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It was hard to believe BP when it announced oil had stopped gushing into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, July 15. It had taken 87 days. There was relief but little jubilation: it will take many years to clean the shores and the birds, and for the sea to begin to repair itself from the onslaught of poisonous oil. Surely we can no longer call it a "spill"—it seems too light and trite a word.

What’s even more troubling is that in Nigeria, the country that has arguably suffered most from oil drilling, oil "accidents"—large and small—occur almost weekly, and we hear little about it. A lethal combination of sloppiness, corruption, weak regulation, and lack of accountability has meant that each year since the 1960s, there has been a spill the size of the Exxon Valdez’s into the Niger Delta. Large purple slicks cover once fertile fields, and rivers are clogged with oil leaked decades ago. It has been called the "black tide": a stain of thick, gooey oil that has oozed over vast tracts of land and poisoned the air for millions of Africans. In some areas fish and birds have disappeared: the swamps are silent.

Americans consume a quarter of the world’s oil—and 10 percent of the oil we consume comes from Nigeria. Why are we not worried and angry about this? Or at least demanding global accountability from companies we support? Especially now that we can see how destructive it is for those who depend on the sea for their livelihood, how foul the impact is, and how devastating the results of poor decisions and ill-equipped response teams are.

Many Nigerians watched, amazed, as Americans berated BP for the Deepwater Horizon spill, then saw progress: our president visited the site and demanded immediate action and compensation. Not so in Africa. According to a group of independent experts, between 9 million and 13 million barrels of oil have been spilled in the Niger Delta since drilling began in 1958. Cleanups have been halfhearted, and compensation has been paltry. The Nigerian government estimates that 7,000 "spills," large and small, occurred between 1970 and 2000. Locals complain of sore eyes, breathing problems, and lesions on their skin. It’s sickening stuff: a 2009 Amnesty International report found many have lost basic human rights—health, access to food, clean water, and an ability to work. Today about 2,000 oil-polluted sites still need cleaning up.

There are many reasons this has occurred: sabotage, faulty equipment, corroded infrastructure. The regulations are weak, rarely enforced, and there are few punitive measures to ensure that spills are managed, monitored, and cleaned up. The oil companies are, effectively, asked to self-regulate. The new Nigerian president, aptly named Goodluck Jonathan, has promised to hold them accountable, but the regulatory agencies are toothless, weakened by decades of rule by corrupt dictators who acted in concert with oil companies and siphoned off much of the oil wealth (80 percent of the state’s revenue comes from oil). The money that has come from oil drilling in Nigeria—$600 billion so far—has gone to very few; most Nigerians live in extreme poverty.

So this has been happening, in Africa, for decades, as our motors purr and air conditioners hum, and we have barely blinked. As Prof. Rebecca Bratspies from CUNY School of Law says, "Problems associated with oil production are usually invisible to those of us who consume vast quantities. We don’t see how dirty it is. [The gulf] is a more extreme version of daily events in Nigeria, where the oil companies have had a complete and total disregard for the environmental implications of their actions."

Weekly Podcast and Radio Program 7/19/10: BP: Well Done?; Afghan Alternatives; Jihad Unlimited: Al Shabab; Health on Wheels: Mobile Health Care; Haiti Disaster Update; Former Vice President Dick Cheney's Heart Surgery; From the Archives: Walter Cronkite, George Steinbrenner. SUBSCRIBE OR DOWNLOAD PODCAST: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/newsweek-on-air/id73329823

Obama asked that $20 billion be set aside to cover cleanup costs in the gulf. Will it be enough? How much would companies like Shell and ExxonMobil have to pay if Africa were well regulated and proper compensation demanded for the loss of livelihoods, illness, and damage to the environment?

This is the perfect time to assess oil-industry practices. America should lead a push to ensure global scrutiny and monitoring of oil drilling, on- and offshore. It’s messy and will never be entirely safe, but why should we accept different standards for countries with less money and clout? Global companies should develop adequate global response and compensation mechanisms.

One simple but clever idea from Bratspies is that we, through worldwide coordination, ensure that oil companies cannot drill unless they have the proven technology and capacity to respond to leaks, saboteurs, and explosions. If we made it a requirement, it would lead to a "tremendous spur in innovation in clean-up technology." That’s something every country would benefit from, rich or poor.

 

 

 

Julia Baird is a Deputy Editor of Newsweek. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bairdnewsweek.

