While the story told to consumers of Nigerian crude in the United States and the European Union—via ad campaigns and other public relations efforts— is that oil companies are a positive force in Nigeria, providing much needed economic development resources, the reality that confronted our dele-gation was quite the opposite. Our delegates observed almost every large multinational oil company operating in the Niger Delta employing inadequate environmental standards, public health standards, human rights standards, and relations with affected communities. These corporations' acts of charity and development are slaps in the face of those they claim to be helping. Far from being a positive force, these oil companies act as a destabilizing force, pitting one community against another, and acting as a catalyst—together with the military with whom they work closely— to some of the violence rack-ing the region today.

Nigeria is the world's 13th largest oil producer, yet it was until recently chronically short of fuel, having to import it from other oil-producing nations. Though the government is a 55-60% shareholder in oil operations and earns billions in royalties each year, local infrastructure at the source of these billions is in shambles, food shortages abound, malnutrition is common among Niger Delta children, power blackouts reg-ularly occur, and roads are usually in terrible condition.

Everywhere we visited we witnessed the destruction of the local environment, and the oppression of communities affected by what can accurately be described as an outlaw oil industry. Under the somber shadow of this industry of wealth, millions of Niger Delta residents try to survive. The tragedy of so much oil being extracted from the same lands where abject poverty has become institutionalized is unbear-able. Over the last 40 years, billions of dollars in profits are earned each year, as millions of barrels of oil are extracted. Meanwhile, high unemployment, failing crops, declining wild fisheries, poisoned waters, dying forests and vanishing wildlife are draining the very life blood of the region. Even the rainwater is acidic and poisoned. What else can the oil companies take from the people? And, what should they be required to give back?

It is a sad reality that Nigeria's oil helps fuel the industrialized world in its mad rush for "progress," while the producing nation is left so obviously far behind. Nigeria still needs to recover the nearly $55 billion in oil profits stolen by the mili-tary rulers over the last 15 years. Debt relief and poverty alle-viation programs are also desperately needed. The Nigerian human rights community, which includes many of the brave NGOs and community leaders whom we met, needs govern-mental protection, not persecution. An open and honest dia-logue is called for between the leaders of the oil-producing communities and the oil companies towards resolution of the crisis that meets the needs of both residents and producers. These corporations must adhere to the minimum operational criteria that exist within their own home nations.



1. Polluter pays.
Multinational oil companies operating in the Niger Delta must immediately cease all harmful and wasteful practices, and engage in immediate clean-up of affected areas. They must compensate communities for the resources lost as a consequence of oil exploration and production activities, as well as for any other social and economic damages.

2. Transparency.
Multinational oil companies must operate with transparency and enable independent monitoring of their activities. The oil companies must open their records to their stakeholders, as well as to local, national and international NGOs, and inde-pendent monitors. Records that must be made available include those related to their investments in Nigeria, environ-mental performance, and agreements with local communities.

3. Observance of International Human Rights Standards.
Multinational oil companies must cease the use of the Nigerian military and police to conduct military attacks and other human rights abuses on citizens in response to peaceful protests. These companies must also ensure that their equip-ment and personnel are never used by the Nigerian military and police to carry out operations that violate the rights of Nigerian citizens.


1. Use of trading power.
The U.S. government should embargo imports of Nigerian oil into the U.S. until an agreement monitored by mutually acceptable independent third parties has been reached between the multinational corporations and the affected local communities.

2. Use of investment power.
The U.S. government should utilize all means of diplomatic and economic pressure to call for an immediate end to the continued militarization of the Niger Delta. U.S. investment in Nigeria should be contingent on the application of a democratically determined civil law to matters of dispute between oil-producing communities and oil corporations in the Niger Delta, and ensure that the civil, economic, environ-mental and cultural rights of these communities are properly guaranteed.

3. Legal restrain to corporations.
The U.S. government should stop any kind of support, finan-cial or otherwise, to U.S.-based oil corporations that fail to observe U.S. environmental standards and human rights laws in their overseas operations, and apply a system of fines and other restraint measures to non-complying corporations.

4. Domestic litigation.
In the absence of international legislation and an interna-tional tribunal where multinational corporations could be tried, U.S. courts should have their powers expanded so that they can hear claims of environmental destruction and other violations against multinationals.


1. Corporate accountability.
U.S. consumers of oil products should hold corporations accountable for their actions in Nigeria and around the world. In order to do so, they are encouraged to press for leg-islation that would require oil companies to fully disclose their operations and intentions to all stakeholders, as well as to independent observers. Though some of the existing initia-tives in the U.S. Congress regarding codes of conduct for cor-porations are steps in the right direction, they do not guaran-tee an improvement in multinational oil companies' prac-tices. Code of conduct legislation must incorporate strong enforcement mechanisms. Consumers should also support shareholders' resolutions that increase corporate accountabili-ty, and demand that institutional investors support them as well. Meanwhile, and until full disclosure by oil corporations is a reality, consumers should boycott Shell and Chevron, two of the worst human-rights offenders in the Niger Delta.

