For over 50 years now, the extraction of crude oil and natural gas from Nigeria’s Niger Delta has meant wealth for a privileged few but has exacted heavy costs on residents and the environment. Nigeria is the world’s 8th largest producer of crude oil, yet remains one of its poorest nations — an estimated 70 percent of its 150 million residents live below the poverty line. The environment is paying a steep price as well. An estimated 500 million gallons of oil have spilled into the delta — the equivalent of roughly one Exxon Valdez disaster per year. A number of factors have contributed to these disasters: poor construction and maintenance, lax regulation, militant attacks, and petroleum thieves, not to mention government instability and abuse of power. According to cables released by WikiLeaks, Shell Oil claimed to have planted staff in all of Nigeria’s main ministries, gaining access to key government decisions. Gathered here are some scenes from Nigeria’s long, disastrous relationship with the crude oil industry. [31 photos]
If you haven’t seen these photos, check them out.
Looking through the photos, I was shocked to see how recent many of them are. Wikileaks can reveal that Shell has infiltrated every ministry of the Nigerian government, yet Shell officials can claim the problems in the Niger Delta are the result of sabotage and ineffective government. And the sabotage? Can anyone really be surprised? Bunkering, illegal refining and MEND did not develop overnight. Decades of systematic neglect — social and environmental — created today’s situation. And still, the flaring, the spills, the fighting, the devastation — they all continue, just the cost of doing business in the Niger Delta.