The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Niger Delta:
Oil Extraction Is a Permanent Catastrophe

Jun 14, 2010

The BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico shows the attitude of oil companies when they extract oil. Their concerns about production safety are even more limited in poor countries.

In Nigeria, where extraction of oil began 40 years ago, the Niger river delta has been ravaged. The amount of oil dispersed into the delta yearly is unknown, because the government and the oil companies don’t release the information.

But two recent investigations suggest as much oil was dumped annually into the Atlantic sea, the Nigerian swamps and on land as the amount of oil that has escaped up to now into the Gulf of Mexico. A report in 2006 said one and a half MILLION tons of crude oil have been spilled into the Niger delta over the past 50 years. That’s the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez wreck every single year. The Nigerian authorities listed more than 7,000 oil spills between 1970 and 2000. An ExxonMobil oil pipeline broke last May, throwing a million gallons of crude oil into the delta before the break was sealed.

The permanent ecological disaster imposed on the Niger delta is accompanied by a permanent social and human catastrophe. The water is polluted, as is the air, thanks to natural gas burned off. Fishing and farming face enormous destruction, plunging the local population into such poverty that life expectancy has fallen to barely 40 years.

Forty% of U.S. crude oil imports come from the Niger delta’s 606 oil fields. The Western oil companies have carved up the lion’s share of it, in particular Shell Oil. They are responsible for the destruction of the Niger delta.