Imagine BP's Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil disaster happening every single year, with little or no public outcry, no media coverage, and all but silence from government and the companies involved. Welcome to Nigeria.
Over the last 50 years, foreign oil companies have spilled over 1.5 million tons of oil here, but there have been no legal convictions against them, and no compensation for spill victims. The Niger Delta is now one of the most polluted places in the world.
On 1 May this year a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline in the state of Akwa Ibom spilled more than a million gallons into the delta over seven days before the leak was stopped. Local people demonstrated against the company but say they were attacked by security guards. Community leaders are now demanding $1bn in compensation for the illness and loss of livelihood they suffered. Few expect they will succeed. In the meantime, thick balls of tar are being washed up along the coast.
With 606 oilfields, the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years over the past two generations. Locals blame the oil that pollutes their land and can scarcely believe the contrast with the steps taken by BP and the US government to try to stop the Gulf oil leak and to protect the Louisiana shoreline from pollution.
We ask our Government to use its power and influence to help the people of Nigeria.
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