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MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION INTHE NIGER DELTA
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The discovery and subsequent exploration and exploitation of oil in the Niger Delta have its impacts on the oil bearing communities; such impacts are not only felt in their natural environment but also in the social, spiritual as well as their political environment.
These impacts has its basis deeply rooted in the human rights situation of the oil bearing in this areas confirming the views above, Okoko and Nna (1997:46) examined emerging trends and community perception in the Nigeria oil industry and noted that:
The impact is not only limited to their physical but their social environment… it touches for instance their relationship with their lands as farmers their swamps, rivers, creeks as fishermen…. It destroys not only farmlands, farm crops and economy but also destroys fish gear and canal or fish pond.
Such impact constitutes a significant violation on thepeople’s right to development, right over natural resources and the right to economic development as a result of oil industrial activities.
Human rights, apart from fundamental rights as entrenched in the Nigerian constitution includes in a more broad sense political and economic, rights cultural and historical rights as well as indigenous and religious right. The pattern of oil production and exploration has been assessed by scholars and agitators in the Niger delta as constituting significant threat to the existence of these rights. Such agitator in this issue is the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa who having examined the pattern off oil production and the right of man asserted that:
The nature of oil production and exploration in Nigeria negate international prescription. What they dare not do in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and other oil exploration countries are practiced to the later in Nigeria state has consistently enable these firms to operate under a regulation that shows no respect for the rights of man; these regulations silenced and suppressed the oil bearing communities from asking or demanding for at least an environmentally friendly practices.
The state is accused of complicity and direct infringement and violation of the right of the Niger Delta. This is directly violation of the economic rights of the people. Again,oil exploration and exploitation result in oil spills,gas flaring and other hazards in close proximity to human habitations.Oil spills result in pollution and contamination of the people’s ecosystem with varied impacts on the areas terrestrial and aquatic vegetation, marine life for which the vegetation provided a life support system has largely disappeared with the vegetation.
One observed development in the case is that the economic right of the people is directly violated.In most cases,oil exploration displaces the peasant as he is caused to lose his/her entitlement set. The magnitude of human rights violation orchestrated by oil exploration and exploration activities ranges from economic,social,natural,environmental rights to political and cultural rights violations.
There have been direct or overt attack and repression on oil bearing communities in Nigeria that attempt to demand for a change in the exploration practice since they are directly affected by the activity or practice.There have been cases of covert and overt operation by the military in Ogoni land resulting in loss of lives and properties, there have been the Massacre in Odi in 1999 and Odiama in 2005 by the Obasanjo administration.
The Nigeria state believed in strong arm tactics.By this, the Army, Navy and Air Force are directly deployed to the Niger Delta for warfare with the armless Niger Delta Communities. A detachment of coerce force is usually dispatched to these communities for demanding for a fair share of the resources extracted from ‘’their land’’and environmental friendly practice, these communities suffered widespread destruction at the hands of the Nigerian Military.
The alienation of the people from the oil resources generates an instinct for survival. The state response in collaboration with the oil firms have been answered only by repeated injuries thus militarizing the area. The militarization in Niger Delta in recent time has resulted in the series of infringement to outright violation of human rights.
In defence of oil exploration and the rights of man, the operating firms (the multinationals) contend that they have maintained a long standing relationship with the host communities with sound practices needed for sustainable development.The claims of these multinationals in the face of these threats to outright violations of human rights provide a platform for research in the problem more so, the pattern of oil exploration that pollute the air land and water of the area is questioned begging. It is within this framework that the research seeks to investigate the nature of human rights violations and specifically determine if there exist any causal relationship between oil exploration and human rights violationin the Niger Delta.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
The popular perception, the agitation, desolation of the environment and the consequent violation of human rights have their basis deeply rooted in the discovery and subsequent exploration, exploitation and production activities of oil by the multinationals operating in the Niger Delta.
Despite the huge contribution to the development of Nigeria by the Niger Delta, the area remains under increasing threats of extinction resulting from environmental devastation, worsening economic condition due largelyto environmental warning, pollution and total degradation of the environment.
The magnitude and dimension of human rights violation in the Niger Delta by the oil firms in direct collaboration with the Nigerian state is obvious, these ranges from covert to overt military operations in the Niger Delta.
For instance the Nigeria state in collaboration with Shell Petroleum Company under the guise of ethnic or communal conflict conducted covert operations agrarians the Ogoni so as to derail further protest against shell and Nigeria government by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) between 1993-1998.
In direct pursuit of the covert operation, Shell Petroleum Development Company SPDC is accused f sponsoring crisis between neighbours like Ogonis and Andonis on the5th August 1993 resulting in more than 100 dead and over 2,000 displaced from their various communities and houses destroyed.
(1) What is the nature of oil industry related human rights violations in Rivers state?
(2) How does the activities of oil multinational corporations and the related laws of the Nigerian state constitute human rights violations in Rivers state?
(3) Is there a relationship between the activities of oil multinational corporations and the rising incidents of communal crisis in Rivers state?
(4) How does Nigerian government’s relationship with oil multinational corporations aided human rights violation in Rivers state?
1.4 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The major objective of this study is to establish a linkage between the activities of the oil companies and human rights violation in Rivers state.
Specifically, the study has the following objectives;
1. To examine the role of the S.P.D.C. in these human rights violations
2. To show how these multinational corporations are assisted by the Nigerian government in the violation of the rights of host communities
3. To examine oil industry related human rights violations in Rivers state
4. To generate informed suggestions about human and environmental rights protection within the Niger Delta region.