INSIGHT: A year on, Nigeria's oil still poisons Ogoniland

Sun Aug 5, 2012 2:44pm GMT
 

When BP's Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico ruptured in April 2010, spewing nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the sea, its reputation took a devastating blow, and it had to pay billions of dollars to those affected.

In Nigeria, thousands of barrels are spilled every year, largely without negative consequences for the oil companies.

POISONED WELLS

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report found that the Ogale community, a group of nine villages including Ekpangbala, was drinking water from wells contaminated with benzene - a known carcinogen - at levels over 900 times the World Health Organization's guidelines.

"Even before the U.N., we knew this water was turning bad. It smells, and people are complaining of itching and skin rashes," said Walter Olaka, Ogale's youth president.

Shortly after the report, the government provided Ogale's villages with water tanks, part financed by Shell. They get refilled most days with potable water, but locals say it's never enough, and they still use the polluted groundwater for washing.

The tank Reuters visited in Ekpangbala was empty.

"Until now, nothing whatsoever has actually been done ... towards the clean up," said Ben Naanen, chairman of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), founded by the environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, whose campaign against oil pollution drove Shell out of Ogoniland in 1993 - although the firm's dilapidated pipelines still criss-cross its swamps.

Saro-Wiwa was hanged in 1995 by the then military government, to worldwide horror.   Continued...

Fishermen sort out their fishing net at the bank of a polluted river in Bidere community in Ogoniland in Nigeria's delta region August 20, 2011. Picture taken August 20, 2011. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
 
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