Oil Politics

Oil Politics articles in newspapers are written by Nnimmo Bassey and rigorously examines issues relating to the extractive industries as well as other pressing socio-economic issues through the filter of justice.

Although the immediate focus is the Nigerian setting, the writings have universal relevance for those seeking to uncover the systems beneath destructive extractive and development

 
  • Thursday, 6th June 2013

    The theme of the World Environment Day 2013 is “Think. Eat. Save”. Each word is loaded and stands alone, separated by unambiguous periods. That should get us thinking indeed. Many people in the world do not really think before eating. They are more preoccupied by the nagging question of where the next meal would come from. There are also a number of persons whose questions pertain to what to eat out of the myriad of choices on their sumptuous dining tables. And, of course, there are people to whom saving food is not a problem while to yet others there is simply no choice in doing that. There are others who wish to save but cannot do so either due to a lack of means to do so, or for the reason of current insufficiencies.

    There is a lot of food for thought in just considering the theme.

  • Thursday, 25th April 2013

    Frequently Asked Questions on the PIB document should be required basic reading for those seeking clarity on the issues.

    Nature’s Resources

    We need to remind ourselves at the outset that crude oil and gas are neither produced by oil companies or by communities that are sometimes erroneously labelled as oil producing communities. These fossil fuels have been produced by nature over thousands, if not millions of years. A correct way to understand natural resources is to humbly see them as Nature's resources. Drilling kilometres into the bowels of the earth actually is a violation of nature. It isn't wisdom or smartness.

    Oil companies merely extract oil/gas. They never produce any. The Nigerian government collects oil/gas rents. The poor communities are best described as oil companies impacted communities.

    The PIB ought to be predicated on the premise that the Petroleum Resources sector is a highly polluting sector. It should also have the clear understanding that the resources are non-renewable and are thus finite. It is not a resource that will be available or useful in perpetuity. They will either be exhausted or may simply fall out of use. This demands utmost care to ensure socially and environmentally acceptable practices. Acts that are socially and environmentally irredeemably contaminating ought to be shut down for the sake of present and future generations, irrespective of how lucrative they may be. Laws on environmental, social and related impact assessments suggest this.

  • Ogoni and the Agony of a Delayed Clean Up
    Tuesday, 12th February 2013

    When the UNEP report on the assessment of the Ogoni environment was released in August 2011 the world was astounded at the level of devastation visited on the territory by decades of oil extraction and pollution.

    Ogoniland in Nigeria shot into international glare in the early 1990s when the people peacefully demanded an end to reckless despoliation of their land and waters. When the UNEP report was released there was a general sense of relief that at last a definitive study has been carried out in at least a part of the Niger Delta and that remediation steps would be taken to rescue the people from the impacts of the pollution. Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC or Shell), the major polluter in the territory, paid for the study in a rather poetic turn of events, on the polluter-pays basis. If that was not an admission of culpability in the ecocide in Ogoniland, you may have to invent another word for the crime.
    The report showed a staggering level of pollution that would require 25-30 years of clean-up activities if there were to be a chance of real remediation. Many people expected the government to declare Ogoniland a disaster zone. The Ogoni people waited to see some clean-up action. The Nigerian people waited to see some clean-up action. The international community waited to see some clean-up action. That the expected action was not forthcoming was a scandal of massive proportions.

  • Genetic Engineering as Threat to Nigeria's Food Security
    Tuesday, 15th January 2013

    Food production and hunger continue to be issues of major concern in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole. The continent has been the poster child of hunger and malnutrition since the structural adjustment programme (SAP) policies decimated the agricultural sector from the early 1980s. This picture has remained persistent for a number of reasons. Some of these include the occasional food shortages experienced in parts of the continent as a result of weather events that impact the agricultural sector and the way these shortages are managed.

    Some of us believe that African agriculture has been quite resilient and can be improved upon without having to be pushed into the mould fabricated by the policies whose aims are to make the continent dependent on imports and on so-called food aid.

    In this article we are responding to views credited to the Director General of the Nigeria Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) as published in the Vanguard newspaper of 31 December 2012 in a report captioned “BT Technology Can Assist Nigeria’s Food Security – Solomon”.  We can understand the struggle of the head of agency set up to develop modern biotechnology seeking to perform their duties, but this must be within the realm of global reality, facts and fears concerning the ideas and products being plied.

  • Resisting the coming of Makita
    Thursday, 13th December 2012

    This is a quiet morning. But mornings here have been quiet for a long time. I learn that besides the squawking and chirping of birds, the quiet is pregnant with expectations, hopes and dreams. Dreams of what could be with the piercings of the earth down the dusty almost 3 hours drive road. The piercings have yielded crude oil and gas in a territory where mining activities are clearly prohibited by Article 24 of the Wildlife Act.Most of the oil wells are in the Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve and nearby areas. I am sitting at breakfast in Hoima, Uganda., this day of triple twelve: 12.12.12. The three hours drive took us to Kaiso village, a sprawling natural beauty, on the shores of Lake Albert. The original name of the lake, I am told, was Lake Mwitanzige. Named after nzige, an insect that was predominant here.

    This lake is shared by Congo DRC and Uganda with the boundary lines falling somewhere in on its watery surface and depths. It feeds the River Nile as it courses to Sudan, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. Construction work by a Turkish company is furiously on-going on the road heading in the direction of Kaiso and soon the 90 kilometres road may be covered in one hour and without a crown of dust.

