Shell Oil Company and Human Rights Violations

Global interconnectivity began when Columbus landed in the Americas thus the spread of colonization, and imperialism. Global interconnectivity or globalization transcends local and national boundaries and presents both positive and negative impacts to industrialized, along with ‘developing’ countries. Globalization is presented almost as a modern day utopia, whereas, the evidence suggests the contradictory. One of the main difficulties presented by globalization is the investment of multinational corporations within developing countries.

The interconnectivity and interdependency of corporations and governments has been a lethal combination which produces human rights infringement. Human rights were created and established upon following World War II, due to the global agreed upon aspiration of never, under any circumstances witnessing a duplication of such fanatical violation of basic individual privileges. Unfortunately, history has repeated itself, and civil liberties have been infringed upon once again. Human rights violations have been reported within the raging conflict of the Niger Delta region.

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The conflict is a result of the oil and gas reserves within the area. Many companies invest within the region, but Shell is the major extractor of oil in the region. This essay will explore whether the Shell Oil Company investment within the Niger Delta region has lead to human rights violations. In order to answer this questions this essay will begin by providing a brief overview of the Niger Delta region. Subsequently proceeding to explore different Human Rights charters and covenants and survey whether the Shell Company has in fact violated the terms established within them.

Afterwards this essay will address the effects the Shell Oil Company has had on the Niger Delta region and the people, by exploring how the political, social, and economical stability of the region has been compromised. Finally, this essay will look at whether the Nigerian government is responsible for the Human Rights violation due to their lack of law enforcement and oversight over the Shell Company, or is the responsibility upon the corporation to ensure they uphold unbeneficial fiscal regulations. The Niger Delta Region: The Niger Delta region is in south Nigeria, Africa.

The region is divided amongst different ethnic groups, all which identify themselves to be distinctly different from the other. There are 370 different ethnic groups that occupy the Niger Delta area. They are “the Ijaw, Ogoni, Ogba, Ikwerre, Itsekiri, Urohobo, Ibibio, Efik, Ndokwa, etc. But the Ijaw is the largest group in the Niger Delta belt” (Naagbanton, ? , 2). The region is known for its extraordinarily diverse ecosystems “which faces the Atlantic in southern Nigeria, is the world’s third largest wetland. Its mangrove forests, described as ‘rain forest by the sea’ shelter all sorts of crustaceans” (Cantarow, 2011, 13).

Furthermore, this region better known for its abundance of highly valued renewable and non-renewable natural resources. This region alone contains 3 trillion cubic meters of gas reserves, along with 20 billion barrels of oil reserves; while the whole continent of Africa produces 66 billion barrels of oil (Aaron, 2005, 127). The country of Nigeria realizes heavily on these resources, 85% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), greater than 80% of the country’s wealth, along with over 95% of the national budget is attained from oil and gas found in the Niger Delta region (Aaron, 2005, 127).

Contrarily to regional resources, the Niger Delta continues to be an extremely improvised area. The exploitation of both oil and gas resources by the government and international corporations has contributed to the increased poverty of the region. Two main factors that have led to poverty in the area are; first, an improper division of wealth has increased poverty in the area. The indigenous people have received almost nothing for all the oil exported from their land and have been deprived of their share of the wealth from the natural resources.

Second, the drilling and spillage of massive amounts of oil has lead to the devastation of the ecosystem, thus making it extremely difficult for the heavily agricultural dependant population to make an adequate livelihood. Many different multinational oil corporations have been invested in Delta region for years. Any cooperation investing in the area is in partnership with Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the state owned oil company which commands 55 to 60% of shares (van Gelder & Moerkamp,1996, 15–16).

The Shell Company is the foremost extractor of petroleum; The Anglo Dutch Shell Petroleum Development Company, which produces 42. 2% of the country’s daily petroleum output, followed by “Mobil (US) 21. 2%, Agip (Italy) 7. 5%, Elf 6. 1%, Texaco Overseas Petroleum (US) 2. 6% and others accounting for 1. 7%” (Ejobowah, 2000, 33). Many of the other oil companies have little or no contact with the indigenous communities. Only Shell and Elf extract oil in the Niger Delta region, since Shell is the largest cooperation in the district thus has the greatest contact with the indigenous communities. Ejobowah, 2000, 33). For that reason, this essay will only be exploring Shell Oil Company within the Niger Delta. Human Rights and Shell Oil Company This section of the essay will explore whether the Shell Oil Company has violated the indigenous communities within the Niger Delta regions rights. The actions of the Shell Oil Company will be reviewed and evaluated according to the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, along with The African Carter of Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The environmental damage caused by Shell has made it difficult for the indigenous populace to formulate an adequate livelihood. The United Nations International covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states in Article 11: “The States Parties to present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the international co-operation based on free consent.

