News / Africa

Nigeria Oil Spill Threatens Health, Environment

This truck crashed on July 12, 2012 in the evening, spilling its contents, industrial oil, into a nearby river in Zamfara State, Nigeria, a region already reeling from the worst lead poisoning outbreak in modern history. (Photo courtesy Ivan Gayton)
This truck crashed on July 12, 2012 in the evening, spilling its contents, industrial oil, into a nearby river in Zamfara State, Nigeria, a region already reeling from the worst lead poisoning outbreak in modern history. (Photo courtesy Ivan Gayton)
Heather Murdock
ABUJA — Late Thursday in Zamfara State, Nigeria, a fuel tanker overturned in a road accident and poured its entire contents into a nearby river, potentially impacting the drinking water of millions of people in Zamfara and neighboring Sokoto state.  Officials say they currently don't have the expertise or the equipment to clean up the oil and prevent another health disaster.  Nigeria's Zamfara state is also known for being the site of the worst lead poisoning outbreak in modern history, which is an ongoing crisis.  
When Mouktar Lugga, the environment commissioner for Zamfara State, arrived on the scene of the fuel spill Friday morning, he saw about ten men standing nearby.  They were artisanal gold miners, a mainstay of the local economy.  But with 33,000 liters of industrial fuel in the river they couldn't go to work.

Lugga says the tanker accident the previous night left oil slicks the size of two football fields on the river.  He says Zamfara has neither the equipment nor the knowledge to clean up the spill and he is hoping the federal government will send technical experts to devise a clean-up plan.  

Officials say 33,000 liters of industrial oil spilled into this river late on July 12, 2012 potentially impacting the drinking water for millions of people in Zamfara and Sokoto states in Nigeria. (Photo courtesy Ivan Gayton)
Officials say 33,000 liters of industrial oil spilled into this river late on July 12, 2012 potentially impacting the drinking water for millions of people in Zamfara and Sokoto states in Nigeria. (Photo courtesy Ivan Gayton)


At the moment, however, help does not appear to be on the way.  Lugga says right now workers are trying to contain the spill by trying to block the river with sandbags, but the oily water continues to flow.

"It's really difficult because this is actually the rainy season so the river is flowing and we are more or less working against the tide," said Lugga.

The driver and one other person were injured in the accident, he says, but the potential long-term health and economic consequences are huge.  Besides contaminating the drinking water and putting many artisanal gold miners out of work, the spill could also damage thousands of farms in Zamfara and Sokoto.

Environmental officials say if this oil spill in Zamfara State, Nigeria is not cleaned up, thousands of farms could be damaged and other economic activities like artisanal gold mining could be disrupted. (Photo courtesy Ivan Gayton)
Environmental officials say if this oil spill in Zamfara State, Nigeria is not cleaned up, thousands of farms could be damaged and other economic activities like artisanal gold mining could be disrupted. (Photo courtesy Ivan Gayton)

Nigeria's Doctors Without Borders head Ivan Gayton says people in the region already suffer from ill health after lead poisoning associated with artisanal gold mines killed hundreds of children and made many more sick.  He says if the spill is not cleaned up it could mean another health disaster for Zamfara.

"It's just enormous in term of what it does to the water system and that can work its way up through the whole ecosystem," said Gayton. "Certainly a very small amount of petroleum oil can contaminate a huge amount of water.  And water contaminated with oil is not good for your health at all."

The spill coincided with a separate incident in which almost 100 people died in a fire after another tanker tipped over in Nigeria's southern Niger Delta region.  Locals rushed to gather the fuel as it spilled from the tanker and were killed in the inferno that followed.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid