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Date Published: 07/31/10

The BP Oil Spill and Double Standards By Max Siollun

A lot of noise has been made about the BP oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico. The most powerful man on Earth Barack Obama has waded in, severely criticised BP and held it accountable. BP's share price has plummeted, it has been forced to sell assets to pay for the spill, and the issue has been discussed constantly on worldwide news and media outlets.

The only reason we hear about it is because it happened on America's doorstep. Oil spills are an occupational hazard of life in Nigeria. If oil companies did in Western countries, what they do in Nigeria, their executives would probably be in prison. Oil spills of greater magnitude and frequency frequently occur in the Niger Delta. For example:

Oil Spills in Nigeria

*On 1 May this year a broken ExxonMobil pipeline in Akwa Ibom state spilled more than one million gallons of oil in only seven days.

*One report claims that in 2006, up to 1.5 million tonnes of oil has been spilled in the Niger Delta over the past 50 years. This means that each year, the amount of oil spilled in Nigeria is equivalent to the amount spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill (the last major oil spill that caught the world’s attention).

*The federal government calculated that there were more than 7,000 oil spills in Nigeria between 1970 and 2000.

*There are more than 300 oil spills a year in Nigeria.

*There is gas flaring day and night, 24/7, 365/366 days a year which pollute the environment, pour gas into the atmosphere and into the lungs of Niger Delta inhabitants and which burn so highly and so brightly that they can be seen from miles away.

No One Cares

Despite these horrific statistics, no one bats an eyelid. Nearly half of Nigeria’s oil is sold to the same American government that is up in arms about the BP spill. So long as America gets its oil, state, local and federal governments in Nigeria get their slice of the “national cake”, and oil producing states get their 13% derivation – no one seems bothered by the devastating environmental impact which dwarfs the BP oil spill in size.  

To understand the double standard: what do you think would happen if several million gallons of oil was spilled onto the streets of London, Paris, New York or Tokyo? For those of you living in Europe or North America, imagine if you tried to get on the tube one day and could not because of a massive oil slick on Oxford Street, the Champs Elysses or on Fifth Avenue?

Nigerians Can Suffer and Smile

It is part of the double standards that are applied to Africa. There seems to be a consensus that somehow, Africans are capable of absorbing far greater punishment and injustice than Westerners.  This might be true. After all (Niger Delta militancy apart), Nigerians do not seem terribly angry about the blatant injustice and destruction of their country, being perpetrated right under their noses. The oil companies KNOW they can get away with it because from past experience: they realise that Nigerians will not do or say diddly squat, and that the government will not subject them to the kind of pressure that Barack Obama does.


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