The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Oil Company Curse

May 9, 2022

This article is translated from the April 29th issue, #2804 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The explosion of an illegal oil refinery in Nigeria on April 22 killed at least 110 people. It joins the long list of tragedies in the Niger Delta, where Western oil companies extract crude oil for export far from Nigeria.

Although Nigeria is Africa’s leading producer of crude oil, it does not have enough refineries to supply its own population. Ninety percent of the crude oil Nigeria extracts goes abroad. It is re-imported after being refined into gasoline, and is sold at prices most Nigerian people can’t afford. And recently the prices of gasoline and diesel—essential for vehicles and the country’s countless power generators—have tripled.

An entire contraband industry developed years ago in the Niger Delta oil region to take advantage of this dilemma created by the oil companies. Pirates specialize in tapping into pipelines and selling crude oil to small unauthorized refiners. These makeshift facilities take no safety precautions. Accidents are common. It was at one of these refineries that the charred bodies of the skeleton crew running the business and their crowd of customers were recovered. Customers bought gas there to resell in big cities.

Those active in this black market, whether drilling pirates or refiners, are often ex-fishermen or farmers ruined by the activity of the big oil companies. In fact the companies have turned everything in the Niger Delta toxic. Wastes dumped into the water join with pollution caused by oil well flares, attacking all living things. Fish die, trees are stunted, and groundwater is poisoned. Thousands of infants die prematurely.

In this way the oil giants murder the people of poor countries.