The world was shaken with the same news on 20.04.2010.BP Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico. It was the first headline we read on every newspaper and heard on every TV channel that morning. How could that happen to USA? President Obama’s anger was in the taste of our morning coffee.
The tension between BP’s top manager Tony Hayward and the President Obama kept everybody’s eyes wide open all and following days. Was Hayward going to stay or go? Second worry was BP’s share price. Of course, how could we forget that? We all own a little bit of BP, don’t we?
It was time to question. Who did it? Why did this happen? How could BP dare to ignore if it knew the possible danger? What was supposed to be done now? How could it be stopped with the least cost? How was oil spill going to affect the country’s economy and ecosystem? What was going to happen next? We all wanted to know the answers as we heard the news every hour. We were all worried, how couldn’t we be? That was our dearest America.
All the scientists, environmentalists, politicians, law makers photojournalists, journalists and economists were alerted to look for a solution. How couldn’t they? We were told every step of repair with a clear map and detailed explanation every day. Eventually, the leakage point was sealed off with a cap on 13.07.2010.We finally took a deep breath after almost three months.
On the other hand, another fact was screaming in other part of the world which had been ignored for half a century. Nigeria! Royal Dutch/Shell, Chevron, Exon Mobil have been extracting oil and causing spills in Nigeria for the past 50 years and the same world has not been saying a word apart from the effort of human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and some NGOs such as Justice In Nigeria Now(JIIN),Publish What You Pay have made.
“People living in the Niger Delta have to drink, cook with and wash in polluted water. They eat fish contaminated with oil and other toxins-if they are lucky enough to be able to still find fish. The land they farm on is being destroyed. After oil spills the air they breathe smells of oil, gas and other pollutants. People complain of breathing problems and skin lesions and yet neither the government nor oil companies monitor the human impacts of oil pollution.” said Andrey Gaughan, Head of Business and Human Rights at the press conference of the Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta Report of Amnesty International on 30.06.2009.
Gaughan is also co-author of the report according to Amnesty International‘s archived documents. The report also showed that between nine million and 13 million of barrels had leaked in the five decades of oil operations. It also quoted UN figures of more than 6.800 recorded spills between 1976 and 2001. “The Nigerian Government is failing in its obligation to respect and protect the rights of the people in the Niger Delta to food, water, health and livelihood.” said Gaughan adding “Some oil companies have taken advantage of this government failure and have shown a shocking disregard for human impact of their activities.”
Nigerians did not have their government to protect them against those oil companies. They wanted to stand up for their rights. On 10.10.1995, eight peace activists, including internationally recognised Ken Soro Wiwa, were executed after being convicted. Wiwa and his colleagues were fighting for people’s right in Niger Delta which were taken away from them by Shell for more and more oil extraction in the land.
Nothing has changed. People are still suffering and oil companies such as Shell, Chevron, Exon Mobil are still abusing those who don’t operate in the same way in Europe and the US. According to JINN on 05.07.2010, Nigeria Federal Court ordered Shell to pay 15.5million naira (approximately US $100m) in special and punitive damages to a Rivers State community for oil spill of last 50 years. Is that enough to bring back all those ruined lives? Can it be enough to cure all the exploitation of last five decades? Why didn’t we get shaken with this news? Why would we? It was only Nigeria.
Recently, we have seen a few publications mentioning oil spill in Niger Delta which is world’s eighth largest oil exporter and has the largest natural gas reserves and second largest oil reserves in Africa. Nigeria, who sells half of its oil to USA, is now getting noticed after the BP oil spill. What if BP did not spill oil? Were Nigeria’s 50 years of exploitation going to be neglected? What if BP spilled the same amount of oil in Nigeria? Was it going to take only three months to stop the spill or another 50 years?