudicial killings, torture (US*), and most of all environmental devastation which has led to the destruction of total ecosystems.

Oil Exploration In Nigeria

The history oil exploration in Nigeria could be dated as far back as the drilling of oil wells in Nigeria by the Nigerian bitumen company in 1903 when mining exploration activities started in Nigeria. However the first major discovery and exploration of oil was in 1956 in oloibiri village in eastern delta of Nigeria (Olorode et al, 1998, p.14). This operation was carried out by Shell D’Arcy now known as shell petroleum development company (SPDC, 2009). Subsequently, oil companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron Texaco, ENI/Agip, and TotalFinaElf joined in oil exploration activities mostly in the Delta region under a joint venture agreement with state owned NNPC. The oil industry has definitely made a huge impact on the socio-economic life of Nigeria especially as one of its major sources of revenue. However oil exploration as an extractive industry has negatively impacted on the indigenous populations where oil drilling and exploration occur. Despite huge profits amassed by the oil industry, gross environmental devastation and degradation have routinely cropped up with little or no solution being proffered to the situation by the oil industry operatives. According to reports by the committee for the defense of human rights (CDHR), the industry has inflicted unprecedented agony on indigenous communities by completely disrupting water ways, destroying soil, water, air, animal, plant life, and generally causing massive destruction in the eco system especially on the flora and fauna (Olorode, 1998, p.15). Communities affected by oil exploration are those of the Niger delta. The Delta region is made up of a number of indigenous communities and states which include Rivers state, Delta, Bayelsa, cross river and Akwa Ibom and they account for about 80 percent of the oil and gas produced in Nigeria.

The remaining 20 percent are scattered in different parts of the country such as, Imo, and Ondo *(CDHR). Apart from oil and gas, the Niger Delta is also blessed with agricultural land, creeks, forests, rivers, creeks, and coastal waters with fish and sundry marine life (Okonta and Douglas, 2000, p.33). Ironically even in the midst of these abundant natural resources, the region remains one of the poorest and most under developed in the country, with the people suffering from unimaginable diseases and a complete absence of basic facilities which include electricity, clean water, education, hospitals, housing, and good roads*.

Decades of wanton mismanagement of funds and corruption have been cited as the reason for paltry GNP per capita of 280 us dollars, but the reality in the Niger delta is even far worse. A recent survey by the world bank stated that 7 in every 10 Nigerian`s live below $1 a day (*). Furthermore the area has one of the highest population densities in the world, with an estimated 3 percent growth per year, and this burgeoning population in the face of under development has been referred by Okonta and Douglas as the “human ecologists ultimate nightmare; a growing population in an attempt to survive (is) destroying the very ecosystem that should guarantee its survival” (Okonta and Douglas, 2000, p.34).

Most of the suffering of the peoples of the Niger Delta could be attributed to oil companies invading their territories and paying little attention to the plight of the people, and also the ever corrupt government officials and political elites willing to accept bribes and cuts from these multinationals to remain silent. These acts of commission and omission by state functionaries have sometimes been exploited by the multinationals resulting in the brutal repression of dissenting host communities using instruments of state violence (*).

Following is a reference to various definitions and concepts of human rights as elucidated by the aforementioned authorities.

Human Rights

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

—Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

According to the United Nations declaration of human rights (UDHR), rights fall into two major categories namely civil and political rights, as well as socio-economic and cultural Rights”. (Malone, 2003, p.20). Civil and political rights which are also considered as first generation rights are argued to be those unalienable rights to which an individual is entitled. According to the UNDHR they include the right to life, right not to be tortured, right to fair hearing and judicial process.

Forsythe, for instance, explained human rights to be “those fundamental moral rights of the person that are necessary for a life with human dignity.” (Forsythe, 2006, p.3)

Landman (2006), defined human rights as “a set of individual and collective rights that have been formally promoted and protected through international and domestic law since the universal declaration of human rights in 1948” (p.8).

Alston (2005), cited Karel Vazali`s categorization which argues that there are three generations of human rights namely, the first generation – civil and political rights, i.e. right to life and political participation. The second generation according to Alston includes economic, social and cultural rights or collectively, right to subsistence. The third generation rights which is the solidarity rights encapsulates the right to peace and most importantly for the purpose of this discourse is the right to a clean environment.

There are two schools of thought with regards to environmental human rights which are enshrined in article 21 of the African charter on human and people`s rights, which argues that the right to a healthy or adequate environment, constitutes a fundamental component of human rights (African Charter on Peoples and Human Rights: Ratification and Enforcement, Act 1990). The second school of thought posits that environmental human rights are derivable from other human rights including, but not limited to the right to life, the right to health, as well as the right to property (Ibid).

The whole concept of environmental rights is informed by the concept of a right to a habitable environment for the present and generations yet unborn. According to Olorode (1998, p.8), “the extractive industries constitute one of the human activities which have immediate and significant consequences on the environment”. Odu (1977) as quoted in Olorode (1998, p.8) also argued that “extractive industries may alter the ecology so completely that it cannot support agriculture or fishing”

Since this treatise is primarily concerned with the human rights records of select multinational oil companies in Nigeria, relevant clauses of the Nigerian constitution on fundamental human rights are worthy of reference. Chapter four of the Nigerian constitution deals solely with fundamental human rights as enumerated in sections 33 to 46, the keynotes of which are reproduced hereunder:

“33. Right to life

34. Right to dignity of the human person

35. Right to personal liberty.

36. Right to fair hearing.

37. Right to private and family life.

38. Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

39. Right to freedom of expression and the press.

40. Right to peaceful assembly and association.

41. Right to freedom of movement.

42. Right to freedom from discrimination

43. Right to acquire and own immovable property.

44. Compulsory acquisition of property.

45. Restriction on and derogation from fundamental human rights.

46. Special jurisdiction of High Court and Legal aid”

(Sections 33-46, Constitution federal republic of Nigeria (FRN) 1999)

Furthermore section 20 of the same constitution provides that “the state shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wildlife of Nigeria. It can therefore be argued that adequate provisions are already in place at least on paper, for the protection and enforcement of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians with particular reference to environmental rights.

However, section 44(3) vests the entire property and control of all minerals, including oil and gas occurring in any land, upon or under any waters within the Nigerian territory and its exclusive economic zone on the government of the federation which shall manage these resources in the manner prescribed by the national assembly (Constitution, FRN, 1999). This constitutional provision is more often than not relied upon by the government and its institutions, sometimes allegedly at the behest of the multinational oil giants, to suppress and repress legitimate agitations by aggrieved host communities.

