News / Africa

BP Oil Spill Brings New Attention to Nigeria's Many Spills

Villager shows effects of an oil spill right behind his home in Nigeria's Niger Delta region. (file photo)
Villager shows effects of an oil spill right behind his home in Nigeria's Niger Delta region. (file photo)
David Dyar

The massive BP oil spill and cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico are bringing renewed attention to the many spills taking place in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region.  Activists in the United States say environmentalists in Nigeria should seize current attention on the problem to get Nigeria's government and oil companies to clean up in the Niger Delta as well.

The editor of the Washington-based Africa Focus Bulletin website, William Minter, recently posted research that has been done on Niger Delta oil spills under the heading, 'US/Nigeria, By Way of Comparison'.

"There are estimated to be several thousand spills, smaller spills a year, but they add up in the Niger Delta.  I think the difference is just that attention gets paid when it happens close to the United States, when it is a big dramatic incident and there is immediate political pressure on the company and on the government at all levels to do something about it," he said.

Research by the World Conservation Union and Nigerian government agencies indicate that on average every year over the past 50 years the oil spilled in Nigeria has been equivalent to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

That spill was estimated at about 250,000 barrels.

The BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico is estimated to have reached three times the amount of the Exxon Valdez spill.

The coordinator of the San Francisco-based Justice in Nigeria Now advocacy group Abby Rubinson hopes current attention on spills will eventually bring a similar response in Nigeria. "The conversations that people have here in the United States about how it is going to affect tourism and fishermen in the Gulf are going to have to find a new livelihood, pictures of the birds and fish covered in oil, all those things, it has been happening in Nigeria for the past 50 years. I mean if there are measures that work here, if there are things that the government is doing, that the oil companies are doing, that results in proper clean up here, they should be doing the same thing in Nigeria," Rubinson said.

What also worries activists like Rubinson is that in Nigeria as well as other parts of West Africa, deepwater drilling at below 15-hundred meters is significant. "The oil is further away, deeper and it is new technology or new situations. The likelihood that something will go wrong is higher. It is harder to respond when the situation is so far offshore and so deep. So if this is any indication of what happened here, I cannot imagine it would be any better in Nigeria," Rubinson said.

The BP explosion took place at deep levels where lots of drilling is expected in the years ahead in the Gulf of Guinea.

Minter says Nigerian environmentalists should use the Internet to make their case.  He says the Ushahidi website which was established in Kenya to track post-election violence would be a good model.  

Ushahidi means "testimony" in Swahili. The website established a crisis information system to which citizens contributed via mobile phone. "You can use SMS messages (shorth message service) and have them show up on a database. I am sure there are Nigerian programmers and activists who are computer-savvy who could hook up with Ushahidi and maybe bring greater visibility to the situation in the Delta with an online database. You could even link in to videos," he said.

For the time being, activists say cleanups could easily take place in the Niger Delta to help local communities, and that simple solutions such as repairing or replacing old pipes would help limit spills. They say public pressure is needed to bring about change, since in Nigeria's context, laws, such as ones to limit gas flaring, have not been properly enforced.

One of the companies which has been accused of causing the most spilling in Nigeria is Shell.  Earlier this year, it admitted to spilling 14,000 tons of oil in 2009.

But the Anglo-Dutch company, which works in partnership with Nigeria's government in the Niger Delta, says that nearly all of its oil spills are caused by theft, vandalism and sabotage by militants, and very little by deteriorating infrastructure.  Militants say they are fighting for equal distribution of oil wealth in the Niger Delta where most people remain poor despite decades of oil extraction from their region.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs