As Gas Fires Burn, Devastated Nigeria Pays Horrific Price to Ensure Profits of Big Oil

Bruce A. Dixon

Big Oil ranks among the most profitable enterprises on earth. But capitalist corporations don’t pay their own costs – these are borne by the people and their environments. Few have paid a higher price than the oil-producing regions of Nigeria, now among the most devastated and toxic wastelands on the planet.

Since its nominal independence from Britain in the 1960s, the West African nation of Nigeria has been the scene of a vast, murderous and ecocidal wave of corporate crime. The leading culprits are the continuing corporate criminal conspiracies of Big Oil, including Shell, Texaco, Mobil, Conoco, BP, Total, and others, aided by a succession of compliant military and civilian governments, armies and police forces. The job of capitalist corporations is to maximize profits by externalizing, or shedding their costs onto other entities, and Big Oil has been massively successful in Nigeria.

With most of Nigeria’s oil concentrated in the Niger Delta and offshore, Big Oil has extracted conservatively at least $600 billion, more likely trillions in profits. Big Oil’s costs are borne by the people, the lands and the waters of Nigeria’s oil producing regions, which they have transformed into an impoverished and toxic wasteland where fishermen can’t fish, where farmers can’t farm, where the very rain and air are poisonous and the water undrinkable, where hospitals, electricity and schools are mostly unavailable. The oil producing regions are crisscrossed by a network of high-temperature, high-pressure, ill-maintained and chronically leaking pipes which annually spill an amount comparable to what BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster did in the Gulf of Mexico. Nigerians have paid this price every year for more than a generation.

But unlike the Deepwater Horizon disaster, homicide and ecocide committed by Big Oil in West Africa gets little notice in the world’s media. A December Shell/BP oil spill that the criminals claim was only 40,000 barrels was virtually ignored outside West Africa. A separate offshore gas fire, which initially killed two workers when a rig exploded, has turned a region of open water into a lake of fire up to 1400 degrees Farenheit that is burning well into its second month. While Chevron oil officials claim it will be another month before efforts to put out the fire are successful, even more nearby communities are finding their water undrinkable, their air unbreathable, and local clinics thronged with environmentally induced diseases and disorders.

The profits of Big Oil in West Africa, which now supplies nearly a fifth of US oil imports, has and continue to poison millions of Africans. It has turned their crops, their waters, their environment and even their children into sacrifices on the altar of corporate profit. And this horrendous price is only to bring the oil out of the ground and onto the world market, not the cost of burning it and adding its carbon to the atmosphere, but costs which are also paid by someone other than Big Oil.

The long term survival of West Africa, and of humanity will only be ensured when we stop paying the homicidal and ecocidal cost of Big Oil. We believe that day is coming. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)