The aggrieved host communities are usually either seeking for their fair share of the oil wealth, outright resource control, or demanding for concrete remedial measures against the sundry negative environmental impacts of oil exploration and exploitation such as gas flaring. According to reports by Osouka and Roderick (2005, p.4) Nigeria flares more gas than any country in the world, averaging a staggering 2.5 billion cubic feet of gas associated with crude oil. This they argue to be equal to 40% of all Africa`s natural gas consumption which have contributed more greenhouse gases than the entire sub Saharan Africa as a whole. They posit that “the flaring of associated gas in the niger delta is a human rights, environmental and social monstrosity” (Osouka and Roderick 2005), because the health and livelihood of the inhabitants of these communities are adversely affected by these unmitigated flares which contain a plethora of pollutants resulting in “an increased risk of premature deaths, child respiratory illnesses, asthma and cancer” Osouka and Roderick (2005, p.29). Osuoka and Roderick further reported that the commission had contended that the Nigerian government had in principle admitted complicity for this hazardous practice by stating that “there is no denying the fact that a lot of atrocities were and are still being committed by the oil companies in Ogoni land and indeed the entire niger delta area of Nigeria” (Osuoka and Roderick, 2005, p.29)

Prior to the 1999 constitutional provision, the federal military government had in 1969 promulgated the petroleum decree which effectively abrogated the 1954 revenue allocation formula that provided for the equal sharing of mining revenue between the regions and the federal government (Oronto and Okonta, 2000, p.40). Furthermore decree 6 of 1975 increased the federal government’s share of the oil proceeds from 50% to 80% leaving the states with only 20% (Oronto and Okonta, 2000, p.41).

Oronto and Okonta further contended that a senior permanent secretary in the administration of former military head of state general Gowon had “cynically remarked in a public lecture that the people of the niger delta were most unlikely to pose any real threat to the regimes continued exploitation of their oil wealth as they were relatively few in population and thus could be easily subdued”, (Oronto and Okonta, 2000, p.41). They therefore concluded “that this is exactly what the Nigerian military junta has done beginning from the mid eighties when the people of the Niger delta began to raise their voices in protest (Oronto and Okonta, 2000, p.41).

Following in the next chapter therefore is a detailed report on the activities of the select multinationals with particular reference to their corporate social responsibility (CSR), on the one hand, and their alleged collusion with the authorities to perpetrate gross human rights violations against the host communities, on the other. However business and operating principles will first of all be examined before delving into the detailed report.

Chapter 3

Operating Principles

“The voluntary principles on security and human rights are a unique tripartite, multi stakeholder initiative established in 2000 that introduced a set of principles to guide extractive companies in maintaining the safety and security of their operations within an operating framework that ensures respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The voluntary principles address three main areas: risk management, interactions between companies and public security and interaction between companies and private security”

Voluntary principles on security and human rights, 2000

Prior to this time, shell which was the first multinational to start exploration in Nigeria had to abide by the 1948 universal declaration of human rights which called on all, including companies to respect the rights of individuals. However there were no concrete laws in the nation at the time as regards exploration and exploitation, therefore SPDC formed its own set of principles to which it conducted its operations in 1979 (SPDC, 2003). Subsequently other multinationals in this review (Exxon Mobil, and Chevron) began their operations within the nation in 1955 and 1913 respectively with their own business principles that would guide their operations and several other treaties that they signed on to. One critical factor about their operating principles is that they appear to be similar in most of the various areas of human rights and CSR with virtually the same rules. SPDC for instance has in its portfolio a set of guiding principles apparently aimed at bringing development to the host communities in particular and the entire environment of its operations generally, some of which are:

  1. Sustainable development:

  2. Responsibility to the society

  3. Health, safety , and security

  4. Local communities

  5. Communication and engagement

Shell argues that the above mentioned principles govern all of its operations and bodies within the country. For instance its business principles to society is “to conduct business as responsible corporate members of society, to comply with applicable laws and regulations, to support fundamental human rights in line with legitimate role of business, and to give proper regard to health, safety, and the environment”(SPDC, 2009*). Principle 5 therefore guarantees health, while one which is regarded as primary in relation to this discourse is principle 6 which states that

“Shell companies aim to be good neighbours by continuously improving the ways in which we contribute directly or indirectly to the general wellbeing of the communities within which we work. We manage the social impacts of our business activities carefully and work with others to enhance the benefits to local communities, and to mitigate any negative impacts from our activities. In addition, Shell companies take a constructive interest in societal matters, directly or indirectly related to our business”. (SPDC, 2009)

Similarly, ExxonMobil argues that it’s “standards of business conducts provide a framework for their operations responsibly, and that they abide by the United Nations Declaration of Human rights as it applies to companies, the fundamental Principles and rights at work of 1998 ILO Declaration, and are active participants of the earlier stated voluntary principles on Security and Human rights and most recently the UN global compact (*). They also argue that they “comply with all environmental laws and regulations and apply responsible standards where laws or regulations do not exist” (ExxonMobil, 2009) interesting!

Chevron also like the other companies in this review abides by the UNDHR, and has adopted certain treaties and covenants such as the ILO principles and rights at work, the UN global compact, as well as its own company`s business operating principles which are all geared towards ensuring that it operates and maintains high standards in its activities in host countries/communities (*). According to the company`s principles regarding respect for human rights, it maintains that it supports universal human rights and as such condemns human rights abuses (sec 1.27,p.29). Furthermore with regards to the environment,

“Corporate Policy 530 commits Chevron to comply with the letter and spirit of all environmental, health and safety laws and regulations “(sec 1.4) P.14.

With this said, a full detailed report of the human rights records of the multinationals under study will be reviewed.

