A recent oil spill at a Shell facility in Nigeria has resulted in the pollution of farmland and a river, causing significant disruption in the fishing and farming communities of the Niger Delta.
This region has long suffered from environmental degradation due to the activities of the oil industry.
According to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), the recent oil spill in the Eleme area of Ogoniland was caused by the Trans-Niger Pipeline operated by Shell.
This region has been a site of ongoing resistance to Shell’s oil exploration for many years. The exact amount of oil spilled has not yet been determined, but activists have shared disturbing images of contaminated farmland, oil-covered water surfaces, and dead fish trapped in thick crude oil.
While oil spills are unfortunately common in this area due to acts of vandalism by oil thieves and a lack of pipeline maintenance, the U.N. Environmental Program has labeled this particular incident as a “major one.”
Fyneface Dumnamene, an environmental activist from the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, has described the recent oil spill in Ogoniland as one of the worst in the past 16 years. The spill started on June 11 and lasted for more than a week, causing significant damage to the Okulu River.
This river connects to others and eventually flows into the Atlantic Ocean, affecting multiple communities and displacing over 300 fishermen. Additionally, Dumnamene mentioned that the tides have carried oil sheens up to 10 kilometers (6 miles) further into creeks near Port Harcourt, the country’s oil business capital.
According to Fyneface Dumnamene, an environmental advocate affiliated with the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, the recent oil spill in Ogoniland stands out as one of the most severe incidents witnessed over the past 16 years.
The spill, which commenced on June 11 and endured for more than a week, caused extensive devastation to the Okulu River. This river plays a crucial role in linking other waterways and ultimately merging into the Atlantic Ocean, thereby affecting numerous communities and uprooting the lives of over 300 fishermen.
In addition to the immediate consequences, Dumnamene highlighted that the oil has been carried by tides, spreading oil sheens up to a distance of 10 kilometers (6 miles) into creeks close to Port Harcourt, the nation’s hub for the oil industry.
“Musa attributed the delay to protesting residents and stated that engagement efforts are still ongoing,” he said.
The current impasse arises from a lack of trust and unresolved grievances in the Niger Delta region, which is rich in oil and predominantly inhabited by minority ethnic groups. These groups accuse the Nigerian government of marginalizing them.
Oil spillage from a Shell pipeline in Nigeria has contaminated farmland and a river, causing significant damage to the fishing and farming communities in the Niger Delta.
This region has long struggled with environmental pollution due to the oil industry. The spill, which originated from the Trans-Niger Pipeline operated by Shell in the Eleme area of Ogoniland, has resulted in images of polluted land, oil-covered water surfaces, and dead fish.
While pipeline vandalism and lack of maintenance often lead to spills in the area, activists consider this incident to be a major one. The spill began on June 11 and lasted for more than a week, affecting several communities and displacing more than 300 fishermen.
Oil sheens have also spread about 10 kilometers further to creeks near Port Harcourt. Although Shell ceased production in Ogoniland over 20 years ago due to protests against environmental damage, the Trans-Niger Pipeline still transports crude oil from other areas through the region to export terminals.
The spill has been contained, but the cleanup and restoration efforts have been hampered by mistrust and grievances between the communities and the government.
The Niger Delta region, which is predominantly home to minority ethnic groups, has faced marginalization and pollution resulting from oil production. The communities affected by the spill are frustrated with the destruction of their livelihoods and the outdated equipment used by Shell.
They express concerns that the regulator and Shell may attribute the spill to sabotage by residents. Shell has stated that it is working with a joint investigative team, comprising regulators, local residents, and authorities, to determine the cause and impact of the spill.
According to a statement from Shell, their response team has been activated and will take necessary actions to ensure the safety of the environment, people, and equipment at the site, while adhering to safety requirements.
The cause of the spill, whether it was due to sabotage or equipment failure, has not yet been revealed, as confirmed by NOSDRA during their joint investigation.
Dumnamene stated that the affected farmers and fishermen, who have lost their source of livelihood, will demand the restoration of the environment and compensation.
In 2011, the U.N. Environment Program conducted an independent assessment of Ogoniland at the request of the Nigerian government. The resulting report criticized Shell and the Nigerian government for 50 years of pollution and recommended a comprehensive cleanup that would cost billions of dollars.
Although the government announced the cleanup in 2016, there is little evidence of actual restoration on the ground. The government claims that community protests and lawsuits by local activists have hindered progress.
Ledum Mitee, a veteran Ogoni environmental activist and former president of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, expressed disappointment, stating that a credible cleanup would have brought hope to the Niger Delta and other areas in Africa affected by oil pollution.
He believes that the ongoing cleanup efforts are a cover-up and that the impact is not visible.