This week 700 million pairs of eyes from all around the world were focused on Africa to see Spain finally win Football's World Cup. It's now time those eyes focused on another kind of ball -- balls of oil fouling the environment off the coast of Nigeria.
The story line sounds familiar. A big oil company (in this case ExxonMobil) leaks vast amounts of oil, pollutes the waters (in this case the Atlantic Ocean) killing the fish, local industries and any hopes of a rapid clean up.
It's time the world paid attention. I've been reporting this story since ExxonMobil decided to import a 30-year-old leaking oil platform to Nigeria from Angola, a platform even Angola's government regulators rejected! I'm no businessman, but that doesn't exactly sound like a good investment.
But just as BP has handled its oil spill disaster off in the Gulf of Mexico, ExxonMobil and the Nigerian government are handling things incredibly poorly too. In fact, they're trying to act as if this spill hasn't happened. American media outlets have been denied access to Nigeria. The government has imposed a 50-mile media blackout around the spill site -- from land, air and sea -- so no one can get close and see the disaster first hand. My sources tell me that ExxonMobil officials have been bribing local Nigerian officials in the hope they can "make it all go away."
But I won't let it go away. Since founding SaharaReporters.com five years ago, I have made it my job to be a citizen journalist, and report freely, accurately and fairly to expose the corruption of the Nigerian government.
Here's what ExxonMobil and the government in Nigeria don't want you to know. They don't want you to know this 30-year-old platform is still leaking at least five thousand of barrels of crude a day. They don't want you to know that they can't fix the leak (sounds familiar again doesn't it?) They don't want you to know that if the current pipes break further before they can fix the platform, it will release 60 to 100 thousand of barrels of oil a day.
This environmental catastrophe has been going on since December 2009, when I first broke the story. ExxonMobil repeatedly denied that anything had happened, but the pictures attached to this article tell a different story. It's an eerily familiar story. There's oil on the surface of the ocean, wildlife coated in crude, fishermen losing their businesses.
Only in the last 10 days did ExxonMobil finally issue a statement to "BusinessDay and News Agency of Nigeria" saying only two barrels of oil had spilled
The timing of that statement was interesting -- perhaps because ExxonMobil had another environmental PR disaster on its hands -- this time in the United States. ExxonMobil owns the largest oil refinery in the U.S. But just last week, the Associated Press reported the Baytown refinery violated federal air pollution laws thousands of times during the last five years, releasing 10 million pounds of illegal pollution, including cancer-causing toxins. According to environmental groups, ExxonMobil got away without facing proper fines or being forced to fix equipment. Yes, it's a familiar story.
Nigeria is a country of 140 million people. Kick backs to government officials are the normal way of doing business. Perhaps that's why this oil spill hasn't got the attention it should. Journalists can't report it, but I can. And just as I finish writing this piece comes word that BP's stocks went up with news that ExxonMobil may buy it. Sounds like a partnership made in heaven.