Nnimmo Bassey visited Trondheim

Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth international, visited last weekend the Norwegian city of Trondheim, where he talked about the parallels between oil extraction outside Lofoten in Norway and in his own country Nigeria.

Nnimmo Bassey is the Chair of Friends of the Earth International and the Director of Environmental Rights Action, a Nigerian NGO cooperating with Friends of the Earth Norway.

 

The local branch of Friends of the Earth Norway organized a public meeting where Nnimmo Bassey talked about people's struggle against the oil companies and the authorities in the Niger Delta in Nigeria. He also drew parallels to the situation in Norway, with special focus on potential off-shore oil extraction in the Lofoten area, which is now high on the political agenda in Norway.

The moderator started by saying that these two oil-producing countries of Nigeria and Norway were looked upon very differently by other oil-producing countries: They all say that they want to avoid copying Nigeria, while everybody is looking at Norway as a great success.

Norwegian cod in Nigeria
Nnimmo Bassey told the audience that in Nigeria more than 1500 communities have oil installations in their vicinity. The Government is protecting these oil installations but they are not protecting their own people. The oil installations may also be supplied with electricity but the communities around are not benefiting. Their only “benefit” is that they may get light from an ever-burning gas flare, burning the gas that could have been used for the real benefit of the people. Instead they are badly affected by all the pollution from the gas flares, from the oil spills and all other pollution coming from the oil activities.

Bassey said that he grew up in a village in Nigeria where stockfish made of cod from Norway was a highly appreciated food. Now these rich fisheries with long traditions in Lofoten are put at stake and livelihoods and cultures with that. “Nobody should be allowed to do this”, Bassey claimed.

- How long will the oil last?

Lofoten is known worldwide for its beautiful sceneries, and surrounded by a sea with unique values, with cold-water coral reefs, herds of killer whale, big colonies of sea birds and the world’s largest remaining cod stock spawning in this area.

If the ecological damages from the oil industry's various activities should be restored completely, the price of the oil and gas would be so high that nobody would afford to buy it. In addition, we know that it is impossible to completely restore an ecosystem. We heard from the Gulf of Mexico that most of the oil disappeared. The reason was that a lot of toxic dispersants were used and much of the oil evaporated. However, even if the oil is out of sight it doesn't mean that the oil has completely disappeared from the ecosystem and having no negative effect. The evaporated oil will sooner or later come down somewhere and the oil removed from the surface by the chemicals take other forms that can be damaging over time and the chemicals themselves have a negative effect.

“The oil in Lofoten, how long will it last”, Bassey asked, and replied himself that it will only prolong Norway’s production by one year. “Those who want this to happen do it with open eyes, even if the price to pay may be a destroyed ecosystem that was rich on ecological and socio-cultural values”, Bassey ended his presentation.

Hope among the people
During the debate afterwards all felt that it is easy to become disillusioned and depressed by the situation described by Nnimmo Bassey. On the other side, the strongest hope was seen to be the people themselves, who must oppose their governments and break the illusion of the ever-increasing demand for more energy and that there is no alternative ways to prosper and to have a decent life.

This weekend there was a manifestation in more than 40 places in Norway, where people showed that they want the Lofoten area to be free of oil installations and oil spills and other forms of pollution, which are unavoidable consequences of oil extraction.

See pictures from the demonstrations here

At the manifestation in Trondheim Nnimmo Bassey was one of the speakers appealing to the Norwegian Government to protect Lofoten from the greedy hands of the oil companies. He also stressed that the Government should focus on the alternatives, and appealed to the people of Norway to clearly oppose the short-sighted politics based on fossil fuels.