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BP’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: The Warning Signal?

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been raising lot of questions with regards to offshore drilling. Much has already been said and unquestionably, many still have to be said. However, I would like to focus on one point: the lesson that developing countries should be learning from this, and the dilemma that they will probably soon be facing between, on one hand, the need for foreign direct investments and on the other hand the concern for their ecosystems; given that oil companies do not feel the same pressure when such accidents occur in third world countries and worldwide media do not really pay attention.

A Nigerian writer, Ben Ikari, recently said, while talking about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, that “If this Gulf accident had happened in Nigeria, neither the government nor the company would have paid much attention … this kind of spill happens all the time in the delta.”

To back up Ben Ikari’s words, let me start by mentioning some oil spill accidents that happened quite recently in some third world countries. The most recent examples are the spill that happened in Singapore, Singapore Strait on the 25th May 2010 (oil company: MT BUNGA KELENA 3), or the one in Nigeria, Niger Delta on the 1st May 2010 (oil company: EXXONMOBIL). These oil spills did not cause any worldwide headlines whereas in these countries, people depend completely on the environment for their basic life needs such as drinking water, food, source of income and other basic daily life needs. So for these people, seeing Obama, the US president making daily speeches about the BP oil disaster; watching worldwide media such as BBC, CNN, Euronews, France24 talking about this minute after minute in their headlines; seeing BP oil using all their new technology and even deciding to stop paying dividends in order to ensure compensation for damage caused; is more than a surreal thing.

Referring to oil spills in developing countries, Ben Ikari carried on by saying that “The oil companies just ignore it. The lawmakers do not care and people must live with pollution daily. ..When I see the efforts that are being made in the US I feel a great sense of sadness at the double standards. What they do in the US or in Europe is very different.”


Coming back to my main point, namely the dilemma between on one hand the need for Foreign Direct Investments in developing countries and on the other hand the concern for their ecosystems: Undoubtedly, with this gulf of Mexico oil spill, big crude oil companies in the world will probably be forced to intensify offshore interests in developing countries such as the Gulf of Guinea, the Gulf of Aden -Yemen, the Niger Delta or the Angola’s offshore oil, where an incident like the Gulf of Mexico one will not probably retain world attention, obliging these companies to stop paying dividends. Indeed, with more potential offshore drilling restrictions / regulations coming in the USA, oil companies would have to explore new territories and this would indisputably lead them to countries with less regulation … Guess where I’m looking…

So, FDI at all costs?

Should oil companies abuse poverty in third world countries and put their governments in a situation where they would have to choose between FDI Vs damaging the ecosystem, FDI Vs sacrificing future generations or FDI Vs risking daily life?

Will developing country governments be able to strike a balance between attracting foreign investments and strict regulations that would protect not only their own peoples and ecosystems, but also be a guarantee for a sustainable development?

The debate is open, watch out!


June 20, 2010 - Posted by | Articles In English, International Business, International Economics | , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. this is a great website for my speach!

    Comment by Holly | July 19, 2010 | Reply

  2. Dear Editor,

    Please see BP Oil Spill:Who Wears the Shoes Knows Where They Hurt, for publication on your website. Feel free to also pass it on.

    Thank you.

    Ben Ikari(Writer, author, founder and dir. of OCAFAC-USA).

    The Ogoni Children Cultural and Fundamental Rights Council (OCAFAC-USA) extend its solidarity to the people of the Gulf of Mexico for the degradation they face. We’re appalled by the yet to be quantified damages and loses caused by British Petroleum’s (BP) avoidable and reckless oil spill.

    OCAFAC can feel the pains and loses since Ogoni had suffered and still suffering environmental degradation. It’s a problem caused by BP’s sister company $hell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC). Not only has Ogoni felt these pains and loses, its people have been killed for standing up to protest $hell’s negative actions or impact on the society and environment.

    Unlike America, in Nigeria, when oil spills are reported $hell and others claim they’re caused by sabotage. Whereas outdated equipments and corroded pipelines have been primarily responsible. These companies keep claiming militants, etc. sabotaged their pipes, but forgot that oil mining started in the region in 1956-while militancy came between 2004, 2006 and up to 2009. Currently, pockets of militant groups are still available.

