Saturday, August 06, 2011

Oil Pollutes Nigeria

Oil was first drilled commercially in Africa in Oloibiri in the Niger Delta, in 1956 by the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell. The International Energy Agency says Nigeria holds 37 billion barrels of reserve oil (Norway which has just 6 billion.) Despite its oil wealth, Nigeria has to import 60% of its own fuel because of a lack of domestic refining capacity and power blackouts are common.

Nigeria's Ogoniland region could take 30 years to recover fully from the damage caused by years of oil spills, a long-awaited UN report says. Ogoni communities have long complained about the damage to their communities, but they say they have mostly been ignored. Communities faced a severe health risk, with some families drinking water with high levels of carcinogens. The study says complete restoration could entail the world's "most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up".

"In at least 10 Ogoni communities where drinking water is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbons, public health is seriously threatened," the UN Environmental Programme. Some areas which appeared unaffected were actually "severely contaminated" underground. In one community families were drinking from wells which were contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen, at 900 times recommended levels.

Shell has accepted liability for two spills. The report, based on examinations of some 200 locations over 14 months, said Shell had created public health and safety issues by failing to apply its own procedures in the control and maintenance of oilfield infrastructure. The oil industry is accused of a sharp double standard in its operations - of taking advantage of Nigeria's lack of environment law and weak regulation. According to the Nigerian government, there were more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000. Environmentalists believe spills - large and small - happen at a rate of 300 every year. Says Kingsley Ogundu Chinda, environment commissioner in Rivers State,"I blame the owners of the facilities. They are economical with the truth. They are not sincere in their practice. They are not sincere with the people."

Amnesty International, which has campaigned on the issue, said the report proved Shell was responsible for the pollution. "This report proves Shell has had a terrible impact in Nigeria, but has got away with denying it for decades, falsely claiming they work to best international standards," said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty's global issues director, said.

70% of Nigerians live under the poverty line and the country has consistently been ranked among the most corrupt on earth by international observers.

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