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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/18/10

Big Oil - First Nigeria then the World

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Big oil in Nigeria - executions, pollution and suffering (Image)

Michael Collins

The big oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is not the first to threaten a people's way of life.

Just ask the Ogoni people from Nigeria's oil rich central Niger Delta. Their experience over decades offers a model of things to come without serious changes in consumption and regulation.

Since the early 1960's, oil spilled from Shell pipelines has fouled their region. Food and fresh water sources vanished. Their economy collapsed. While Shell and the Nigerian elite reap their rewards, the people in the polluted oil regions live with steadily declining jobs, incomes, and living standards.

The amount of oil spilled in just this region during the 1970's far exceeds that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. The problem has been continuous since then. Most of it is still sitting there

In some critical ways, oil exploration, pollution, and the reaction of Shell and the Nigerian government parallel the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe.

There is virtually no regulation of oil exploration and operations in Nigeria. Similarly, new deep water drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico were granted without environmental impact studies.

The government of Nigeria abandoned its sovereign obligations to protect the people by failing to take charge of clean up operations. In the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe, BP took the lead in repair efforts while the United States government accepted an oversight role.

The Nigerian oil industry ignores locals in hiring and contracting. BP uses locals as public relations props for its cleanup operations.

The Nigerian government makes blames oil companies for turning the country into 'World Oil Pollution Capitol', yet does little to stop the situation. The U.S. government is investigating criminal charges against BP while it allows BP control of the crime scene.

Nigerian and international press are chased off of the scene by Shell and the other oil giants just as BP chases away the media and citizens who try to document and report on the Gulf catastrophe.

The Nigerian government blames "rebels" for the oil spills. The government tried and hanged those who resisted what economists call the Dutch Disease, Shell's ruinous impact in Nigeria's economy. There have been few demonstrations in the U.S. and no trials of protesters. However, federal whistleblowers who tried to warn the world of what we're seeing today were ignored.

They can't do that here. Can they?

It's happening here right now. Why think the BP catastrophe is the first and last of its kind. There are 4,000 active drilling platforms in the Gulf. BP isn't the only oil giant to make major mistakes.

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