Patrick Naagbanton, a Nigerian writer and human rights worker, has just published a three-part travelogue entitled “A Night in Akala-Olu Fire.” (Here are Part 2 and Part 3.) Patrick was our Nigerian partner in the Wiwa v. Shell litigation, working tirelessly for years to obtain justice in that case, and his organization, the Center for Environment, Human Rights, and Development (CEHRD), has worked with ERI to highlight shortcomings in the implementation of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in Nigeria.
Patrick’s piece is a beautiful but heartbreaking reminder that the problems of the Niger Delta, of poverty and violence and destruction of lives and livelihoods alongside some of the most profitable oilfields in the world, are deep-seated and persistent. Nigeria is the premier example of the “resource curse,” the phenomenon in which natural resource wealth can lead to general impoverishment in developing countries due to poor governance, corruption, inequalities in the distribution of wealth, and the failure to develop sustainable industries. (See, for example, this paper by Stanford’s Terry Karl.) Cases like Wiwa and efforts like the Voluntary Principles can help to eliminate the worst abuses and to open political space for communities to engage with the companies and their government – a step, we hope, toward eventual resolution of these problems.