 

 

 

Nigeria the economic power house of West Africa sub-region was invited to the G-8 and G-20 combined summit that took place in the Western hemisphere nation of Canada. Nigeria is not an official member of either G8 or G20 but an invitation to the summit was given to her along with other important emerging markets of Southern hemisphere. South Africa was also at the meeting as an official member of G20. Nigeria and South Africa are largest economies in Africa. While South Africa is a member of G-20, Nigeria is not. Nigeria‘s GDP is bulging and her economy is growing at the rate of 7.23 percent in the first quarter of 2010 compares to the expected global rate of about 3.9 percent.

This is not the first time Nigeria has been invited to G-8 meeting. She has been coming to these meetings for a while including those held during the era of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President George Bush. As a guest and as an observer to the summit, Nigeria cannot not fully and thorough participate in depth or take the advantage of a membership holder. The exclusive privileges given to the members of the group eluded of the country, particularly on the fiscal matters.

Why is Nigeria invited to these summits? Well, one can give an intelligent and reasonable answer without much guessing. Yes! Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the natural leader of the continent. Nigeria is a sleeping giant of Africa that has been in dormancy for a long time. Nigeria is rich in both human and natural resources but paucity of strategic managers to manage her efficiently has delayed her rise as a developed economic power in the continent. She has been invited to the summits because she has something to offer to the global village. For Nigeria as an economic unit can contribute to stabilization of the world economy by her active and comprehensive participation in the world economic system.

Nigeria could not make it as an official member of G-20 nations because during the formation of the group the country was both political and economic unstable. For a long time Nigeria was under ruler ship of a dictatorial authority and her economy were in miserable hands without adequate productivity and planning. The country‘s economy was fundamentally and structurally imbalanced. The economy operated in the cloak of opaqueness without transparency and probity. But the story is changing and Nigeria is singing a new tune. Democratic capitalism is gradually but steadily taking root in the country.

Now with emergence of democracy and steadily economic progress, Nigeria is ready to become a fully and active member of G-20. The fledging democratic dispensation needs to be nurtured and supported; therefore the best way of encouraging Nigeria is to be accepted into this August body. Nigeria is changing and changing for the best with enduring political sensibility. The change was buttressed during the recent transfer of power which was smooth without hiccups. When the late President Umaru Yar’dua passed away, the vice-President Goodluck Jonathan was swiftly sworn-in without much ado.

His Excellency President Goodluck Jonathan represented Nigeria at the summit in Canada. Since he took the helms of power he has demonstrated his capacity to lead his fellow country men and women in accordance to democratic principle. President Jonathan has been working speedily to resolve the issue of Niger Delta and has been making the requisite arrangements and plans to solve the problem of electric power shortage. Nigerians on the street are beginning to say good things about the new leader. The world leaders are receiving the Nigerian leader with open hands and respect as he moved forward in restoring the dignity of our country. All these developments can help to make Nigeria become an official member of G-20.

Nigeria has continued to be a stabilizing force in Africa and beyond. Nigeria with its strategic role in African Union is moving Africa forward with its leadership. When Liberia and Sierra Leone were raging with civil wars and uprising, Nigerian military contingency was a peace keeping force that restored stability in the troubled land. All over the world, Nigerian peace keepers can be found in troubled places of the world, propelling and protecting peace. Nigeria needs to be part of the G-20 in order to fully represent African financial and economic interest. Resources-rich Africa with a population of almost one billion has not been fully represented in the G-8 or G-20 of the world. Nigeria together with South Africa can best represent the interest of Africa. Therefore let‘s make it official and admit Nigeria to G-20.

Emeka Chiakwelu is the Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol Organization. Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa.

Polio has been identified as one of the most damaging diseases which can snatch away a child’s physical, mental and emotional stimulus to lead a normal, healthy and happy life. This is why; countries across the world have been working together closely to develop a strong Public Health Campaign for complete and total polio eradication since 1988. In most parts of the world, particularly the western nations, the devastating complication of polio is rarely seen today. Even when poliovirus infection occurs in these areas it is the least harmful strain of poliovirus. In addition, there is adequate vaccine to protect against such poliovirus infection. In contrast, less developed countries including Nigeria, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Egypt, the strain of poliovirus is the wild harmful type.

In countries such as Nigeria, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Egypt, thousands of innocent children have been crippled for life due to the transmission of the wild polio virus (Paralytic poliovirus). The strain of poliovirus often may lead to the complications of temporary or permanent muscle weakness, paralysis, disability, and deformities of the hips, ankles and feet. In some cases, the deformities caused by poliovirus infection can be reduced with surgery and physical therapy. Such expensive and intense treatments are not readily available in developing nations where polio is still endemic. As a result, most persons who survive death from polio often live with severe disabilities and low productive lives to even support their families. However, proper and timely immunization campaigns, however, especially in India have helped in reducing and controlling the spread of this life changing disease.

