Remembering The Ugborodo Women’s Protests of 2002

The Ugborodo Women’s Protests took place in July, 2002, in Delta State, Nigeria. For over a week, hundreds of Nigerian women(about 700 of them) occupied the Chevron-Texaco facilities in Nigeria demanding negotiations with company managers working in the country.

DEMANDS OF THE UGBORODO WOMEN’S PROTESTS

They demanded that the multinational company Chevron, pumping out the oil from their lands should give them the roads, water service and electricity that the government has not provided.

Disruptions of oil operations were common in the Niger Delta oil region, where impoverished local people accused oil companies and their government partners of neglect, despite the huge oil wealth pumped from their land. But this was the first such action that has been taken exclusively by women.

And the truth is that the people in the Niger Delta were impoverished, despite living on land that yielded at the time, $20 billion in oil exports annually. Nigeria was at the time, the world’s sixth largest oil exporter and the fifth biggest supplier of American oil imports.

Anunu Uwawah, a spokesperson for the protesters, said the women were tired of living in poverty in the shadow of the oil terminal. She said everyone in the area lived without electricity except for those in one village, where Chevron-Texaco’s Nigerian unit had an office.

Anunu Uwawah had warned, and was memorably quoted saying:

“We will no longer take this nonsense and this is the beginning of the trouble they have been looking for,”

She had further said:

“Chevron has long been neglecting the Ugborodo community in all areas of life. They have not shown concern at all to involve our people in employment and provision of social amenities,”

The women, who were also demanding jobs for their sons, arrived at the terminal, which is on an island in a swamp 190 miles east of Lagos, early on Monday 8 July 2002, after seizing a boat used to ferry in casual workers. Chevron-Texaco’s Nigeria spokesman, Wole Agunbiade said the workers, who lived at the terminal for weeks at a time, were not in any danger. However, the women had “barricaded installations and restricted free movement,” Agunbiade said. The women had occupied the area such that workers couldn’t perform normally.

More than 700 foreigners – including Americans, Canadians and British – and Nigerian employees were stuck at the Escravos export terminal. Aircraft were unable to land and boats, unable to dock.

Though military and security forces had been deployed to the area to register some sort of enforcement presence, the women were unmoved and continued in their occupation and protests until the situation became unbearable and the chairman of Chevron Nigeria at the time, was forced to begin negotiations with the leaders of the protests as well as the communities of Arutan and Ugborodo.

The Ugborodo Women’s Protests was one of the major demonstrations by women in Nigeria which were strategically carried out in such a way as to ensure that their demands were inevitably met.

By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi

Oluwamayowa Akinyemi

Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web content developer with experience in web content development and management as well as research and writing. He is an avid reader of random subject matters and a sucker for movies and video games. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.

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