Niger Delta Environmental Activists Accuse ExxonMobil Worse Oil Pollution in Nigeria Than BP 's In The Gulf Of Mexico

Environmental rights activists in Eket, Akwa Ibom near the Qua Iboe oil export terminal operated by ExxonMobil under a joint venture agreement has accused United States of double standards regarding oil pollution issues. The environmentalists have described the reported use of dispersants near the coast by Mobil Producing Nigeria, Nigerian unit of US oil company ExxonMobil for the containment of the May 1 oil spill as a violation of environmental standards in the oil industry.

They argued that while the United States government to protect its citizens against the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, an American oil company was perpetrating worse environmental crimes to the detriment of Nigerians in the oil rich Niger Delta region.

The environmental rights activists under the auspices of Network For Safe and Secured Environment (NESE) told SaharaReporters that residents in coastal communities in Akwa Ibon who inhaled the dispersants experienced respiratory discomfort and took ill.

It was gathered that the practice has been ongoing for decades as the entire pipeline network at the Qua Iboe oil fields laid in the 1970’s have outlived the industrywide life span of between 15 and 20 years leading to frequent oil spills from the oil facilities.

Dispersants are chemical substances used to combat oil spills, it dissipates and breaks down the crude oil molecules and removes the oil from the water surface to the sea bed.

Mr. Bob Victor Okon an environmental scientist and the NGO’s Programme Director said that dispersants were toxic to both human and aquatic life addition that its use was restricted to offshore locations away from human settlements.

“The use of dispersants in the control of oil spills is usually not contemplated by environmentally conscious societies because of the impact of the chemicals on the marine ecosystem, it has been scientifically proven that dispersants increase the toxicity levels in the marine environment beyond tolerable limits.

“It is usually not recommended near human settlements because of its toxicity to fish eggs, fingerlings and other aquatic life; so there is need for the oil industry regulators to be more discerning before approving the use of toxic chemicals to mitigate oil spill” Okon said.

He said that the NGO was concerned about the toxicity level of the coastal waters since the application of dispersants which distorted the food chain and challenged the management of the oil firm to urgently take steps to remediate the damages done to the environment.

“We demand that Mobil should immediately start conservation projects in its host communities to mediate the damages done to the environment since they commenced operations in the 1970’s, this will restore the environment to its natural state

“This is in addition to the conduct of an independent study on the toxicity of the coastal waters to determine when it will become safe to advise fishermen to commence fishing activities which was suspended when the spill occurred in May ” Okon said.

Okon regretted that Nigeria leaders lack the awareness and interest in environmental issues and were ill prepared to engage oil firms to maintain high safety and environmental standards in their operations but rather collaborated with Multinational oil companies to perpetrate crimes against the environment that cannot be tolerated in their home countries.

“Nigerians are at the receiving end and we cannot allow multinationals to flout our environmental laws, look at how the US President reacted when a British oil firm BP had an oil spill that affected American citizens but an American oil company, Mobil frequently does the same thing here and it is swept under the carpet”, Okon said.

In a reaction to the allegations of using toxic chemical dispersants to contain the spill, Mobil Producing Nigeria Management wryly said that dispersants does not pose any health hazard.

“Dispersants are not toxic to humans, they evaporate immediately after application. They do not constitute health hazards to humans and aquatic life. Dispersant use is approved by regulatory agency” a company spokesman said.

SaharaReporters investigations however showed that Mobil did not obtain the said approval from the Nation Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency empowered by existing legislation to grant approval for the use of dispersants in oil spill incidents.