Nigeria’s Niger Delta is one of the most polluted places on the globe. Though a great petroleum reserve in Nigeria, continuous oil spills and flaring gas have converted the area into one of the most unconducive environments. Coastal communities living in the region have complained of inadequate water and unavailability of fish. Fishing is among the economic activities locals living in the area depended on for their survival. As a result, the locals have conflicted with the government for years.
The residents living in the region allege that the oil multinationals and the Nigerian government are responsible for the pollution. They feel that the government has not fully compensated them. More so, the communities within this region have also been fighting amongst themselves. The Nigerian Government however blames the oil spills on locals who occasionally steal from the reserve.
The government of Nigeria has failed to cohearse the multinational allies to abide by environmental protection regulations. This is because Nigeria harvests most of its revenue from harnessing petroleum. Hence oil is the backbone of the country’s economy. Unfortunately, oil pollution in the delta has promoted poverty in the region. Other than the death of the aquatic ecosystem which was sources of food, oil activities have also polluted sources of clean water. Thus, residents have to fight over the limited resources available.
Ken Saro Wiwa is among the very first environmental activists who initiated campaigns against environmental pollution in Niger Delta. Together with eight other colleagues, they endorsed clean-up activities in the region. Ken had founded the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People in 1999. He worked in handy with Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levers, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine.
In their campaigns, MOSOP defended the Ogoni people. At one point they claimed that Shell’s operations were devastating residents in the region. In 1993, MOSOP conducted peaceful demonstrations against the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria. However, Nigeria was being ruled by Abacha, an authoritative leader. Abacha’s military had accused Saro Wiwa and his colleagues of murdering four pro-government Ogoni chiefs.
Arrest and Murder of First Environmental Activists
They were arrested and hanged in 1995. Their execution ignited an international uproar which led to the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth of Nations for three years. Twenty-five years down the line, human rights activists still talk of Saro Wiwa and his compatriots. Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International in Nigeria, says that Shell will not get away with what they did. He says they will continue to fight until every last trace of oil is removed from Ogoniland.
Meanwhile, there are many controversies regarding clean up exercise in the Nigerian delta. In 2011, the United Nations Environmental Program released the very first scientific analysis, which affirmed that the coastal area of southern Nigeria was an ecological disaster. In 2016, the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari released $1 billion to facilitate the cleanup exercise in the delta. He promised to reverse the damage and restore the ecosystem. However, observers claim not much has improved, for there is still pollution.