Amnesty International task Jonathan, Allison-Madueke on Gas Flaring in Nigeria

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Oil companies spill more oil into the Niger Delta each year than was spilled as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster that devastated the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The London-based international human rights group, Amnesty International has called out President Goodluck Jonathan and Oil Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke to set a solid deadline for ending gas flaring in Nigeria, which the group said, was a major source of oil pollution that has been endangering the lives of the Niger Delta people. 'Cleaning up the Niger Delta and stopping gas flaring is a small, but necessary step toward ensuring that basic human rights to health, food, clean water and livelihood in the Niger Delta are protected. Please add your voice to the growing number of people who are keeping their eyes on Nigeria,' said a statement by Simon Billenness, Business and Human Rights Group, Co-chair and Extractive Industries Lead for Amnesty USA .

'The oil industry is abusing the human rights of thousands of people in Nigeria's Niger Delta, which is one of the most important ecosystems in the world and home to some 31 million people. It is being poisoned. Oil is killing the fish, polluting the water, and endangering the people who make the Niger Delta their home,' Amnesty said, while launching a new technology driven campaign to mobilize action to stop the harmful practice. 'A major source of oil pollution is the practice of gas flaring, or the burning off excess gas as waste. The government of Nigeria and multinational oil companies active in the Niger Delta, including Shell, ENI, Total and Chevron, are jointly responsible for gas flaring in the region. But for half a century, the Nigerian government has demonstrated that it can't or won't hold oil companies accountable.'

 The campaign dubbed 'Eyes on Nigeria' launched by Amnesty International USA involves employing satellite and geo-spatial technologies to expose and fight human rights abuses and is the newest project to emerge from Amnesty's groundbreaking Science for Human Rights Program, which employs new monitoring tools and technologies to expose and visualize human rights abuses and situations in which human rights are at risk throughout Nigeria, including through active monitoring of harmful gas flaring in the Niger Delta region.

By using satellite imagery and other remote sensing technology, mapping techniques, and incorporating eyewitness testimonies, photos and videos, the "Interactive Evidence" section of the website ( ) is intended to bring concerned people across the world closer to the daily threat rights holders in Nigeria face. Though no website can replicate the heat and roar of gas flares, the feel in the palm of rubble that was once a home, or the trauma experienced by Nigerians on a daily basis, this site can and must bring the world closer to human rights crises in Africa's most populated country, and where over 2% of the world's population resides, Amnesty reckoned.

'The Eyes on Nigeria project is a comprehensive view of the most pressing human rights issues facing the people of Nigeria,' said Dr. Scott Edwards, director, Science for Human Rights program.  'We hope that people around the world will be inspired by what they learn through this new project to act in concert with the Nigerian people to demand basic human dignity'

The goal of Eyes on Nigeria is to mobilize 3 million activists worldwide to take action targeting the Nigerian government and oil companies to shut down the estimated 75 unchecked gas flares, which for decades have been a cause for concern regarding the health of the population and the overall environment in the Niger Delta. Amnesty International chapters and individuals worldwide will be able to 'adopt' individual gas flares, monitor them via the Eyes on Nigeria website and take action to stop them, just as activists have adopted the cases of prisoners of conscience to gain their freedom.

The Eyes on Nigeria project locates and maps each gas flare occurring in the region and estimates the impact on surrounding communities of the high temperatures, fumes, and elevated sound levels caused by the flares. The new campaign will allow activists worldwide to take action and begin the 'Countdown to Flares Out.' In what ostensibly will become a global naming and shaming campaign of Nigeria, Amnesty International is urging President Jonathan and Oil Minister, Allison-Madueke to among other things: enforce existing laws and reform legislation to ensure the oil industry is effectively regulated; publicly commit to clean up oil pollution in full consultation with affected communities and ensure that the human rights impact of oil industry pollution is closely monitored and the results made publicly available.

Technical assistance for the Eyes on Nigeria project was provided by the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, (AAAS); a nonprofit, nonpartisan scientific organization. 'We coupled on-the-ground measurements of a single flare with the daily satellite sensor data for all flares in the region to determine the increased air temperatures affecting inhabitants and agricultural production within two kilometers of the flares,' said Susan Wolfinbarger, AAAS senior program associate.

The research by AAAS determined that 75 flares are currently active in the Niger Delta region.

Nigeria has prohibited gas flaring since 1984, but when oil is pumped out of the ground, the gas produced is separated and, most of it is burnt as waste in massive flares. The burning of this 'associated gas', long acknowledged as environmentally damaging has been going on for almost five decades. More recently, communities and NGOs have raised concerns about the impact of gas flaring on human health.

As of today, critical questions that residents have raised about the associated health and environmental risks of gas flaring have not been answered. Amnesty teams and partners have collected more than 10 years worth of evidence that shows gas flaring is happening dangerously close to the waters where people drink, bathe, fish and wash their clothes. With the new Eyes on Nigeria project's satellite imaging and mapping technology , the group aims to not only validate residents' concerns, but to expose serious human rights abuses.