Africa

Shell loses Nigeria Bonny Terminal land dispute

A man paddling a canoe in Rivers state, Nigeria
Image caption The Niger Delta has few major roads and many villages lack electricity and clean water

The oil giant Shell has lost its appeal against a ruling that it is not the rightful owner of land where it runs Nigeria's biggest oil export terminal.

Three years ago, a lower court said the oil firm should pay rent to the local community for Bonny Terminal, but Shell says it bought the land outright.

Shell says it will appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgement.

Few residents of the Niger Delta, home to Nigeria's oil industry, have benefited from the area's oil wealth.

"Justice Ekembi Eko upheld that [original] judgement and said that Shell failed to convince the court that they have the certificate of occupancy on the land," Reuters news agency quotes Emmanuel Asido, one of the lawyers representing the community elders, as saying.

Shell spokesman Precious Okolobo said: "We believe the judgement is wrong."

The Niger Delta has few major roads and many villages lack electricity and clean water.

Communities have repeatedly claimed that international oil firms fail to respect their rights and contaminate their land with oil spills, though the companies dispute this.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer, but attacks by militants on oil installations led to a sharp fall in output during the last decade.

A government amnesty in 2009 led thousands of fighters to lay down their weapons.

Nigeria: A nation divided

To win at the first round, a candidate not only needs the majority of votes cast, but at least 25% of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states. Goodluck Jonathan, of the PDP, reached that threshold in 31 states; runner-up Muhammadu Buhari of the CPC only did so in 16 states.

Nigeria's 160 million people are divided between numerous ethno-linguistic groups and also along religious lines. Broadly, the Hausa-Fulani people based in the north are mostly Muslims. The Yorubas of the south-west are divided between Muslims and Christians, while the Igbos of the south-east and neighbouring groups are mostly Christian or animist. The Middle Belt is home to hundreds of groups with different beliefs, and around Jos there are frequent clashes between Hausa-speaking Muslims and Christian members of the Berom community.

Despite its vast resources, Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world, according to the UN. The poverty in the north is in stark contrast to the more developed southern states. While in the oil-rich south-east, the residents of Delta and Akwa Ibom complain that all the wealth they generate flows up the pipeline to Abuja and Lagos.

Southern residents tend to have better access to healthcare, as reflected by the greater uptake of vaccines for polio, tuberculosis, tetanus and diphtheria. Some northern groups have in the past boycotted immunisation programmes, saying they are a Western plot to make Muslim women infertile. This led to a recurrence of polio, but the vaccinations have now resumed.

Female literacy is seen as the key to raising living standards for the next generation. For example, a newborn child is far likelier to survive if its mother is well-educated. In Nigeria we see a stark contrast between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south. In some northern states less than 5% of women can read and write, whereas in some Igbo areas more than 90% are literate.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer and among the biggest in the world but most of its people subsist on less than $2 a day. The oil is produced in the south-east and some militant groups there want to keep a greater share of the wealth which comes from under their feet. Attacks by militants on oil installations led to a sharp fall in Nigeria's output during the last decade. But in 2010, a government amnesty led thousands of fighters to lay down their weapons.

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