What can consumers do to encourage both oil companies and governments to respect human rights and improve quality of life for Nigerian citizens?
Most of the action that consumers can take will have to resemble grass roots movement and action. The reality is that the oil companies' influence and collusion into the role of government policy have grown to a level where it might be difficult for anyone to reform, and containment being the only viable option. Historically, it has been in these conditions where "power from the bottom up" has been of essential importance. Letter writing to the company, to senators and representatives in the United States, and to foreign governments could be one avenue pursued. Using social networking and information technology could also be another venue to create a real and virtual community of supporters. This could also spin off into staging demonstrations and protests, as well as boycotts that, if publicized, might bring attention to the fact that the pursuit of economic interests must not come at the cost of human rights and basic sustenance of life issues.
Whether it is common consumers in Nigeria or in any other countries, and whether they are trying to protect their human rights and quality of life from government, oil companies or any other large companies, the nature of general alternatives available are quite similar.
The first and the simplest way may be described as "dollar votes". This means buying products of companies that have the best record in terms of respecting rights and requirement of their customers.
Second is to assert your rights. For example, protest and complain against companies products, services and practices that do not meet your reasonable complaints. Sometimes this can be bothersome. But a consumer who is serious about human rights and quality of life should be prepared to pay a price for securing it. When simple protest or complaints have no effect, one should be prepared to take necessary action action under normal laws of the land. This is even more troublesome. But then they say "price of freedom is eternal vigilance".
There may be many areas where the existing laws are not adequate to prevent abuse of human rights or degradation of general quality of life by way of harmful effects, such as environmental pollution, of a company's operation. I such case more direct form of public activism becomes essential. People should take collective action such as joint protests against specific harmful actions of government and businesses. It also involves supporting the causes of introducing suitable amendments to laws.The least a person can do in terms of such participation in public action is to be aware of the political and economic issues and cast votes in political elections without fail.