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Boehm 1 Jillian Boehm Professor Soyinka-Airewele November 16, 2011 Nigerian Oil and Globalization Ladies and Gentlemen, President Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, Astute United Nations Assembly, I would like to welcome Nigerian President, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan; President of the United States, Barack Obama; Greenpeace, and last but certainly not least the Human Rights group. I appreciate the time you have all taken out of your schedules to be here and discuss this important crisis. Before we start fixing this problem, I would like to re-cap the matter at hand. Some poorer countries need help to stabilize their economy so rich countries loan them money with the option of poor country paying the loan back or if they can't do that the rich country goes into the country and takes the resources it wants. This creates problems in places like Nigeria where there ends up not only being a power struggle between the corporation and government, but damage done to the environment and the local folks. Then when the country wants the company to change its policies or help fix the problems the rich country is causing, it's ignored because the rich country is getting what it wants and doesn't want to change its ways. We are all aware that there is a sufficient lack of oil in our world. While most people think that oil gives profit to everyone, I am here today to prove that is not true. Nor has it been true for quite some time. In Nigeria, this has been an issue since " a British naval force...laid siege of Brass" (Douglas1). Oil companies, like Shell, have been and will continue to destroy the environment and culture that Nigerian villages contain, if they are not stopped immediately. Boehm 2 Before we talk about the future, let me start with the past and present. The oil crisis has affected the environment, people, and the way the country of Nigeria has been run. To start, the environment has been torn apart instead of being preserved. According to the video Sweet Crude, the oil has literally taken over the land. In the documentary, the viewer can be exposed to dead fish in water that has been polluted by the oil. In another shot, the river shown is also contaminated and runs in more of a copper color. Plus this film also gives a picturesque view of the trees chopped down by various oil companies, like Shell, so there was more room for their equipment and workers to extract the oil from the surrounding area. Nigeria is rich in resources and the European and Western countries that took over knew that. Supporting the movie, Okonta and Douglas said," The Niger Delta has substantial oil and gas reserves. Oil mined in the area accounts for 95 percent of the country's foreign exchange earnings and about one-fourth of Gross Domestic Product" (18). Therefore, the countries that were being invaded by others had no choice but to succumb to the power because that's how they remain financially stable. The Ogoni people that live in Nigeria have brought attention to the oil crisis by peacefully protesting and trying to protect their native land. Another way this oil crisis affects Nigeria is the involvement of the people. Like the environment, this is not a new issue by any means. In fact, Okonta and Douglas point out that in 1444 Lancarote de Freitas promoted the Atlantic slave trade by shipping the natives to various parts of the world (6). In recent years, "oil export revenues account for between 50 and 80 percent of all government revenues," as Zalik and Watts put it. This statement sounds good, doesn't it? It sounds like the all oil exporting countries benefit from selling to other countries, but in reality there are under paid native workers that are doing the dirty work. The price of oil is also constantly going up because it has become such a rare resource. Thus, workers have longer shifts for hours on end and early in the morning as demonstrated in Sweet Crude. One interview in the film really showed how unfortunate these people are because the employee explained how he barely made a dollar a day. Plus workers and locals living in the surrounding area of the work zone are getting sick from the fumes of the oil and cannot afford any type of medicine because they don't make enough to get a vaccination or just plain cold medicine. Zalik and Watts Boehm 3 confirm this by stating, "the number of people subsisting on less than one dollar a day grew from 36 percent to more 70 percent, from 19 million to a staggering 90 million [in the years 1965-2004]" (17). In the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, it explains the "dignity and worth of the human person.... determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom," and more specifically Article 23. To sum it up, the article explains how the worker can choose where he or she would like to work as long as the conditions and pay are fair. Clearly, the government and oil companies that employ these workers haven't studied up on this. They have their workers working long hours with little money as previously stated. Plus, if the companies don't get their way, the government doesn't get the money, and the company takes control over the situation. When the companies take over, no one is happy. Typically, there is a rise in violence when this happens because the military is often included. The most famous example is the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Saro-Wiwa was in many human rights groups that wanted to change Nigeria for the better. After many protest movements, rallies, speeches, and starting to write the Ogoni Bill of Rights (Okonta and Douglas 122-126), Ken Saro-Wiwa was taken under custody by law officials, as were the other members of MOSOP. The same night Ogoni people (men, women, and children) were murdered because the colonel of the military thought those people were "'wasting operations'" (Okonta and Douglas 130). This resulted in various types of body violations including everything from simple fear to rape to termination. In the film Sweet Crude, the graphic images of these massacres are so unbelievable that if I hadn't seen it then I never would have realized how bad it really is. In the same year, 1990, Shell decided it needed extra "protection" from protestors. Those people were "killed and maimed...into submission" (Okonta and Douglas 