How oil thefts and spills are making a dangerous mess in the Niger Delta
Oil spills harm communities. Source: Flickr

"That's not fair" is a phrase I often find myself saying. And while the obvious reply is "life isn't fair", I don't always agree.

Excluding acts of God, human beings determine what happens in this world, and we contribute to the unfair nature of life. Corporations are some of the worst contributors to this unfairness—the focus on the bottom line (profit) can make other critical factors seem less important. And oil companies are probably the worst of the lot. 

Some takeaways

  • 73% of oil spilt in the past 15 years has been caused by oil theft and sabotage and the most affected are host communities whose livelihoods are severely impacted.

  • Even though community members have been known to steal oil and vandalise infrastructure, the scale of oil theft in Nigeria confirms that host communities are not the only culprits.

  • Introducing steeper penalties for non-theft related spills, better surveillance using technology to secure pipelines and automating pipeline infrastructure could help prevent theft and oil spills in the future.

 

In 2010, oil giant BP caused an oil spill that lasted from April to July in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people died, and the marine ecosystem was severely impacted. It was called the Deepwater Horizon spill (you know it's bad when it has a name). Despite extensive cleanup efforts, up until three years later, oil was still being washed ashore. And even to date, the marine animal population is lower than it used to be. Scientists have said that the full impact of the spill is still unknown.

What caused the spill? In an attempt to cut costs and save time, BP used shoddy materials to construct an oil well and installed a poor safety system.

I know I said corporations are the worst—and they are—but oil

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Noelle Okwedy

Noelle Okwedy

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