Even though all it takes is to vaccinate each and every child under five with the polio vaccine to achieve global polio eradication, this has not been the case especially in Nigeria due to lack of funds and disjointed running of the immunization campaign. In the recent past, however, Nigeria has shown evidence of a reduction in polio cases thanks to the selfless and commendable work done by the ‘Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’, a joint venture by Microsoft Founder, Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates.

In a meeting recently, the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan publicly expressed his gratitude for the outstanding work done by Bill Gates and his wife in delivering better healthcare services not just in Nigeria but all over the world. He further admired the contributions made by them both in terms of time and money which has resulted in a drop in the number of polio cases from couple of hundreds in 2009 to just a about three cases this year.

Today, Northern Nigeria has emerged as the only place in the world that has seen so much progress in its goal towards polio reduction and subsequent polio eradication in such a short span of time.

 Author: G. Stanley Okoye, M.D., Ph.D. , Chief Medical Correspondent, Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) and St. Jude Medical Missions ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Thursday, 24 June 2010 22:01

NIGERIA AND ECOWAS REACT TO GUINEAN COUP

NIGERIA AND ECOWAS REACT TO GUINEAN COUP 01.11.09


Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe told a meeting of ECOWAS foreign ministers in Abuja, "We cannot walk away from the challenges of assisting the authorities in Guinea to return to constitutionality. In the African spirit of being our brother's keeper, ECOWAS shall support and reward every sincere move in Guinea to ensure the emergence of a democratically elected government within the year." The Nigerian official was reacting to the recent military coup in Guinea after the death of the democratically elected president. The military juntas are now in charge in Guinea.


Dr. Maduekwe the current chairman of the ECOWAS Security and Mediation Committee, also said Guinea would need the support of its neighbours in the coming months inorder to be a stability in the country. He reiterated ECOWAS policy on coups, his words: "There is a need for us to speak with one voice, that in Africa, the era of making a distinction between a good coup and a bad coup is over. There is no patriotic coup as distinct from an unpatriotic coup. The ECOWAS protocol we are all parties to, leaves no room for those distinctions.”


The National Council for Democracy and Develop-ment (CNDD) - a junta led by army captain Moussa Dadis Camara - seized power in Guinea on December 23 following the death of autocratic President Lansana Conte, who had ruled since 1984. Major donors including the United States and European Union have called for a return to constitutional rule, while the African Union has suspended Guinea.


But the junta has tried to reassure nervous neighbours that it poses no threat, sending representatives to Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Sierra Leone to explain the takeover. Senegal and Libya have publicly indicated they would be ready to work with Camara. The junta, which was welcomed by ordinary citizens in Guinea as a break from Conte's corrupt and nepotistic administration, has appointed a civilian transition government and initially promised elections in 2010. But Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, who endorsed the coup leaders, has suggested polls could be held earlier, while French Secretary of State for Cooperation, Alain Joyandet has said Camara had agreed to hold polls within 12 months. The Nigerian government is trying to get the support of other West African leaders to oppose the subterranean support being given by the Libyan leader, Mu’ammar Gaddafi and Wade to the Guinean coup leaders. President Umaru Yar’Adua is insisting that the support being given to the plotters is against the African Union Constitu-tional Act and that African leaders should not seek to extend their influence by promoting the subversion of democracy.

Afripol/ThisDay

Published in Archive
Thursday, 24 June 2010 21:36

Bakassi: As we reach the end of the Road

As the government of Nigeria hands over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to the government of Cameroon, in the words of President Umaru Yar'Adua, it's ''very painful for all'' but it must go on as planned. Nigeria must display and maintain a steady hand and implement the agreement in concord and harmony. As a lawful nation and law abiding nation, Nigeria has the obligation to abide to the rulings of the world court at Hague.

Nigeria being the leader of Africa, she must lead by example. Nigerians may not be in support of the hand over but Nigeria must respect the international order and rule of law. By this magnanimous act Nigeria reassured the world that peace is the cornerstone of diplomacy in Africa. Africans are not waiting on foreign intruders to lecture us about the brotherhood of man and the rule of law. This is a powerful strategic move on behalf of Nigeria to project our generic humanity with their Cameroonian counterpart.

The only tactical blunder was not formulating and presenting a comprehensive case to the judges at The Hague with regards to the rights of Nigerians residing at Bakassi peninsula and the issue of property rights of the indigenes of Bakassi. Nigerian and Cameroonian governments must put heads together and resettle the misplaced people of Bakassi, even offering dual citizenship if they ask for it. But all things being equal, Nigeria has a reason to be proud of the superior act of settling the issue without spilling blood and by showing leadership to the world in this affirmative conflict resolutions.

 

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