Kano residents allege US pharmaceutical giant responsible for deaths of 11 children.
|Oil companies in the Niger Delta are accused of rampant corruption|
The mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta are a maze of twists and turns. The only way to get to the island of Bille, known as the “river state”, is by boat.
Oil stations are scattered throughout the area, and the stench of grimy water can be overwhelming in places.
More than 50,000 barrels of oil a day are produced in the Niger Delta – that is hundreds of thousands of US dollars – yet residents remain desperately poor.
As many as 60,000 people live literally on top of this multi-billion dollar industry, but many are unemployed and their lives consist of guns, alcohol abuse and violent crime. Tension on the island are rising.
King Justus Henry Dappa, a community leader, says he is frustrated by the lack of social and economic progress in Niger Delta, despite oil production.
“If the federal government listens to our cry, and comes in, there will not be any more kidnappings,” he says. “The youths will get work, they will be happy, and then everything will calm down.”
Fishing used to feed the people of Bille before 1958, when oil was discovered.
One villager, Opryte Martins, says: “Gone are the days when … we just come to the waterside and there are fishes everywhere.”
Fishermen say they can spend a whole day in the water and catch nothing, and four decades of oil production has dramatically changed the once lush landscape.
Residents say there are about four oil spills in the area every year. If this happened anywhere else, it would cause international outcry – but in the Niger Delta, it goes unnoticed, they say.
Erekaosims Alalibo, a young man in the village, hurls insults at oil workers living in the area.
He is angry at the “luxury” he sees the workers living in, compared to the dilapidated shacks residents of Bille call home.
Alalibo says: “They come with bigger and bigger projects trying to explore and exploit the area.”
“No compensation. No nothing – they will give you peanuts, nothing.”
Mitiu Sunmonu, a spokesman for Shell, the largest oil operator in Nigeria, maintains that it is up to the government to provide basic services for the people of Bille, and that villagers are exaggerating their plight.
“I do believe there is a lot of exaggeration when people say ‘oh, we cannot catch fish’,” he says. “If you look at our People and Environment Report in terms of how much spill is happening from our activities, it’s very small.
“In terms of what you call operational spills – very, very small. The bulk of what you see on spills is either because of sabotage, or because people are punching the pipelines to steal the crude oil – and in the process they spill oil on the environment.”
|A recent spill in the area was more than two metres high|