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Multinational Oil Companies on the Niger Delta, Nigeria


Extraction activities by multinational companies including Shell, Mobil, Chevron, Elf and Agip have caused serious environmental and social damage in the Niger Delta, an oil rich South-Eastern region of Nigeria. Crude oil extraction has caused the pollution of the river basin and surrounding land, the destruction of subsistence crops, and the expropriation of local residents territory. The opposition of local communities has been brutally repressed by police forces, resulting in bloodshed and hundreds of deaths. Local communities, supported by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), have continued their opposition to those exploitative policies. In particular, they demand a full clean-up of local waterways and territories, a more equitable distribution of oil revenues and broader compensation for ecological damage. Outdated equipment and unadapted supervision are at the origin of recurrent oil spills over the Delta. In 2008, four Nigerian citizens together with Friends of the Earth Netherlands sued Shell to the Hague Court. On December 18th 2015, the Dutch appeal Court stated the company can be hold liable in the Netherlands for spills occurred in Nigeria.

Even though gas flaring is illegal under Nigerian law, Chevron together with Shell and other oil companies operating in the country have been doing it for decades. The repercussions on the local population and environment of such an out-dated technique are devastating.  Although in 2005 the Federal High Court of Nigeria stated these practices as illegal the oil multinationals keep on doing the same. The Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) signed by Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) in 2005, by which the company was engaging to change its way of proceeding in the delta, is denounced by the locals as not being respected by the company. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Multinational Oil Companies on the Niger Delta, Nigeria
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Gas flaring
Land acquisition conflicts
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific commodities:Land
Crude oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Shell exports 380,000 barrels of oil a day in the 1990s.

ExxonMobil produced about 100,000 barrels a day in 2010.

In 2011, Chevron holds a 40% interest in 13 Nigerian concessions with in 2010, a daily production of 524,000 barrels of oil, 206 million cubic feet of natural gas .

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1992
Company names or state enterprises:Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) from Netherlands
Chevron Polska Energy Resources Sp. z o.o. from United States of America
ELF from France
Agip Group from Italy
Chevron Corporation (TEPNL) from Nigeria
Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) from Nigeria
Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited (EPNL) from Nigeria
Chevron Nigeria Limited from Nigeria
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from Nigeria
Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) from Nigeria
Relevant government actors:Government of Nigeria, Commission for Energy & Natural Resources, Department of Petroleum Resources, Nigeria
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:ERA (Environmental Rights Action - Friends of the Earth Nigeria), Kebetkache Women’s Resource and Development Centre, HOMEF (Nigeria), Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Friends of the Earth Netherlands, MOSOP, Osservatorio Eni - Italia, Uzere People, Comunit Biseni, Ogoni People, Ijaw People, JRC, Social Action Nigeria, Amnesty International, Justice in Nigeria Now (USA)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Court cases against Shell both in Nigeria and in The Netherland (starting in 2009)


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Global warming, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Fires, Soil erosion
Potential: Genetic contamination, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Infectious diseases
Other Health impactsdecrease in fertility rates
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:They demand a full clean-up of local waterways and territories, a more equitable distribution of oil revenues and broader compensation for ecological damage.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The multinational companies continue extracting crude of the Nigel Delta, increasing the soil and water pollution, and other impacts.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The Associated Gas Reinjection Act of 1979 outlawed gas flaring (effect from January 1984)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Ken Saro-Wiwas Shadow: Politics, Nationalism and the Ogoni Protest Movement. Osha, Sanya. Ed. Adonis and Abbey publishers Ltd., 2007

Sahel nigerino: quando sopravvivere difficile. Pressione demografica e risorse naturali. Carozzi, Carlo; Tiepolo, Maurizi. Ed. FrancoAngeli, 2006

The Politics of Bones: Dr. Owens Wiwa and the Struggle for Nigerias Oil. Hunt, J.Timothy. Ed. McClelland and Stewart, 2005

Gas flaring in Nigeria - a human rights, environmental and economic monstrosity. Friends of the earth, 2005

Genocide in Nigeria.The Ogoni Tragedy . Saro Wiwa, Ken. Ed. SAROS, 2000

The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria. Apter, Andrew. Ed. The University of Chicago Press, 2005

High Stakes And Stakeholders: Oil Conflict And Security in Nigeria. Omeje, Kenneth. Ed. Ashgate, 2006

Illusions of Power: Nigeria in Transition. Ihonvbere, Julius O.; Shaw, Timothy. Ed. Africa World Press. 1998

Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland report, UNEP, 2011

Petrolio, forze armate e democrazia. Il caso Nigeria. Emiliani, Marcella. Ed. Carocci. 2004

Nigeria: Clean it up: Shell's false claims about oil spill response in the Niger Delta, Amnesty International, 3/11/2015

Shell Petroleum Development Company, the State, and underdevelopment of the Nigerias NIger Delta: Study in Environmental Degradation. Omoweh, Daniel A. Ed. Africa World Press, 2001

Gas Flare Tracker - Mapping Nigeria's Gas Flares

Report on Gas Flaring, Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, 2012

The True Cost of Chevron, An Alternative Annual Report, May 2011, Justice for Nigeria Now

Chop Fine- The Human Rights of Local Government Corruption and Mismanagement in Rivers State, Nigeria. Human Rights Watch, 2007

Nigeria, reports by Asud

Nigeria: La guerra del petrolio - Collettivo Senza Frontiere di Parma

Dutch appeals court says Shell may be held liable for oil spills in Nigeria, The Guardian, 18/12/2015

Nigeria oil firms 'deflect blame for spills', says Amnesty, BBC News, 7/11/2014

Shell ignored internal warnings over Nigeria oil spills, documents suggest, J. Vidal, The Guardian, 13/11/2014

Outcome appeal against Shell: victory for the environment and the Nigerian people – Friends of the Earth Netherlands, 18/12/2015

HOMEF Resources on Fossil Fuels, Nigeria

Nigeria’s oil bill: back to the drawing board, A. Klasa, 09/07/2015

The True Cost of Chevron: Chevron in Nigeria, Justice in Nigeria Now, May 2011

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Presentation of the documentary : Nowhere to Run – Nigeria’s Climate and Environmental Crisis, 2015

Nigeria: Oil pollution in the Niger Delta, Global 3000

Meta information

Contributor:Lucie Greyl
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:471



Spills in the Niger Delta on March 22, 2013