Oil companies have been exploiting Nigeria’s weak regulatory system for too long,” “They do not adequately prevent environmental damage and they frequently fail to properly address the devastating impact that their bad practice has on people’s lives.”
A landmark United Nations study into the long-term environmental impact of oil production in Nigeria says that oil spills have led to acute health risks for area residents and widespread environmental damage that may take as many as 30 years and $1 billion to clean up”
Alex Flynn and Will Connors
The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 2 2011.
The theory of Blackman as his own worst enemy
On a business visit with colleagues to Moscow, at the invitation of the Russia government during the early days of “perestroika”, a Russian colleague said to me, “you Nigerians are learned. In every major world conference I have attended, Nigerian nationals have been present. With all the knowledge you and your fellow citizens possess in abundance, why can’t you help yourselves and your country?” Few years later, a Jewish landlord of mine left me with words of wisdom – “no people or race can make it on the world stage without an uncompromising value, unity of purpose, love and loyalty for self and generations to come”. Without him saying it, I knew instantly that the old man had figured out that the Blackman is his own worst enemy – lack of deep rooted value, love and loyalty for his kind and natural endowments. The purpose of this article is to explore this hypothesis of Blackman – his own worst enemy, using the blessing/curse of oil exploration in Nigeria as a test case. At your own time you can extend this test to present day lifestyle, food consumption, dress code, music, Nollywood, governance, judiciary, infrastructures, etc., in Africa. Who knows, you might reach a different conclusion. Either way, it is my hope that lessons can be learnt in the interest of future generations.
Some might brand me a traitor for this article. My questions to such people are (1) in which part of the world are you today, why are you there and in your current situation? (2) What is your assessment of the economic and political realities of your country of birth? (3) How many countries governed by your kind are role models for others? (4) If you live abroad, e.g. in USA or EU, which passport are you and your family holding and treasure and how soon do you plan moving back to your country of birth and why? Until we start telling ourselves the truth as it is, we will continue to remain in the dark. The policy of don’t ask and don’t tell has not taken us anywhere. Openmind Foundation is about re-programming our mind-set for a greater tomorrow. There are great minds within our communities. Let’s put them into use at full throttle before too late – hence this article.
Petroleum and natural gas business in Nigeria
Oil exploration has been on-going in Nigeria for over 50 years and Shell has been active in Nigeria since 1937. Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) is the largest oil and gas company in Nigeria from land and swamps in the Niger Delta and from deep-water reserves some 120 kilometres off the cost. The company operates the oil and gas joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation – NNPC (55%), SPDC (30%), Total’s subsidiary (10%), and Nigerian Agip Oil (5%). The company is also involved in gas sales and distribution.
The company’s operation involves a network of over 6,000 kilometres of flowlines and pipelines, 86 oilfields, 1,000 producing wells, 68 flow stations, 10 gas plants and two major oil export terminals at Bonny and Farcados (Shell , April 2011). The Bonny crude oil terminal is the largest of its kind in Africa and the associated gas plant has the capacity to produce 20 million standard cubic feet of gas per day (www.shell.com.ng).
Between 2006-2010 the joint venture operated by SPDC generated total revenue of about $31 billion to the Nigerian government – an average of $6.2 billion per annum. “In addition to generating revenue, Shell companies in Nigeria actively promote projects in the Niger Delta that support small businesses, agriculture, training, education, health care and capacity building” (Shell). All these statistics / blessings have come at a huge cost to the people of Nigeria and Delta indigenes in particular – pollution.
The human and environmental cost of oil exploration
The SPDC website states Shell’s operations’ core values as “honesty, integrity and respect for people” (www.shell.com.ng). Whether these stated core values cover environmental and local livelihood protection is best left for Shell, mission statement gurus and legal minds to interpret. However actions, evidence and records speak louder than mission statements. Even where, for the benefit of a doubt, and on the basis of Shell’s operating standards in Europe and America, we accept that environmental protection is part of its core values, then what accounts for the Nigerian Delta experience (ecological catastrophe)? Could it be the product of double standards by Shell, a situation fuelled by Blackman’s inhumanity to his very self (the value/love/loyalty factors) or both?
The Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster (USA)
European and Americans provide an enduring example of a race, government and people that place premium on value, love, and loyalty for self and on the strategy of creating and sustaining global dominance for generations to come. This is ever evident in their approach to addressing challenges and disasters. For example, on 20 April 2010, an offshore drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded after a blowout and sank two days later, killing 11 people. The blowout in the Macondo Prospect field in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in a partially capped oil well one mile below the surface of the water. Within a short space of time more than ”43,000 suggestions on how to tackle the Gulf oil spill” had been advanced by experts and concerned citizens of the United States and Europe (Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian, 2011). The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, took up the case of the people of Gulf of Mexico, the environment, the fisheries industry in the locality and the government he heads. In one of his numerous statements on the incident he said:
“I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater” .. “We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused,”
(Obama, June 2010).
The President backed his words with action by bullying BP “into depositing £13.5billion ($20 billion) into a fund to settle compensation claims for the calamitous Gulf of Mexico oil spill”( David Gardner, MailOnline, 2010). Mr Obama also said that “a $120m fund would also be set up to compensate oil industry workers (BBC, June 2010). On 5 July, less three 3 months after the Gulf of Mexico indecent, BP reported that its own expenditures on the oil spill had reached $3.12 billion, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf States, claims paid, and federal costs. (blog.inpageads.com).
The US politicians spoke of legal action and even the possibility of criminal charges against BP. By 17 June, over 220 lawsuits were filed against BP alone. Lawsuits were also filed against Transocean, Cameron International Corporation, and Halliburton Energy Services. It did not end there. The BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, appeared before a US Congress committee on Thursday 17 June. Contrast this with the Niger Delta experience – the actions of the Nigerian people, the government, the security services, and Shell.