Highlight: Spill has spread to impact Keme-Ebiama and other communities downstream.
Location: From Ogboinbiri axis, Southern Ijaw local Government Area, Bayelsa State.
Occupation: Fishing and farming are the means of livelihood of the people.
Report by: Alagoa Morris
When information reached ERA/FoEN that the people of Keme-Ebiama were experiencing a major oil spill and the whole river had been covered by heavy volume of crude oil, it became urgent to visit the community and environs; more so as the current of the river there flows in just one direction.
Before setting sail, ERA/FoEN also received information that the source of the spill was Shell’s Seibou Deep facility and that several downstream communities had been impacted following the water current-aided spread. Communities mentioned include: Keme-Ebiama, Apoi, Kokologbene, Gbaruan, Ukubie, Lobia, among others. For the records, Shell has three wellheads at the end of a Canal it constructed some years ago. The canal is just by Ogboinbiri community but goes relatively far into the interior and, where the three wellheads are located is said to be jointly claimed/owned by Ogboinbiri, Gbaruan and Azagbene communities. The oil spill was said to have happened over a month ago but Shell used booms to contain it within the canal; preventing it from spreading into the Ogboinbiri River which is fast flowing and in one direction only. The cause of spill was not immediately ascertained.
It is a well known fact that there is one major difference between spills that occur on bodies of water and those that happen on land. This is even more true when the body of water of flowing. The difference lies in the fact that oil spills on moving bodies of water spread and flow along the direction the current is headed. This also happens when the spill on lands spreads and gets into any moving body of water: Swamp, Lake, Rivulet, Creek, Rivers, Sea/Ocean, etc. One of the reason spills spread easily on water is that, apart from the influence from the current, there are no topography issues when it comes to water in most cases. Unlike land where the spread would be influence by topography; it spreads very easily on water. And, unless steps are taken promptly to contain the spill, it could travel as far as the water current carries it.
The canal Shell constructed leading to its SEIBOU facility starts from the Ogboinbiri River, just after Ogboinbiri community and almost directly opposite Agip’s Ogboinbiri Flowstation [with heavy presence of the Joint Task Force [JTF] personnel stationed there]. This report captures testimonies from some indigenes of Keme-Ebiama community; at the community. Owing to time and security challenges, the field monitors could not proceed further.
On getting to Keme-Ebiama community, the leadership of the community welcomed ERA/FoEN field monitors very warmly and, delivered their testimonies quickly before the team left. Their experiences are captured thus:
Chairman, Community Development Committee [CDC], Columbus John-Bull
What I can tell you now is that, there was a major spill on Sunday/ Monday [immediate past] at the Seibou 2 facility of Shell at Ogboinbiri. The spill spread to affect the rivers right from the Ogboinbiri axis to our own river and, the volume of crude oil was really heavy. It covered the whole of our river. It was so devastating that our people could no longer go to the river and take their bath or fetch drinking water. The river is our main source of drinking and every other domestic use. Due to the heavy pollution and resultant scarcity of drinking water, the cost of water sachet in the community rose from N10.00 to N30.00 [ten naira to thirty naira]. Most of our people cannot afford the sachet water at that price. We are very much worried about what the situation might lead to considering the recent outbreak of cholera in some communities in the local government area. This is why we want Shell to come immediately and clean-up the river and its banks properly for us. Shell should also take up the responsibility to send us relief materials [including water and drugs] and pay adequate compensation for the pollution, damages and inconveniences we are currently passing through. This call has become necessary because we have suffered this sort of thing other times from Shell and Agip and they have continued to ignore our cries; with no feelings whatsoever for us as if we are not human beings. They would always say that the spill was caused by third party and so, there is nothing they can do. But we are far away from whatever source the so-called third-party spill comes from. How can we continue to suffer from what we know nothing about like that? Those who benefit from those past spills we suffered were people from different places, strangers who got the contracts for clean-up and other related matters. We that are directly impacted are always left just like that; to suffer from the negative impacts only. We are tired of this inhuman treatment and, we want Shell to do those things I mentioned earlier: Clean-up, send Relief materials and compensate the community adequately
Chief Barack Ogiere:
Very early on Monday morning when we went down to the waterside, we observed that crude oil has visited us again; covering the whole surface of the water. It was devastating because we couldn’t take our bath again in the river, no way to fetch and drink the water from the river; we could no longer do anything with the river we depend on. And we don’t even have any wells or borehole here, the river has been our only source of water. Neither the oil companies [Agip and Shell] nor the government has considered implementing any projects here for us. The heavy volume of the crude oil continued like that on the river even on Tuesday. Even as I am talking to you now; I haven’t had my bathe throughout today [and it was dark already in the evening].Since the spill is traced to Shell’s facility at Ogboinbiri; the company should come and clean-up our environment to the original state God gave to us, because we solely depend on this river for every of our water needs. We even need relief materials right now before clean-up; you can imagine I have not taken my bath throughout today due to the current situation of our river. So, please help us tell Shell to send us relief materials and follow up immediately with clean-up of the river. Besides the above demands, they should pay compensation for the severity of this heavy volume of crude oil spill that has just impacted us. The suffering is continuing, children are sick in the community. That is all what I have to say for now
Mrs. Peretei Francis
Actually, I went to the house of Prayer [Church] and when I returned and went to the waterside, the whole river was covered with crude oil. And we asked where this crude oil was coming from. We were very afraid. Later we heard that it was coming from Shell facility and not Agip. Children started fetching the crude oil until I left the community to take care of my daily livelihood concerns. The current reality is that we cannot make use of the water again; it is polluted. When we fetch it to the house and drink, the children begin to fall sick. In the light of the above, Shell should come and clean-up the river for us without delays. They should come and repair what has been damaged by the crude oil. The fishes have also no more around since this spill spread to this environment; we no longer kill fish. All the fish nets we set around the river have been impacted, soaked by crude oil and so; they can no longer catch fish. So, they should come and repair the river for us. After that, they should give us borehole as an alternative source of water. Shell should also send us relief materials: food [including fish, because there is no more fish around], drugs and water. We are hungry and presently most of the children are suffering from stomach ache. So they should quickly come and clean the impacted river for us. I also have a message for the Nigeria Agip Oil Company [NAOC], please tell NAOC that they should stop turning the river into refuse dump. All the wastes they dump in the river are being transferred to us downstream and we are not happy with the act….’’
