Oil extraction crisis in the Niger Delta

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[av_heading tag=’h5′ padding=’10’ heading=’For over five decades, the Niger Delta region has been experiencing oil spills, gas flaring and other forms of pollutions by international oil companies. Due to the environmental impact of these extractive processes, the health and life span of the people has reduced drastically. The poisons released by the oil spill fumes and flares have dramatically contributed to climate change and global warming. ‘ color=” style=’blockquote modern-quote modern-centered’ custom_font=” size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ custom_class=”][/av_heading]

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By Cadmus Atake- Enade, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, (HOMEF), Edo State, Nigeria
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The Niger Delta region has been noted by environmentalists globally as one of the most polluted region in the world and the worst routine gas flaring sites globally for many years. For over five decades, the region has been experiencing oil spills, gas flaring and other forms of pollutions by international oil companies. Due to the environmental impact of these extractive processes, the health and life span of the people has reduced drastically. Many lives have been lost to various diseases caused by toxic fumes and flares from the extractive oil ondustries.

The poisons released by the oil spill fumes and flares have dramatically contributed to climate change and global warming.

One of such affected areas in the region is the oil rich Ogoniland in Rivers State, Nigeria.

The Ogoniland has an average population of over 830, 000 people who have been ravaged and seriously impacted by oil spills and gas flares. Some communities such as Goi community and others around have been left destitute due to loss of livelihoods, lack of portable drinking water and agricultural produce as a result of a massive oil spill which occurred in the region in 2008 in Bodo community in the locality.

Ever since this massive oil spill, the people are no longer able to live normally. They live from hand to mouth as their sources of livelihood have been destroyed since the people are predominantly farmers and fishermen. The people’s rights to secure livelihood has been violated and this has led to series of peaceful revolts where oil corporations have been sacked from operations in the land in demand for cleanup and environmental justice, but to no avail.

In 2011 United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) came up with a Comprehensive study and recommended that the land should be cleaned up. But the land is yet to be cleaned up by Shell, the culprit, and the Nigerian government.
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The people of Ogoniland and other Niger Delta region are living in abject poverty, despite the fact that the region stands as a major hub to the economic boost of the Nation. The average life expectancy of the citizens is about 42 years, their drinking water is contaminated with Benzene – a known cancerous chemical 900 times above WHO recommended standard – and the air is polluted with fumes of hydrocarbons which leads to respiratory diseases of all sorts. Many Ogoni people die from illness and sickness directly related to oil pollution. They usually experience a series of strange health issues including girls experiencing early menopause at the age of 19- 20 years. When I pay visit to this region, it places me in a sober mood because lives are being lost daily due to greed for wealth from fossil fuel extractions.

According to Comrade CheIbegwura, an Environmental activist from River State, Nigeria, “For years, we have lived with continuous gas flares. Our farmlands have been polluted. We labour hard to plant, but little comes out. Our roofs are corroded. Our air is polluted. Our children are sick. Even the rainwater we drink is contaminated with black soot from the gas flares. We cannot continue with this suffering.” After many years of protest and struggle, routine gas flaring was outlawed in 2005 in the Niger Delta but gas is still been flared up to date and this violates human rights.
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Many Ogoni people die from illness and sickness directly related to oil pollution. They usually experience a series of strange health issues including girls having early menopause at the age of 19 – 20 years.
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It is therefore recommended that an effective response to the health impacts of extractive industries must be engaged at community, national and international levels, and must encompass not only superficial measures of health outcomes but meaningful solutions.

An adequate plan for community people’s health will also address the myriad of social, economic, political and environmental issues intertwined with health. Governance reforms must be guided by principles of transparency, participation, accountability, community determination, reciprocity, and enforcement of laws and treaties, among others and above all oil should be left in the ground where it belongs and alternative sources of energy should be harnessed.

Photo credit: Cadmus Atake-Enade
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Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in their private capacity and do necessarily represent the views of the African Climate Reality Project.
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