A group of 80 Nigerian village women, ranging from 25 to 60 years old, took over a Shell Oil pipeline station last week in a peaceful demonstration, reiterating calls for employment opportunities, infrastructural development, and microcredit lending programs from the multinational corporation. “Our children and our husbands… have never been employed by the company. We want to know: Why [Shell] should continue operating here?” protest leader Bessie Orhorhe told the Associated Press. The women, who gained occupation of the pumping station after driving employees out and replacing the locks, forced Shell to shut down facility operations, resulting in a daily loss of 40,000 barrels of crude oil.
The oil-rich Niger Delta has recently witnessed resurgences in tribal violence. Last week, at least 20 people died from fighting between the ethnic Ijaws and Itsekiris, according to Reuters. This time last year, hundreds of Nigerian tribal women occupied oil terminals belonging to ChevronTexaco and Shell, accusing the companies of exploiting environmental resources and neglecting the region’s widespread poverty.
Multinational oil companies such as ChevronTexaco and Shell handle roughly 90 percent of Nigeria’s 2 million barrel daily production. ChevronTexaco, which exports 500,000 barrels of crude oil from Nigeria each day, is the third largest oil company in the Delta region and the largest in California (its home state). Nigeria, a critical supplier to the US, is the sixth-largest oil producer worldwide.