A new oil spill at a Shell facility in Nigeria has contaminated farmland and a river, upsetting the livelihoods of fishing and farming communities in the Niger Delta, which have long suffered environmental pollution caused by the oil industry.
The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, or NOSDRA, told The Associated Press that oil spills from the Trans-Nigerian Pipeline operated by Shell pass through communities in Ogoniland’s Eleme area, an area where the giant The London-based energy giant has faced decades of local opposition to its oil exploration.
The volume of the spill has not been determined, but activists have released images of farmland and water contaminated with oil slicks and dead fish submerged in sticky crude.
According to the United Nations Environment Program, activists call it a “serious incident” while oil spills are frequent in the area due to vandalism and lack of pipeline maintenance.
“This is one of the worst in 16 years in Ogoniland,” said Fyneface Dumnamene, an environmental activist who monitors oil spills in the Delta. It started on June 11th.
“It lasted for more than a week, spilling into the Okulu River – adjacent to other rivers and eventually emptying into the Atlantic Ocean – and affected several communities,” said Dumnamene of the Center for Youth and Environmental Advocacy. copper, and at the same time displaced more than 300 fishermen.
He said the tides pushed the oil deposits about 10km (6 miles) farther into creeks near the nation’s oil trading capital, Port Harcourt.
Shell ceased production in Ogoniland more than 20 years ago amid deadly unrest caused by residents’ protests against environmental destruction, but the Trans-Niger Pipeline still transports crude from oil fields in other regions across communities in the region for export.
NOSDRA Director General Idris Musa said the leak was contained, but disposal of the fallout from the spill at the farms and the Okulu River flowing through the communities had stalled.
“The response has been delayed,” Musa said, blaming residents who protested. “But the engagement is happening.”
The stalemate is clearly rooted in past distrust and grievances in the oil-rich and riverine Niger Delta region, which is mostly inhabited by ethnic minorities that accuse the Nigerian government of marginalizing it. beside.
Activists say Africa’s largest economy is largely dependent on the oil resources of the Niger Delta, but pollution from that production has left people without access to clean water. harms agriculture and fishing and increases the risk of violence.
Dumnamene said the community is “very angry at the destruction of their livelihoods due to outdated Shell equipment and fear that the regulator and Shell will blame the people’s vandalism,” Dumnamene said. speak.
Oil companies often blame suffering young people in affected communities for oil spills, which can allow them to evade liability.
Shell said it is working with a joint investigative team, including regulators, Ogoniland residents and local authorities, to determine the cause and impact of the spill.
Shell’s response team “has been activated, subject to safety requirements, to [mobilise] to the site to take actions that may be necessary for the safety of the environment, people, and equipment,” a company statement said.
NOSDRA has confirmed the joint investigation, but the cause of the spill has yet to be revealed.
Dumnamene said hundreds of farmers and fishermen whose livelihoods had been cut off would insist on environmental restoration and then compensation.
At the request of the Nigerian government, the United Nations Environment Program conducted an independent assessment of Ogoniland’s environment, issuing a report in 2011 criticizing Shell and the Nigerian government for pollution over 50 years. over the past year and propose a multi-billion dollar cleanup operation.
While the government announced a cleanup in 2016, there is little evidence of above-ground restoration. The government says community protests and lawsuits by local activists have hindered progress.
“A credible cleanup operation will be a beacon of hope for the Niger Delta and other regions,” said Ledum Mitee, a veteran Ogoni environmental activist and former president of the Movement. in Africa is suffering from oil pollution, but no reliable cleanup is taking place.” survival of the Ogoni. “It was a cover-up, and we didn’t see the impact.”