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Nigeria's Oil Communities Blame Oil Industry for Misery


Barely a week after Amnesty International released a report condemning oil companies for widespread environmental damages and abuse of impoverished communities in the Niger Delta, some of the communities are talking about the hardships they face.

Oil has generated an estimated $600 billion since the 1960s in Nigeria. But most inhabitants of the country's main producing region have seen few benefits from five decades of oil extraction that has damaged their environment.

Most of the people in the region depend on agriculture and fisheries for their food and livelihood. Ojo Aweire, a farmer at Agbara, a small village in Delta state, is one of them.

"We are suffering and we have oil," said Ojo Aweire. "It [pollution] kills a lot of things, things we are planting, like cassava, yams they are condemned, and we do not see anything. We do not have clean water to drink."

Amnesty International says oil companies, particularly Royal Dutch Shell, have brought pollution and environmental damage to the region through their practice. Shell says 80 percent of the pollution in the Niger Delta is the result of attacks and sabotage.

But a youth leader in the region, Okoro Solomon, says oil pipelines crisscrossing the Niger Delta have contributed significantly to environmental damages in the region.

"They are just polluting the waters and damaging our crops," said Okoro Solomon. "And the pipes, they need to bury the pipes deep because the pipes are very shallow and if anything happens it just blows off and go to our rivers and pollute everywhere."

Amnesty International called the situation in the Niger Delta a 'human-rights tragedy' saying that the people of the Niger Delta have been abused by oil companies their government cannot or will not hold to account.

The chief of Emu-Ebendo village in Delta State is Michael Odiligwe, who says the oil companies and the government are only interested in exploiting the region's vast oil wealth.

"The oil companies have not done anything for this community, even the federal government," said Michael Odiligwe. "You can see it yourself. Look at everywhere you go round there. What is there to show that the federal government has any stake in this community? Nothing, nothing to show, not even school. So we need the presence of the federal government or the state government in our community."

According to the U.N. Development Program, more than 6,800 oil spills were recorded in Nigeria between 1976 and 2001.

Local militants frequently attack oil installations and kidnap foreign nationals as part of a campaign to seek a bigger share in the wealth of Africa's largest oil exporter.

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