The spill and the politics have attracted massive world-wide media attention. While some compensation is to be made available, the saga of failed strategies to deal with the spill highlights the very real possibility that the damage will not only be far greater than the sum put on it now, but that no amount of money or work will completely rectify the damage done. (NY Times).
Sadly for the vulnerable people of the Niger Delta, their voice is not heard in the same way as their US counterparts. The people of the delta live in an environment destroyed by the operations of oil companies which choose to neglect crumbling infrastructure which contributes to leaks from the pipelines which criss-cross the region (The Age). The Niger delta supplies 40% of the US’ needs for crude and has been a major supplier for over 40 years. It is estimated that each year more oil leaks from the 606 wells than emerged from the BP’s failed well in the month of April. The effects on the communities living in the Delta are devastating. Life expectancy has fallen to little more than 40 over the last two generations.
Bad outcomes seem to accompany poor processes. Communities in the region allege that ExxonMobil is attempting to fracture community links (Business Day).
“We also raised the issue of the oil company playing one community against another, particularly playing Ibeno Local Government against the rest of us.
“Fortunately, Ibeno community as far back as 1951 had been conducting its affairs as one community with us, but since Mobil arrived, they have tried to put a wedge against us.”
Practices such as this are at odds with ExxonMobil commitments to community development in Nigeria and other countries around the world (Exxon Mobile’>Exxon Mobil). Similarly, repeated professions of attempts to respect the environment do not check with the ongoing nightmare of the Delta.
Oil companies have generated significant profits from the Niger Delta since the 1960’s but the vulnerable people of the region have not shared in this wealth (Amnesty). In fact contamination caused by oil spills has led to increased poverty as valuable fish stocks and agricultural land have been destroyed.
Simply pointing the finger at weak and corrupt government that cannot hold the oil companies to account only highlights the fact that the companies’ ethics is bankrupt. Is it not possible to run a successful business that does not harm others?