Menu Close

Economy: Shell Oil spill displaces over 300 Nigerian fishermen, pollutes river in Niger Delta

One of the Areas Affected in the Fresh Oil Spill in the Niger Delta Photo: AP

*The Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, monitoring oil spills in the Niger Delta region, discloses the latest is ‘one of the worst in the last 16 years in Ogoniland’, as it affects several communities while displacing over 300 fishers among others

*Niger Delta and other areas across Africa have suffered oil pollution, but no credible cleanup is ongoing -Environmental Activists

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

A new oil spill at a Shell facility, in Nigeria, has contaminated farmland and a river in the Niger Delta region of the West African country.

ConsumerConnect learnt the oil spill had suspended residents’ means of livelihood in the fishing and farming communities of part of the Niger Delta, which has long endured environmental pollution caused by the oil industry.

The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) disclosed the latest spill came from the Trans-Niger Pipeline operated by Shell that crosses through communities in the Eleme area of Ogoniland, a region where the London-based energy giant has faced decades long local pushback to its oil exploration, reports The Associated Press (AP).

Though the volume of oil spilled has not been determined, activists nonetheless, have published images of polluted farmland and water surfaces already  blighted by oil sheens and dead fish mired in sticky crude.

While spills are frequent in the region due to vandalism from oil thieves and a lack of maintenance to pipelines, according to the UN Environmental Programme, activists call this a “major one,” report said.

Fyneface Dumnamene, an environmental activist whose non-profit, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, monitors spills in the Delta region, was quoted to have said that the spill was “one of the worst in the last 16 years in Ogoniland,” which began June 11 this year.

Dumnamene noted: “It lasted for over a week, bursts into Okulu River – which adjoins other rivers and ultimately, empties into the Atlantic Ocean – and affects several communities and displaces more than 300 fishers.”

Response has been delayed: NOSDRA Director-General

The environmental activist further explained that tides had sent oil sheens about 10 kilometers (6 miles) farther to creeks near Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil business capital, in the South-South region.

It is noted that Shell  stopped production in Ogoniland over 20 years ago amid deadly unrest from residents protesting environmental damage, but the Trans-Niger Pipeline still sends crude from oil fields in other areas through the region’s communities to export terminals.

The leak has been contained, but Idris Musa, Director-General of NOSDRA, said addressing the fallout from the spill at farms and the Okulu River, which runs through communities, has stalled.

Musa stated, blaming the residents that “response has been delayed. But engagement is going on.”

The apparent deadlock reportedly, stems from mistrust and past grievances in the riverine and oil-abundant Niger Delta region, which is mostly home to minority ethnic groups who accuse the Nigerian government of marginalisation.

Africa’s largest economy overwhelmingly depends on the Niger Delta’s oil resources for its earnings, but pollution from that production has denied residents access to clean water, hurt farming and fishing, and heightened the risk of violence, activists say.

Affected communities, individuals ‘very angry,’ says Dumnamene

Dumnamene of the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre as well said the affected  communities in the oil spills “are very angry because of the destruction of their livelihoods resulting from the obsoleteness of Shell’s equipment and are concerned the regulator and Shell will blame sabotage by the residents.”

Hitherto, oil companies usually, blamed pipeline vandalism by oil thieves or aggrieved young people in affected communities for spills, which could allow the companies to avoid liability, according to report.

However, London-based Shell noted that it is working with a joint investigatory team, consisting of oil and gas industry regulators, Ogoniland residents and local authorities, to identify the cause and impact of the spill.

Shell’s response team activated

Meanwhile, International Oil Company (IOC) Shell’s response team “has been activated, subject to safety requirements, report noted.

It was gathered the oil giant, in a statement, said that the measure was taken to mobilise to the site to take actions that may be necessary for the safety of the polluted environment, people and equipment.”

NOSDRA confirmed the joint investigation, but a cause of the spill — whether sabotage or equipment failure — has not yet been revealed, report said.

But hundreds of affected farmers and fishermen, who have since been cut off from their livelihoods, would insist on restoration of the environment and then compensation, Dumnamene said.

As regards the past effort made at resolving the wide-ranging socio-economic dislocations visited on parts of the region by oil spills, and at the request of the Nigerian Government, the United Nations Environment Programme conducted an independent environmental assessment of Ogoniland, releasing a report in 2011.

The UN report criticised Shell and the Nigerian Government for 50 years of pollution, and recommended a comprehensive, billion-dollar cleanup of the environment.

As the Federal Government announced the cleanup 2016, there is little evidence of restoration on the ground, according to report.

The government reportedly, noted that community protests and lawsuits by local activists had hampered progress in this regard.

Ledum Mitee, a veteran Ogoni environmental activist and ex-President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), said: “A credible cleanup would have been a beacon of hope for the Niger Delta and other areas in Africa that have suffered oil pollution, but no credible cleanup is ongoing.

“It is a cover-up, and we do not see the impact.”

Kindly Share This Story

Kindly share this story