NIGERIA: Are Human Rights in the Pipeline?

Amnesty International finds government fails to stop environmental and human rights abuses by oil multinationals

The Nigerian government's
failure to protect human rights during oil exploration and
production is fuelling human rights abuses in the Niger Delta,
Amnesty International (AI) said today in a new report,
Nigeria: Are Human Rights in the
The 59-page report
examines practices of several transnational corporations (TNCs)
including the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC) and
the Nigerian Agip Oil Corporation (NAOC). It presents three case
studies illustrating how TNCs made decisions for various projects
without consulting members of the community -- who then faced dire
environmental consequences, the seizure of their land without
adequate compensation, or violence or intimidation as a means of
assuring their silence.

"For far too long, the Nigerian government
has sent the message that it is unwilling to protect the human
rights of its people," said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive
Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "The
authorities in Nigeria have practically given oil companies carte
blanche to act without accountability."

The report considers the rights to seek,
receive and impart information from and about TNC environmental
assessments; the right to an adequate standard of living; the right
to live free of contaminated water, toxic wastes and the adverse
affects of oil spills; and the right to an effective legal remedy
and redress. In Nigeria asserting these rights, or even simply
living in the region, can lead to ill-treatment by security forces,
or even death.

AI's calculations, based on local and
international media reports, show that the number of people killed
in the Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa States in 2004, including
incidents in late August, could be as many as 670, and that as many
as 1,000 were killed in the Niger Delta in 2003. While some deaths
were due to intra- or inter-communal violence and the proliferation
of illegal small arms, some can be attributed to excessive force on
the part of state security forces - forces those TNCs utilize
to protect company employees and resources.

The report acknowledges that TNCs have not been
a strictly negative force in the region. As a result of the
government's failure to provide essential services, such as
heath, education and access to drinking water, oil companies have
funded a wide variety of corporate social responsibility projects.
However, while voluntary and often philanthropic, AI has concluded
that these activities have at times been designed more to ward off
potential political risks to TNC operations. Regardless of motive,
such activities are often carried out without consideration of
environmental or social impact, creating an environment ripe for
community conflict and subsequent human rights abuses, when only
those closest to the companies benefit.

"Ensuring universal access to basic social
amenities remains the responsibility of the Nigerian State,"
explained Salil Tripathi, Economic Relations Researcher for AI.
"The responsibility of transnational corporations lies in
ensuring that the areas they have voluntarily accepted to service
are adequately provided for and are provided without

The United States is the largest export market
for Nigerian oil. Amnesty International believes that Nigeria, as
Africa's leading oil producer, has a responsibility to set
standards that can be applied throughout the region.

AMP Section Name:Energy