Nigeria

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation. Help expose the truth about the tobacco industry.

Nigeria, located in the west part of Africa, is the continent's most populous country, with 130 million people. It is also the continent's largest oil producer and one of the largest oil producers in the world. A century of British colonial rule ended in 1960 and Nigeria now has an elected government but over the past few decades there have been a lot of military coups. [1] [2]

Tobacco industry information about Nigeria

The tobacco industry, and specifically British American Tobacco (BAT), promotes a variety of "corporate social responsibility" programs in Nigeria which seem to create and reinforce government support for its activities within the country. On March 13, 2009, the Lagos Daily Independent reported that Senator Kamorudeen Adedibu, Chairman of Nigeria's Senate Committee on Industries, had praised BAT's "2008 Farmers' Productivity Day/Award Ceremony," and taken the occasion to warn that Nigeria's proposed national tobacco bill would lead to 400,000 Nigerians getting thrown out of their jobs. He described the bill as a "misplaced priority." He also commended BAT Nigeria for its corporate social responsibility initiatives, which he claimed helped create wealth in the rural areas of the state. He described the company as a "shining example to other private sector operators" in Nigeria.[3]

Oil

The Oil Wars

In September 2008, the Niger Delta's most prominent militant group, MEND or the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, declared an "oil war", warning all oil workers to evacuate the delta immediately. MEND’s move was a response to a major army offensive against the rebels. “We have declared an oil war in response to the unprovoked aerial and marine attacks on our positions by the armed forces of Nigeria," said Jomo Gbomo, Mend's spokesman. “We are asking that oil companies evacuate their staff from their field facilities because the brief is not to capture hostages but to bring these structures to the ground.” [4]

Give the Land Back to the Locals

In what was a truly symbolic victory for the people of the Niger Delta, the oil giant Shell was ordered to hand over the huge Bonny oil terminal to the local population.

Although details only became public in October 2008, a high court in Rivers State ruled in July that the site of the Bonny lifting terminal belonged to the local community, not the oil giant.

The Bonny site is hugely significant to Shell’s operations. It has storage capacity for over 12 million barrels of crude, and is equipped with a helicopter landing pad, a facility capable of loading super tankers, an indoor berthing facility to take six ocean-going tankers, an expatriate club and residential quarters.

But local residents, including the elders of Bonny, accused Shell of getting the certificate of ownership from the state government illegally. They filed suit accusing Shell of secretly obtaining a certificate of occupancy on the property from the Rivers state government.

They argued that under the July 1958 agreement between the two parties, Shell was only a tenant on the land while the Bonny people remained the landlord. The court agreed much to the delight of local community groups and the rebel groups such as Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, of which giving back land is a key demand..

Not surprisingly Shell has appealed. “The ruling was given some months ago but we have appealed,” Shell’s spokesman in Nigeria, Precious Okolobo. Moreover most observers believe that it will not affect the oil export operations as Shell will just ignore it. [5]

Justice Begins at Home

In May 1998, 121 unarmed youths from the 42 communities of Ilajeland in the Niger Delta decided to join the waves of protests against the oil companies sweeping the region.

Whereas many of the previous protests had been against Shell, the oil company operating in their area was Chevron. They got into boats and canoes and set off to occupy Chevron’s Parebe platform that was miles off-shore.

Their demands were modest according to one of the leading activists in the Niger Delta. “Don’t pollute my water don’t destroy our mangrove forest, don’t devastate our ecology. Come and listen to us come and talk to our elders” .

What happened next has been subject to fierce controversy ever since, but after the youths boarded a barge it led to a stand-off for four days. Then one morning, flying low in the African sky, three helicopters arrived being flown by Chevron pilots, but full of the Nigerian Military, Navy and the Mobile Police Force. In the ensuing chaos, four youths were killed, 30 more youths were wounded, most with gunshot. Those that went to help the dying were shot too.

It later transpired that Chevron had specifically called for the Mobile Police. According to Human Rights Watch, no attempt had been made by Chevron “to prevent abusive actions by the security forces in advance of the confrontation. Nor did it state that concern had been expressed to the authorities over the incident or that any steps would be taken to avoid similar incidents in future.” One of the helicopters had a Chevron security person on board who “apparently did nothing” to stop the shooting. In the eyes of the communities, another company now had blood on its hands. [6]

The events on that fateful day have now ended up a decade later in a court-room in San Francisco, with 19 Nigerians seeking unspecified compensatory damages for medical care, loss of wages and pain and suffering for the victims and families of the deceased and wounded.

After a four-week trial, in its closing arguments, Chevron denied directing the Nigerian soldiers and said it had acted in self defence.

“The decision to shoot in self-defense was made by the military,” Robert Mittelstaedt, an attorney for Chevron, said in closing arguments. “Not only did we not think anything wrong would happen, we certainly didn’t intend for anything to happen.”

But lawyers acting for the Nigerians showed evidence at the trial that Chevron knew that the Nigerian military and the Mobile Police, nicknamed “Kill and Go,” to be “uncontrollable” and prone to violence. “The Kill and Go were among the most vicious military operations in the world,” said Dan Stormer, an attorney for the Nigerians. “Chevron paid, fed, housed and maintained the military, including the Kill and Go, to have security in Nigeria.”

Stormer added: “They don’t want to be held accountable now but you, through our system of justice, get to hold them accountable.” The jury can award punitive damages against Chevron for recklessness. [7]

A verdict against Chevron would be the first against a U.S. corporation for actions abroad under a law, passed by the first Congress in 1789, that allows foreigners to seek damages for violations of international human rights. [8]

Government Panel Recommends that 25 % of Oil Revenue Goes to Delta

The issue of how much oil money goes to the local communities has been a central issue for the people of the Niger Delta for decades. The issue of “resource control” was a central pillar of the Ogoni Bills of Rights, signed by the Ogoni leaders in 1990, as well as the Kaiama Declaration, signed by the Ijaw community in December 1998. It has been discussed repeatedly over the last decade. Slowly but surely the amount of money that goes to the Delta has risen from 1.5 per cent to 13 per cent. But it is not enough to stop the violence and abject poverty.

In December 2008, a panel set up by the Nigerian government recommended that Nigeria should divert a quarter of its oil revenues to people of the Niger Delta. Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, who is from the region, inaugurated a 40-man panel in September of former ministers, activists and academics to consider ways forward. The panel’s chairman was Ledum Mitee, the leader of MOSOP, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, who was put on trial with Ken Saro-Wiwa, but was freed. It became known as the Mittee Committee.

Mitee’s Committee main recommendation in its three-volume report was that oil rich states in the region be paid 25 per cent of oil revenues. The Committee also called on the authorities to release Henry Okah, leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the leading militant group, or at least give him a free and fair trial.

Finally it recommended a disarming process for youths involved in militancy through creating a credible Decommissioning, Disarmament and Rehabilitation (DDR) process and the establishment of a Youth Employment Scheme that would employ at least 2,000 youths in each local government of the Niger Delta States.

“The lack of political will on the part of federal and state governments has been responsible for the escalation of the Niger Delta crisis,” Mitee said before presenting the conclusions to President Umaru Yar’Adua.

In response, President Yar’Adua said: “I want to therefore assure you that this report will be examined by government and we will examine our recommendations and I have no doubt in my mind that your work will form one of those great efforts that will ultimately help this country to find a permanent solution to the problems in the Niger Delta.” [9]; [10]

Media

The BBC says of the country's media:

Nigeria's media scene is one of the most vibrant in Africa. State-run radio and TV services reach virtually all parts of the country and operate at a federal and regional level. All 36 states run their own radio stations, and most of them operate TV services.
Media freedom improved under President Obasanjo, but restrictive decrees remain in force. Citing high levels of violence, the media rights body Reporters Without Borders has said Nigerian journalists operate amid a "prevailing culture of brutality".[2]

Lobbying and public relations by Nigeria in the U.S.

