|OPINIONS AND ANALYSES|
STATEMENT ON NIGERIAN PIPELINE EXPLOSION AT
The Southern Minorities Front of Nigeria
October 21, 1998
Petroleum, produced almost entirely in the Niger Delta, accounts for more than 90% of Nigerian government revenue. Yet the area is the most impoverished in the country and its people are amongst the very poorest on earth. In collusion with successive irresponsible and corrupt governments, oil corporations operate in Nigeria with deliberate abandon, impunity and total disregard for the lives of the people in their areas of operation. The allegation of sabotage in the latest disaster is hogwash! "Sabotage" and "political motives" have become convenient excuses by the military regime for the crass idiocy and palpable nonchalance of greedy and corrupt government officials who are the beneficiaries of largesse from oil. Where else in the world would a pipeline carrying refined petroleum some 500 miles be above ground all the way? This tragedy is symptomatic of the malaise of Nigerian society where a section of the country has held other parts hostage for its own benefit. The obscene irony is that while the oil-producing areas experience chronic shortage of gasoline, refined gasoline is pumped from the area to Kaduna to ensure abundant supply in Northern Nigeria!
We view reports that General Abdusalami Abubakar, Nigeria's military ruler, has declared that families of the dead will not be compensated in the face of the devastating scale of the disaster, "because the pipeline was sabotaged," as grossly insensitive. It is a further illustration of the contempt and disdain the regime has for the people of the oil- producing area. In African cultures, we bury even our enemies!
Years of oil exploitation have resulted in vast ecological devastation as a result of oil and chemical spillages left to seep into the soil, gas flaring which results in acid rain, the combination of which has completely destroyed the people's economic mainstay of farming and fishing. The people of the area have been pauperized, many suffer from respiratory complications and other health problems that have been linked to oil exploitation. That villagers were scrounging for gasoline for sale in the black market is a painful proof of the level of poverty and the desperate condition of the people of the area. This sad occurrence is also an indictment of an irresponsible government, avaricious multinational oil companies and their shameless home governments.
For years, environmentalists have drawn world attention to the irresponsible manner of operation of oil companies in Nigeria but their efforts have often been thwarted by greedy multinationals, some of whom have admitted to going as far as providing the Nigerian military and police with arms, aircraft and boats for violent suppression of genuine complaints of the people. In the mid-1990s, the Nigerian military dictatorship under Sani Abacha carried out a virulent military crackdown against the Ogoni people. In 1995, in a horrendous and odious attempt to stifle protests, Abacha hanged nine Ogoni environmentalists, including writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, as a cautionary example to intimidate the people of the area and to suppress their protests against the damnable excesses of the oil companies.
The people of the Niger Delta have paid the supreme sacrifice to
the flow of Nigerian oil to Europe and America, but now we say "Enough
is enough." Your wealth is not worth our lives. We call on people of
around the world to assist SoMiFoN in its efforts to redress the plight
of the people of the Niger Delta and the injustices of successive
governments, civilian or military, against them.