Spdc (Shell Petroleum Development Company)

Unarguably one of the biggest and profitable companies in the world, Shell first began its global operations in 1907 as an offshoot of the British owned shell transport and trading company (STTC) and the royal Dutch petroleum company of the Netherlands

(Okonta and Oronto,2000. P.62). Since then, the multinational has spread its wings to virtually all countries of the world, and this giant produces oil and gas in approximately 45 countries of the world with interests in other natural resources such as zinc, uranium coal mining and a host of others in about a hundred countries (ibid P.62). “As measured by its business peers and even many of its adversaries, it is seen as an outstanding company” (Doyle, 2002. see preface). SPDC was granted its exploration license in 1938 to prospect for oil throughout Nigeria” (Okonta, Douglas, 2001, pp.37-39), and it teamed up with British Petroleum to open up the Nigerian oil Fields the first oil well being explored and drilled in Oloibiri in 1956 (ibid). On the 17th of February 1958, shell`s first official oil shipment from Oloibiri was made, producing an estimated 367,000 barrels a day. (*REVIEW SENTENCE)SPDC in its own ways has impacted positively and added value to the lives of the citizens, for example through the annual shell scholarship which is open to virtually all students in the Nigerian higher education system. Furthermore, shell was recognized as the first multinational to begin a HIV/AIDS in Nigeria intervention programme and thus this programme has reached most states in the federation*. SPDC has also sponsored several programmes such as IT and various digital learning programmes for schools in Nigeria. However for the most part, shell has built a few schools within the delta region one of which happened recently in Bayelsa state(*). In the area of compensation for environmental devastation and involvement with human rights abuse, SPDC, argues that it offers adequate clean up of the polluted environment and has compensated the best way it can (*REF). Most recently, the families of late ken Saro Wiwa and his colleagues were settled by the multinational, however it was assumed by the general public as settlement for shell`s involvement with the case, shell on the contrary denied, and claimed that it was a humanitarian gesture aimed at establishing a trust fund for Ogoni people (SPDC, 2009). Most recently, SPDC launched series of business radio programs towards the economic development of the Niger Delta which would also use initiatives such as LIVEWIRE, telecommunications self employment programmes among others (Yusuf, 2009, p.A4)

SPDC also claims to support and finance community development initiatives in the Niger Delta outside of its tax obligations. These initiatives are reportedly in the area of small business development (SPDC, 2009, p.1). In 2008, SPDC contributed $56.8 million to the over $158.2 million statutory disbursements to the NDDC by Shell-run operations, in addition to another $25.2 million SPDC contribution to an additional $84 million investment by operations run by SPDC in various development projects (ibid,p.1). SPDC also reportedly invested $2.25 Million in partnership with USAID Nigeria and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in an $11.3 million project to develop cassava farming over a five year period. More than 3,200 farmers were said to have received training under this programme (ibid, p.2).

However, it is generally believed that the exploitation and devastation of land of the people of the Niger delta began with the first discovery of crude in Oloibiri village in the Delta region of the then Eastern Nigeria in 1956.

For the records, there was a 50-50 profit sharing agreement put in place by the Nigerian government and multinational oil companies at the time shortly before Nigeria gained its independence from the British in 1960. Amidst all of this Nigeria had a series of changed governments including several military coups which gave room for corruption. Presently, shell accounts for about 50 percent of oil production in the country the bulk of it in the Niger Delta with the attendant gas flaring, oil spillage, illegal building of canals and waste dumping that has brought the human ecosystem of the Delta area to a near-total collapse, destroying farmland, economic crops and fishing creeks*. While this degree of devastation, poverty, disease, loss of lives and property occurs in this area, unfortunately shell despite many covenants and treaties it has ratified on corporate responsibility, pays no attention to these violations and offers little or no compensation to affected individuals or communities. According to Okonta et al, “people of these communities have now taken the path of violent and non-violent protests in order to demand a fair share of the proceeds from oil, and to protect what is left of their endangered environment” (Okonta et al, 2000). These protests have resulted in horrendous acts being perpetrated both by the oil companies and people trying to save themselves and their habitat. These include mass slaughter, raping of women and children, sacking of entire towns and villages, massive and systemic human rights violations. This goes in line with Bernie, Bernhagen, and Mitchell`s (2007, p.738) argument that where oil is found there is bound to be a poor human rights record. A number of notable human rights violations have reportedly occurred under the operations of the royal Dutch shell in collaboration with the Nigerian soldiers (Okonta et al, 2000). These include the massacres in Umuechem, Odioma, and the notable case of the Ogoni nine. According to Forsythe (2005, p225) Shell “collaborated with military officials in suppressing local resistance to prevailing policies centering on extraction of oil in Ogoni land” this also included collaborations, with the then military government of late General Abacha, to violently suppress protests of environmental disaster by individuals (Ibid). According to Greenpeace as quoted in Okonta and Oronto, (2000, p. 62),

“Since the beginning of shell`s operations in the niger delta, the company has wreaked havoc on neighboring communities and their environment. Many of its operations and materials are outdated, in poor condition and would be illegal in other parts of the world”

Furthermore the operations of SPDC in one of the most controversial communities in the Delta region (Ogoni), has led to the arraignment of Nigeria before the African commission on people`s rights by the social and economic rights action center for economic and social rights. SPDC operations were alleged to have resulted in illegal disposal of toxic waste causing pollution of both farmlands and water courses with attendant medical complications (*). The Nigerian government was also accused of availing the oil companies of the instruments of state terror, notably the military, resulting in sundry human rights violations notably the murder of the Ogoni nine, the massacre at Odi, among others. Some of which will be examined below as case studies.

Case Studies

The case studies that will be reviewed under SPDC include the Oil spills/gas flaring in different communities of the Niger delta, outright human rights violations, and violent dispersal of peaceful protests.

Gas flaring/ oil spills in Ogoni land:

“I was witness to the great damage which the blowout occasioned to the town of Kegbara Dere .Water sources were poisoned, the air was polluted, farmland devastated. I watched with absolute dismay as indigent citizens found neither succor nor help from shell”

(Ken Saro Wiwa as quoted in Oronto and Okonta, 2000. P.101)

According to NOSDRA, there has been over 1000 oil spills between 1970 and 2006 with the first recorded case in 1970 in Ogoni land. The case of shell in Ogoni land, probably remains one of the most notable because of the late human rights activist and MOSOP (movement for the survival of the Ogoni people) leader Ken Saro-Wiwa, “who had campaigned against environmental damage by oil companies and for increased autonomy for the Ogoni ethnic Group” (Amnesty International, p.2, 2003). The Ogoni community in rivers state Nigeria was considered one of the food baskets of the nation prior to shell`s exploration/exploitation activities in the region in 1958 (Okonta and (Oronto, 2000.p.100). SPDC had five big oil fields and an estimated 96 oil wells within communities in Ogoni land that produced about “30,000 barrels a day which accounted for about 1.5 percent of Nigeria`s oil (Bob, p.59). At their peak in the 1970`s, an average of 108,000 barrels of oil were produced each day by SPDC. The exploration and extraction activities spelt doom for the people of Ogoni land with constant gas flaring, laying of oil pipelines over community farmlands thereby causing major disruptions to the lives of the host communities (Bob, 2005, p.61). The first major incident of environmental pollution of the region occurred in 1970 after the civil war. An oil well was said to have blown up, with crude oil flowing for several weeks over areas of human habitation. According to lamentations of aggrieved citizens of Ogoni,

“we no longer breathe the natural oxygen, rather we inhale lethal gases, our water can no longer be drunk, unless one wants to test the effects of crude oil on the body; we no longer use vegetables, they are all polluted”. *

Several pleas for compensation and adequate clean up of the environmental disaster were made by Ogoni people, both young and old. These included students who appealed for a resolution to the constant gas flaring activities that they indeed felt was hazardous to their health as well as letters from local chiefs demanding a cleanup of the already polluted environment (Okonta and Oronto, 2005). Shell on the other hand claimed that they were not responsible for the spill, and thus blamed it on Biafran soldiers who raided “the Agbada-Bomu trunk line in 1969 and caused the spill” (ibid p.101).

