Tag Archives: Nigeria

Industralizing Nigeria through the Military-Industrial Complex

Image from nigeriana.org

In the last year, a total of 1,653 suspects were arrested and 3,778 illegal refineries destroyed in the in the ongoing anti-illegal bunkering patrols by the Joint Task Force (Operation PULO SHIELD) in the Niger Delta, according to Minister of State for Defence, Dr Olusola Obada.  In addition, 120 barges, 878 Cotonou boats, 161 tanker trucks, 178 illegal fuel dumps and 5,238 surface tanks were also destroyed by the Task Force within the same period.

Obada also said that the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) will collaborate with the private sector under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) in the production of Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs).  Obada said on Friday, while featuring in the ongoing ministerial press briefing in Abuja, that the nation’s military has “enhanced protection of oil and gas facilities through air and ground patrols of pipeline networks to deter vandals from sabotage activities. Troops were deployed on most critical platforms on a 24/7 basis to enhance their security. While criminalities in the industry have not been completely eliminated, efforts of the Joint Task Force have reduced the level crude oil theft drastically.”

She stated that towards industrialising Nigeria through the military-industrial complex, “the Federal Government in 2012 set up a high powered committee headed by the Vice President to reposition the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) for greater efficiency. The report of the committee had been submitted to the President and it is expected that the recommendations would help initiate a transformation in the local production of military equipment.”

Already, Obada noted, DICON has entered into partnership with foreign companies for the manufacture of weapons, bulletproof vests and other equipment.  She also disclosed that under the Ministry of Defence’s health initiatives, 25,000 people had been place on retroviral therapy in the last one year under the Ministry of Defence HIV programme.

Special Task Force Arrest 1,653 Suspects, Destroy 3,778 Illegal Refineries Saturday, The Guardian (Nigeria), June 29, 2013

Suing Multinational Corporations in US Courts: Kiobel v. Shell

oil pollution

The Alien Tort Statute (ATS)… grants American district courts jurisdiction over “any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or of a treaty of the United States”. At the age of 190 it sprang back to life on April 6th 1979, when it was used to allow two Paraguayans to sue a former Paraguayan policeman in an American court for acts of torture committed in Paraguay.Since then, roughly 150 lawsuits have been filed against American and foreign corporations for actions committed around the world. Four local plaintiffs used the ATS to sue Unocal in a federal court in Los Angeles for human-rights violations allegedly committed during the construction of an oil pipeline in Myanmar. A human-rights organisation used it to sue Yahoo on behalf of two Chinese democracy activists for actions committed in China by a subsidiary. ATS suits against DaimlerChrysler and Rio Tinto, among others, are pending. Though most ATS cases have been dismissed or settled, the costs of settlements can be high and the negative publicity damaging.

Multinational companies will therefore cheer the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell), released on April 17th, 2013. It dramatically limits the ability of plaintiffs to file suit against corporations in American courts for actions committed abroad.  The ruling stems from a case brought in New York by 12 Nigerian plaintiffs living in America. They allege that Shell was complicit in human-rights violations—including murder, rape, theft and destruction of property—committed by Nigeria’s armed forces in the region of Ogoniland. A federal appeals court dismissed their suit, arguing that the ATS provides no grounds for corporate-liability lawsuits. But as the 150 ATS suits show, other courts have disagreed. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in order to settle the question.

In an earlier ruling, in 2004, the court cautiously ruled that the ATS permitted lawsuits for “a modest number of international law violations”, such as piracy and crimes involving ambassadors, which would have been recognised when it was adopted. The court’s Kiobel ruling goes much further. It holds that the ATS does not apply to actions committed by foreign companies, and noted a strong presumption against applying American law outside the United States, “There is no indication,” wrote John Roberts, the chief justice, “that the ATS was passed to make the United States a uniquely hospitable forum for the enforcement of international norms”.  In a separate concurrence, four of the court’s liberals took a slightly softer tack, arguing that the ATS should allow suits that prevent America from becoming “a safe harbour…for a torturer or other common enemy of mankind”. But that reasoning still does not permit foreign nationals to use American courts to sue foreign companies for acts committed on foreign soil.

