25 May 2010
An eye opener for other victims of oil spill esp. in West Africa.
I have followed with keen interest the minute by minute reports on the evolution of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, USA. Everybody from the US president to the executives of BP did scramble to put an end to the oil spill because, according to them, it poses an ecological and economic threat to states located within the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico.
Those of us living within the vicinity of the West African coast watch these frantic efforts to halt the oil spill (on the part of the U.S administration and BP) with some amazement. Never did we know that so much mobilization and so much global attention could be focused on the oil spill. I say so because Niger Delta alone in Nigeria has experienced thousands of oil spills, possibly of lower magnitude. According to UNDP, there were more than 6800 spills between 1976 and 2001 alone resulting in untold complications linked to oil pollution of land and water. Read Amnesty International Report on the pathetic plight of Nigerians of Niger Delta at this link.
When a fisherman in neighboring Cameroon complained that his fish catch has diminished in recent years, I asked him what he thought was the reason? His answer was that it was due to some Chinese that were fishing in the area with large vessels. That could be one of the problems but how much has oil spillage contributed to this shortage of fish or how much have petroleum by products infiltrated our food chain?
We are watching to see how the clean up and compensation issue will be handled between B.P and the US government so that we can learn from them how to tackle the same problems in this part of the world in the future. I talk of the future because we cannot apparently count on the present crop of leaders in the region to handle such issues because they and the oil companies seem to be two faces of the same coin.
Bad as the oil spill is to the residents of the Gulf of Mexico, the positive side is that it is likely going to raise awareness about other victims of oil spill around the world. It is an event that gives us (in this part of the world) an opportunity to learn how the big guy reacts to the same fire that has been burning the small guys of West Africa unnoticed for years.
Njei Moses Timah