An Amnesty International mission delegate's fingers covered in oil from an oil spill near Ikarama. This photograph was taken eight months after the spill. Experts who studied video footage of the two spills in Ogoniland say they could together be as large as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska. Photograph: Amnesty International UK
Oil company Royal Dutch Shell accepts responsibility for two oil spills in Nigeria’s niger delta between 2008 and 2009 about the same time a UN report reveals (PDF)
that decades of oil spills and flagrant disregard for environmental safety in oil-rich Ogoniland region may require at least $1 billion cleanup cost.
The clean-up exercise would be the the world’s largest and costliest, lasting up to 30 years. The report, released by the U.N.’s environmental program, said that drinking water supplies within the oil-rich Niger Delta have been damaged by 50 years of crude oil spills. In some areas drinking water is contaminated so severely it needs immediate action.
Nigeria recorded at least 3,000 oil spills between 2006 and 2010.
Last year a Nigerian federal high court ordered Shell Nigeria to pay 15.4 billion naira (about US$100 million) in special and punitive damages to a Rivers State community for an oil spill that occurred in 1970.
A caricature of the US Statue of Liberty at the palace of Ogbeh-Gbarana III Aketekpe Agadagba Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Council of Delta State in the Nigerian Niger Delta region.
Two other sculptures of Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, guard each of the entrances to the palace. Athena is also, in Greek mythology, the goddess of wisdom and warfare reportedly born from the head of Zeus, ruler of Olympian gods and their spiritual father. Source: The Nation Newspaper
Given the use of foreign iconic statuettes, I’m pressed to wonder if the Gbaramatu Kingdom has lost touch with its past. Has it?
Every now and then, I get to read statements that make me cringe, this is one of them, coming from the Minister of State State for Energy (Petroleum), Mr. Odein Ajumogobia:
“If the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta had laid emphasis on capacity-building, there would have been limited crisis in the area [Niger Delta] today.”
Talk of relegation of duties.
When did capacity building become the responsibility of the oil companies? I do understand corporate social responsibility, but what about government social responsibility to the people they govern?
The Minister must have forgotten that it’s part of government social responsibility to watch and hold the oil companies accountable to the people in the Niger Delta!
I tried to think of a moment when this was done diligently… and I couldn’t remember any!
It is becoming increasingly difficult to blog on Nigeria from a positive perspective. This is one of the reasons:
The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pays $6 million to Niger Delta militants as “protection fee’ monthly, the House of Representatives Committee on Finance investigating the alleged non remittance of revenue collected by government agencies from 1999 to March 2008 heard yesterday.
The NNPC in its submission to the committee yesterday said it was forced to pay the sum of $6 million monthly to militants who threatened to “deal” with the corporation.
Daily Trust has the full coverage.
The government attempt at resolving the Niger delat crisis recorded a major hitch with the resignation of the government-appointed negotiator Ibrahim Gambari. Apparently Gambari’s reputation as top United Nation’s negotiator and special envoy does not resonate very well with the Niger-Delta folks. It does not with me either!
While reading a post on Nigerian Curiosity blog on June 9, this statement on Gambari caught my attention:
“I am hearing that the United Nations will indeed release Nigerian born Ibrahim Gambari to head the special Niger Delta Summit Steering Committee. This should further convince all necessary parties to the issues of the Niger Delta that this administration plans to address the problems decisively.”
I retorted as follows:
“…I see another clever use of power.
What is the advantage of bring a man who is not familiar with the issues and terrain over someone who is local and can relate to the problems beyond just reading the briefs?
We have Utomi, Soyinka, etc if the feds wants a neutral person. Gambari has spent the bulk of his diplomatic carrier outside Nigeria, he is an establishment man. He is not going to make any difference. He has no moral capital to deal with locals.”
While one is not an expert in conflict resolution, there are ample historical precedence and anecdotal evidence available when making calls on Nigerian matters such as Gambari’s.
The suitability of Gambari is a concern shared by several other parties, including the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), which expressed its position succinctly and unequivocally via these words:
“We believe that the Summit will not be a success if the person who chairs it is a subject of controversy, especially amongst key stakeholders. Having made offensive comments in relation to the self-determination struggle of the people of the Niger Delta in the past, Prof. Gambari’s suitability is questionable…”
The take-home message following the resignation of Gambari should be clear to the government: It must snap out of its state of delusion and listen to the grassroots clearly. After all, this is the premise on which conflict resolution is based.
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua calls for international help on Niger Delta to solve the military crisis in the region.
Nigerian Economist Chudi Chukwuani retorts on VOA:
“The reaction here is that we are at a lost. The call is a clear failure on the part of the government to properly secure our national asset, to protect our sovereignty and our territorial waters. All of us know that the origin of the so-called Niger Delta militancy started from political thuggery.”
Listen in full:
Nigeria operates a national electric grid system by hydro-power and coal. The nation is shifting toward natural gas, a material that is been flared for lack of adequate processing infrastructure.
Over the last 36 years, Nigeria has flared some 70 billion USD worth of natural gas. During the last eight of those years, Nigeria has been struggling to build several natural-gas fired power plants to boost electricity supply; power supply that has dropped to about 1200-900 MW over the last 12 months in Nigeria
Can’t Nigeria initiate small, low-cost, “off-grid” alternative measures to power generation while the mega power plants are being built for the national grid, and there is enough natural gas to power them? Didn’t the president revealed that “three finished gas-fuelled power stations are unable to generate electricity because Nigeria has sold all its gas for export?”
As I understand the oil-drilling process, natural gas is a by-product which – if unprocessed – has to be burnt (flared) for the drilling process to continue safely. However, what I discovered is this “unrefined” natural gas can be used ‘as-is’ to power small electric generators (turbines). The Curse of the Black Gold blog has the details.
Here is an example of the generators suggested on the blog.
Although the generators are specifically built for usage on oil-drilling installations, I’m sure with little modifications they can be made to generate electricity for the small local communities around the oil wells which suffer the same fate as other regions in Nigeria. Just as the writer, I wonder “there has not been incentive for the oil companies to install them [the generators]” to power those communities.
While this is certainly a temporary local measure and location-dependent, it will be of benefit to the small communities in the Niger-delta currently without electricity.