Decades after, it has been reported that the people of Ogoni still suffered from the after effects of the oil spill, which covered approximately three acres of their land. MOSOP which was eventually established to fight the Ogoni cause and what they referred to as “an ecological genocide waged against them by shell” (ibid, p 101), called into question the company`s activities (gas flaring, oil spills, etc) at different forums and joint sessions including “the tenth session of the working group on indigenous populations in Geneva” (ibid, p. 104).

However, It is on record that shell denied these allegations out rightly,* but public opinion both local and international points more to the earlier discourse. Shell for instance blamed most of the spills in Ogoni on people interfering with oil wells. SPDC further claimed that it had its gas flares located far away from human habitation and thus the flares caused no damage to the human ecosystem, flora and fauna. They also claimed that the only reason the Ogoni people complained was because they continued to increase and spread apart which brought them almost into their oil fields (*). *(WHICH) Authors argue that perhaps the only reason for these bitter complaints by the Ogoni`s was as a result of lack of compensation, and the mere fact that with all their resources, they got poorer and even died off as a result of these activities, NNPC and SPDC enriched itself without paying attention to the plight of the people. Several other cases of unattended oil spills have occurred in the Niger delta such as the Nembe, Bonny-forcados, Ughelli, and Okoroba, which have had a combined total of approximately 50 oil spills since shell`s invasion on their territory*.

Odioma Killings/Odi Massacre:

Reports point to the fact that the government has a dedicated police force serving the SPDC as well as fully equipped armories in Bonny, Port Harcourt and Warri all within the delta region*. According reports by a group called project underground, shell had in some instances admitted paying the Nigerian military to guard their facilities all over the Niger delta. They argued that sole reason for the employment of these forces was just to act as guards. On the contrary, the people had argued that they had been routinely brutalized and traumatized by these forces and then were either bribed or threatened to remain silent*.

Odioma for instance had the task force who came to arrest suspects of a crime unleash massive destruction on the community razing houses to the ground and killing well over 17 unarmed civilians old and young, including a 105 year old woman (AI,2003,p.21). AI reported that people died from gunshot wounds as well as those who drowned when their canoe`s capsized. Several forms of torture were employed including whipping and forcing of village chiefs to eat sand. Once again, this was a case not directly perpetrated by Shell, but received complicity form the multinational.

Perhaps, the Odi massacre or what some Nigerians remember as the unrecorded genocide remains a noteworthy case; when the military nearly wiped out the entire community. According to Bob, it was considered as the shell genocide against the Ogoni (Bob, 2005, p.44). Reports had it that approximately 2500 people were killed in this community which is located two hours away from port Harcourt Nigeria and is the gateway to the wetlands of Bayelsa, which incidentally is the third wetland on the world*.

The federal government under the military rule of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo apparently acting on behalf of Shell sent the Nigerian forces into the town major incidents occurred which were the massacre of the entire Odi people men, women and children, and an operation scorched earth “with the exception of the first bank, community health center and an Anglican church” (). In the case of Umuechem massacre, shells operatives called for help from the “infamous Nigerian paramilitary forces known for their brutality” (Bob, 2005, p.89)

Even though shell denies complicity in the Odi massacre, it is likened to the hanging of ken Saro Wiwa and his compatriots, one more sore point in the dealings of shell as a company with host communities in Nigeria.

Niger Delta Women`S Protests:

Peaceful protests have in most cases resulted in unwarranted human rights violations, such as the denial to the right not to be tortured, and live a life with dignity. Several individuals have been tortured and humiliated in all sorts of unimaginable ways by security forces who guard facilities where some of these protests occur. For example in the year 2002, a group of Niger Delta women activists led what initially began as a peaceful protest at SPDC`s gate in Warri. According to AI (2003, p.1), this unarmed protest was in “the context* of the unrest in the region and the mere fact that that they felt over forty years of SPDC`s operations and harvest of their resources had no positive impact in their lives. In return they requested that services should be provided them in return for taking their mineral resources (AI, 2003, P.1).

According to AI reports, mobile police men and military forces arrived at the scene, and unleashed terror on the women. These included beating with whips and guns, throwing of tear gas and shooting into the air. This was carried out on women of all ages including those with babies on their backs (AI, 2003, P.3). Several cases such as these have occurred with security forces acting on behalf of the company reacting in the ways uncalled for.

Exxon Mobil

It is the largest of six oil super majors in the world and said to be the largest oil producing company in the world due to its revenue, producing approximately 3 percent of the world’s oil and about 2 percent energy. However, Mobil began its operations in Nigeria with three major subsidiary bodies which that operate upstream and downstream, and they include Mobil producing Nigeria unlimited (MPN), Esso exploration and production Nigeria limited (EEPNL), and Mobil oil Nigeria (MON). Mobil exploration Nigeria incorporated which changed its name after incorporation to Mobil producing Nigeria limited which operates upstream in deep and shallow waters, began its Nigeria operations in 1955.

Its first production of crude oil was at Idoho field off the coast of Akwa Ibom state in 1970. It is said to be the only oil company operating within the country that carries out all its production activities offshore holding about 800,000 acres in five leases offshore in south eastern Nigeria, reports that “it has a 40% working interest for crude and condensate, and a 51% working interest for natural gas liquids” (ExxonMobil, 2009, p.b20). Being the second largest producer of oil in the nation, its estimated 90 offshore platforms and 253 oil wells produce approximately 720, 000 barrels of crude per day, including condensate and natural gas liquid (NGL). Esso exploration of Nigeria limited (EEPNL) on the other hand was established in 1993 covering over 3.2 million acres including six deepwater blocks offshore making it the second largest deepwater offshore acreage In Nigeria*. This subsidiary is responsible for a number of off shore blocks within the country. Mobil oil Nigeria the third subsidiary which operates downstream on the other hand began its operations selling sunflower kerosene in 1907 under the name socony vacuum oil company*.

