The Niger Delta is a densely populated area of 31 million people living near the Niger River in Nigeria with around 40 ethnic groups living across many small villages. It is known to be a vastly rich resource for the extraction of oil as this was first discovered by the British colonial rule in the 1950s. However once they had left, the colonial power and structure that was put in place was easily further adapted by the oil companies as they were able to set up quickly and accordingly. During this same time as they were setting up, the rise of military governments were put in power thus allowing oil companies such as Shell and Chevron to operate in unregulated business environments so as long they allowed oil flows to flourish over-time. Currently, the Niger Delta region generates 80% of the Nigerian government’s revenue and there have been varying degrees of vicarious effects on the region in return.

Firstly, the oil companies have been destroying their environment and ravaging their land masses due to a lack of adherence to environmental laws and standards. This has not only been backed by the military governments but also by Shell’s false accusations that oil spills are being caused by the local militants. Sure enough this is not true as over the last 50 years of occupation, the shorelines which were once covered in rich white sandy beaches, are now the dark shorelines covered in toxic sludge. The rain in the region is even toxic enough to basically destroy the countless number of metal roofs and fishing nets occupied by local villagers. It has disrupted their ancestral ways of fishing due to poor fishing environments and a lack there of as well. Before the arrival of oil, they had rich estuaries, a rich-resource coastal land with fresh water floating – unpolluted – that generations of parents and grandparents had been using. However, their way of living has now been greatly affected and altered in unimaginable ways as there has been no development of potable drinking water and no infrastructure in place. It is said that an estimated amount of 13 million barrels of oil have been spilled in the Niger Delta, which is equivalent to an Exxon Valdez (an oil tanker owned by the Exxon shipping company) disaster every year for 40 years. Fundamentally, the cumulative effects over the years have produced a long-term catastrophic effect on the overall health of the people as life expectancy has decreased from 60 years to a significantly lower 40 years.

Secondly, the oil companies have had magnitude forms of oppression on the various media outlets and forms of speech and activism that are being used as forms of resistance to combat against the colonized Nigerian elite and corporate powers. For example, there was a state execution on November 10, 1995 of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian author, television producer, and non-violent environmental activist. He was an integral iconic figure to the resistance of the occupation and thus a lawsuit was brought out against Shell on behalf of ten plaintiffs that accused them of human rights issues and the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Surely, Shell has paid $15.5 million to avoid a trial over its alleged involvements, but these remedies are not sufficient enough to empower the people of the region so they can live their ordained way of living once prescribed by their ancestors. Furthermore, recently in May 2009 the military government launched an intensive occupation program aiming to ambush local militants and villages, some of which were completed burned and eradicated off the face of the earth. It was an attempt to destroy the people of this region for their oil, and no local press or international agencies were even allowed into the area. A possible genocidal attempt you may ask? I would say it is not so much an attempt, but more so of a calculated measure and barbaric tactic. In addition, during the genocidal attempt they did indeed come across resistance from local militants who prepared attacks on oil facilities to disrupt their oil flows. As a result, oil production had fell by more than 40% in the region but since then it has only further fuelled the corporate elites into carrying out other forms tactical oppressive strategies. For instance, a new documentary showing the growing violations in the Niger Delta called Sweet Crude, directed by Sandi Cioffi, had one of its showcased villages Oporoza completed burned down to the ground. It was a strategic measure to erase any physical evidence; to rid from our minds and erase from history forever. The attacks came by land, air and sea and they also further burned down other villages in places such as Okerenkoko, Kunukunuama and Kurutie. Once again a strategic genocide is in the making that marks the countess stories of “a woman and little boy [that] were shot dead merely walking by their villages.”

Finally, it can indeed be seen that through the latest occupation of unjust territorial dominance and twisted measures of massacres, the overall mobility and freedom of the people in the region has been more or less exterminated. Through an established and permanent government military, they have caused thousands of villagers to live in forests with absolutely no access to food, water, or clothing. In addition, there is limited or barely any access to health and education. Thus, the displacement of thousands of people continues to further divide the people into smaller bands trying to survive on the most minimal amounts of resources. This is simply unjust and equally immoral as the people live in scrutinized conditions and under immense occupation and oppressive environments. Their light-hearted spirits and ancestral lifestyles are raped from their lives just like the mothers and daughters who are raped by the government military right in front of their family’s eyes. What are they left with after all this has occurred? The mental agony, psychological disturbances, and physical imbalance has further oppressed them into the dark corners of the forests, where they are left to fend like savages with little or no forms of basic necessities.

In conclusion, the effects over the last 50 years have compounded to destroy and ravage the Niger Delta region in immeasurable, unjustly, and barbaric ways. They have destroyed the Niger Delta’s environment and land mass, used oppressive forms to silence any forms of free speech and activism, and have ultimately severed the free mobility and freedom of the villagers. The military governments working alongside the oil companies have simply colonized the region through a number of Nigerian and corporate elites. In these lands, not much is really left in the hands of the people as their dignity and freedom to an oppressive environment has been stripped away, as they are now left to the united forces of resistance against the suppressive colonizers. It should be well noted that in the Niger Delta the water and oil don’t mix very easily at all, but the oil and blood seem to commingle very easily.