    Militancy came after Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 others were killed by $hell and the government of Nigeria for campaigning against their methods of operations and stopping the flow of oil. Remember, it’s BP that started mining in Nigeria (1956) and metamorphosed into $hell Petroleum Development Corporation and later SPDC. They therefore have the same deadly tract records. These records are such that profit, recklessness is preferred over environmental safety and the health cum good of the host communities.

    Interestingly, the same recklessness, which pushed Saro-Wiwa to action, that he formed the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in 1990, has impacted America. The Gulf is, however, fortunate because the media and Obama’s administration have channeled their energies on BP. This media concentration and service is what is deliberately ignored when similar spills occur in Ogoni/Niger delta of Nigeria.

    Americans, except some activists and few people of good conscience also downplayed the Nigeria’s predicaments. And, the reason is that they’re the most beneficiaries of the oil from this region. As it stands in the Gulf, America may learn the same lessons and the reasons Saro-Wiwa led his people against $hell. This is because who wears the shoes knows where they hurt.

    American (Western) mainstream and corporate media have for decades knowingly and deliberately ignored life threatening situations of oil spills, gas flaring and other double standards applied by foreign oil companies in Nigeria and Africa in general. They do this in the same vein and intent as inequitable reporting on Africa. As such they’ve misinformed the American public and stereotype, stigmatize Africans.

    And the intent is to protect, promote and project capitalism-these oil killer companies as lords and saviors to the black world whereas they are polluters. In short, the media have poisoned the minds of most African-Americans about their ancestral home and have also poisoned the general public with mostly negative portraits while they exploit and degrade African environment.

    Meanwhile, the irony of oil spill and foreign multinational corporation is, when similar spills and degradation occur in Texas, Alaska, etc. and the alarming disaster in the Gulf, the media no doubt makes the call. Not only have they covered the spill on minute basis, they’ve also demanded the truth of BP. Citizen’s activism and the activist-president of the United States of America have been catalytic in making BP work harder to try to contain the spill and also set aside $20 billion in four years for claims caused by the spill.

    And when the dust settles the escrow money might even be more than what has been agreed. The media and government are prepared to hold BP accountable. In Nigeria, 50 years old spills are yet to be cleaned. Little or nothing of adequate compensation is paid, but threats, repression and extrajudicial killings.

    What the media, Obama and American citizens have done in the Gulf is what I recommend for the world, the Nigerian government and people in particular, when the next spill that will occur soon in Ogoni/Niger delta emerge. The Nigerian media is handicapped and most of them could be easily bribed like government officials/politicians. Therefore, Western media (America’s in particular) should wade in, in the same manner for the sake of our common humanity when such spill comes.

    Ogoni/Niger delta people, especially children have suffered untold hardship. This results from the incessant spills, excessive gas flares and gross human rights violations committed against parents and children. The peasants have been oppressed for nonviolently protesting environmental racism and economic strangulation by British/Dutch $hell, American Chevron, Total and Exxon-Mobil, Italian Agip, etc.

    Of course, the Nigerian government which runs a joint venture with these oil majors laid the foundation for its citizens to be disrespected, abused and killed by soldiers paid by these companies. The government is indeed the first culprit of these crimes against the weak and disadvantaged of Niger delta.

    Saro-Wiwa led the Ogoni people on a protest march against $hell Oil in 1993. He exposed a spill that took place in Ebubu Eleme (Ogoni) in 1970 and is yet to be cleaned as I write. The fact that $hell and other companies haven’t conducted Environmental Assessment, Social and Health Impact Studies, since crude oil was discovered in 1956 at Oloibri, was also exposed. Gas flares of deadly proportions and the reckless laying of high pressured pipelines at close proximity of human habitation were revealed to the world.

    Ogonis/Niger delta gained and kept this consciousness to the disappointment of $hell, Nigerian government and conspirators such as American and British governments among others. The result was the aforementioned murder by hanging of Saro-Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni rights activists on Nov. 10, 1995.

    Former President Bill Clinton had the opportunity to save these innocent men. But because America buys more than 40 percent of oil stolen by the Nigerian government from the defenseless Ogonis and other Niger deltans, they’re allowed to die. American and Western oil companies were protected. Clinton was lobbied to impose economic sanctions on the military government of Nigeria to halt the hanging he refused. Rather, a so-called “diplomatic sanction” was enforced.