It changed to Mobil oil Nigeria limited in 1951 and since then, has opened over 200 outlets in the 36 states of the country. Its basic operations presently revolve around the production of petroleum jelly, lubes and insecticide, and it also engages in the support of key sectors within the country which include transport, food, power and industries*. Exxon Mobil is known to have made/make positive impacts in the lives of Nigerian citizens, for instance, in one of the company`s reports, it argues that it is committed to optimizing national contents which include

  1. “Creating local jobs

  2. Helping educate and train employees, contractors and suppliers

  3. Transferring knowledge and skills to build local capacity

  4. Making strategic community investments

  5. Purchasing local goods and services” (ExxonMobil 2009, p.b6)

Furthermore the company is involved with helping to build local capacity through training, micro financing of small, medium sized enterprises, infrastructure improvements which include: the “construction of educational/health facilities, roads, provision of electricity, donation of furniture etc. Scholarships are awarded by the company each year to at least 500 undergraduate students and up to 30,000 overseas and local postgraduate scholarships to Nigerian students. Since the year 2000, the company has engaged in a project to eradicate malaria and so far has reportedly spent over $40 million dollars to fight this cause (ExxonMobil, 2009, p.10).

However for ExxonMobil, it has not only been excellent results all the way, they have also had a fair share of challenges and misfortunes which they claim to be,

“Regulatory standards, Compliance, Conducting integrated Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) & Environmental Evaluation Reports (EERs), Oil pollution and Compensation Payment management, Waste management, Gas flaring, Rehabilitation of past impacted areas and sites, Improving environmental performance, External certification of our assets, activities and operations” (ExxonMobil, 2009*)

The multinational has been at the centre of controversy regarding a few of its misfortunes and cases of environmental degradation not only in Nigeria but also in different parts of the world. The company was ranked 6th on the toxic list of US corporate air polluters by political Economy Research Institute (PERI) (*29). For instance the company has been involved in many spills around the world which have affected these communities for instance the famous Exxon Valdez Spill which resulted in an estimated 11 million gallons of oil being discharged into the Alaskan coastline. This spill was considered as a major event, not because it was Mobil’s largest, but due to the amount of time it took them to clean it up. This case was dragged to court with Mobil charged with about 4.5 billion dollars in damages (*). In Nigeria also, the multinational has had its own share of misfortunes which have resulted in environmental disaster or outright human rights violations which will all be examined as case studies below.

Case Studies

ExxonMobil has had a checquered history In Nigeria with various cases of environmental devastation and collaboration with the authorities to breach the rights of aggrieved communities. A notable example is the ExxonMobil oil spill of January 11, 1998, at Idoho Platform in Akwa Ibom State. In that unfortunate incident well over 40,000 barrels of crude oil were spilled into rivers, creeks and farmlands (*). These spills are traceable to aged and dilapidated pipelines which have routinely thrown up hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil into the ecosystem, with very deleterious consequences. Many settlements in Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, and Delta states have been impacted by these spills and as yet no remedial measures were put in place to ameliorate the negative impacts. There have also been reported cases of the use of excessive force by the police and other security forces called in to quell the peaceful protests by some of the aggrieved communities (*). In that instance, nearly 30 people apprehended notably some community leaders including Chief E. C. D. Abia and Mbong Obong Mbong. Even though they were eventually released, no adequate compensation has been paid to the community (*) and the spill is yet to be adequately cleaned up*.

Chevron Nigeria Limited (Cnl)

According to reports by CNL 2009, it has been in operation within the Nigerian territory for approximately ninety years, and boasts over 2000 staff of which 90 percent are Nigerians (CNL, 2009). Texaco (first operating name in Nigeria) commenced its activities in Nigeria in 1913 when its products were first traded within the country (CNL, 2001-2009, p.5). The company began its major oil and gas exploration/exploitation about four decades ago and it began with the prospects near the Escravos River and discovered the okan field. Chevron which operates a joint venture with the public owned NNPC and produces an average of “350,000 barrels of crude oil, 14 million cubic feet of natural gas and 4,000 barrels of liquefied petroleum gas” (CNL, 2008, p.3).

CNL has made positive impacts in the lives of Nigerians and their host communities. According to the company, it has offered in the past and presently offers a wide range of services to the people of the Niger delta, at least in return for their resources, and as a compensation for all their sufferings. Chevron committed about 5 million dollars to a five year programme in the region, geared at improving social, economic, and developmental problems in the area. So far, the programme is concerned with offering training and enhancement of basic skills, small business establishment, and healthcare for the people (CNL, 2009, p.4). Furthermore, the multinational in a joint venture with NNPC operates two scholarship programmes each year. The first provides opportunities for those qualified to work with the company while the second is “a national merit programme for beneficiaries across the country, which for that its offers scholarships which over 3000 Nigerian students have benefitted from”. In regards to the environment, CNL has adopted new measures to take care of environmental pollution and degradation. Chevron argues that it operates within the company`s policy protecting people and the environment, which emphasizes “safe operation, compliance, pollution prevention and community outreach (CNL, 2009, p.6). Most recently CNL pumped about $400 million dollars to a project that would upgrade facilities, and as reported by the company would reduce the risk of oil spills. This move has been lauded by conservation foundation and the federal Environmental Protection agency (EPA) (Ibid).

Chevron has its terminals in some areas of the Niger delta that have been at the center of controversy based on the happenings that have either occurred or still occur there. Some of these areas include: Escravos terminal, Nsiko terminal and the Bonga terminal all in the Niger delta region of Nigeria (CNL, 2008). Chevron Nigeria has been in one way or the other involved in unavoidable results of oil exploration/ extraction such as gas flaring and oil spills. First and foremost, oil spills and gas flaring which is a regular occurrence for oil multinationals affects inhabitants in adverse ways especially by those operating onshore. They have also been at the centre of human rights violations either being involved directly or indirectly through the use of security forces allocated to guard their facilities. These will be reviewed in case studies below.

