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

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers 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.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid