The Ogoni and The Niger Delta

According to Nigeria’s 2006 census, the Ogoni population is close to 832,000 people.  The Ogoni live on approximately 400 square miles or 1,000 square kilometers of land east and southeast of Port Harcourt in Rivers State, Nigeria.  There are four local government areas in the Ogoni region of Rivers State – Eleme, Gokana (where our Bodo school is located), Khana (where our Bane and Bori schools are located) and Tai.

Oil was first discovered in Ogoniland at Bomu (about 10 minutes drive from our school in Bodo) in 1958.  According to Shell Oil’s own figures, 634 million barrels of oil valued at US$5.2 billion were taken from Ogoniland from 1958 – 1993 when production was halted in the face of a highly successful non-violent protest campaign led by Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).

In spite of the billions of dollars of oil wealth extracted from their land, the vast majority of Ogoni people today still lack access to electricity and piped drinking water.  Almost all of them live on less than US$2 per day.  The plight of the Ogoni people first reached worldwide attention when Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders (Baribor Bera, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Barinem Kiobel, John Kpuinen, Paul Levera and Felix Nuate) were hanged by Nigeria’s then military dictatorship on November 10, 1995.  Although oil is not currently being produced in Ogoniland, a network of aging and poorly maintained pipelines continues to criss-cross the area, resulting in regular oil spills like those that hit Bodo in 2008-2009.

This webpage is meant to serve as a resource center for people wishing to learn more about the Ogoni and other oil-producing communities throughout the Niger Delta.

What oil production in the Niger Delta can be for some local communities.

What oil production in the Niger Delta can be for some local communities.

Charter self-determination documents:

The Ogoni people set out their demands for greater control over the use of the natural resources found on their land in The Ogoni Bill of Rights.  This document served as a template for other tribal or ethnic groups in the Niger Delta who subsequently set out their own political demands in similar documents.  Examples here include The Kaiama Declaration of the Ijaw People and The Ikwerre Rescue Charter.  Ken Saro-Wiwa’s closing statement to the military tribunal that ultimately hanged him is another concise and poignant statement of local grievances and demands.

A sign at a memorial service for Ken Saro-Wiwa in Bane, Ogoni in April 2000.

Legal cases involving the Ogoni:

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights landmark decision in the Ogoni case (2002)

The Wiwa v. Shell settlement (2009)

Information on the Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum lawsuit decision by the US Supreme Court (2012)

Headline in The Guardian newspaper after Shell settled the Bodo law suit in January 2015.

Headline in The Guardian newspaper after Shell settled the Bodo law suit in January 2015.

Information on the Bodo lawsuit settled in the UK (2015).  Scott Pegg’s witness statement submitted on behalf of the Bodo plaintiffs.

Relevant United Nations reports on the Ogoni and the Niger Delta:

UNDP Niger Delta Human Development Report (2006)

UNEP Ogoni Environmental Assessment Report (2011)  This is the most comprehensive scientific assessment yet done on the environmental impact of oil exploration and production in Ogoniland.  It is also filled with pictures that portray many aspects of life in Ogoniland.  Please see the next link for a follow-up report by a coalition of non-governmental organizations assessing the failure to implement recommendations from the UNEP report.

No Progress: An Evaluation of the Implementation of UNEP’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, Three Years On (2014)  This is a report by Environmental Rights Action, the Center for the Environment, Human Rights and Development, Friends of the Earth Europe, Platform and Amnesty International which documents both Shell and the Nigerian government’s utter failure to implement any of the recommendations from the ground-breaking UNEP Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland report.

Relevant Human Rights Watch reports on the Ogoni and the Niger Delta:

The Ogoni Crisis: A Case-Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria (1995)

The Price of Oil: Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights Violations in Nigeria’s Oil Producing Communities (1999)  This remains perhaps the most comprehensive investigation of the corporate role in human rights violations in the Niger Delta.  It is also a great resource for improving your general understanding of oil production in Nigeria.

Rivers and Blood: Guns, Oil and Power in Nigeria’s Rivers State (2005)

Chop Fine: The Human Rights Impact of Local Government Corruption and Mismanagement in Rivers State, Nigeria (2007)

Relevant Amnesty International reports on the Ogoni and the Niger Delta:

Nigeria: Are Human Rights in the Pipeline? (2004)

Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta (2009)  This report opens with a discussion of the Bodo oil spills that greatly impacted the lives of the people in one of the villages we work in.

The ‘True Tragedy’: Delays and Failures in Tackling Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (2011)  This report focuses almost entirely on the impact of the two Bodo oil spills of 2008-2009 on one of the villages we work in.  It features many photographs that give you an excellent overview of what life is like in Bodo today.

Bad Information: Oil Spill Investigations in the Niger Delta (2013)

Other resources:

The International Crisis Group’s report The Swamps of Insurgency: Nigeria’s Delta Unrest (2006)

Curse of the Black Gold is a wonderful photographic introduction to the Niger Delta with text by the renowned scholar Michael Watts and photos by Ed Kashi.

The Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development’s report After Bodo: Effective Remedy & Recourse Options for Victims of Environmental Degradation Related to Oil Extraction in Nigeria (2015) is a wonderful resource guide for individuals or organizations interested in helping Nigerian oil-producing communities to assert their rights after being hit by oil spills.

Local Nigerian-based non-governmental organizations doing great work in the Niger Delta:

Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development

Environmental Rights Action

Stakeholder Democracy Network