Nigeria: Oil Spills Drench and Sicken Delta Communities
2nd July 2012
Niger Delta residents say oil slicks, poor international repsonse and bad aid make their children continuously sick and have destroyed their businesses.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, exporting about 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, almost entirely from the Niger Delta. It is the United States’ fifth largest oil supplier and the proceeds from sales of crude oil made up 80 percent of Nigeria’s national revenue and nearly all its foreign currency earnings.
But today, life expectancy in Nigeria hovers only slightly above 50 years, nearly 20 years below the world average. Experts say that yearly, spills in the region are comparable to the Exxon Valdez spill.
Deputy leader of the state assembly in Bayelsa State, Tonye Emmanual Isenah says that in the Niger Delta, the life span is shorter. Isenah’s assertion that pollution in the Niger Delta is weakening the people, is as obvious to any observer as the oil that coats the mangrove roots in the creeks. On the banks of the Niger Delta's waterways, locals say the oil has brought them nothing but suffering and things are getting worse. Last year, Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria, the country’s largest oil company recorded twice as much spilled oil than the year before, with 6,000 tons of oil dumped into the delta due to operational failures, up from 2,900 tons the year before. This figure doesn't include spills from other major oil companies, like Chevron, Exxon-Mobile and Total, or from oil theft and illegal refineries.
Last year, the United Nations Environment Program conducted a study of an oil spill in the Niger Delta and found some water with 900 times more carcinogens than what is safe. With almost no hospitals in the creeks and wooden dugout canoes being the common mode of transport, parents say sick children often cannot live long enough to get help.