Extraterritoriality: The Shell game ends, Economist, Apr. 20, 2013, at 34

Anglo-Dutch Shell and the Oil Spills in Nigeria, litigation

A European company, Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell will appear in a Dutch court to account for damage it caused abroad, Friends of the Earth International announced today.  The court case against Shell’s oil spills in Nigeria has been filed by four Nigerian plaintiffs in conjunction with Friends of the Earth Netherlands and supported by Friends of the Earth Nigeria.  Lawyers for both parties will plea at a key hearing in The Hague on 11 October at 9:30am.  The verdict is expected early in 2013.  “This court case will have groundbreaking legal repercussions for multinational corporations globally, and especially for European corporations,” says Geert Ritsema, globalisation campaign leader at Friends of the Earth Netherlands / Milieudefensie.  “Due to the poor maintenance of pipelines and factories, Shell let tens of millions of barrels of oil leak in the Niger Delta, with disastrous consequences for local people and the environment. The Anglo Dutch oil giant must now stop its pollution, compensate the damage and prevent more oil spills from happening,” he adds.

In May 2008, four Nigerian fishermen and farmers from the villages of Goi, Ikot Ada Udo and Oruma, in conjunction with Friends of the Earth Netherlands / Milieudefensie and supported by Friends of the Earth Nigeria / ERA, started a legal case against Shell Nigeria and its parent company in the Netherlands.

The Hague court hearing will take place just 10 days after a key [October 1st] hearing of the U.S. Supreme court regarding a separate lawsuit ‘Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum‘ brought by Nigerian refugees in the U.S. accusing Shell of helping the Nigerian military to systematically torture and kill environmentalists in the 1990s….(see pdf of District Court ruling) (see also pdf of 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals)

Shell is the operator of Nigeria’s largest oil fields and bears significant responsibility for the oil pollution. The UN, among others, has stated that Shell does not comply with legal environmental standards and has failed to clean up leaked oil – or has done so only insufficiently, for decades….

Nigeria: Key Hearing in Court Case On Oil Giant Shell’s Nigerian Oil Pollution, AllAfrica.com, Sept. 26, 2012

See also Shell in Nigeria

Supreme Court case is Esther Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, No. 10-1491

UN Report 50 years of oil pollution in Nigeria

Shell in Nigeria: Oil Pollution and Human Rights Abuses

A group of 11,000 Nigerians launched a suit against Royal Dutch Shell at the London High Court on Friday, (March 23, 2012) seeking tens of millions of dollars in compensation for two oil spills in 2008 that they say destroyed their livelihoods. The case will be closely watched by the industry for precedents that could have an impact on other big claims against Western oil companies accused of polluting poor countries, including Chevron’s protracted dispute with Ecuador.

SPDC, a Shell-run joint venture between Nigeria’s state oil firm, Shell, EPNL and Agip, has admitted responsibility for two spills that devastated the Bodo fishing communities in the restive Niger Delta, where a maze of pipelines criss-cross mangrove swamps and creeks.  But Shell and the London lawyers representing the claimants disagree about how much oil was spilt and how much compensation they should get. Talks to resolve it broke down last week.  “They made an offer and the community quite rightly said this is ridiculously low,” said Martyn Day, of the London law firm Leigh Day & Co, who is leading legal proceedings. He said his hope was to resume negotiations with Shell at some point.  Day declined to say how much Shell had offered. He said his clients would be claiming “many millions of dollars” through the High Court, but there was no precise figure because there were 11,000 claimants so far but more might join the action later.

Shell says 4,000 barrels of oil in total were spilt in Bodo in 2008 as a result of operational failures and a clean-up was completed in 2009. It says that since then, more oil has been spilt due to sabotage and oil theft, known as “bunkering“…..

