Oil production takes heavy toll on Nigerian villagers

In the oil-rich Niger Delta, an area that produces nearly all of Nigeria’s 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, environmental degradation and political and class conflict are the prices of development. While a booming oil business has generated billions of dollars each year for the Nigerian government and oil companies like Royal Dutch/Shell, little of the revenue has filtered down to the impoverished residents of the delta, though they are the ones most affected by the 221 oil spills reported by Shell last year — a small fraction of the some 4,000 spills in the delta over the last 47 years. Poverty and growing income disparities are the cause of violent conflict leading to over 1,000 deaths a year, according to a report prepared by consultants for Shell. The report concludes what many in the delta — most recently hundreds of protestors who occupied an oil rig in the area demanding talks on jobs and development — have been charging for years: “It is clear that [Shell] is part of Niger Delta conflict dynamics and that its social license to operate is fast eroding.”