BP Oil Spill: Who Wears the Shoes Knows Where They Hurt

Source: Ben Wuloo Ikari.

The Ogoni Children Cultural and Fundamental Rights Council (OCAFAC) extend its solidarity to the people of the Gulf of Mexico for the degradation they face. We're appalled by the yet to be quantified damages and losses caused by British Petroleum's (BP) avoidable and reckless oil spill.

OCAFAC can feel the pains and loses since Ogoni had suffered and still suffering environmental degradation. It's a problem caused by BP's sister company $hell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC). Not only has Ogoni felt these pains and loses, its people have been killed for standing up to protest $hell's negative actions or impact on the society and environment.

On like America, in Nigeria, when oil spills are reported $hell and others claims they're caused by sabotage. Whereas outdated equipments and corroded pipelines have been primarily responsible. These companies keep claiming militants, etc. sabotaged their pipes, but forgot that oil mining started in the region in 1956-while militancy came between 2004, 2006 and up to 2009. Currently, pockets of militant groups are still available.

Militancy came after Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 others were killed by $hell and the government of Nigeria for campaigning against their methods of operations and stopping the flow of oil. Remember, it's BP that started mining in Nigeria (1956) and metamorphosed into $hell Petroleum Development Corporation and later SPDC. They therefore have the same deadly tract records. These records are such that profit, recklessness is preferred over environmental safety and the health cum good of the host communities.

Interestingly, the same recklessness, which pushed Saro-Wiwa to action, that he formed the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in 1990, has impacted America. The Gulf is, however, fortunate because the media and Obama's administration have channeled their energies on BP. This media concentration and service is what is deliberately ignored when similar spills occur in Ogoni/Niger delta of Nigeria. Americans, except some activists and few people of good conscience also downplay the Nigeria's predicaments. And, the reason is that they're the most beneficiaries of the oil from this region. As it stands in the Gulf, America may learn the same lessons and the reasons Saro-Wiwa led his people against $hell. This is because who wears the shoes knows where they hurt.

Meanwhile, American media have for decades knowingly and deliberately ignored life threatening situations of oil spills, gas flaring and other double standards applied by foreign oil companies in Nigeria and Africa in general. They do this in the same vein and intent as inequitable reporting, which misinforms the American public and stereotype, stigmatize Africans. And the intent is to protect, promote and project these oil killer companies as lords and saviors to the black world whereas they are polluters. In short, the media have poisoned the minds of most African-Americans about their ancestral home with negative portraits.

The irony is, when similar spills and degradation occur in Texas, Alaska, etc. and the alarming disaster in the Gulf, the media no doubt makes the call. Not only have they covered the spills on minute basis, they've also demanded the truth of BP. Citizen's activism and the activist president of the United States of America have been catalytic in making BP work harder to try to contain the spill and also set aside $20 billion in four years for claims caused by its misguided damages. And when the dust settles the escrow money might even be more than what has been agreed. The media and government are prepared to hold BP accountable. In Nigeria, 50 years old spills are yet to be clean. Little or nothing of adequate compensation is paid, but threats, repression and extrajudicial killings.

What the media, Obama and American citizens have done in the Gulf is what I recommend for the world, the Nigerian government and people in particular, when the next spills that will occur soon in Ogoni/Niger delta emerge. The Nigerian media is handicapped and most of them could be easily bribed like government officials/politicians. Therefore, Western media (America's in particular) should wade in for the sake of our common humanity when such spill comes.

Ogoni/Niger delta people, especially children have suffered untold hardships. These results from the incessant spills, excessive gas flares and gross human rights violations committed against parents and some children. The peasants have been oppressed for nonviolently protesting environmental racism and economic strangulation by $hell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Agip, and numerous others. Of course, the Nigerian government which runs a joint venture with these oil majors laid the foundation for its citizens to be disrespected, abuse and killed by soldiers paid by these companies. The government is indeed the first culprit of these crimes against the weak and disadvantaged of Niger delta.

Saro-Wiwa led the Ogoni people on a protest march against $hell Oil in 1993. He exposed a spill that took place in Ebubu Eleme (Ogoni) in 1970 and is yet to be cleaned. The fact that $hell and other companies haven't conducted Environmental Assessment, Social and Health

Impact Studies, since crude oil was discovered in 1956 at Oloibri, was also exposed. Gas flares of deadly proportions and the reckless laying of high pressured pipelines at close proximity of human habitation were revealed to the world. Ogonis/Niger delta gained and kept this consciousness to the disappointment of $hell, Nigerian government and conspirators such as American and British governments. The result was the aforementioned murder by hanging of Saro-Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni rights activists on Nov. 10, 1995.

Former President Bill Clinton had the opportunity to save these innocent men. But because America buys more than 40 percent of oil stolen by the Nigerian government from the defenseless Ogonis and Niger deltans, they're allowed to die. American and other Western oil companies were protected. Clinton was lobbied to impose economic sanctions on the military government of Nigeria to halt the hanging he refused. Rather, a so-called "diplomatic sanction" was enforced. This weak sanction allowed America to continue the purchase of cheap and best grade oil from Nigeria. Insofar as oil continues to run from the veins of Niger deltans to the pumps in America Niger deltans can die-who cares! Oil has become ticker than blood; what a lesson!

Finally, the sad experiences of Ogoni and the careless and capitalistic attitude of the American government which also supply arms to Nigeria and train its military, brought about militancy in Nigeria. These militant groups had fought and still fighting for environmental and economic justice alongside nonviolent groups. The oil-rich region of Nigeria needs justice, development and peace. They seek to be self-determined like the federating states in America and so forth. That is control their economic resources and environment in alliance with the central government. America and the larger world should therefore be compassionate by resisting the sponsorship of mass killings (via investments in oil) resulting from oil struggles.

If any conscience still exists, America should focus on extracting more oil from its waters or shores to feel the same thing those in Nigeria are feeling. It could also invest in alternative sources of energy for the sake of the people in the Gulf and beyond. We know arriving at safe and alternative energy sources would take time. Yet, the Gulf experience is a wake up call. If something concrete is started now, and with the promises today's technology holds success will come swiftly and in full panoply.

We must start now to reduce our foreign oil consumption and extract more in at home. This must nevertheless be done carefully as environmental safety must never be compromised as allegedly done in BP's situation. What's good for the goose can't be bad for the gander. If America fears the attendant environmental catastrophes that come with the extraction of fossil fuel at home, it should know that Africans have right to such fears as well.

What happened in the Gulf is more of a monthly if not weekly disaster in Nigeria. Neither the government nor oil companies cares. The government is in the pocket of the oil companies. The propensity that these companies will be held accountable as Obama is doing isn't

there. What is happening in Nigeria is tsunaminous; and the people need help. $hell Oil flares more than 86 percent of its gas in Niger delta. It's spilled more than 40 percent of its oil in the region.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has calculated that $hell Oil's gas flares in Nigeria are a major contributor to global warming. WWF is an international “non-governmental organization for the conservation, research and restoration of the natural environment, formerly called the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in the United States and Canada.” And the UN Conference on Environment and Development also concluded that the Niger Delta, which is a home to coastal rainforest and mangrove, is the most endangered river in the world. This is courtesy reckless oil exploitation by foreign companies.

Consequently, and putting side-by-side these degradation and death, and the role America plays in the Nigeria oil sector, OCAFAC believes this nation has a moral responsibility to reduce or completely stop the genocide that is taking place in Nigeria. This should be in the same way it's working hard to protect and making life meaningful to the people of the Gulf of Mexico. And maybe the incident in the Gulf would change America's attitude toward Nigeria for better, because who wears the shoes knows where they hurt.