Case Studies

Escravos Terminal

Human rights were indeed violated on the 20th of February at the Escravos terminal when shots were fired indiscriminately by soldiers of the joint task force acting on behalf of the company (AI, p.5). One man was reported to have been killed and thirty others injured (ibid, p.5). CNL argued that the security forces acted based on the fact that the protesters were armed; however amnesty international reported that no weapons were recovered or recorded from the protesters. This conflict was in the wake of protests over a lack of commitment by CNL on a signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the multinational and the village chiefs of Ugborodo community where chevron has its Escravos terminal. The protesters claimed that they were not offered the jobs and development projects they were promised in return for a peaceful operating environment.

However, CNL argued that only 11 of its staff were injured and thus denied any direct involvement with the incident and claimed that it could not control the actions of the security forces in any way (Ibid, P.6). According to AI (p.6 ) “no independent enquiry was carried out by neither chevron nor the government. AI in a report of the crises argued that the JTF that carried out these operations on the protesters operates within their premises, therefore the company should have given adequate training to their security forces and therefore should have “working knowledge of the way its forces operate in a crisis and be able to anticipate the likely human rights impact” (Ibid, p.15).

Similarly, in August 2002, Niger Delta women activists from the region led a peaceful demonstration at the company`s headquarters in Warri. The protests were in the wake of the unrests in the region. These protests however were dispersed by the military and security forces violently through means such as whipping, throwing of tear gas, and shooting in the air (AI, 2003, p.3). Witnesses at the scene reported that they were kicked and women brutally abused including those carrying children (Ibid, p.3). Other peaceful protests have also been disrupted by multinationals acting on behalf of the company such as the Niger delta women’s protests where a similar event happened, violations by security forces in the most unimaginable ways. Leander argues that shell and chevron in Nigeria have used members of the armed forces to secure their facilities (Leander, 2005, p.616). Thus this has resulted in several human rights abuses some of which were mentioned above.

With these cases examined, it can be argued from all indication that even though the multinationals have tried to make amends and proffer solutions for the harm that they have caused. It can be concluded based on evidence above, that the multinationals under study has not had the best of records in regards to human and environmental rights. All in all the way these multinationals and the Federal government has acted which include lack of compensation for damage, killing and torturing of people by security forces, and most paramount poverty and destruction of the human habitation of host communities has brought about citizens of host communities to engage in not just protests but also forming militant groups. These groups have taken to the part of kidnapping especially of foreign expatriate works in order to show their anger and drive home their requests to both multinationals and the federal government. Therefore the reactions of the Nigerian Government and members of host communities will be reviewed in the next chapter.

Chapter 4

Oil exploration and exploitation activities in Nigeria especially within the Niger-Delta region have elicited varying reactions from the government and people in general, more so the inhabitants of the region. Several pleas have been made to multinationals by the host communities, which, however seem to mostly have fallen on deaf ears. Therefore a major spillover effect of these activities has been the emergence of several militant groups, fighting for what they claim is rightfully theirs. This has resulted in the current trend of kidnapping within the region which is fast spreading to other parts of the country. Furthermore the federal government as corrupt and as unreliable as it may seem made both negative and positive impacts. Therefore this chapter seeks to review the general reactions of the Nigerian populace and federal government to these crises.

Reactions Of The Host Communities

What is seen as major reaction is the emergence of militant groups in Nigeria specifically in the Niger Delta. These groups are youths of communities affected by oil exploration and extraction activities that have stood up to the challenge of facing the government and the multinationals against the adverse effects brought upon them by their activities. According to amnesty international(2003, p.5), over 1500 people lost their lives between 2003 and 2004, predominantly in the Warri axis as a result of internecine struggles over oil revenues and border disputes. However these crises have their roots in the late 1980`s to early 1990`s during the military era when the Ijaws, Itshekiris and Urhobos (Niger Delta communities) waged seemingly endless battles over the ownership of Warri (*). The poor handling of these relatively localized border disputes is arguably the genesis of the present day militancy which itself started towards the tail end of the 1990`s. One of the most active and visible among these militant groups is the MEND which is has vowed to wage what it called an oil war against the multinationals and the Federal Government(*). So far this group among others has kidnapped hundreds of foreign expatriate workers and their family members. In 2008 for instance, Reuters (2009) reported about 358 kidnappings in the area which have however escalated to well over 500 as at July 2009. Reuters further elaborated some cases as follows:

  • “Gunmen on January 29 shot dead the 11-year-old daughter of a Royal Dutch Shell worker and abducted his 9-year-old son as they walked to school. The boy was released unharmed a week later.

  • An armed gang on April 16 kidnapped a 45-year-old Canadian woman visiting the northwest city of Kaduna, a rare incident for the northern part of Nigeria. She was released two weeks later unharmed.

  • MEND said on May 14 its fighters kidnapped 15 foreign crew members after hijacking two cargo ships off the coast of Delta state.

  • MEND on June 13 released British oil worker Matthew Maguire after nine months in captivity. He was believed to be held the longest of any hostage since the militant group launched its campaign of violence in early 2006”. (Eboh, 2009, Reuters)

That said, it could be argued that the ever increasing high incidences of kidnapping is being perpetrated by criminal elements whose stock in trade is the collection of ransom and not self determination, resource control or environmental activism. The crack down on oil bunkering by the military task force is also responsible for the proliferation of criminal gangs who kidnap high net worth individuals especially expatriates (Reuters, 2009).

Abductions and kidnappings apart, these militants have sometimes resorted to acts of terror to drive home their demands or to make their presence felt. For instance, the Federal government parastatal NDDC reported that the MEND claimed responsibility for a bomb blast in April 2006, near an oil refinery in the area as a deterrent to increasing Chinese presence in the Region. MEND was quoted as saying “We wish to warn the Chinese government and its oil companies to steer well clear of the Niger Delta (*). The Chinese government by investing in stolen crude places its citizens in our line of fire”(*). A number of explosions have also occurred in many parts of the Region, notably oil installations, but in some instances also in military formations, with various militant groups claiming responsibility*.