  • KRL International LLC, a Washington, DC based lobbying and public relations firm, filed papers in 2007 under the Foreign Agents Registration Act for its work on behalf of Nigeria. The nature of the work was stated as:
Outreach to US Administration, US Congress, NGOs and media institutions to ensure that the reform agenda of Nigeria is understood by US public.
  • KRL answered "yes" to the question of "would political activities be involved?".[11][12]
  • Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service wrote in 2001 of the lobbying activity in the U.S. by African governments:
African governments are paying millions of dollars to lobbyists in hopes of influencing Washington's policy, according to an examination of US government files. Oil-producing nations -- especially, Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea -- are paying the biggest fees by far, but others, especially those with which Washington has difficult relations, are not holding back the cash.
Lobbying became a fixture of Washington by the late 19th century as private companies and commercial associations felt it increasingly necessary to influence the federal government. Foreign governments, despite having fully staffed embassies here, have used lobbyists to press their points of view for several decades now.
The government of Nigeria, which was known for spreading a lot of cash around numerous high-priced lobbyists here during military rule, apparently has since decided on one major representative, GoodWorks International. The firm's chairman, Andrew Young, served as president Jimmy Carter's UN ambassador and later as mayor of Atlanta. Besides his position at GoodWorks, Young acts as president of the National Council of Churches.
"GoodWorks can work to reverse Nigeria's negative image through effective representation of Nigeria's interests in the US," reads the firm's contract, which was filed last August. It states that GoodWorks, which is based in Atlanta and has no Washington office, is to receive 500,000 dollars as an initial retainer and 60,000 as monthly retainers thereafter, not to exceed a total of 1,500,000 (dollars) for the first year of service only.[13]

Resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Nigeria, National Geographic, accessed January 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Country profile: Nigeria, BBC, accessed January 2008.
  3. Oladunjoye Phillip, Lagos, Nigeria Daily Independent Nigeria: Anti-Tobacco Bill Will Lead to 400,000 Job Loss -Adedibu March 13, 2009
  4. Mike Pflanz, Nigerian militants declare 'oil war' against pipelines in Niger Delta, The Daily Telegraph, September 14, 2008
  5. AFP, http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gziRCGD2OH37wBdO8Pz8OCPeX12A "Nigerian court orders Shell to hand over oil terminal land" , October 15, 2008
  6. Andy Rowell, James Marriott, Lorne Stockman, The Next Gulf - London, Washington and Oil Conflict in Nigeria, Constable and Robinson, 2005
  7. Karen Gullo, "Chevron Denies Blame for Killings at Nigeria Platform Protest", Bloomberg, November 26, 2008
  8. Bob Egelko, "Jurors get conflicting accounts of shootings", San Franciso Chronicle, November 26, 2008
  9. Felix Onuah "Nigeria panel says restive delta needs more oil cash", Reuters, December 2 2008
  10. Juliana Taiwo, "N’Delta C’ttee Proposes 25% Derivation," This Day, December 2, 2008
  11. Registration Statement, U.S. Department of Justice, accessed January 2008.
  12. Home page, KRL International, accessed January 2008.
  13. Jim Lobe, "African Governments Spend Millions on Lobbying", Inter Press Service/CorpWatch, May 20, 2001.

Websites

Profiles

  • Nigeria, CIA The World Fact Book.
  • Country profile: Nigeria, BBC, January 10, 2006: "After lurching from one military coup to another, Nigeria now has an elected leadership. But it faces the growing challenge of preventing Africa's most populous country from breaking apart along ethnic and religious lines."
  • Timeline: Nigeria, BBC, February 24, 2006.

Articles & Commentary

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