According to Samuel Ogiore,…’’It was very early on Monday morning when I went down the waterside and, I saw the river covered by crude oil. It was later we heard from somebody from Ogboinbiri community that, the source of the spill is Shell’s Seibou Deep location and that it has been long when the spill occurred but they wanted to keep it hidden until it burst through the booms used to contain the spill within the canal and out into the River and started spreading downstream to reach us here. And since that Sunday till today [Saturday] we have been suffering the negative impacts. Our community is the first the spill spread to from the Ogboinbiri axis, because you get to our community after Ogboinbiri before others. As clean-up has not been done; even now you can see crude oil on our river and river bank; some trapped by grasses. In the light of what we are experiencing, I would like Shell to come and clean-up the impacted River and immediate environment. Due to the negative impact on us, our people are falling sick; children, adults and pregnant women. Medical personnel should be sent to come and check and treat the sick people. Crude oil is not water that people will fetch and drink. We have suffered too much from oil spills and so, let the polluter consider to promptly clean-up the river and also execute some projects in our community to assist us have alternatives when such things happen; borehole for instance…..’’
Ayibadeinmote John-Bull [a girl of about 11 years]
On Monday when we came to the waterside to take our bath to go to school, we met the whole waterside covered with crude oil. It was difficult to get water to bathe and most of us had to go across the river to struggle for water settling in certain shallow pits. We even fought ourselves in the process because the water was scarce. With that development, most of us went late to school and received appropriate punishment from our teachers. Washing our dirty school uniforms has also become a problem. Some of us got beaten by our parents for going to use the crude oil polluted water to wash our cloths because the cloths get stained with crude oil. Although the heaviness of the crude is no more like as it was on Monday and Tuesday, but up till we still see the surface of the water shining [sheen], showing the presence of the crude oil. As children, we are confused because we are now limited and we hardly know the boundary. Because of this, we receive some beating; fall sick and parents get worried and cry
Chief Joseph Kpati
We are talking about oil spill which we experienced in our environment last Sunday [15th February, 2015]. I was even still in bed that morning when information about the crude oil on our river reached me. I then rushed to the waterside and, what I saw was completely hopelessness; the river appeared very useless. Crude oil was everywhere. Even today, the sad tale could be heard from the grasses at the waterfront; as they are soiled and impacted seriously. What I want to say is that, although this current spill relates to Shell; but Agip is also our problem. We have suffered too much from Agip and Shell; they want to kill us. As Ijaw people we know how in those days we just drink water on the rivers/creeks while paddling along those bodies of water. We drank freely without any cause to fear. But we can no longer do that easily because of the way they have polluted our rivers. Right now, due to the current spill you cannot find and sign of fish splashing water. Even fish nets that were in the river before the spill took over the environment on Sunday night are all impacted and cannot be used anymore. Crops at the bank of the river are also impacted. So, we are facing serious hunger right now. We cannot over-flog the issue; we want Shell to come to our aid because some persons have taken ill and even death has occurred. One of our children died just two days ago and, we are worried. Many people here are sick and, most of the homes don’t have drinking water right now. Our river is also not wide so we cannot move to any section and get good, clear water for our use at home. We need help. They should come and help us. Even the clinic we had before is no longer okay; there is no health facility here. If the health centre is renovated and supplied with equipment, drugs and health personnel the death in the community would be minimized. We are not even many here and if the death continues the way it is going; it would mean we are decimated by environmental factors. The oil companies know better than us what it means to drink polluted water and, that is why their staff are always provided with bottled water. Nobody gives us such water here. We need urgent health attention. We are suffering too much; tell them so. And, the situation is critical. We don’t know how clean-up is done; but they should come quickly and clean-up the impacted environment for us. For the Nigerian Agip Oil Company [NAOC] stationed at Ogboinbiri, tell them that they should desist from emptying their refuse bins into the rivers; it is also polluting the river and our environment, reducing the water quality for our use. We don’t have money to drag Agip to court, but we are not comfortable with the situation
Madam Gradeone Niki
