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Socio-environmental disasters caused by different gas and oil transnational corporations in 1980s in Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta, Nigeria, were the focus of concern for writer and journalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and led him to become involved in the resistance of this people and become a leader for the movement in defense of these lands.
The social and environmental justice demand voiced by this movement was violently oppressed at the beginning of 1990s. This people, which had already seen their members get sick and lose their crops due to the activity of extractive transnational corporations, now started to witness how their activists were being murdered by the Nigerian government forces.
Saro-Wiwa´s struggle together with the Ogoni people eventually managed in 1993 to stop oil exploitation in the region. But oppression continued for the following years, and Saro-Wiwa, together with 8 other activists were sentenced to death and executed on November 10, 1995.
When extractive activities ended, the damage was already done: “In Ogoniland, where the Ogoni people had their struggle against Shell, and continue their struggle against Shell, we can still see the effects that are there from long years of Shell’s activities”, said Colin Roche, member of the Economic Justice Programme and Extractive Industries campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.
“In 2011, when the United Nations published their report, an extensive and long scientific report into the destruction of Ogoniland by the oil industry they found water sources polluted with cancer-causing chemicals like benzene up to 900 times; and the World Health Organization recommended limits and saw oil in the ground up to a depth of five meters and also we continued to see activities by oil companies like gas flaring which pollutes the air”, said Colin about the impacts of the extractive industry in this region recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme.
The high levels of pollution have rendered Ogoni people´s livelihoods useless. As Colin says: “The people in Nigeria see their water affected, their ability to have clean water to drink, to wash, to use their sanitation, and their ability to provide food for themselves, as their fishing waters are polluted and the land they need to grow food is also polluted”.
The company that has caused most significant damage in Nigeria, Shell, is nominated to the Pinocchio Climate Awards 2015 for their responsibility in human and environmental rights violations in this country and for continuing unpunished for those crimes. More information here: http://www.pinocchio-awards.org/nomine/shell/
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