Oil: Economic Growth vs. Economic Development for Health in the Niger Delta

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Everyone in the USA remembers the Deep Horizon Oil Spill of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, which was huge and tragic, but what if you were having oil spills frequently in your community for decades? This is exactly what is happening in the Niger Delta of Nigeria since the 1960s on the land of 31 million people. Not only do oil spills have an environmental health impact, but they also impact the social determinants of health in terms of their economy of fishing and agriculture as well as their actual social and health care systems. $600 billion in oil wealth has lead to what the UNDP describes as, “administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services, high unemployment, social deprivation, abject poverty, filth and squalor, and endemic conflict.”

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The major oil company responsible is Royal Dutch Shell, which has done everything in their power to make the operation as profitable as possible by bribing federal government officials to get the cheapest deal, and they only give back to the community with publicity-driven public health programs like HIV and Maternal Health with little evidence of real impact.

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There are more noble organizations filling the gap though, such as the Christian Health Association of Nigeria, but they can’t provide an entire health system to this region by themselves.

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There is a long history of action and resistance by the people of the Niger Delta states though ranging from the non-violent movement of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People as well as more forceful ones, such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (hard to find a fair link because they get rather negative publicity).

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This is why it is our responsibility as consumers and benefactors of fossil fuel exploitation to support the people of the region as they continue to expose the issue to the world as described by the International Center for Journalist and their Nigerian fellows, which is why I propose the advocacy for a specific .01% tax on all oil revenue in the region that will go directly to health system investment by the local government with oversight of community leaders and current Nigerian NGOs.

epa03556207 A undated image showing plaintiff Nigerian farmer Eric Dooh showing his hand covered with oil from a creek near Goi, Ogoniland, Nigeria. According to a report of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), leaks in Shell pipelines in Nigeria occur regularly, causing harm to communities in the Niger Delta region. A group of Nigerian plaintiffs claim Shell is liable for the damage the leaks caused, while Shell claims most leaks are the result of sabotage. Reports also state fishponds and farmland have been destroyed, while most locals have no other option but to drink from polluted water. Eric Dooh from Goi (Ogoniland), Alali Efanga from Oruma (Bayelsa) and Friday Alfred Akpan from Ikot Ada Udo (Akwa Ibom), individual farmers from three different communities in the Niger Delta, have taken Shell into the Dutch civil court of The Hague in a landmark pollution case, asking for compensation for damages to their land. The verdict in the case is due 30 January 2013. EPA/MARTEN VAN DIJL +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

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One Response to “Oil: Economic Growth vs. Economic Development for Health in the Niger Delta”

  1. olamideoyenubi Says:

    Thank you for this post. It really hits home because I grew up in the Niger Delta and I remember driving one day through the ogoni land (one of the badly affected communities). The clouds were so dark and and there was no horizon. I learnt that that is how they live all year round. Your advocacy is very important because these are a group of people who lack almost every basic necessity. Like you mentioned their means of livelihood- fishing and farming has been taken away from them. I agree with you that the health system needs attention. Most especially with their constant exposure to these environmental biohazards. I however believe that the biggest impact on the health of the Niger Delta indigenes may come from getting these oil companies to follow set national and international practice standards by stopping the gas flaring, preventing further oil spillages and cleaning up the communities. I worry that taxes collected to be spent on the health system may not benefit the people who are most affected by this problem. Recently, the Environmental Management Association of Nigeria (EMAN) were advocating for regular auditing of the facilities used by multinational companies for oil exploration in the Niger Delta. The aim of the audit would be to find out if the the technology the companies were using conformed with best practices.http://guardian.ng/news/oil-spillage-association-advocates-regular-auditing-of-exploration-facilities-in-niger-delta/. Amnesty international one of the biggest advocates for the people of the Niger Delta are advocating for cleaning up of the spills and making their pipelines safer. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/07/shell-announces-55m-payout-for-nigeria-oil-spills. Once again, thank you for the post.

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