Furthermore, the militants and apparently some other criminal elements have routinely blown up and vandalized the plethora of oil pipelines crisscrossing the region, more for economic gains than for political advocacy*. Pipeline vandalization has become a very lucrative business possibly more than kidnapping and abduction, by providing hundreds of thousands of readily marketable oil products for the black market mostly international.(see bunkering). Indeed Nigeria`s president Yar` Adua had on His state visit to Britain in 2008 equated the trade in this stolen crude to trading in “blood diamonds” and appealed for international sanctions accordingly.*

Response Of The Government

“The most immediate source of the disconnect between Nigeria’s wealth and its poverty is a failure of governance at the federal state and local level… lack of transparency and accountability has eroded the legitimacy of the government and contributed to the rise of groups that embrace violence and reject the authority of the state”

US sec of state Hilary Clinton as quoted in the Nation 2009 pp1-2

The Nigerian government has in response to the agitation by both the political elites and the militants of the region formulated a number of policy frameworks aimed at assuaging the detrimental impacts of the activities of the multi nationals. For instance the government of the military president Ibrahim Babangida, in the late 1980s established the Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC) to address the chronic under-development and endemic poverty pervading the oil bearing communities. However, the institutionalized corruption inherent in the Nigerian system prevented the OMPADEC from making any meaningful progress, in spite of the millions of naira appropriated and disbursed to it for infrastructural development and the delivery of social services(*).

With the advent of the current democratic dispensation and the rising militancy in the region, provisions were made in the 1999 Nigerian constitution for thirteen percent derivation from total oil revenue to be paid to oil bearing states (Constitution, FRN, 1999). Furthermore the government floated the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) with the mandate to develop the oil producing areas particularly with regards to health care delivery, education, provision of potable water as well as the building and construction of roads and bridges.

The government has also established a bonafide Ministry of the Niger Delta with the NDDC as its parastatal to further bring the government closer to the region and ensure the presentation of the Niger Delta agenda at the highest level of government, the cabinet. Nigeria also has in place, a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) pursuant to its signing the international convention on oil pollution, preparedness and response co-operation (OPRC, 1990) (Yo-Essien, 2007, p.6). The NOSCP was revised in 2003 and further reviewed in 2006, and the establishment of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) is in furtherance of this protocol. The NOSDRA has worked tenaciously to curb the excesses of the oil multinationals as reported in Thisday Nigeria (2009, p.11).

Recently, NOSDRA cautioned 66 oil prospecting companies in the country to seize from breaching laid down regulations guiding oil spill management to avoid facing severe penalties (Ezigbo, 2009, p.11). In the same report, Ezigbo quoted the NOSDRA as accusing the companies “including Chevron, Mobil, Shell and Elf, of violating regulations relating to reporting of oil spills, prompt clean up, and remediation of impacted sites” (Ibid).

In a nutshell, the government has in place a number of legislative frameworks for the management of the negative environmental impacts of oil exploration and exploitation which include the following:

  1. “Oil pipelines Act, 1965

  2. Mineral Oil (Safety) Regulations, 1997

  3. Petroleum Regulations, 1967

  4. Petroleum Drilling and Production Regulations, 1969

  5. Oil in Navigable Water Act, 1968

  6. Oil Terminal Dues Act, 1969

  7. Petroleum Regulations, 1974

  8. Federal Environmental Regulations, 1974

  9. Federal Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1990

  10. Nigeria Oil Spill Detection and Regulation Agency Act, 2006” (Yo-Essien, 2007, p.5)

Human rights activists, local politicians, as well as the militia however view the government intervention as largely cosmetic and paying lip service to the sustainable development of this very strategic region. For one the government is accused of unleashing violence on the host communities in response to their very legitimate agitations for self determination and environmentally friendly oil exploration and exploitation. According to Amnesty International (2005, p.4), the Nigerian government is in constant and flagrant breach of its obligations under international law to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights, by selectively providing security to the oil industry, while neglecting to protect the host communities. Amnesty further argues that domestic regulations are grossly inadequate in ensuring the respect of human rights by the multinationals (AI, 2005, p.4).

This alleged neglect is directly and remotely attributable to systemic and endemic corruption which has eaten deep into the fabric of society. As aforestated, the lust for lucre by the political class and government functionaries are often cited as the reasons why the authorities either collaborate with or even facilitate acts of human rights violations by the multinationals against the host communities; while sometimes turning a blind eye to the grievous atrocities and breaches by the oil giants(*).

However, much as there is a declared intention to fight corruption in Nigeria by the government and its agencies, the results are yet hardly very significant. It is therefore hoped that when this crusade succeeds a more enabling environment would have been created for the above organizations to adhere strictly to the laws of the land.

Chapter 5


Bearing in mind the avowed commitment to rule of law by the present government, it is most likely that the human rights situation will continue to improve and with time, will probably develop closer to international best practices. It is noteworthy that in the year 2000, Nigeria was second to the last in the annual ratings just 2 steps away from Bangladesh. However the country has climbed up the scale to 121, fifty seven points higher than it was; a very significant improvement, by all means and obviously attributable to the ceaseless agitations by the global human rights community as well as the indigenes of the oil bearing areas.

However, in spite of the possibility of great advances in technology and the huge investments into the research and development of alternative energy sources, crude oil will continue to play a major role in the global energy mix for several decades to come. Nigeria, hitherto the sixth largest global exporter of crude oil, now seventh as a result of production cut backs occasioned by heightened militancy in the Delta region will also continue to be a big player in the international oil market and a favourable destination for multinational oil giants.

It can also be deduced from the various case studies above that the multinational oil producers under study are making spirited efforts to clean up their apparently unenviable human rights records. The negative environmental impacts of their exploration and exploitation activities are being addressed in some of the aggrieved communities, albeit on a scale far lower than that required to drastically reverse the long standing and neglected devastation.

The multinational oil companies under review can also be said to be making concerted efforts at developing some host communities especially in the provision of social amenities as well as educational endowments and scholarships for the indigenes. Furthermore the companies under review all claim to operate under the highest principles of corporate social responsibility and reiterate their respect and commitment to human rights, while denying their acquiescence to any violations of the human rights of the indigenes of the oil bearing communities by the government and its agents.

All said and done however, a visit to an average Niger delta community will give a lie to the claims of the oil giants under review in the twin areas of corporate social responsibility and respect for human rights. Much as these companies continually deny their involvement in the various acts of human rights violations by the Nigerian authorities, their vociferous denials can realistically be likened to the hands of Esau and the voice of Jacob. While these oil giants are jittery about staining their corporate image especially before the fastidious media and rights groups in their home countries, they equally need to sustain, if not surpass their profiles as blue chips and post huge profits and handsome dividends to their share holders annually. They therefore make the right noises about respect for human rights in the media, while more often than not, arm twisting the corrupt ruling elite to come down heavily on the perceived recalcitrant elements fomenting trouble in the oil bearing communities.

