Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Niger Delta Quest - Part 4

Radio Netherlands Worldwide
14 November 2011

The roofing business is booming in Okwuzi. Bright red, and green corrugated metal roofs adorn the homes in this quiet Niger Delta community, thanks to the Italian oil company Agip that extracts from the creeks.

Dandy Mgbenwa's roof is a patchwork of new, shiny squares of metal, and brown corroded ones. It rained this week and he had to repair it again.

He wears his name well: white cap, fancy jeans and sneakers.

Just a mile or so away, tall pipes spitting smoke and flames dot the horizon. They have done so nonstop, night and day, for the past 40 years, Dandy tells me. "It's never dark."

When the rains come, they fall in the form of acid rain that eats up the roofs and poisons the crops.

They have forbidden Angel, their daughter, to drink rain water.

The heat of the giant flames, his wife says, is sometimes unbearable.

We sit in front of their house while Dandy takes a fellow Dutch journalist out to film the flares. Dandy says they have to take precautions because the oil company has hired local vigilantes to protect the site from inquisitors. And indeed, as he is still filming, a man appears and tries to snatch the camera. Both fall to the ground, but my colleague is finally allowed to leave, unharmed.

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