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Offshore Oil Leak in Nigeria, "Worst Ever" in String of Many

Twenty-mile oil slick destroys local fishing industry

Common Dreams staff

A boy stands by oil-covered farmland in Nigeria's Akwa Ibom state. (Photo by Tife Owolabi / Reuters)

A leaking ExxonMobil offshore facility in Nigeria is causing a "miles long" oily slick coating precious fishing waters "in a film of sludge," Reuters reports.

A journalist visiting Nigeria's Akwa Ibom state reported seeing a "rainbow-tinted oil slick stretching for 20 miles from a pipeline that Exxon had shut down because of a leak a week ago."

"This is the worst spill in this community since Exxon started its operations in the area," said local fisherman Edet Asuquo. "The fishermen cannot fish any longer and have no alternative means of survival."

The report describes women scooping oil into buckets while plants, blackened by the oil, poked out of the slick.

One fisherman reportedly saw a large quantity of oil on the surface of the water and all over the beach the Friday before the facility was shut down. Exxon subsequently sprayed dispersal chemicals in the water, further contaminating the area.


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"Our prayers are for tough punishment on the oil companies operating the Niger Delta," said Inyang Ekong, the secretary of the fishermen's association.

This is the second major Exxon spill in the Niger Delta region in the past three months. At the end of August, it was reported that "another oil spill" occured off the coast of Nigeria, leaving a slick that ran for miles along the coast.

Oil spills are common in Nigeria where, according to Reuters, "enforcement of environmental regulations is lax." The article cites a U.N. report issued last year that "criticized the government and multinational oil firms for 50 years of oil pollution that has devastated the Ogoniland region."

Mark Ward, the managing director of Mobil Producing Nigeria, a local subsidiary of U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil, issued a statement of apology: "Our teams are being mobilized to clean up the area," he said. "We apologize for the inconveniences that it has caused."

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