On Thursday 7 July, shortly after 6am, women and youth from communities in the Kolo Creek area of the Niger Delta protested against more than a decade of broken promises, oil spills and gas flaring from Shell.
With only placards and palm fronds, peaceful protestors confronted heavily armed military soldiers and succeeded in breaching the gates of the Shell Base, temporarily disrupting its operations. Shell has a long and shameful history in Kolo Creek, as Mrs Beauty James, a woman leader from Oruma, recounted:
We are not coming to make new demands from Shell, but that they fulfil the agreement they reached with us [in 1999]. We want our communities to be connected to the source of power that supplies them electricity twenty four hours every day.
Another protester summed up the communities’ sense of deep exploitation:
Can you imagine a situation where Shell prefers giving light to mosquitoes in the bush than human beings; even when the oil and gas they use on the plant that supplies them light is from our soil?
You can read a stirring report on how the protestors broke through the military blockade to reach the Shell Base, and find out about the protester’s demands here, as recorded by colleagues at Environmental Rights Action/FoE Nigeria. Pictures by ERA field reporter, Morris Alagoa, are reproduced here and have also been posted on facebook.
I met with community members when I visited Kolo Creek in late 2010 with ERA and SDN. Then I was told that poverty, neglect and military repression had turned the local community into “a slave to Shell”. As Shell continues to break its promises and systematically abuse human rights in Kolo Creek, more protests are likely until the company and authorities prioritise the basic human rights of communities.
Platform stands in solidarity with the communities protesting and we will be holding Shell and the Nigerian authorities to account in a forthcoming report & campaign this Autumn.