  • Breaking Down Corporate Firewalls
    Friday, 16th November 2012

    Examining the matter of corporate accountability is serious business. It is especially serious in the context of present day debates on whether corporations are persons in their own right and can thus enjoy the sort of rights humans enjoy. The debate is interesting because of entrenched antecedents wherein corporations enjoy rights as persons but completely escape the sort of accountability that would demand commensurate punishments. Corporations may be fined or even closed down, but they cannot be imprisoned, for instance. This corporate shield or firewall maintains the momentum of impunity.

    It thus seems pertinent that when we speak of corporate accountability we must seek ways of opening up possibilities of bringing individuals hiding behind corporate firewalls to commit crimes such as environmental damage, or other objectionable activities to book. Those who commit ecocide must be held to account for their actions. Standards for gauging corporate adherence to human rights have been set by the United Nations in its Guiding Principles. The Guide sets out global standards for preventing as well as addressing human rights abuses related to business practices.

    Extractive sector companies in cooperation with the governments of the USA and the UK as well as some NGOs have also set their own guides termed “Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.” These principles are supposed to guide the companies in their work to ensure Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the respect of human rights. The corporations that have endorsed the Voluntary Principles include the major international oil companies in operation in Nigeria. Have they kept to the principles? That is an open question.

  • Thursday, 2nd August 2012

    Just a few days to the one-year anniversary of inaction over the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report of the assessment of the environment of Ogoniland, the Nigerian government announced the formation of a Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP).

    Considering that it took twelve months before government made this announcement it is not surprising that the major reason why this wasmade at all was, according to sources, to calm frayed nerves in Ogoniland by demonstrating“government’s commitment to implement the harmonised recommendations of UNEP report.” This is no public information so far about what these “harmonised recommendations” are. What we do know, however, is that the reviewers of the UNEP report consider some of the recommendations as not being “actionable.” It is not clear how the classification was arrived at.

    UNEP was commissioned to assess the environment of Ogoni land in 2009and completed the assessment and submitted a report two years later onAugust 4, 2011. On receiving the report, the president set up a Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC) headed by the Minister of Petroleum Resources (although public information then was that it wasto be jointly headed by the ministers of Environment and of Petroleum Resources) to study it and advice government and what steps to take.

  • Shell Shrugs off Bonga Spill Fine
    Thursday, 19th July 2012

    Shell’s reaction to the fine announced by the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) over its Bonga oil spill of December 2011 is in line with the oil companies’ stance of avoiding responsibility whenever possible.

    We recall the case of the Ijaw Aborigines who took their complaints of years of environmental despoliation by Shell to the National Assembly (NASS) in 2000. The complainants demanded a compensation of US$1.5 billion from Shell and this was granted by the NASS. However, Shell rejected the outcome with almost the same reason given in the Bonga case. Shell claimed then that the NASS did not have the powers to penalize it or ask it to compensate the claimants. Their resistance was premised on a claim that the NASS was not a competent body to impose such a fine. The Ijaw Aborigines went to the courts and obtained a ruling that the US$1.5 billion should be lodged in an account pending appeal. At the appeal, Shell among other pleadings wanted the court to decide “whether or not the investigative power or any of the powers of National Assembly under the 1999 Constitution… extends to the exercise of judicial powers and award of damages… Whether or no the Political Resolution of the National Assembly or any of its Committee made pursuant to a petition brought before the National Assembly or any of its committee, or at all, has any legal effect and/or legal consequences whatsoever.”

  • The Cemetery of Mangroves and Fisherfolks
    Wednesday, 4th July 2012

    Two visits outside the heart of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, marked the highpoints of my visit to that city for the infamous Rio+20 summit. The first was on 14 June with colleagues from the Oilwatch International network and that visit took us to Caxias. This is a community that has had to bear fifty years of toxic assault by petrochemical installations including the Refineria Duque de Caxias (REDUC). This refinery is the heart of petrochemical factories that dot the Caxias landscape and is the fourth largest supplier of refined petroleum products to the country. Potable water is a problem in this municipality and some folks reportedly rely on untreated water from the refinery. The locals see the petrochemicals, including a proposed new refinery set to become the largest in Latin America, as developments that excludes the participation of the citizens. They bemoan a dearth of health facilities even as they bear the assault of multiple pollutions from the petrochemicals complex.

    Men and Women of the Sea

    The second visit was on 17 June as part of the Rio +Toxic tour to Mage. It doubled as a solidarity visit to the struggling community people at the Guanabara Bay area.
    During the visit we meet with members of Homens e Mulheres do Mar Association (AHOMAR) – Association of Men and Women of the Sea in the Guanabara Bay. That name did not include women initially, but after years of gender struggles the role of the women had to be duly recognized and acknowledged in the name.

  • Sustainability resides in solidarity
    Friday, 22nd June 2012

    I could be sitting at the table with heads of state right now. But I had to make a choice. I had to choose to sit with them or to be in the streets standing alongside the people for whom sustainability really matters. So of course I am in the streets.

    We are here in Rio, in many ways a city of struggles, to strategize and build stronger foundations for struggles of the future. We cannot sit quietly and allow policy makers to hide themselves away somewhere and avoid making decisions. We must be loud, but more importantly, we must unblock stuffed ears.

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ERA has recently received information that a group calling itself the "Niger Delta Coalition in the Diaspora" is still engaging itself in activities and communications giving the impression that it is linked with Environmental Rights Action (ERA).

This group issues out communications using ERA's headquarter address and mail box. We have never had any ties with this group and any views, comments or opinions expressed by them is not endorsed or authorized by any member of management or staff of ERA.

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