Nigeria, the Battle of the Decade
Since the 1930s, the first oil companies like Shell and BP have been developing their business in West Africa. In Nigeria, Chima Williams is fighting to preserve nature.
The Degradation of Nigeria
Nigeria is one of the largest oil producers in the world, with an export rate of 90%. Its GDP will reach $514 billion in 2021, but two thirds of the population still live below the poverty line, which stands at 40%. The main areas affected by the oil fields are in the Niger River Delta, which flows into the Gulf of Guinea.
This region is home to 30 million people, 70% of whom are poor. The vast majority of them survive on agriculture and fishing. For several years, the Nigerian population has had to face the degradation of their territory caused by the oil companies. Multinationals are reportedly dumping the equivalent of 240,000 barrels of crude oil in pipelines and wells into the Niger Delta environment. The oil contaminates water, forests and agriculture. There have been several spills in recent years between 2004 and 2007. Despite Shell’s denials, a company official revealed that three quarters of the pipelines had to be replaced a decade ago.
Chima Williams: A Fight for his Country
Chima Williams, an environmental lawyer, has been concerned about his country since his youth. As a student, he volunteered for Environmental Rights Action (ERA), an NGO that defends Nigerian environmental rights. In 1998, he founded Students Environmental Assembly Nigeria, a student group that brings justice to the environment. As a lawyer and executive director of ERA, Chima Williams stands up to oil companies in court.
Numerous investigations have taken place to document all acts harmful to nature. In 2008 and 2013, the oil spill reports and the testimonies of local residents allowed the Nigerian subsidiary to be held solely responsible. Chima is appealing the decision, as it wants the court to condemn Royal Dutch Shell’s executives as well. On January 29, 2021, the Court of Appeal in The Hague ruled that the Shell group was responsible for multiple oil spills in Nigeria. Despite the difficulty of the ordeal, Chima’s conviction allowed him to win the cases against Shell.
Source: Goldman environmental prize, Efe Verde
Credit photo: Goldman environmental prize, Amnesty International
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