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Nigeria: Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta (AI report)

Amnistía Internacional (AI) publicou antonte un informe de cento corenta páxinas sobre Nixeria, centrado no impacto das industrias do petróleo no delta do río Níxer. Estas industrias provocan danos ambientais graves e violan os direitos básicos dos habitantes da rexión, que dependen da pesca e da agricultura para sobreviviren.

O informe leva por título “Nigeria: Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta”. Copio un extracto do seu contido:

[…] The Niger Delta is one ofthe 10 most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems in the world and is home to some 31 million people. The Niger Delta is also the location of massive oil deposits, which have been extracted for decades by the government of Nigeria and by multinational oil companies. Oil has generated an estimated $600 billion since the 1960s.

Despite this, the majority of the Niger Delta’s population lives in poverty. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) describes the region as suffering from “administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services, high unemployment, social deprivation, abject poverty, filth and squalor, and endemic conflict.” The majority of the people of the Niger Delta do not have adequate access to clean water or health-care. Their poverty, and its contrast with the wealth generated by oil, has become one of the world’s starkest and most disturbing examples of the “resource curse”.

Under Nigerian law, local communities have no legal rights to oil and gas reserves in their territory. The Federal Government allocates permits, licences and leases to survey, prospect for and extract oil to the oil companies, who are then automatically granted access to the land covered by their permit, lease or licence. The fact that the people of the Niger Delta have not benefited from oil wealth is only part of the story. Widespread and unchecked human rights violations related to the oil industry have pushed many people deeper into poverty and deprivation, fuelled conflict and led to a pervasive sense of powerlessness and frustration. The multi-dimensional crisis is driven by the actions of the security forces and militant groups, extensive pollution of land and water, corruption, corporate failures and bad practice and serious government neglect.

This report focuses on one dimension of the crisis: the impact of pollution and environmental damage caused by the oil industry on the human rights of the people living in the oil producing areas of Niger Delta. Much of the population in the oil producing areas of the delta relies on fisheries, subsistence agriculture and associated processing industries for their livelihood.

Amnesty International has documented the impact of oil pollution on human rights on several occasions. In 2008 Amnesty International researchers visited the Niger Delta to conduct further investigations. They visited a number of oil pollution sites and met with communities who have suffered from the pollution. They also talked with the human rights defenders and environmental activists who have been working for years, sometimes decades, for an end to oil industry bad practice in the region, and who have been campaigning for justice for those affected by pollution.

Oil spills, waste dumping and gas flaring (gas is separated from oil and, in Nigeria, most of it is burnt as waste) are endemic in the Niger Delta. This pollution, which has affected the area for decades, has damaged the soil, water and air quality. Hundreds of thousands of people are affected, particularly the poorest and those who rely on traditional livelihoods such as fishing and agriculture. The human rights implications are serious, under-reported and have received little attention from the government of Nigeria or the oil companies.

This is despite the fact that the communities themselves and local NGOs, as well as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) and the UN Human Rights Committee have all expressed serious concern about pollution and called on the government of Nigeria to take urgent action to deal with the human rights impacts of oil industry pollution and environmental degradation.

The main human rights issues raised in this report are:

  • Violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food – as a consequence of the impact of oil-related pollution and environmental damage on agriculture and fisheries, which are the main sources of food for many people in the Niger Delta.
  • Violations of the right to gain a living through work – also as a consequence of widespread damage to agriculture and fisheries, because these are also the main sources of livelihood for many people in the Niger Delta.
  • Violations of the right to water – which occur when oil spills and waste materials pollute water used for drinking and other domestic purposes.
  • Violations of the right to health – which arise from failure to secure the underlying determinants of health, including a healthy environment, and failure to enforce laws to protect the environment and prevent pollution.
  • The absence of any adequate monitoring of the human impacts of oil-related pollution – despite the fact that the oil industry in the Niger Delta is operating in a relatively densely populated area characterized by high levels of poverty and vulnerability.
  • Failure to provide affected communities with adequate information or ensure consultation on the impacts of oil operations on their human rights.
  • Failure to ensure access to effective remedy for people whose human rights have been violated.

The report also examines who is responsible for this situation in a context where multinational oil companies have been operating for decades. It highlights how companies can take advantage of the weak regulatory systems that characterize many poor countries, which frequently results in the poorest people being the most vulnerable to exploitation by corporate actors. The people of the Niger Delta have seen their human rights undermined by oil companies that their government cannot or will not hold to account. They have been systematically denied access to information about how oil exploration and production will affect them, and are repeatedly denied access to justice. The Niger Delta provides a stark case study of the lack of accountability of a government to its people, and of multinational companies’ almost total lack of accountability when it comes to the impact of their operations on human rights. […]

2 Xullo 2009 - Posted by | Amnesty International, Human Rights, Nature, Nigeria, Politics

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