2. Engagement in activism (please see resources page on inside cover for addresses and phone numbers).
Chevron, Exxon-Mobil and Shell are all prominent corpora-tions in the United States and subject to consumers' con-cerns. U.S. citizens should demand that Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, and Shell:
  1. Stop flaring gas.
  2. Clean up all spills according to international standards.
  3. Pay communities the demanded compensations for envi-ronmental damage.
  4. Update and modernize all equipment, so that it operates in accordance with international standards.
  5. Provide sanitary water systems and electricity in communi-ties where oil operations are carried out.
  6. Engage in real, not cosmetic community development projects, as determined by the community.
  7. Renounce any efforts to control communities, and any relationship with the military and police in this regard.
  8. Enter into dialogue with communities in good faith and without resorting to repressive tactics in conjunction with the police and the military.
  9. Hire and train local community members for jobs at every level.
U.S. citizens can also call their Congressional Representatives and ask them to stop the unfettered corporate onslaught that AGOA (The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act) will ensure, and support instead the HOPE for Africa Act, which will require U.S.-based corporations to operate by U.S. standards, and contains enforcement mechanisms.62


1. Integrity of life in the Niger Delta.
The Nigerian government should guarantee that oil opera-tions in the Niger Delta are carried out in a way that does not threaten the lives of local residents, nor does it harm the rights of local comunities. The militarization of Bayelsa State and the abuses carried out by the police must be halted immediately.

2. Free circulation of information.
Human rights monitors and agents of the press should be granted free passage throughout Nigeria, as well as access to those records needed to document reported killings and other human rights abuses.


1. In September 1999, human rights groups filed a suit against Chevron in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California for summary exe-cution, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, violation of the rights to life, liberty and security of person and of peaceful assembly and association, consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights, wrongful death, battery, assault, civil conspiracy, and unfair business practices.

2. Human Rights Watch. The price of Oil. Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights Violations in Nigeria's Oil-produc-ing Communities. New York, HRW, 1999, p. 6.

3. Ibid, p. 8.

4. Ibid, p. 56

5. Interviews with residents of Eket, Egi, Port Harcourt, Edagberi, Akala, and other communities, Sept. 1999.

6. According to an IUCN-funded report on the Niger delta produced by Environmental Rights Action, 75% of Nigerian gas is flared, far exceeding any other country's allowable flaring limits. (The Human Ecosystems of the Niger Delta, by Nick Ashton-Jones, Susi Arnott and Oronto Douglas, 1998, p. 158).

7. It has been estimated that Nigerian oil fields are responsible for more global warming effects than the combined oil fields of the rest of the world (Ake, Claude, "Shelling Nigeria Ablaze," Tell, January 29, 1999, p. 34). Commenting on the effect of gas flares on the local environment, Professor Etie Ben Alcpan, from the Department of Geology, University of Calabar, said: "Our ecosystem is affected. Our socio-economic life is also affected. Everything about the way we used to live is affected. These effects start with the gas flares."

8. Interview with Bobo Brown, Royal Dutch Shell's representative, Port Harcourt, Sept. 17, 1999.

9. "We can't even drink our rain water", Grace Ekanem, September 13, 1999, Eket.

10. Constitutional Rights Project. Land, Oil and Human Rights In Nigeria's Delta Region, CRP, 1999.

11. Interview with Robert Azibaola, Niger Delta Human and Environment Rescue Organization, Port Harcourt, Sept. 14, 1999. See also Michael Fleshman. Report From Nigeria 2. New York: The Africa Fund, June 17, 1999.

12. See Human Rights Watch. The Price of Oil, p. 7.

13. ERA Field Report #42, Ekakpamre—3 Weeks After Pipeline Explosion, October 12, 1999.

14. Interview with Austin Iroegbu, September 11, 1999, Umuechem.

15. Interview with Chief Thankgod Albert, September 15, 1999, Etagberi.

16. Letter from Society for Awareness and Growth in Etche (SAGE), September 10, 1999.

17. Interview with Austin Iroegbu, September 11, 1999, Umuechem.

18. Interview with Onyebuchi Anyalebechi, September 11, 1999, Umuakuru.

19. See The Human Ecosystems of the Niger Delta.

20. Interviews with Professor Turner Isoun of the Niger Delta Wetlands Center, Sept. 9, Port Harcourt, and Eket com-munity members, Sept. 13, Eket.

21. Interview with Friday Nelioho, Eket Council Member, September 13, 1999, Eket.

22. Interview with Esther Ego Elenwa, President of the Ege Women's Council, September 16, 1999, Egi.

23. In an interview with Professor Etie Ben Alcpan, we learned that only 1% of Eket's population had been employed by Mobil.

24. Interview with Chief Anthony Aniatia and others, September 13, 1999, Iko.

25. Grace Ekanem, September 13, 1999, Eket.

26. Interview with Attorney Joi Yowika, Sept.10, 1999, Port Harcourt.

27. Ibid.

28. Interview with Grace Ekanem, September 13, 1999, Eket, and Esther Ego Elenwa, September 16, 1999, Egi.

29. Interview with Joi Yowika and Oronto Douglas, September 10, 1999, Port Harcourt.

30. Attorney Joi Yowika told us that this in fact is common practice among oil companies, and that she knew of cases that had been going on for 25 years and longer.

