Nigeria “cursed” by oil, report says

The pollution caused by a half-century of oil extraction in Nigeria is one of the world's most disturbing examples of the curse of natural resources, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a study by Amnesty International. Environmental pollution in Nigeria's southern oil region, the organisation said, had deprived tens of millions of people of their basic rights to safe food, clean water and good health.

“People living in the Niger Delta have to drink, cook with, and wash in polluted water; they eat fish contaminated with oil and other toxins — if they are lucky enough to still be able to find fish,” said the report, Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta.

It added: “After oil spills the air they breathe reeks of oil, gas and other pollutants; they complain of breathing problems … but their concerns are not taken seriously.” Farmland in the region, one of the most important wetlands on earth, also is being destroyed by oil spills, the report said.

Amnesty blames both the government and multinational oil companies – Shell is the largest operator in Nigeria — for the abuses. “Their poverty, and its contrast with the wealth generated by oil, has become one of the world’s starkest and most disturbing examples of the resource curse,” Amnesty said.

Oil spills, waste dumping and gas flaring are endemic in the delta region, where at least 60% of the people depend on the natural environment for their livelihood. Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria is the world’s eighth-largest exporter of crude oil. It relies on oil for more than 90% of its export revenue.

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