The States Parties to present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take, individually and through international co-operation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed: To improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge, by disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing or reforming agrarian systems in such a way as to achieve the most efficient development and utilization of natural resources”

The two main points important to focus on is that the Shell Company has infringed upon the indigenous populations of the Niger Delta region’s right to “adequate standard of living” and “the continuous improvement of living conditions” in several ways. The right to “adequate standard of living” has been violated through the destruction of environment. These harms against the environment will take thousands of years to heal and can be seen as an atrocity that cannot be repaired.

First, Shell destroyed indigenous communities, specifically the ogoni, opportunity to better standards of living, through the deprivation of access to adequate food. Shell intentionally destroyed agrarian systems, which violates Article 11. On 28 April 1993, Shell hired a pipeline contractor. The contractor, under Shell orders began bulldozing crops on Ogoni farmland under the protection of Nigerian soldiers in order to prepare for the construction the pipeline (Pegg, 1999, 476). Additionally insufficient access to adequate water impedes on article 11 of the United Nations covenant.

This drastically undermines the quality of life of the residents of the Niger Delta region. Residences are strained to consume water polluted with oil, along with cook and bathe in these unhygienic waters. After an oil spill in 2001 caused by “equipment failure” (Amnesty International, 2009, 23) the Shell Petroleum Development Company distributed liters of clean water to the affected communities nevertheless, “local NGOs that visited the site confirmed that the community did not have enough water for drinking, cooking and washing” (Amnesty International, 2009, 23).

So, not only was the water supply contaminated by Shell, there was also an inadequate distribution of water. Once the water supply is contaminated, it produces a domino effect; lack of clean water, which leads to the soil becoming infertile, subsequently the plant and wildlife in the region die. As a consequence whole communities have lost the ability to provide adequate living conditions for themselves and their families. Second, Shell has also violated individual’s right to adequate housing as stated in article 11. The oil spills creates fires, which burn crops, along with homes.

Naimo Bassey, Nigerian head of Friends of the Earth International stated after visiting the Niger Delta region soon after an oil spill and stated “all the houses close to the river were burnt, it was like a place that had been set on fire in a situation of battle, of war” (Cantarow, 2011, 13). In addition the Shell Company has been linked to the Nigerian security forces. The Shell Petroleum Development Company admitted to importing and purchasing 107 firearms along with other weapons, such as tear gas, which are clearly designed for crowd control on behalf of the Nigerian police (Pegg, 1999, 475).

In turn the police attacked burned and destroyed several Ogoni villages and homes (The Social and Economic Rights, 2001). Thus it is apparent that the Shell Petroleum Development Company has indirectly led to the destruction of the indigenous communities homes, which is in clear violation of their human rights. Third, the oil spills pollute the air. The oil spills causes the air to be redolent of oil, gas and other toxins. The air is consequently transformed into poisonous fumes, with obvious health implications.

Furthermore, additional smoke and deadly fumes are released into the air after the spilt oil is set ablaze. Many residence “complain of breathing problems…but their concern are not taken seriously and they have almost no information on the impacts of pollution” (Amnesty International, 2009, 23). The Shell Company violated the Niger Delta communities’ right to adequate standards of living, along with impeding on their most basic human necessities; air, food, water and shelter. The contamination of water, soil and air has had serious short and long-term health impacts, including skin infections, gastrointestinal and respiratory ailments, and increased risk of cancers, and neurological and reproductive problems” (The Social and Economic Rights, 2001). Furthermore, the Shell Oil Company has failed in “providing continuous improvement of living conditions”; in fact the Shell Company has worsened the living condition of the Niger Delta communities.

Despite the fact that the oil brought development and profits to the country, the indigenous people, like the Ogoni, declare their living conditions have not improved, and they have not industrialized beside the rest of their country (Boele, Fabig & Wheeler, 2001, 74). The prospect to thrive in the current environment, which is the result of western multination oil corporations, is pessimistic. The Ogoni people have received nearly nothing for the all the oil exported from their land. They have been deprived of their share of the wealth from the natural resources.

