The Guardian August 28, 2002


Nigeria: Women protest against oil violence

In the past weeks, oil-bearing communities in the western flank of the 
Niger Delta have been witnessing a rising tempo of resistance to the 
violence of the oil and gas industry. The protests are being organised by 
women whose local industries such as fishing and farming and livelihood 
have been destroyed by transnational oil companies, ChevronTexaco and 
Shell.

From July 8, when women from Itsekiri communities occupied Chevron's oil 
terminal, more women from the Gbaramatu, Egbema and Urhobo communities have 
blockaded Chevron flow stations in Delta State as the wave of women 
protests spread.

The impoverished women, long neglected and forced to bear the burden of 
dwindling harvests and incomes are now demanding for a clean environment 
conducive for survival, jobs for their children, hospitals, safe drinking 
water and support for livelihood ventures such as poultry farming.

In the past, there have been reports of communal conflicts involving the 
different ethnic groups in the Warri area of Delta State, as the oil 
companies and the state benefit from "divide and rule".

But on August 8 hundreds of women from the Itsekiri, Ijaw and Ilaje ethnic 
groups united to march to the western operational headquarters of the two 
major oil and gas producing companies in the country  Shell and 
ChevronTexaco.

As early as 6.30am the protesting women, who were armed with placards and 
green leaves, sang solidarity songs to protest against years of plunder of 
their natural environment by the European and US oil companies. Their 
mission was to barricade the gates of the companies to compel them to stop 
the flaring of dangerous gasses.

But in a characteristic manner, armed soldiers and mobile policemen of the 
Operation Fire-for-Fire, invited by Shell, unleashed raw terror on the 
women. Scores of them were seriously injured as soldiers used wire whips on 
the women and "kicked them like footballs".

Four soldiers and three mobile policemen who attacked her beat Alice 
Youwuren, a widow and mother of seven from Ugwagwu-Itsekiri community into 
a state of unconsciousness. She was admitted at Shell Clinic at Ogunu in 
Warri.

Other women jumped into a nearby stream to escape from the melee. The women 
say three of their number have not been found since then.

The government of Nigeria has maintained a total silence in regard to the 
women's protests and the action of their security forces, despite the calls 
by the women for government intervention.

Speaking to leaders of the government-sponsored National Council of Women 
Societies who visited Warri from Abuja on August 13, a spokesperson for the 
protesting women said they will continue the protests until the Nigerian 
Government and the oil companies create the conditions for the discussion 
their demands.

These include an immediate end to gas flaring and payment of compensation 
for the years of pollution and destruction by transnational oil and gas 
companies.

With the latest action of the oil companies and the Nigerian Security 
forces, there are fears that the oil companies and the state will deploy 
more troops to brutalise or kill the women as they continue their protests.

What you can do

Write to:

The President
Federal Republic of Nigeria
State House Abuja
Nigeria

The Managing Director
ChevronTexaco Nigeria
2 Chevron Drive
Lekki Peninsula
Lagos, Nigeria
Fax: +234 1 2600395

The Managing Director
Shell Nigeria
21/22 Marina
Lagos, Nigeria
Fax: 234 1 2636681

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