After years spent scooping up billions in profits from the Niger Delta, multinational oil companies Chevron, Shell and Eni are deserting the rich ecosystem that now bubbles with dirty oil, dead fish and polluted air—abandoning hundreds of Nigerian fisherwomen who once eked out a living there.

Over the years, the bubbling oil from leaking oil pipes turned this paradise that once fed families and supported communities, into one of the most polluted places on the planet, say government monitors and environmental and human rights organizations. The oil giants, they say, are leaving utter ruin in their wake.

News reports say the departure of the “oil majors” is due to falling profits, a shift to renewable fuels, and the “current environment of chaos…no business can survive under such a circumstance.”

Decades of exposure to gas flaring by the foreign oil refineries have harmed the health of Niger Delta residents. Thick plumes of black smoke are the constant reminder of an industry that gives them nothing in return. At the same time, Chevron CEO M.K. Wirth’s total compensation in 2020 topped $29.02 million, according to MarketWatch, April 2021.

Chevron denies that oil was spilling from its pipes. But local women leaders say otherwise and have decided to take their claims to a new level. On March 26, hundreds of women from 18 communities arrived at three Chevron facilities to demand a proper investigation into the oil spill’s cause.

The protest brought together new mothers with babies on their backs and great-grandmothers in their 80s shaking palm fronds and banging plastic bottles while singing protest songs, according to The New York Times.

For years, women felt cheated by Chevron, the dominant oil company in their area. Their villages were poor. Houses of zinc and wood barely kept out the elements. Bathrooms were flimsy shacks over the water.

By contrast, Chevron facilities produced electricity though they didn’t share it. “From here to Chevron, it’s less than two miles. If they weren’t wicked, they’d have brought electricity here,” said Akasaere Mila, an 82-year-old community elder. “Chevron’s a very rich company but they’re very wicked to us,” she told reporter Ruth Maclean.

“They’re moving out and leaving all the mess behind,” Celestine Akkpo-Bari, environmentalist, told Maclean. “They’re happy to sell the liability to whoever wants to buy and run away.”