Day disputed this. He said experts had put the amount spilt because of Shell’s two operational failures at 600,000 barrels, and that any bunkering that took place in the area would account for no more than 1 percent of that.  In a report in November 2011, human rights group Amnesty International blamed Shell for spilling 280,000 barrels in Bodo and called on it to pay $1 billion to clean up the Niger Delta.  If the figures given by Amnesty or by Day are close to the truth, that would make the Bodo spill one of the biggest in history. By comparison, the volume spilt in Alaska in the Exxon Valdez disaster was estimated at 257,000 barrels.  The discrepancies between the different estimates of the Bodo spills illustrate how hard it is to get an accurate picture of what goes on in the remote creeks of the Delta.

In a region where millions of people scrape a living from subsistence fishing or farming and live in mud-huts with no electricity, the presence for decades of a multi-billion-dollar oil industry with its high-tech equipment and luxurious compounds for expatriate workers has led to deep resentment.  Pipeline sabotage by militants campaigning for a greater share of oil revenues, or by local criminals looking to benefit from clean-up contracts, are common there.

Industry experts say bunkering may have siphoned off as much as 20 percent of Nigerian production. Kidnappings for ransom of foreign workers have also been a problem at certain periods, and governments have responded by paying off the gangs.

Rivalries between neighbouring communities over their perceived rights to compensation or other revenues to be had from oil companies operating in their areas frequently boil over into violent conflict, adding to the Delta’s poisonous mix.  SPDC’s Sunmonu gave a flavour of this on Friday when he told BBC Radio 4 that the company wanted to help but there was “lots of intra-communal strife making it difficult for anyone to have meaningful negotiations”. He said lots of people who claimed to have been affected by the Bodo spills were lying.  The Bodo case is particularly troublesome for Shell because the area is in Ogoniland, a part of the Delta that was the scene of one of the company’s worst public relations disasters.  In 1995, nine Ogoni activists including the environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who had been campaigning against Shell’s activities in his homeland, were tried on trumped-up charges and hanged by the then military dictatorship of Sani Abacha.  Saro-Wiwa has become a martyr to many environmental activists around the world. Although Shell was not directly responsible for his death, it was widely blamed for cooperating with Abacha’s brutal and corrupt regime.

The case has echoes of a legal saga involving Chevron’s operations in Ecuador that has spanned nearly two decades.

REFILE-Nigerians sue Shell in London over Delta pollution, Reuters, Mar. 23, 2012

One More Reason to Occupy Nigeria: the severe environmental damage

The Nigerian cell of the Anonymous collective has continued its ongoing campaign against government corruption issuing a statement listing its demands.  Sent to the International Business Times on Tuesday via email the statement has since been re-posted on Pastebin – indicating that it is likely authentic.  In it the collective promised to continue mounting its ongoing series of cyber assaults against the Nigerian government should its demands for “justice” and an end to violence against protesters not be met. Specifically Anonymous Nigeria’s demands were six-fold:

“WE DEMAND THAT YOU CUT THE COST OF GOVERNMENT BY 60%

“WE DEMAND THAT YOU ELIMINATE WASTE IN GOVERNMENT

“WE DEMAND THAT YOU TACKLE CORRUPTION AND POLITICAL PATRONAGE

“WE DEMAND THAT YOU REDUCE THE PUMP PRICE OF FUEL TO N65

“WE DEMAND THAT YOU FIND OUT AND PROSECUTE MEMBERS OF THE FUEL CABAL,” read Anonymous’ statement. Later adding the final demand:

“WE DEMAND AN IMMEDIATE END TO THE KILLING OF INNOCENT PROTESTERS”

The statement follows the collective’s unified and ongoing support of all Occupy movements. Though the root cause of the Occupy movement is difficult to discern, the earliest call-to-arms stemmed from a blog post in Adbusters magazine.  Inspired by the Arab Spring and Spain’s Democracia real YA platform, Adbusters called for all like-minded individuals unhappy with the current global political and economic system to march on Wall Street and mount an ongoing sit-in-protest.

