Awash in oily news from the Niger Delta

Whoa. Could it be that the universe/Gods of justice/media heard my complaint from 12 days ago? On June 5th, I wrote about the bigger spill (the one that even the NYTimes isn’t saying much about) because I was peeved that the 50 year-long ongoing oil spill in the Niger Delta was nowhere to be found in a NYTimes multimedia feature on the history of major oil spills. I was also peeved that save for one superb article in the Guardian, there was no other mention of this tragedy in the the rest of the media, who went on and on, however, about Exxon-Valdez, Ixtoc1, the Kuwait episode, etc.

And then all of sudden, today saw a  deluge of Niger Delta oil spill stories. Check out the timeline that I saw on a google news search page:

Google news tracker: Sudden spike in stories about the Nigerian oil tragedy

That’s right. As of 9pm today, no less than 130 news reports appeared on this issue today.

The coverage stretches all the way across the press spectrum, ranging from a great piece in the Times itself to a post written by a blogger over at Technorati.

It’s great that this raises awareness of the plight of the residents of the Delta, but I don’t understand why these stories have appeared today all at once.

It can’t have anything to do with Nigeria being in the news because of the World Cup, can it? Especially since their Super Eagles are on the verge of being ousted?

Or is it about throwing some spotlight on the sins of Shell at a time when it’s also come under legislative scrutiny? (Shell’s executives, along with their peers from the other big companies, basically sold out BP at the Congressional hearing yesterday, claiming that they practise safer drilling and have better plans for a clean-up.)

Whatever the reason, I hope this international scrutiny, and by translation, international pressure, will goad the Nigerian government into finally passing the Petroleum Industry Bill, which will significantly rachet up the liabilities of companies drilling (and spilling) in Nigeria.

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