Activists in Nigeria gathered at the site of the country’s first oil well on Tuesday as part of the global Break Free movement, to show what happens “when the oil goes dry, and the community is left with the pollution and none of the wealth.”
Black gold, or oil, was discovered in Oloibiri in 1956 by what was then known as the Shell Darcy corporation—Nigeria’s first commercial oil discovery. The site has since been declared a national monument.
But environmentalists like Nnimmo Bassey, a key Break Free organizer and director of Nigeria’s Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), imbue the oil well with a different sort of significance.
“This is indeed a monument,” Bassey said on Tuesday. “This Olibiri Oil Well is a monument to neglect. It is a monument to pollution. It is a monument to destroyed livelihoods and of betrayed hopes. It is a monument to the agents of global warming. It is a monument to fossil colonialism. It is a monumental disappointment. And we are saying, never again!”
Indeed, according to Nigeria’s Vanguard Media, which toured the region in March, “The people still face basic development challenges and environmental pollution caused by oil spills.”
And this legacy speaks to the common goal of the Break Free movement, which calls for oil, gas, and coal to be kept “in the ground” in order to avert climate and environmental catastrophe.
“The time has come to make fossil fuels history and give our environment and peoples a chance to recover from decades of unrelenting oil pollution,” Bassey added in a press statement. “By our actions we are standing in solidarity with communities in the oilfields of the Niger Delta, and other impacted communities around the world, demanding that our appetite for dirty energy must not be allowed to destroy the planet and future generations.”
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