Lawsuits Target Energy Giants: Nigeria I — Wiwa v. Shell

By Jennifer Huang | World Power I: Business & Law

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Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) is the largest oil corporation in Nigeria, producing about a million barrels daily in 2001, according to the Department of Energy — close to half of the country’s output. Last year, oil provided 95 percent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and nearly 80 percent of the government’s revenue. In 1998 it was Africa’s greatest oil producer, and the fifth largest crude exporter to the United States. Despite this extraordinary wealth, Nigeria usually has to import gasoline because of its inadequate, ill-functioning refinery infrastructure. In Wiwa v. Shell, filed in New York, plaintiffs accuse the petroleum company of conspiring with the military tribunal that hanged Nigerian playwright and author Ken Saro-Wiwa, along with eight other activists who were organizing opposition to Royal Dutch Shell operations in their native Ogoniland on the delta of the Niger River.