I returned from Ondewari community on Monday only to meet this unfortunate situation. There was no way to make any use of the river water owing to the crude oil pollution. When I asked, I was told the spill was spreading from Ogboinbiri down here. Actually, it was even hard to see where to step foot at the waterfront; the volume of crude oil was so much. Children were fetching the crude oil into plastic containers and, there was no way to go out for fishing too. There were no signs of fish in the river and, our crops in the riverside farms were all impacted. It was because of this crude oil pollution a 14-year-old boy just died in this community two days ago. He died after vomiting twice and going to toilet twice. Just like that. Some whose conditions were also critical and have got little relief by the mercy of God are also in the community. So, please when you go tell them that the suffering the people of Keme-Ebiama are going through is too much. As an addition, let me also say that the refuse thrown into the water from Agip’s Ogboinbiri Flowstation is punishing us as if we are made to drinking water used to wash corpses. It is not acceptable. May be because they say dirt do not kill the African person that’s why we are still alive. Currently, we don’t know where we belong in the activities of the oil companies; whether we are in Agip or Shell operational area; we are just in the middle like that suffering the impact. We are just condemned to live like animals and abandoned. We should be considered because it is because of this polluted water that sickness is visiting us. They should come and provide water for us. They [Shell and Agip] should have mercy upon us and come to our aid
Stephen Ziworitin [another youth, 13 years old]
When I woke up early on Monday I decided to go and take my bath at the waterside and return to my bed. But when I got to the waterside, I noticed a strange smell and later, the crude oil on the river. I moved away from the first spot to another side and, it was still the same there too. Left with no option, I had to strive to part the crude oil and when the water appeared in the middle; I quickly fetched some water and took home to bathe. That was how I managed to bath that day. Even as at that, my body was shining, oily. Please they should come and clean-up the river for us. It is difficult for us to get water to bathe before going to school these days. Even with the school bell ringing we stand just looking at the water, no way to bathe before going to school. Our problem is limited only bathing, even to wash our dirty school uniform is a problem. We are worried. They should come and clean the water for us
It is unfortunate that due to time and security constraints ERA/FoEN monitors could not reach out to other impacted communities downstream. However, a stop-over was made at Ogboinbiri with a view to access the source of the spill; Shell’s Seibou Deep location and the canal leading to the site. Incidentally, ERA/FoEN was disallowed because it was the movement of canoes in and out of the canal that caused the BOOMs placed by Shell to contain the spill failed. The booms were used to tie across the breath of the canal mid-way. It was confirmed at Ogboinbiri that the Spill had occurred for almost two months now, but just contained on the canal with booms by Shell.
As ERA/FoEN proceeded to Keme-Ebiama and was just leaving Ogboinbiri, it was observed that another boom that was tied across the entrance to the Shell constructed canal [leading to the well heads where the spill occurred] had failed again. It was ERA’s guide from Ogboibiri who decided to get the boom repositioned; right in front of the JTF across the Ogboinbiri River. Right from the junction between the Canal and the Ogboinbiri River, crude oil was observed both on the Canal and the Ogboinbiri river.From that junction [where the canal joins the River] the current flow downstream; towards Keme-Ebiama, Apoi, Gbaruan, Ukubie, Lobia and further towards other communities and the Ocean.
At Keme-Ebiama, the community people were obviously worried about their situation in relation to the pollution. Crude oil slick was observed right from Ogboinbiri till the field monitors got to Keme-Ebiama. The Water hyacinths floating on the river and by its sides were soaked in crude oil and were wilting. Although the people said due to the one-way flowing current the volume of crude oil has reduced; much was still observed within the immediate environment of the community.
For the fact that JIV has not been carried out on the current spill about two months after, this is very strange and unacceptable. Shell cannot leave crude oil in the open and on the canal where fisher folks and farmers also access is condemnable. No matter the cause of spill, this singular act alone should see Shell as culpable and should take full responsibility of the spread away from the canal and downstream to impact the other communities mentioned above [and more].
PICTURES FROM THE IMPACTED ENVIRONMENT
The spill spreading in the river
More spill spreading
- Shell mobilizes to ensure that Joint Investigation Visit is done concerning the spill.
- The relevant agencies of Government: NOSDRA, SMoE, DPR and security agencies should take appropriate measures to ensure Shell does the right that and promptly too.
- Shell sends relief materials: Food stuff, water, medical team and drugs to take care of the concerns and needs of the impacted communities.
- Shell not only take full responsibility of the spreading crude oil spilt from the company’s facility, but also carry out adequate clean-up of the impacted rivers/creeks and surrounding environment.
- Shell compensates victims of the spreading crude oil. Payment should take into consideration individual and general damages.