This unholy alliance between the government officials and the multinationals is by all means the causative factor of the countless cases of flagrant disregard for human rights and due process of law as exemplified by the murder of the Ogoni nine and the Odi massacre, among others. In those cases aggrieved communities had in the course of expressing their grievances obviously constituted themselves into cogs in the wheel of progress for the multinational/NNPC joint ventures and were therefore made to face the full wrath of the law and subjected to extrajudicial killings and other dehumanizing conditions, with the tacit approval of the oil companies involved.

The oil companies are also directly and remotely involved in the hydra-headed monstrosity of the militant groups by the Machiavellian tactics they employ in the course dispensing patronage to the host communities. For instance, the aforestated internecine Warri conflicts of the late 1980s are attributable to the quest for territorial control that would ultimately guarantee a larger share of the largesse occasionally doled out to the various communities by the oil companies. These divide and rule tactics however backfired when the various communities ceased fighting themselves and logically turned on the oil multinationals resulting in the seemingly intractable problem of ever rising militancy, kidnappings, and sundry acts of terror.

In conclusion therefore, it can objectively be surmised that the multinationals have come short of international best practices with respect to environmental protection, respect for human rights and the discharge of their corporate social responsibilities to the oil bearing communities in which they operate leading to rising militant activities and a paradoxical draw back in the activities of the companies. It is therefore necessary to make the following recommendations in order to achieve the noble objectives of ensuring the peaceful and profitable exploitation of the God given natural resource of the Niger Delta in an environmentally friendly manner, consistent with global standards.


  • All the multinational companies under review should make every effort to observe and to be seen to be observing human rights particularly environmental human rights in all their areas of operations.

  • The oil companies under review should also take a principled stand against any acts of human rights infringements by any agency of government even if such human rights breaches may well be in their favor.

  • The multinationals should also avoid the divide and rule tactics they routinely employed in the course of dispensing patronage to the various host communities.

  • The oil giants should in the discharge of their CSR avoid direct disbursements to corrupt politicians and traditional rulers, but liaise with relevant communities to determine the nature and location of the various intervention projects.

  • All companies operating in the Niger Delta should invest heavily in clean technology that will reduce the incidence of oil spillage, but should also bear the cost and responsibility for cleaning up all areas impacted by the various oil spills and the restoration of the ecosystem.

  • The oil companies should also show more commitment to zero flaring and avoid postponing the flare out deadlines.

  • The multinational oil companies should also create more employment opportunities to teeming unemployed youths and able bodied men and women of the region within their respective companies and also make capital grants and relevant technology for the evolution of micro, small and medium enterprises in the region.

  • The companies should also put in place functional and highly responsive social responsibility departments which should act as the ombudsman between them and their respective host communities.

  • The companies should ensure the rigorous training and retraining of their security personnel, especially with respect to established international norms.

From the foregoing it can safely be assumed that albeit the operations of the multinational oil companies are fraught with environmental devastation and multiple human rights abuses, which have given rise to violent militant activities, the multinationals can redress the negative impacts of their activities and foster the sustainable development of the oil resources of the Niger Delta by the strict adherence to international best practices as recommended above.


African Charter on Peoples and Human Rights: Ratification and Enforcement, Act 1990.

Alston, Philip, 2005, Non-state actors and human rights. Oxford University Press.

Amnesty International, 200. NIGERIA: Ten Years On, injustice and violence haunt the oil delta. AI index AFR 44/002/2005. 3 November, 2005.

Amnesty International, 2003. Nigeria: Repression of women`s protests in oil producing Niger Delta Region, AI index 44/008/2003s.

Anoli Dele, 2009: US offers help in electoral reforms: The Nation Newspaper. VOL 3,NO.1119, pp 1-2.

Bennie Lynn, Bernahagen Patrick and Mitchell Neil, (2008). `The Good Corporation and Logic of Transnational Action, “Political Studies” December, 2008. Pp. 738.

Chevron Business ethics and conducts and Ethics Code. Sec 1.14. p17, sec 1.27 p.29. Chevron Corporation CA.

Chevron Corporation, March, 2009. Nigeria Factsheet. Pp1-7.

Committee for the defense of human rights, 1998

Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. Chapter IV. “Fundamental Rights” sections 33 34, 44.

Eboh Camillus, July, 2009. Kidnappings on the Rise in Nigeria; over 500 so far. News Daily (Reuters).

Exxon Mobil, 2008. A long Term Commitment to Africa. ExxonMobil Corporation, public affairs, Texas USA. Printed in Belgium, Pp b6, b19-21, 10.

Ezigbo, Onyebuchi, March 2009. Oil spill: FG to sanction 66 Firms. THISDAY, Vol 14,No 5065, p.11.

Forsythe, David, 2006, Human Rights in International Relations, Cambridge University Press. Leiden.

Human Rights Watch, 2009, Nigeria: Country Summary, January 2009.

Human Rights Watch, 1999, The Price of Oil” Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights Violations in Nigeria`s Oil Producing Communities” HRW Index No. 1-56432-225-4

Landman, Todd, 2005, “The Political Science of Human Rights”, British journal of political science, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 549.

Landman, Todd, 2006, Studying Human Rights. Routledge Madison NY.

Leander, Anna, 2005, “The market for force and public security: the destabilizing consequences of private military companies”, Journal of peace research, vol. 42, no. 5, pp. 605.

Malone, Linda, 2003, “International Human Rights”, p.20. West group, MN.

Okonta Ike and Oronto Douglas, 2000.

Omotseye Olorode, 1998. Ken Saro Wiwa and the crises of the Nigerian state. A CDHR special publication. Pp 40-41.

Ibid p.

Roderick peter, Osouka Asume, 2005. Gas flaring in Nigeria: A Human rights, Environmental, and Economic Monstrosity. Printed in the Netherlands.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, 2005. Shell General Business Principles: Shell International Limited first published in 1976.

Shell in Nigeria, May 2009. Environmental Performance: managing oil spills. Published by shell companies in Nigeria SPDC of Nigeria Ltd, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd and Shell Nigeria Gas Ltd.

Shell in Nigeria, May 2009.Improving Lives in the Niger Delta. Published by shell companies in Nigeria SPDC of Nigeria Ltd, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd and Shell Nigeria Gas Ltd.

Shell in Nigeria, 2009. Shell interests in Nigeria: published by shell companies in Nigeria SPDC of Nigeria Ltd, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd and

Shell Nigeria Gas Ltd.

UN Convention against Torture and Other Inhuman Punishment, Article 1.

Yusuf, Adeola, (2009). “Shell claims Payment of 5tr Royalties in three years”. Daily Independent, August 13, 2009. VOL 3, NO 1805.


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