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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid