Highlight: The Impacted Environment Set Ablaze,20th January, 2016
Location: Adibawa Well 8/16 environment, at JK4 (Edagberi/Betterland)
Dates of Visit: 30th April, 2017

Edagberi/Betterland community, otherwise known as JK4 is situated administratively in Ahoada West local government area of Rivers State and has over 45 functional oil wells operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC]. The Adibawa Flow Station and several crude oil and gas bearing pipelines traversing the environment are also some of the oil facilities hosted by the community. Crude oil exploited from the community environment and from neighbouring Biseni clan in Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State all pass through the Adibawa Flow Station. However, due to the need to upgrade the flow station and construct a gas gathering plant at the station to minimize or stop gas flaring; the flow station was shut down for almost three years. Now that the upgrade has been completed, test-running the gas plant is done almost on daily basis [for few hours]. The oil/gas pipelines are also being checked /repaired currently to ensure they are intact before normal operation resumes at the flow station.

Field monitors of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria [ERA/FoEN] had to revisit the community environment, to a particular spill impacted site which ERA/FoEN has visited four times and documented observations and testimonies about the environment. ERA/FoEN promptly visited the site on 12th July, 2015 when the spill occurred and crude oil was gushing from the Adibawa Well 8. About six months after the spill occurred, recovery of spilled crude oil in the environment commenced and, on the seventh month and, precisely 20th January, 2016 the impacted site went up in flames soon after Shell officials visited the same site and left. Since that fire incident nothing happened at the site until when ERA/FoEN was informed that Shell has awarded remediation contract and work was on-going at the impacted environment; another visit by ERA/FoEN field monitors became necessary.

Expectedly, the visit was to confirm whatever action that was on-going at the site and ascertain what method of remediation was being used; if at all it was remediation.

The visit to the site didn’t prove anything beyond the usual crude method of physically clearing burnt trees and other plants by felling them and heaping within the same environment and, going further to turn top soil upside down.

WHAT ERA/FoEN was told :
While leading ERA/FoEN field monitors around the impacted environment, Secretary of the Edagberi/Betterland Community Development Committee [CDC], explained..’’ My name is Ambrose Kofi Osuolo, from Adibawa Oilfield owned by Edagberi/Betterland community [JK4] in Ahoada West local government area,Rivers State. I am the CDC Secretary of the community. Actually ERA/FoEN has visited this particular environment in the past, even in July,2015 when the spill occurred. And, after some advocacy around the incident, Shell visited the impacted area for verification in early 2016 and at the same time they said they wanted to do some cleanup which we allowed them. After one or two day’s recovery work; they set the impacted site ablaze. And, we cried out through the NGO [ERA/FoEN] that Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC] has burnt our bush/forest resources [instead of proper recovery/cleanup]. And, this particular environment is known as Well 16 in Adibawa oilfield. After burning the impacted site we were still expected them to come and continue work on the site but we didn’t see anything like that until very recently, they returned to site, this April [5th April,2017] and worked for two weeks with excavator and; as you can see, this is the extent of the job [pointing] and they are yet to get to the end . Rain was the excuse they gave when they left the site.
When the CDC Secretary was asked to clarify the Adibawa Well 16 he mentioned, since the spill actually occurred on Adibawa Well 8; he responded thus: ‘’ This Well is a combination of Well 8 and Well 16. But the particular Christmas Tree from which the spill occurred is Well 8’’ He went on to mention that the contractor handling the remediation job is named Joe Leo Enterprise.

When asked about the heaped remains of burnt tree trunks and other plants plus soil; he said ‘’After working just for two weeks and the the first rain of the year fell, the contractor rushed out from site with his equipment; telling his workers he has finished his job. So we are still expecting to see what they will do about these heaps they left behind. Unfortunately, the contractor left this site about a week ago but you can see there is no water [not waterlooged] and I wonder why they left the site on the excuse that there is water. We are not sure they will return to this site because they took all their equpment and working materials away with them. Water in the environment was an alibi used to leave site’’.

Once anyone familiar with this particular environment gets to that section of the JK4/Biseni Road, the person would notice that a once thickly forested area has been deforested, especially directly behind the Adibawa Well 8. When the spill occurred in July, 2015 and up to the last time ERA/FoEN visited in 2016; behind the Adibawa Well 8 was very bushy with shrubs and trees ; including some crops like plantain,banana and cassava. Another major observation was that, most of the trees that were seen burnt and apparently standing lifeless during the last visit are now on the ground and gathered into heaps; like rubble of a destroyed building.

The ground which had the typical undulating swampy feature has been relatively levelled. Some of the areas that were shown to ERA/FoEN as fish ponds were no more noticed and, even the few pools of water didn’t visibly show traces of crude oil; even though there were still some dark patches in some areas, indicative of crude oil impact or the impact of burning. And yet, some of the trees still standing bear signs of the level of the crude oil rise during the flood season; very dark.
With some live bush mango and bush bean trees not far from the site; it was obvious that some of the trees lost to this oil spill/fire and clearing, could be part of these economic trees which are part of the forest resources locals depend on annually; in addition to farming and fishing.
Apart from bringing down almost all the trees within the impacted environment and heaping them together, the other thing which the contractor must have done was; turning the top soil upside down. This was more noticed as from an estimated 30 meters away from the Adibawa Well 8 . And, some young crops like plantain were observed within this environment were top soil seemed turned upside down, a very familiar pattern applied by Shell contractors in the name of remediation. Considering the heavy volume of crude oil which spewed into this environment, it is arguable that mere turning of top soil upside down has not removed the crude oil which has gone into the soil. When the spill occurred on 12th July, 2015 the volume gushing from the Wellhead was high and, it took Shell about four days to stop the spill.
Some mechanical engineering work was observed also in the environment, the replacement of sections of some of the pipelines and addition of new pipelines; some sort of maintenace job even along the JK4/Biseni road.
[1] Shell should return to the site and remove the rubbles heaped in the environment and also, carry out test [involving all stakeholders] to confirm that the spill impacted site has been properly cleaned up and remediated.
[2] The regulatory agencies like National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency [NOSDRA] and the Rivers State Ministry of Environment should follow up with inspection and sample testing to ascertain the state of the environment of insterest and recommend accordingly.
The community leaders/folks should continue to monitor their environment with a view to taking all necessary steps to protect it and, report incidents to the relevant agencies of government,Shell and Environmental/Human Rights groups like ERA/FoEN and the media when situations calls for it.
[3] Before signing any clean bill for Shell as regards the safety of this environment; the regulatory agencies SHOULD confirm by way of scientific evidence.
[4] Governments of the Niger Delta should establish world standard scientific laboratories either jointly or individually [states] to assist our communities in testing soil,air, water and other related samples at reduced costs. This will make the oil companies and their contractors to take such pollution, cleanup/remediation issues more seriously and our environment would become safer. The Federal Government and State interventionist agencies can partner in this very important venture in the collective interest of our PEOPLE,communities and Environment.