Students from Oxford University Amnesty International protested last Saturday afternoon outside the Shell garage in Headington.
The students were demonstrating against Shell’s actions in the Niger Delta, and specifically against gas flaring.
Gas flaring is the practice of burning off the gas when oil is pumped from the ground. James Kilby, a student at Jesus College explained that gas flaring was causing “significant environmental and health issues” for the people of the Niger Delta region.
The Amnesty group claimed, “The local people’s human rights have seriously been abused – leaving them to drink polluted water, eat contaminated fish, farm on spoiled land, and breathing in air that stinks of oil and gas.”
They accused Shell of contravening Article 25 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights that calls for “the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family.” The students called on Shell “to stop putting profit before people.”
The protesters encouraged various passers-by to sign petitions and letters to Shell in order to put pressure on the company. One protester stated that there is “no stronger action than consumer complaint.”
Björn Bremer, press officer for Oxford University Amnesty International, was enthusiastic about the protest, commenting, “The response from the public was very positive”. He argued that such protests can be a powerful tool, “It’s definitely a good way of increasing the public pressure…they will be forced to think about their actions.”
A spokesperson for Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) explained that Amnesty’s original accusations were made in a report released in June. “In our opinion, the report makes a number of unsupported allegations and draws superficial conclusions with little underlying analysis and fails to offer new insights and solutions to the complex problems in the region. The root causes of the Niger Delta’s humanitarian issues are poverty, corruption, crime, militancy, violence and political instability.”
He added, “Amnesty forget that about 85% of the pollution from our operation comes from attacks and sabotage that also puts our staff’s lives and human rights at risk.”
“SPDC welcomes on-going dialogue with Amnesty International, and other similar organisations, to promote a better understanding of the complex realities of doing business in Nigeria.”