    This weak sanction allowed America to continue the purchase of cheap and best grade oil from Nigeria. Insofar as oil continue to run from the veins of Niger deltans to the pumps in America, Niger deltans can die-who cares! Oil has become thicker than blood-what a lesson!

    Finally, the sad experiences of Ogoni and the careless and capitalistic attitude of the American government which also supply arms to Nigeria and train its military, brought about militancy in Nigeria. These militant groups had fought and still fighting for environmental and economic justice (even though some took to criminality) alongside nonviolent groups. The oil-rich region of Nigeria needs justice, development and peace.

    They seek to be self-determined like the federating states in America and so forth. That is control their economic resources and environment in alliance with the central government. America and the larger world should therefore be compassionate by resisting the sponsorship of mass killings (via investments in oil) resulting from oil struggles.

    If any conscience still exists, America should focus on extracting more oil from its waters or shores to feel the same thing those in Nigeria are feeling. It could also invest in alternative sources of energy for the sake of the people in the Gulf and beyond. Redesigning the cities as a means of reducing the use of fossil fuel may also help. We know arriving at safe and alternative energy sources would take time. Yet, the Gulf experience is a wake up call. If something concrete is started now, and with the promises today’s technology holds success will come swiftly and in full panoply.

    America must start now to reduce its foreign oil consumption and extract more at home since the oil companies may find it difficult to undercut the Federal government of Obama. This must nevertheless be done carefully as environmental safety must never be compromised as allegedly done in BP’s situation. What’s good for the goose can’t be bad for the gander. If America fears the attendant environmental catastrophes that comes with the extraction of fossil fuel at home, it should know that Niger deltans, other Africans have right to such fears.

    What happened in the Gulf is more of a monthly if not weekly disaster in Nigeria. Neither the government nor oil companies cares. The government is in the pocket of the oil companies. As said previously, if the BP’s incident had happened in Nigeria, neither the government nor oil companies would have paid much attention. Recently, Exxon-Mobile just spill some oil in Akwa Ibom, Niger delta and the company is reported to have been plotting the youths against the elders to evade compensation. The federal government of Jonathan Goodluck is there like a dormant volcano. $hell pipes also ruptured recently. The propensity that these companies will be held accountable as Obama is doing isn’t there. Ogoni/Niger delta therefore needs help!

    What is happening in Nigeria is tsunaminous; and Ogoni/Niger delta therefore needs help! $hell Oil flares more than 86 percent of its gas in Niger delta. It’s spilled more than 40 percent of its oil in the region. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) had calculated that $hell Oil’s gas flares in Nigeria are a major contributor to global warming. WWF is an international “non-governmental organization for the conservation, research and restoration of the natural environment, formerly called the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in the United States and Canada.”

    And the UN Conference on Environment and Development also concluded that the Niger Delta, which is the third largest wetland in the world, and a home to Coastal Rain-forest and mangrove, is the most endangered river in the world. This is courtesy reckless oil exploitation by foreign companies.

    Consequently, and putting side-by-side these degradation and death, and the role America plays in the Nigeria oil sector, OCAFAC believes this nation has a moral responsibility to reduce or completely stop the genocide that is taking place in Nigeria. United Nations defines genocide as a calculated or deliberate attempt to extinct a people from the surface of the earth. What is happening in Nigeria is genocidal, because the people are dying having been deprived their economic rights and security; the environment is polluted and also dying while pressure remains exerted on those living.

    OCAFAC therefore calls on Obama to exercise compassion by also putting a moratorium on the purchase of oil from Nigeria. Or, at best reduce the nation’s consumption to show he’s concern for others and the global environment as he does Americans, the people of the Gulf especially. And maybe the Gulf incidence would change America’s attitude toward Nigeria’s Niger delta for better, because who wears the shoes knows where they hurt.

    Comment by Ben Ikari | August 6, 2010 | Reply

  3. BP vs. the people takes place in New Orleans in Sept., that will tell the tale. Follow the money

    Comment by Kevin Matovina | August 13, 2010 | Reply

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