Royal Dutch Shell is a multinational Anglo-Dutch corporation that reported earnings of $18.9 billion in the first three-quarters of 2012. While bringing in these profits, Shell has simultaneously committed crimes against humanity, decimating one of the world’s most important deltas and destroying the health of entire communities while passing blame to local Nigerian governments.
Shell also engages in the dangerous practice of gas flaring, a process where natural gas is burned instead of used, which sends huge toxic plumes into the air. Despite multiple attempts to stop Shell from gas flaring, it’s been reported as recently as 2010 that the company has actually increased gas flaring in the Niger Delta.
As bleak as these realities are, the Ogoni people have been actively trying to reclaim their land. In 1990 Ken Saro-Wiwa — a Nigerian writer and environmental activist — founded the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). Between 1990 and 1995 MOSOP led demonstrations, presented the government with an Ogoni Bill of Rights and succeeded in getting Shell to stop exploration and production of oil in the Ogoni region. Unfortunately, its pipelines, facilities and infrastructure remain which have allowed for many more oil spills — the latest of which was in 2009.
Yet these victories came with a bloody cost. Though Saro-Wiwa was committed to nonviolent action, at Shell’s behest, support and bankrolling, the Nigerian military conducted deadly raids against the Ogoni people to repress the growing movement. As a result, four community leaders were killed and Ken Saro-Wiwa–along with other MOSOP leaders–was arrested on trumped-up charges and ultimately hanged in 1995. There is a damning level of evidence to suggest Shell’s complicity in these murders including a $15.5 million settlement with the Wiwa family to stop publicly accusing the corporation of having any complicity in Ken Saro-Wiwa’s death.
Shell is guilty of environmental devastation, crimes against humanity, conspiracy, torture and terrorism while only peripherally accepting blame and being marginally penalized for its atrocities.
While the people of Ogoniland live in poverty, the CEO of Shell made 15.3 million dollars in 2011. The Niger Delta is one of the 10 most important wetlands and marine ecosystems in the world and yet Shell continues to dodge any mention of compensation to Nigerians for the destruction of this land. It seems that corporate accountability in this profit-maximizing age is nonexistent. Shell seemingly gets a free pass in dismantling the lives of poor, rural Black people who have lived and worked on this land for thousands of years.