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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More