United States: Pro-Nigerian environmentalist silenced

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An adviser to US President on environmental issues has resigned following controversial comments made about the environmental situation in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. Mr. Van Jones, said that western oil companies were deliberately killing blacks by virtue of their careless environmental practices in Nigeria. According to a report which appeared in the Washington Times, the outspoken and usually controversial adviser claimed that an ecological apartheid was taking place in Nigeria, in which white polluters, white environmentalists are steering poison to minority communities.

US Republicans called on Jones to resign Friday, saying in a statement, “His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or the public debate.” According to reports, Jones resigned on Saturday, September 4, 2009, in order to avoid being a distraction in the administration’s effort to pass health care reform and climate change legislation.White House Adviser, Mr. David Axelrod told press in Washington DC that Mr. Jones resigned voluntarily and was not fired by president Barack Obama.

Nonetheless, the carelessness of the oil industry in the Niger Delta has precipitated the environmental situation in the region, which is captured in a 1983 report issued by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in 1983, long before popular unrest surfaced: “We witnessed the slow poisoning of the waters of this country and the destruction of vegetation and agricultural land by oil spills which occur during petroleum operations. But since the inception of the oil industry in Nigeria, more than twenty-five years ago, there has been no concerned and effective effort on the part of the government, let alone the oil operators, to control environmental problems associated with the industry.”

In the past Mr. Jones had raised a few eyebrows when he signed the 9/11 “truth letter” suggesting that the US government purposely caused the attack on the World Trade Center. However the former adviser claimed that though he signed the letter, it did not reflect his views. He was also involved with the Bay Area radical group Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM), which had Marxist roots. In the weekend, his advocacy on behalf of death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of shooting a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, threatened to develop into a fresh point of controversy.

Mr. Jones was a significant member of the environmental movement. He had worked for the White House Council on Environmental Quality since March. He was a civil-rights activist in California before turning his focus to environmental and energy issues, and he won wide praise before joining the Obama administration for articulating a broad vision of a green economy Democrats could embrace.

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