The curse of poverty

Hundreds killed in Nigerian pipeline explosion – World – theage.com.au

Having spent 5 years living and working in Lagos, this is an unfortunately common story. The people of Lagos, in general, are wealthy in comparison to the rest of the country, but in Nigeria, that really means that Lagotians simply have a slightly better hand-to-mouth existence than the country folk. In terms that people from western Europe or North America can understand, the vast majority of Nigerians (somewhere over 99% I’d argue) live in varying degrees of abject poverty, barely able to make it from day-to-day, with no long term security in any way.

These accidents are a direct result of all this. There are pipeline explosions in Nigeria several time a year, and there are almost always huge numbers of casualties because in many cases, the leaks which cause the explosions aren’t accidental, and even when they are, such leaks are exploited ruthlessly by anyone nearby. It seems unthinkable in some ways … if we see a pipeline spewing gasoline from a breech, our first reaction is call someone to fix the problem, not grab as many containers as we can find to fill up with free gasoline. But in a city where petrol costs mean that the majority of people see driving as an unimaginable expense, the chance for free gasoline isn’t something to be passed up, no matter what the danger.

The problem comes back to the conditions people are forced to live in. Nigerians live in an extreme example of what I call manufactured scarcity … in the case of Nigeria, there extreme form comes from the crippling corruption that riddles the government there … and its no surprise that people would flock to a gas leak to exploit it, in a situation where they are forced to barely eek out an existence, even risking their lives in the process. When life is as desperate as it is for the average Nigerian, it becomes easier to risk that life in hope of a better one, even just in the short term.

When hundreds of people are dying, regularly, over a few litres of petrol, it MUST be a message to the world to sit up and take notice of the situation. Sadly, people will shake their heads and move on, unable to find a “fix” for the problem, all the while not even realizing they suffer from the same problems, though not as pronounced. And thats, finally, what I try to remind people here in North America who can’t seem to understand how these things happen … pay attention the next time a storm warning is imminent, and watch the hoarding, then step back and compare it to the need to acquire things and secure our own future with no concern for those around us. We live amongst the same forced, manufactured scarcity that the Nigerians do, just a less extreme version.

The solutions for the problems aren’t hard to find IMO … the are hard to admit to, and even harder to get people to implement. The answers, of course, are to ensure that we can’t manufacture scarcity, that we don’t let our leaders rule by fear, to change the system so that one person CAN NOT exploit others for their own personal gain, to recognize that human rights of the mind are somewhat meaningless to a person homeless and starving … its ironic that our world calls freedom of thought and speech a fundamental human right, but considers food and shelter, the very ESSENTIALS of life itself, commodities to be bought and sold at a profit.

The answers to the world’s problems are simple, I argue. It’s really only a matter of treating people like people, as opposed to an exploitable resource, and restructuring our system so that it wasn’t possible to hoard wealth and resources at the expense of others. The answer to stopping hundreds of Nigerians from dying horribly in pipeline explosions is to ensure that a few litres of gasoline NEVER seems worth their life. As long as it does, then I think we need to see that as a serious indictment of our very way of life.

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One Response

  1. its a shame

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