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New Commission Will Look Into Oil Spills In Nigeria

A commission has been convened in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state to look into oil spills in the Niger Delta to try and hold oil companies more accountable, CNN reports, quoting the official who initiated the move.

"This Commission will investigate the human and environmental impact of multinational oil company activity and is crucial to the prosperous future of the people of Bayelsa and their environment, Nigeria and hopefully to other oil-producing nations," the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu said.

The panel was convened by the governor of the Bayelsa state, who said in a statement "The world has looked on for too long without taking the necessary collective action to put a stop to the damage being done by oil companies in Bayelsa. We must put the environment and the health and wellbeing of our communities first."

There were more than 12,000 spills in the Niger Delta between 1976 and 2014. More than half of these were caused by pipeline corrosion and tanker accidents. The rest were a result of mechanical error and sabotage, the Journal of Health and Pollution reported last year.

Oil companies have blamed most spills and pipeline leaks on sabotage and vandalism: cutting into pipelines to siphon fuel is not an uncommon practice in the Delta. It has in fact fueled a whole illicit refining industry in the region that the government has tried tackling in various ways, from violent shutdowns to, most recently, negotiations to make the illegal refineries come out from the shadow economy.

The tension between Niger Delta communities and the federal government, however, are not over. The communities are demanding more revenues from the oil industry to be directed towards improving their living conditions and creating jobs in the Delta: the two factors that led to the rise of militant groups that caused quite a lot of headaches for field and pipeline operators in the region in the last few years.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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