PLATFORM's work on Nigeria aims to expose the severe impact that 50 years of oil production has had in the Niger Delta.
Through the Remember Saro-Wiwa Project and through our publications on Nigeria, including our first national release book, The Next Gulf, we aim to show the impact the world's thirst for oil is having on the society and ecology of one of Africa's most densely populated and impoverished regions.
Our aim is to show that while Nigeria rulers and elites are clearly responsible for the chaos and destruction in the Niger Delta, European and American governments and oil companies are instrumental in creating and maintaining a situation of exploitation with haunting similarities to the slave trade that centuries ago dominated the relationship between these three regions.
For more on the situation in the Niger Delta and our work on the issue, see the links on the right.
There is perhaps no greater example of the resource curse than Nigeria. Oil was first discovered in the Niger Delta in 1956. In 1958 the first tanker with Nigeria's new export left for London. In 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. In 1965, the first signs that local people were disturbed by the industry's impact on their lives became apparent.
In that year, an Ogoni school teacher from Taabaa, Sam Badilo Bako, sent a letter to Shell-BP.
"Today, we need education, we need employment, we want to eat, we want to live. We do not want our children to remain out of school . . . we do not want to lack money because Shell has removed land, which used to be our main source of revenue. In short, we do not want to live in a vicious circle in which we shall see Shell-BP as the authors of our misfortune and our oppressors . . . Is it not an irony that those who live on top of wealth should be the poorest people in the nation?”
Since Sam Bako's letter, a period of more than 40 years, there have been great changes in the Niger Delta. But not the changes that Sam Bako was aspiring to when he took pen to paper to write to distant bureaucrats in a foreign oil company. He must of dreamt then that the 400 billion dollars that would be earned by oil companies and the Nigerian state in the following 40 years would greatly improve the lives of his fellow Nigerians. He must have hoped that a solution would be found for the pollution caused by oil drilling in the Delta, that served to ruin the livelihoods of those that depended on the land. All that needed to be done was for someone in the offices of the Shell-BP Petroleum Development Company to read his letter and act to change the way things were done.
The opposite has occured. The 400 billion dollars is nowhere to be seen in the Niger Delta. What has not fed the coffers of foreign oil companies has built palaces for a handful of Nigeria's corrupt elites while the rest dissapears into off-shore tax havens. Oil in Nigeria is at the heart of one of the world's most corrupt societies, at the centre of a conflict claiming over 1000 lives a year and the source of some of the worst pollution in Africa. Many Nigerian's will tell you that oil is a curse. In the 21st century, as oil becomes more scarce, Nigeria's oil is also at the centre of a new geopolitical scramble to diversify supplies from the politically 'unstable' Middle East.