I am someone who tries to practise acceptance, and as part of this to avoid feeling shock at the many extremes of human behaviour that I see; I felt real shock, however, almost horror two nights ago when I heard a report on the BBC about what is happening in the Nigerian Delta.
It seems that, as Nigeria is becoming more and more wealthy through oil production, Nigerians, who feel their country’s resources belongs to them and that they have a right to share the profits, are cutting oil pipelines, intercepting the oil and refining it, very basically, in the countryside to sell on. One billion dollars worth of oil is being stolen each year. The government knows about it and where it is happening, but the police, the army and even officials are part of the corruption and so nothing is done to close the practice down.
The journalist who reported the story spoke movingly about his own shock as he was led through lush green forest and found suddenly that that the green ceased abruptly and everything before him was black, as oil covered the burnt landscape. Rusty cans filled with cooling oil bobbed about on a creek, the waters of which were covered with an oil sheen. It was an environmental horror story, extending outwards all the time as the enterprise expands.
There are several places in the Delta where this casual abuse of nature’s resources is occurring, and it is a catastrophe now and potentially even more so if the illegality continues. Not only could it impact the environment of the whole region in time, but it is very dangerous: cutting pipelines could lead to hard-to-control fires and loss of life. Shell, a major oil extractor there, is very concerned both about the effect on its profits and the effect on the environment, but can do nothing to intervene, by law, except do what it can to protect its pipelines.
For me, this is such a sad story, and it deserves more attention. International pressure and persuasion on the Nigerian government could encourage the authorities to clamp down on what is happening but it is not forthcoming. Who really cares? I talked of acceptance before: there is a difference between active and passive acceptance, and this really is the time for action.
(A good BBC report on the story is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18973637