The post quickly captured the imagination of several groups, leading to the #occupywallstreet hash-tag trending on Twitter. The movement gained significant mainstream attention outside of Adbusters’ native U.S. base when the Anonymous collective took notice and publicly voiced its support.  Reiterating Adbusters’ post, Anonymous issued the above video on its AnonOps website citing a series of undisclosed actions perpetrated by “corrupt” governments and corporations as its motivation for the sit-in.  Since Adbusters’ and Anonymous’ call-to-arms the Occupy movement has spread to cities across the world, seeing citizens pitch tents in public squares and mount sit-in-protests against the world’s current political and economic systems. In all the campaigns Anonymous has openly voiced its support for the movement, publicising its live video feeds and reporting any incidents of police violence against protesters.

The Nigerian cell of Anonymous has followed this pattern, publicly voicing its support and reporting any incidents of violence against Occupy protesters. The group has already taken credit for identifying the deaths of in-excess of 10 participants in the Occupy Nigeria protest. Ending its statement Anonymous Nigeria promised it would continue its “peaceful” protest – many Anons list identify themselves as pacifists and are hostile to any and all acts of physical violence

Alastair Stevenson, Occupy Nigeria: Anonymous Demand End to Government Corruption, Jan. 11, 2012

Nigeria Delta: Ogoniland’s oil damage

A landmark U.N. report on 50 years of oil pollution in Nigeria is unlikely to bring the change many had hoped for, after Shell and the national petroleum company went on the defensive and weary local communities said they had seen it all before.  The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report focused on the Ogoniland region and is the most comprehensive, scientific analysis in any area of the vast Niger Delta wetlands, the heartland of Africa’s largest energy industry.  The report offers evidence that operator Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), a coalition between state-oil firm NNPC and Shell, failed to follow best practice, leading to serious public health issues.  The report laid out a detailed road map for the world’s biggest ever oil-spill clean-up, taking 30 years and cost an initial $1 billion, led by money from SPDC and the Nigerian government. The local communities are not holding their breath.  “The shelves are filled with reports … the fact that the devastation was caused by oil exploitation is something that all of us already knew,” said Ledum Mitee, president of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP).  “In our view, Shell has just been able to purchase, at huge cost and time, another four years of doing nothing, absolutely nothing, to clean the environment.”  UNEP produced the report, which was paid for by Shell, at the request of the Nigerian government.  MOSOP, led by poet and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, forced Shell out of Ogoniland in 1993 after they said the oil giant had destroyed their fishing environment. Saro-Wiwa was later hanged by the military government, prompting international outrage.  Shell may not pump any oil from Ogoniland any more but its pipelines and production infrastructure still sit in the region and are subject to leaks and sabotage attacks.  In some areas pollution was at levels that needed emergency action with one community drinking water that was contaminated with benzene, a substance known to cause cancer, at levels over 900 times above the World Health Organization guidelines.  UNEP said in 10 out of 15 areas visited where SPDC said it had completed restoration, there was still serious oil-related pollution that didn’t meet Shell’s own best practice standards.  NNPC and Shell both said oil spills in the Niger Delta were a major problem but they always clean them up and the major reason for oil spills is thieves and saboteurs.

Sabotage attacks and gangs bunkering oil has been a serious problem in the Niger Delta for years, although an amnesty for militants in 2009 brought a halt to major attacks.  “The report, what’s new?” a spokesman for NNPC said. “There is no question of paying because we already clean up all the spills,” he said in reaction to the $1 billion proposal and comments made by UNEP that spills were not cleaned up.  Despite the lack of hope felt by many of the communities in the Niger Delta, the pressure of 50 years working onshore in Nigeria is telling on Shell, as the future of crude oil exploration increasingly spreads to deep offshore projects.  Last year it sold off four onshore oil blocks and it has said it is not targeting growth in Nigeria.  The company’s London-listed shares lagged rivals on Thursday after it emerged the company had accepted that a British court had jurisdiction in villager claims for compensation for damages caused by two oil spills from pipelines controlled by SPDC.  One source close to the case said the cost of cleaning up the spills and compensating those affected has been estimated by some experts at about 250 million pounds…..

Joe Brock, Analysis: Nigerian oil region’s gloomy outlook unmoved by U.N., Reuters,Aug 5 2011