Location: Okordia Manifold at Ikarama, Yenagoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa State.
Report by: Alagoa Morris
The occurrence of oil spills in Ikarama community environment every now and then cannot be over emphasized. The spills from facilities belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC] and Nigerian Agip Oil Company [NAOC] happens either within the immediate environment near living homes, farms and swamps or inside the community forest impacting farmlands, ponds, lakes, swamps and streams. While some of the spills are attributed to equipment or operational failure, most are associated with third part interference. Ikarama is one of the six Ijaw communities which make up Okordia clan in Yenagoa LGA and has the highest frequency of spill incidents in Bayelsa State. The current spill was raging inside Shell’s Okordia manifold when field monitors of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria [ERA/FoEN] visited.
Three months ago, precisely in the night of 11 June, 2014, a major oil spill occurred inside the Okordia manifold. The current spill, still spewing when ERA/FoEN field monitors left the community, occurred on the night of 4th October, 2014. Calls and text messages from contacts in the community early on Sunday, 5th October, 2014 prompted an immediate visit from ERA/FoEN; to ascertain the situation in the environment.
ERA/FoEN field monitors were promptly led to the spill site for observation and short video clips and still photos taken from other impacted sites; as the crude oil spreads within the community environment and re-impacted areas that have continued to suffer crude oil pollution. Two community leaders who spoke on the matter were the Chairman of the Community Development Committee [CDC] and Public Relations Officer of the CDC.
Comrade Dickson Ikioweri
I had traveled and returned to the community last night. When I woke up from sleep this morning, I received a call from an NGO; a friend of mine called me and I responded. He was the one who even informed me because I didn’t know there was a spill in my community. He asked me first, WHAT IS HAPPENING IN YOUR COMMUNITY? And I responded by asking too, ‘What is happening?’ He said something was happening at the manifold, that there is a spill. I was surprised and asked our operator because he was with me when the call came. He confirmed to me that it was true, that there is a spill. It was then I decided to go to the manifold area and saw it myself. I actually saw the crude oil spewing and I was there when the security men came to the site. They spent some time waiting for Shell to come and stop the spill. The spill was noticed to have occurred from a valve right inside the fenced manifold and inside the metal/iron cage. In the light of the above, I don’t know whether somebody can get inside the iron cage and temper with the valve and cause the spill or it happened by itself. It is when the investigation team comes that the cause of spill can be known to all. What I have told you now is our latest experience in the community. I believe the manifold would be shut down as soon as Shell comes and, they cause of spill will be determined by the JIV team. Even as I am talking to you now I am eager to return to the spill site to follow up because Shell officials have arrived there few minutes ago….
Washington Odoyibo, Public Relations Officer of the CDC
This morning I received a call from my sister here in the community. And she said there was something happening at the manifold. So I went down there to see it myself and I saw the oil spill; raining inside the manifold. And, the spill has spread far from the manifold. We cannot say what caused the spill for now; what we know is that there is a serious spill there and, the earlier Shell come and stop it the better for us. It is also important to say that Shell owes the security contractors from January till today and many of them [workers] are not happy. And, that kind of scenario can make some who ought to be on guard duty to remain at home. Anything can happen without security at such a facility. Shell should try and pay surveillance/security contractors so that they can in turn have money to pay the workers in the community….
PICTURES FROM THE COMMUNITY
Crude oil spewing into the environment
Okordia Manifold at a distance
While the cause of the current spill is yet to be identified, what is known is that the spilt crude oil is spreading fast and has gone to impact areas around living homes; previously impacted over and over again. Within the aid of the rains, except something is done fast, the heavy volume of crude so spewed into the environment can extend further into other swamps and moving bodies of water. Although the payment of surveillance/security contractors and workers may be a labour related issue; ERA/FoEN had earlier reported on that matter, it is pertinent to also look into such areas as ignoring same might trigger some unpleasant reactions.
During the visit on Sunday 5 October 2014, it was observed that crude oil was spewing into the air within the fenced manifold like a fountain. Crude oil was flowing out of the gate and three holes on the block fence behind manifold. While approaching the gate of the manifold, it was noticed that the land in front of the manifold [left and right] has been flooded with crude oil and crude oil was still rushing out with much pressure. The same was the case behind the manifold; crude oil so spewed spread and finding its level according to the topography of the environment. Although the height of the spraying was lesser that that which occurred in June, 2014; the volume is really much and may not be less than that of June, 2014. As at when ERA/FoEN field monitors were leaving the community, Shell was already at the manifold and, it was the hope that they would be able to stop the spill or at least lower the pressure on the spur of the moment pending further remedial actions.
- It is important to respond quickly with effective booms to stop further spread of the crude oil in the environment by locating where it has already spread and contain same.
- While Joint Investigation Visit [JIV] is necessary to officially ascertain the cause of spill, volume of crude oil spilt, spread of crude oil in the environment and other related issues; it is pertinent to extend investigation beyond the immediate cause; to see if there are remote causes with a view to addressing such matters and bring the spills to a stop in that facility and environment.
- Shell should commence clean-up without any delays especially due to the rains and, to prevent a scenario whereby the people of Kalaba/Ayamabele will trace crude oil slick in their environment again to this spill; as it was with the spill of 11th June, 2014.
- Where necessary, victims should be adequately compensated for specific and general loss/damages.