At 5 a.m. on Monday, 25 August 1986, a group of 10,000 Ekpan women from the Uvwie clan within Ethiope Local Government Area surrounded the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Petrochemicals Plant, and the Pipelines and Products Marketing Pumpstation. The demonstrating women chanted war songs and displayed banners and posters on which they wrote their grievances, such as, “Give us Social Amenities,” “Review all forms of employment within the Petrochemical,” and “Our sons, daughters and husbands are qualified for key posts within the Petrochemical.”
The Ogharefe people of Nigeria suffered from the effects of oil pollution and oil exploration. The Ogharefe community was afflicted with a number of health issues, ranging from skin rashes to stomach ailments, from the gas flares and release of "oil production water." Additional damage from oil production included heavy metals in the water, the eroding of iron roofs due to corrosive ash from gash flares, and the decline of productive fishing ponds and farming land.
Women market workers in Lagos, an area in western Nigeria, in the 1920s were organized into a powerful group known as the Lagos Market Women Association (LMWA). In 1932, a rumor emerged that the British colonial government was going to begin taxing Lagosian women, which had never been done before, although taxes for men had been introduced in 1927 (in spite of coordinated resistance by different groups). The market women felt that a tax was unfair and that they were already struggling to make a living.
In 1956, Shell British Petroleum (now Royal Dutch Shell) discovered oil in what was then the British colony of Nigeria, and by 1958 commercial production had begun. Today, Nigeria has the tenth largest proven oil reserves in the world, is the tenth largest oil producer, and is the eighth largest oil exporter; yet nearly two-thirds of Nigerians live on less than $1.25 a day, 70% live below the national poverty line, and 83% live on less than $2 a day (each of those measurements place Nigeria in the bottom ten out of countries for which data is available).
By November 1929, Igbo women in southeastern Nigeria had had enough. From the perspective of the British colonizers, the women became loud, angry, and disruptive. They marched through cities and towns and demanded political leaders to step down. The women took their British rulers completely by surprise. The British were ignorant of the discontent among women that had been building for years, and that had recently bubbled over the surface. They mistook the women’s organized action for spontaneous, ‘crazy’ outbursts.