Wednesday, August 25, 2010

UN Exonerates Shell for Pollution in the Niger Delta

As reported in the Guardian UK on Sunday, the United Nations Environment Program will all but exonerate Shell for its pollution in the Niger Delta since oil was discovered there in the 1950s. As you know, this is an issue near and dear to Ed and all of us familiar with his work.And we are outraged. The study, paid for by Shell and the Nigerian government, will claim that spills have only been occurring over a nine-year period and are mostly caused by “bunkering,” people trying to illegally steal oil from the pipelines. All of the findings are in direct conflict with what environmental groups say, and what Ed’s photos illustrate, has been occurring for decades. Communities in the area admit that bunkering is an issue but only recently and not to the scale that Shell claims. In my opinion, that’s completely beside the point. Shell and the Nigerian government have created a situation in the Niger Delta that is so deplorable that some people (and this a fraction of the population) resort to crime. The government then gets to blame the entire situation on the people; it's an age-old tactic. It is the ultimate in racism and injustice. Shell and the corrupt Nigerian government can now step back and say, “Hey, they’re killing themselves. It’s not our fault.” This isn't to say that criminals are justified in their actions, it's just that this argument completely ignores decades of systematic oppression of people who haven’t received a dime from the oil-rich government.

Of course Shell and the Nigerian government are going to try to use this small, insignificant problem (as compared to the damage that Shell has caused in the Niger Delta for decades) as the scapegoat, that’s to be expected. The real shocker here is that the UN bought it (and I mean that in every sense of the word) hook, line and sinker.

The claim that the pollution has only occurred for nine years is also a direct offence to the memory of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a political activist who was hanged in 1995 after a peaceful protest against the pollution caused by Shell. That was 15 years ago. Please go to to learn more about his story and the latest news about the case against Shell.

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