London activists label Shell Guilty before the Shell AGM, May 19th

The same week that Shell are on trial for complicity in brutal crackdowns against the Ogoni people, including the murder of non-violent activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian military has launched a large offensive against the people of the Niger Delta, in an attempt to crush armed insurgent groups. All the while, Shell, the largest oil company in the region, continue to flare gas at record levels, aggravating local communities and contributing to the latest round of an increasingly bloody conflict.

Brutal military attacks have rained down on the Western Delta from the air, sea and land since last Wednesday. Despite attempts by the military to cover up the massacres, the Ijaw National Congress, which represents the region’s largest ethnic group, has said that the attacks have “resulted in over a thousand deaths, because we dared to ask for our rights,” in the mostly Ijaw communities of Gbaramatu, Okerenkoko, and Oporoza.” According to Amnesty International they have received reports that indicate hundreds of civilians have already been killed. The military presence has made independent access to the communities difficult and claims impossible to verify.

Shell has a responsibility for creating the crisis that engulfs the entire region. While the Nigerian military burn entire villages in their assaults, Shell is burning gas in those same villages on an unimaginable scale. Gas flaring poisons all communities, and angers all ethnicities across the Delta. Flaring releases toxins such as benzene, linked to cancer and other serious illnesses. For over 30 years, Shell have continually broken their promise to end gas flaring, pushing a number of desperate youth down the path of militancy. The conflict in the Niger Delta has changed dramatically since the 1990s, but the injustices remain the same.

Ogoni people protesting against Shell’s gas flaring in the 1990s
The recent violence echoes the crackdowns against the Ogoni people, who led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, rose up to peacefully demand environmental and social justice in the 1990s. As the Wiwa v Shell trial charges Shell with complicity in murder next Wednesday, Shell continue to collaborate with the Nigerian authorities and abuse the human rights of local communities on a daily basis.

We demand that Shell end gas flaring as one of the essential conditions to defusing the current conflict. Even the highest level of the Nigerian military have admitted that the solution cannot be military, but must address the local grievances that Shell and other oil companies have ignored for so long. We condemn Shell’s ongoing collusion with the Nigerian authorities against the interests and human rights of Deltan communities. We stand together in denouncing the recent acts of violence and urge both the Nigerian military and insurgents to allow food and medical aid to reach those in need.