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The Goi creek in Ogoniland, Niger Delta, which was damaged by the devastating oil spills from a pipeline a decade ago. Decades of oil spills have left the Ogoniland region an environmental disaster zone. Photograph: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Double standards on oil spills in Nigeria must end

27 March 2019

Oil companies must respect human lives and clean up the damage their industry does wherever they operate, say Dr John Sentamu, Baroness Amos, Prof Michael Watts, Njeri Kabeberi and James Thornton

The devastating impact of oil spills is widely recognised. The past decade has witnessed the destruction caused to human life and the environment from spills including the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and the Montara spill in Australia in 2009.

On each occasion the global community has reacted with horror, demanding the oil industry clean up local ecosystems and communities. Yet in Nigeria, and particularly in Bayelsa state in the Niger Delta, these calls are ignored.

Oil spills are a persistent feature of life in Bayelsa. While 4m litres of oil are spilled annually in the US, 40m litres are spilled in the Niger Delta.

Oil has poisoned the land and water. The contamination of fish and crops has destroyed livelihoods, decimated local employment opportunities and pushed many into militancy. Life expectancy in the Niger Delta is 10 years below the national average.

Multinational oil companies operate to severe double standards. While efforts are made to clean up spills in the US, Scotland or Norway, oil is left to flow unabated in Nigeria.

Oil companies must respect human lives wherever they operate. Spills must be cleaned, and communities must be compensated.

The people of Bayelsa have suffered at the hands of the oil industry. On Wednesday the Bayelsa state oil and environmental commission launches its inquiry to seek a new global standard of behaviour for the oil industry and to end the destruction of human lives, communities and the environment.

By Dr John Sentamu Archbishop of York, John Kufuor Former Ghanaian president, Valerie Amos Former UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator, Prof Michael Watts University of California, Berkeley, Njeri Kabeberi Executive director, Greenpeace Africa, James Thornton Founding CEO of ClientEarth. This letter appeared in the UK’s Guardian.

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