In the Gulf, a reporter jumps into oil-covered waters, in Washington a woman interrupts a hearing to pour oil over herself, and a BP executive is summoned to the White House. In the Niger Delta, half a world away there is only silence. Where children splashed and fishermen sang as they cast for shrimp and crabs there is now the kind of quiet you find in mortuaries, not estuaries.
Estimates say that up to 2.5 million gallons of oil could be spilling into the Gulf of Mexico each day. The Niger Delta has borne the brunt of some 546 million gallons over the past 50 years.
Let me type that again for you: five hundred and forty six million gallons of oil have been spilled in the Niger delta over the past five decades.
According to a New York Times article:
“The oil spews from rusted and aging pipes, unchecked by what analysts say is ineffectual or collusive regulation, and abetted by deficient maintenance and sabotage. In the face of this black tide is an infrequent protest — soldiers guarding an Exxon Mobil site beat women who were demonstrating last month, according to witnesses — but mostly resentful resignation.”
A third of the US’s crude oil comes from Nigeria, and though the Niger Delta region contributes nearly 80 percent of its government’s revenue, its inhabitants haven’t seen any benefits. Life expectancy there is the lowest in Nigeria and in addition to a loss of livelihood as most of the marine and bird life disappear, people of this area must deal with gas flares, polluted water, and government-sanctioned oil thieves.
“President Obama is worried about that one,” Claytus Kanyie, a local official, said of the gulf spill, standing among dead mangroves in the soft oily muck outside Bodo. “Nobody is worried about this one. The aquatic life of our people is dying off. There used be shrimp. There are no longer any shrimp.”
Where is the media attention?