31. Interview with residents of Eleme, September 10, 1999, Eleme. Patrick Naagbanton, of MOSOP commented about this spill: "This is just a tip of the iceberg of the environmental calamities they [Shell] have brought to Ogoni."

32. "Mobil apologizes for Nigeria spill, pledges payouts to villagers", by Gilbert Da Costa, Associated Press, Jan. 14, 1999; "Mobil says Nigerian oil spill spreads to coastal area", Associated Press, January 19, 1998.

33. Refering to fish in the Eket area, Professor Etie Ben Alcpan, said: "The amount of hydrocarbon in fish is way above the tolerable level."

34. Interview with Chief Anthony Aniata, September 13, 1999, Iko.

35. Interview with Head Doctor and Head Nurse, Gokana General Hospital, Sept. 10, 1999, Gokana, Ogoniland.

36. Ibid. In its website, Shell reports about this hospital: "We started refurbish-ment work on seven existing hospitals in 1996. This included the Gokana Government Hospital in Terabor, Ogoni, where we supplied new equip-ment and took responsibility for main-tenance, turning it from an outpatient facility to take inpatients." .

37. Testimony from Egi women's commit-tee, Sept. 14, 1999, Egi.

38. Ibid. Elf Petroleum Nigeria didn't respond to a questionnaire regarding these and other allegations.

39. Interview with residents of Epubu, and His Royal Highness, Chief Nikuman Ebe Obom, the Paramount Ruler of Epubu, Sept. 9, 1999, Port Harcourt. Nigeria Agip Oil Company didn't respond to a questionnaire regarding these and other allegations.

40. Interviews with residents of Umuechem, Sept. 11, 1999, Umuechem, and with Chief Anthony Aniata of Iko, September 13, 1999, Iko.

41. Interview with Chief Anthony Aniatia of Iko and others, September 13, 1999, Iko. Shell Nigeria didn't respond to a questionnaire regarding these and other allegations.

42. See, for example, Human Rights Watch. The Price of Oil, pp. 123-124.

43. Interview with residents of Umuechem, Sept. 11, 1999. On its website, Shell Nigeria states that the company "Regrets the suffering and loss of life that occurred." ("What Happened and Lessons Learned, Umuechem, 1 November, 1990," Shell Nigeria's web-site ).

44. Chevron has publicly admitted to these charges. See Goodman, Amy, and Jeremy Scahill, "Drilling and killing". The Nation, Nov. 16, 1999.

45. Ibid, p. 6-7.

46 . Interview with Bola Oyimbo, Sept. 20, 1999, Lagos.

47 . Lawsuit against Chevron, Northern District of California, Sept. 1999.

48. Goodman, Amy, and Jeremy Scahill, "Drilling and killing".

49. Lawsuit against Chevron, Sept. 1999.

50. Ibid.

51. Interview with Attorney Joi Yowika, Sept. 10, 1999, Port Harcourt.

52. Ledum Mitee, September 14, 1999, Port Harcourt.

53. Data from state statistics obtained from the Bayelsa State governor.

54. The entire text of the Kaiama Declaration can be read at Essential Action's website .

55. Interview with Chief DSP Alamie Yeseigha, Bayelsa State governor, Port Harcourt, Sept. 17, 1999.

56. See John Vidal. "Shell fights fires as strife flares in delta," The Guardian, London, September 15, 1999; and Ekio Benson "50 youths killed", The Daily Times, Lagos, September 13, 1999.

57. Isaac Osouka, September 17, 1999, Port Harcourt.

58. The subject of rape by the military came up in our conversations with Annie Brisibe, Joi Yowika and others. See also "Choba women were raped, NCWS insists", The Guardian, 12/3/99, Lagos, Nigeria.

59. Interview with Oronto Douglas, ERA; Von Kemedi, IYC; and Felix Tuodulo, IYC, Sept. 12, 1999, Port Harcourt.

60. Information from Oil Watch Africa, Port Harcourt, Nov. 22, 1999.

61. For a complete text of this and all decrees mentioned in this section, please refer to Essential Action's web-site .

62. Currently drastically different versions of AGOA have passed the House and Senate. A Conference Committee is to be established that will construct a compromise version of the two bills. That compromise version will then be voted up or down (but not ammended) by the House and Senate. Call your Representative and Senators and tell them you hope they will vote against the Conference Committee's version of AGOA.


We would like to thank the following organizations for their support, without which this dele-gation would not have been possible:

The Turner Foundation, of Atlanta, Georgia, for their generous grant, which allowed to partially finance participants' and trip leaders' travel expenses, as well as office and on-the-ground coor-dination expenses.

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, and Oilwatch, Nigeria, for their coor-dination, logistic support, and guidance throughout the delegation's activities.

Our special thanks to the people we met and the communities we visited in the Niger Delta, for their hospitality, their time, their trust, and their willingness to share with us their concerns and their hopes. We stand with them in their struggle, and are looking forward to the long-awaited changes towards environmental, economic and social justice in the Niger Delta.