I work with social movements and organisations empowering communities impacted by oil extraction in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. For over 50 years, billions of dollars of oil revenues have been extracted from the Niger Delta, yet local people live in abject poverty. Oil spills are a daily occurrence, ravaging farmland and killing fish that village communities depend on for their survival. Toxic gas-flaring occurs with impunity.
Shell is the most active oil major in the region, contributing to this legacy of human rights violations, environmental devastation and social conflict. 2 years ago, a detailed UNEP report concluded that cleaning up oil pollution in just one area – Ogoniland – would take 30 years and $1 billion of start up finance. And yet, since then, Shell has taken little action. Earlier this year, I visited Shell’s UK AGM with Celestine AkpoBari an activist from Ogoniland to challenge Shell on their woeful record.
Given my somewhat unhealthy ‘interest’ in Shell I was struck by the World Development Movement’s recent research uncovering the role of high street banks in financing Shell. Barclays and HSBC have facilitated the issuing of billions of pounds of bonds in the oil company. In 2012, Lloyds TSB provided Shell with a £75 million loan. I am ashamed to say that I still bank with HSBC. Needless to say I will be moving my money. But what else can we do?
Communities in Nigeria are resisting these impacts, despite brutal repression. Popular protest in Ogoniland, in many cases led by women, led to Shell’s withdrawal from the area. However, the pollution remains. Last weekend was the 2nd anniversary of UNEP report demonstrating the scale of the pollution Ogoniland. There were demonstrations in Ogoniland and in the capital of Nigeria.
Given that the source of the problem resides here in the UK, Platform decided to organise a peaceful protest in solidarity. As long as Shell refuses to clean up the Niger Delta we will stand with communities, as part of a worldwide movement for climate justice.
Sarah Shoraka, Nigeria, oil and human rights campaigner.
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