32). The oil companies gained control and used it to their advantage. There are various sides to this situation, so let me highlight the key players. On one side are The Human Rights Watch, the Ogoni people, Greenpeace, and the Coalition of Women's group. Opposing them is Shell Oil Company and the Nigerian Military. The Nigerian government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) fall in between these two. You see, the first group wants what's right for the general public and the environment. For example, the Ogonis protest outside of work zones as do the Coalition Boehm 4 of Women's group as shown in Sweet Crude. They chant about how the company is not giving them what they deserve and reducing opportunities for the children that live there. The Coalition of Women's group also focuses on the human rights of women because of all the violence and intrusive behavior the military has done to them. I agree with the action they are taking against the military because they have been mistreated and not represented well by anyone. This is why the government is in the middle of this situation. The government wants the country to prosper so they agree with Shell and want to make the company happy. Also, the country owes money to another one and through the export of oil is how they are repaying their debt. The Nigerian government would like to save its people and environment, but the real question the government has to ask itself is: how much is the government willing to sacrifice to make a profit? The Shell Corporation obviously would like to make money, which they are, selling oil. What doesn't make sense though is why the company is destroying other resources in the environment and lives of innocent people as well. In Sweet Crude, it mentions how the company isn't taxed the same way as countries normally are. This means that Shell is benefiting from the trade of oil and has more of the money then they are letting exporting countries know. An example of this would be represented in Where Vultures Feast, when Okonta and Douglas talk about the court case in 1970. It describes in the book that Nigeria lands were being demolished after an oil spill and wanted Shell to pay for it. They even say, "it took twenty-five years for the plaintiffs who took Shell to court to get adequate compensation"(106). While Shell made $1.5 billion in oil the places it takes the oil from has losses as big as $300 million. If this enterprise is making so much off of the resource that comes from somewhere else, why can't they use the extra money to help the folks they have put out of a place to live or re-plant some of the vegetation they have gotten rid of in the extraction process? There are ways of correcting the behavior of big companies without them losing money. Shell has even revised its rules and regulations but no one checks up if they are actually up to code. The Human Rights group and Greenpeace have brought attention to these issues and still nothing changes. At the conference, I will be representing the Coalition of Women's Group and I'm very happy to do so. These women are strong and will not back down for anyone. In Sweet Crude, it is visible that they do not take no for an answer. I admire these women Boehm 5 for fighting for what they believe in by protesting outside of the workers area. By bonding together they've brought attention to the situation going on in these countries and have made some significant changes. These lovely ladies had a 10-day standoff to get the company to change the job availability and they even gained money to help fix the community. Even though Shell has not given the money to them yet, they continue to fight for human rights as well. Beaten by the military, raped countlessly, and violated beyond belief has these girls fighting for their bodies back. The children are also a reason the women stand up to the companies and government. The kids should have a better life and living conditions then what they currently do. Shell is also a bad example for the young ones because they act terribly to these people and are showing them that violence is the answer to solve life's problems. In closing I'd like to summarize the main points I've made today. Big companies are taking over smaller and poorer countries because the poor countries can't afford to buy themselves out of debt. As a result, powerful countries are invading these countries and causing many environmental and human rights issues. This has been going on for a long time and even though many of these invaded countries have plentiful resources they are not being used because they are being terminated. The workers don't make a sufficient amount of money to support their families the way they like and the working conditions are awful. The ecosystem is being torn apart by bulldozers and other machinery trying to remove the resource that the company wants. Violence is also a rising problem that occurs from this export system. When the companies are unhappy, they get the military to come in and "fix it". People like the Human Rights group, Greenpeace, Coalition of Women, and the Ogonis have all been harmed because they were peacefully protesting what they believe is right and the military shot them down, literally. Innocent people have been killed and the government continues to listen to the big businesses instead of its people. The government is in a dilemma of to save the economy or save the people. The government needs to realize it can have both by having the corporations contribute to helping fix the mess it has made. I have hope for the future that we can resolve these problems. I'm glad we can take time to discuss these matters and make a change for the better. Thank you all once again for taking time to come to this conference. Boehm 6 Bibliography "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights." Welcome to the United Nations: It's Your World. United Nations. Web. 18 Nov. 2011. <http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/>. Okonta, Ike, and Oronto Douglas. Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights, and Oil in the Niger Delta. London: Verso, 2003. Print. Zalik, Anna, and Michael Watts. "Imperial Oil: Petroleum Politics in the Nigerian Delta and the New Scramble for Africa." Print. Sweet Crude. Dir. Sandy Cioffi. Perf. Locals in Nigeria. DVD.
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