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ideas have consequences

You are here:Home>>Emeka Chiakwelu>>Displaying items by tag: oil spill
Displaying items by tag: oil spill
Wednesday, 18 August 2010 22:24

Oil spill in Niger Delta

Nigeria can learn from US oil spill response


During the Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston, Texas, a seminar was organized by Energy and Corporate Africa on Oil and Gas exploration in Africa. Afripol‘s Principal Policy Strategist, Emeka Chiakwelu presented a paper on ‘Affects of oil spills in Niger Delta and Africa’ on the second day of the conference.

African government officials including senior governmental bureaucrats from Nigerian presidency (Aso Rock) were in the conference. It happened that on the day of the presentation was the initial stage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Afripol’s representative used the spill as point of reference and as a lunching pad to elaborate on Niger Delta continuous massive spill, thus drawing on their similarities and inaction in Nigeria.

The penetrating scope of the paper presentation might have made Aso Rock officials unease but the presentation was spiking vitality and highlighting the significance of the government, the affecting community and oil companies working together to arrest the oil spill menace. The synergy can be realized by having a Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and efficient coordination for oil spill response and subsequent remediation when it became necessary.

The mountainous and sheath flow oil spill in Gulf of Mexico almost wrecked the livelihood of communities living in the region. The maritime life has received a devastating damage, the aquatic organism and its ecosystem may never be same again. Put it this way, it will take a long time even more than a century before the Gulf of Mexico will return to normality. The damage to the communities and ecology cannot be quantified only in monetary values, without adding the psychological, well being and pristine nature’s deformation of the area probably for ever.

But in spite of all that happened there are still things that we all can learn from the sad episode. The governance and the peoples of developing nations that are confronting the issue of oil spill in consummative level to the Gulf of Mexico spilled can learn from American people and the government. In Nigerian region of Niger Delta that produced most of the oil that made Nigeria the sixth producer and exporter of crude oil, the waters and ecosystem have continuous oil spill in large scale since oil was discovered in the region for the past 50years.

Niger Delta pristine environment has been decimated by oil spill at a scale bigger than that of Gulf of Mexico, which was approximated at a discharged of 2.5 millions gallons daily. According to a recent piece from New York Times: "As many as 546 million gallons of oil spilled into the Niger Delta over the last five decades, or nearly 11 million gallons a year, a team of experts for the Nigerian government and international and local environmental groups concluded in a 2006 report. By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 dumped an estimated 10.8 million gallons of oil into the waters off Alaska."

The influential British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that "On 12 May 2009, Shell's Bomo manifold blew up, leaking massive amounts of crude. Local people say 39 hectares were contaminated. A second leak - from a derelict oil tap - had already been continuously spilling oil for years. But, 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." All these are showing that oil spills and environmental degradation at Niger Delta were massive and more often than were documented.

The sad story is that poverty in Niger Delta has been enhanced because the source of livelihood which comes from fishing and agriculture has been destroyed by these continuous oil spills in the area. One thing must be clear; this is not the time to point accusing fingers to one another. It is the time for the people of the area, government and the big oil companies to work together. Nobody can deny this, the revenue generated from export crude oil has been enormous but enough resources have not been invested in the region. But gradually the present administration has been rising to challenge of re-writing the wrongs of the past.

Nigerians can learn from Americans on the protection and the defense of the environment. First and foremost, we can be begin to get into our head that the big oil companies can not just abandon the government to carry out the responsibility of ecosystem oil cleanup and remediation. The oil companies have the utmost responsibility of keeping the area in the good shape as they found it. With the natives source of income being diminish the oil companies should find a way to compensate these communities. Nobody is suggesting that the oil companies should empty their savings and profits to the affected people but to acknowledge the sufferings of the poor and helpless people.

Inasmuch that we are grateful that the oil companies are investing in Nigeria, they must not behave in way that only Nigeria is gaining from the business venture; the oil companies are making large amount of profits too. Intrinsically there must be symbiotic relationship where nobody is left behind but everybody is matching to a tune of one beat. Oil companies doing business at Niger Delta must be willing to sincerely work with people not just for sake of public relationship but to make a difference.

We can learn from America about the empowerment of the community and citizens. Instead of the local communities of Niger Delta destroying oil infrastructures and kidnapping people they must come to table for negotiation equipped with practical solutions. The local environment activists must subscribed to non-violence and will only encourage peaceful demonstrations and outings.

The government and the people must speak with one voice not to intimidate the oil companies but speaking with a sensibility to promotes peace, understanding and harmony between the people of Niger Delta and the oil companies.

Spill Prevention and Response Measures

Being prepared and ready is the key. The most significant thing is the making provision of the materials and information needed to confront oil spill. The government of Nigeria has the supreme task of defining and elucidating in details her responsibilities to oil companies when oil spill occurs. The congress will pass a bill that empowers the presidency to supervise the cleanup and enforcements of cleaning oil spill. The bill or the passed law must enumerate how the cost of the cleanup will be shared and the enforcement procedures with regards to penalties and fines when necessary.

Chiakwelu said, "Nigerian lawmakers have a role to play on the issue of the oil spill. The legislators should introduce a bill and pass a law that is fully adequate and comprehensive on spill response and clean up. The propose bill will stipulate the roles of government agencies, oil companies and the community. The bill will come with implementation procedures and penalties for inaction and neglect."

The law must not be source of intimidation but an enlightenment process and procedure that discourage irresponsibility and incompetence. The government of Nigeria will create a symbiotic relationship with the oil companies that will generate a synergy of competence, responsibities and mutual respect.

Nigerian government will not shoulder all the responsibilities nor transfer them to the oil companies. But a shared responsibities must be eminent and adhered to. Oil companies must not abandon oil spill clean up to the government, after all Nigerian government does not have the scientific equipments and the technical know-how for cleaning oil spill. The most important is to be precautious, to clean oil spill and to maintain the integrity of the ecosystem.