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Niger Delta’s oil firms should make amends: Amnesty

(AFP) – October 9, 2009

PARIS — Western oil firms operating in the Niger Delta must make amends for the degradation of the environment and the lack of respect for rights in that southern part of Nigeria, Amnesty International said on Friday.

“With the Nigerian federal government, the oil industry is one of the key players that has had a considerable responsibility for at least 50 years in the catastrophic situation in the Niger Delta, where we see a direct link between oil exploitation, the degradation of the environment, and the violation of economic, social, cultural, civic and political rights,” Francis Perrin, a member of the rights group’s executive bureau, told a press conference in Paris.

After coming out with a very critical report in June, Amnesty found that the “responses from Shell (the Anglo-Dutch giant is the main operator in the Delta) were very, very unsatisfactory. Shell, like other companies, should account for the consequences of their activities in the Niger Delta,” Perrin said.

Though the June report had elicited a strong reaction from Shell, Perrin accused the oil giant of a “cruel lack of transparency.”

Perrin said the Delta people were enduring a “real catastrophe” in the spillage of hydrocarbon products, pollution from flaring gases in the open air and in the waste amassed during decades of “very badly controlled” oil and gas production.

Celestine AkpoBari Nkabari, an activist for the rights of the Ogoni people who was born in 1973 in Rivers State, was in Paris to bear witness to the devastating impact of the oil industry.

“What the local population are going through is not human,” he said. “Environment is the first gift of God to man, but the air we breathed, the land we lived on, the water we drank have been polluted and so the local people, who are traditionally fishermen and farmers, have been deprived of their means of livelihood and left with hunger, poverty and strange illnesses.”

“Oil companies have merely destroyed our environment and our lives and brought us hardships,” Nkabari added. “We want them to leave our land but they should clean up the mess first.”

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