The Niger Delta citizens, saw impoverishment, youth unemployment and economic hardships while generating oil wealth for the state and foreign corporations (Ikelegbe, 2011, 441). The realisation of the potential financial benefit, but non-existing reimbursement, from the oil economy set in feeling of abandonment, insignificants, anger, frustration and inequity with the indigenous population. For humanity to prosper, mutual respect must be ensured. The Niger Delta ecosystem was healthy prior to the irresponsible actions of western oil companies.

Shell has completely violated Article 11 of the UN Covenant. Shell destroyed whole communities’ abilities to adequate standards of living for himself and his family. They did not have access to proper food or housing, nor continuous improvement of living conditions. There were no methods taken to ensure improved methods of production, conservation and distribution of food, which was destroyed by Shell oil spills. There was no distribution of knowledge regarding the health and safety measure; in fact the health problems caused by the Shell oil spills were ignored.

Shell did not develop or reform the agrarian systems which they destroyed to ensure nobody went hungry. Thus it is apparent Shell has violated Article 11 of the UN Covenant. Additionally the Shell Oil Company has violated Article 20 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights. Article 20 states “All peoples shall have the right to existence. They shall have the unquestionable and inalienable right to self- determination. They shall freely determine their political status and shall pursue their economic and social development according to the policy they have freely chosen.

Colonized or oppressed peoples shall have the right to free themselves from the bonds of domination by resorting to any means recognized by the international community. All peoples shall have the right to the assistance of the States parties to the present, Charter in their liberation struggle against foreign domination, be it political, economic or cultural” The Nigerian military and the Shell Company have established an interconnectivity which ensures mutual benefit, at the expense of the Niger Delta citizens.

This mutally ensured beneficial relationship has led to Shell violating the Ogoni communities ‘right to existence’, ‘self-determination’, the right to ‘freely determine their political status’, the right to ‘pursue their economic and social development’, ‘the right to free themselves from the bonds of domination’ and, the right to liberate themselves against foreign economical domination. The Shell Company violated these rights many times. “Shell estimates that ‘[f]rom the start of production until 1993 when the company suspended operations in Ogoni land a total of 634 million barrels of oil, valued at US $5. billion, were produced from the area… the oil communities saw their allocated and their actual share of the oil revenue decrease gradually while… the federal government and the oil companies – grew wealthier” (Boele, et al. , 2001, 82). The Niger Delta citizens had received little, or no economic compensation from the oil found on their land. Which lead Ken Saro-Wiwa, a native Ogoni, to form MOSOP (Movement for Survival of Ogoni People). The MOSOP vociferously spoke out against the economic and political oppression instilled by Shell Corporation and the Nigerian government.

On October 29, 1990, SPDC (Shell Petroleum Development Company) eastern division manager sent a letter to the police explicitly requesting the MPF’s (Mobile Police Force) protection. The following day, October 31, Shell Company arranged for the transported of the MPF to the Shell facilities where the MPF attacked peaceful protestors with tear gas and gunfire. The next day they returned and began shooting indiscriminately. Some 80 people were killed and 495 homes were destroyed (Pegg, 1999, 476). The Ogoni made many peaceful demonstrations against Shell plants, unfortunately the special police consistently gunned down the peaceful protesters.

Many Ogoni were killed and injured by hired military guns during MOSOP’s peaceful demonstrations against Shell’s oil plants. “Shell’s reliance on military protection in Ogoniland continues, Shell cannot absolve itself of responsibility for the acts of the military” (Boele, et al. , 2001, 82). Also in 1995 Shell negotiated the purchase of more than half a million dollars worth of Beretta semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shot guns, which they referred to as ‘upgraded weapons’, for the MPF (Pegg, 1999, 475).

Shell many not have candidly requested MPF to kill the activists, but Shell officials purchased weapons and called the MPF into action because of their violent practices. It is apparent that Shell hired the MPF to murder the Ogoni people, thus violating their ‘right to existence’ along with their right to free themselves from the bonds of domination’ and, the right to liberate themselves against foreign economical domination.

Furthermore, Shell violently disrupted peaceful protest, which impedes on the Ogoni people’s right to ‘self-determination’ and the right of the Ogoni peoples to ‘freely determine their political status’. Additionally, Shell was earning capital through the exploitation of oil and gas from the Niger Delta region, while repeatedly brutalizing those who made grievances, this hinders the citizens right to ‘pursue their economic and social development’. Thus it is clear that the Shell Oil Company has violated Article 20 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights.

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Shell Oil Company and Human Rights Violations. (2017, Mar 02). Retrieved from