Nigeria: life in Ogoniland, polluted by oil exploitation

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On November 10, 1995, Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight companions in misfortune were executed by President Sani Abacha’s junta after a controversial trial. Founder of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop) in the early 1990s, Ken Saro-Wiwa alerted world opinion to the ecological disasters linked to the exploitation of oil in the Niger Delta, federating around him tens of thousands of people in Ogoni communities little used to demonstrating for their rights.

After peaceful mobilizations on an unprecedented scale in 1993, Shell definitively suspended its oil activities in Ogoni territory, located in one of the three regions richest in oil in Africa. This deadweight loss, at the time, of more than 30% of Nigerian crude production provoked a reaction from the Sani Abache regime: some 3,000 Ogonis died as a result of police and military violence.

A quarter of a century after the disappearance of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his companions, Ogoniland still suffers collateral damage linked to the exploitation of black gold: massive pollution of groundwater, agricultural fields and devastated fishing areas. Some local communities are on trial against Shell, blaming the Anglo-Dutch multinational for the ecological disaster underway on their territory.

Following a United Nations report in 2011, Nigeria officially launched in 2016 an agency in charge of decontamination of ogoni lands and waters. But these heavy cleaning operations could last for several decades.

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