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FIELD REPORT #486 – Fire Incident at Local Refinery Site Claims Several Lives

Highlight: Over 20 persons die as a direct result of latest inferno

Location: Ibelebiri community, Ogbia Local Government Area (LGA), Bayelsa State.

 GPS Coordinates: Elev: 9m N0456.069’ E 00625.092’ [taken in the main community]

Date of fire Incident: 8th December, 2017

Report by: Akpotu M. Ziworitin and Alagoa Morris


Ibelebiri is the first of Ijaw communities situated upstream along the Kolo Creek in Ogbia LGA of Bayelsa State. Traditionally, the people’s means of livelihood include fishing and farming. Oil bearing pipelines belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company [NAOC] and Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC] traverse this community environment.

Ibelebiri community is accessible by car, as the federal government Road which started at Okaki junction [along Chief Melford Okilo Road/Mbiama –Yenagoa Road] in Yenagoa LGA proposed to terminate at Twon-Brass in Brass LGA passes through the community, dissecting the community into two.

The community has been rumoured to be harbouring bunkering/ local refinery sites for some time. This illegal activity is the reason for the several police check points between the community and Yenagoa, especially passing through Otuasega/Elebele environment. The last time field monitors of ERA/FoEN visited the community in connection with three youths arrested and whose whereabouts were unknown, the paramount ruler repeatedly said he would not like to discuss issues relating to the bunkering activities in the environment.

When a major fire incident occurred in one of the local refinery camps in the environment, the destruction wrought was so massive that it became impossible to prevent the information from spreading. A lot of deaths occurred instantly while some who were rushed to medical facilities died subsequently.


Having worked with communities along the Kolo Creek, ERA/FoEN was not completely unaware of bunkering activities, especially as the Creek has often been polluted and necessitating expression of concern by some of the locals. Unfortunately, because community folks from some of these communities along the Kolo Creek were involved, they were economical with related information.

About two months before the fire incident, the Chairman of the Community Development Committee [CDC] of one of the immediate downstream communities reached out to ERA/FoEN and, complained [via phone] that the Kolo Creek is so polluted as a result of crude oil spreading from upstream. He attributed it to bunkering and related activities upstream.

After he agreed for ERA/FoEN Field monitors to visit the community for independent observation and get testimonies; he later declined. Another executive member of the CDC in that community later revealed to ERA/FoEN that because some community leaders were also deeply involved in the bunkering activities, they would not be disposed to cooperate with our field monitors in exposing what they were part of.

He related how officials of another NGO working on environmental issues who visited the communities and were taking photographs of the sleek in the polluted Creek at another neighboring community were attacked and almost had their camera seized by community folks. Aside the involvement of community members, some security personnel are, alleged to be part of the racket. The syndicated nature of the operation has given confidence to the main operations to continue, especially the camp owners.


Emmanuel Eze, a commercial driver

This operation seems to be operated by a syndicate. I say so because there was a day I drove through Ibelebiri community in the night, at about 11:00pm and, I was surprised to see many persons on the road as I got to the community. They blocked the road and I was even scared of my life. They demanded that I carry them or else I won’t pass.

They wanted me to drop them at the next community, Okaki [which is a community that is administratively part of Rivers State]. Before I knew it, some of them had rushed into my car and were lapping themselves.

Some even occupied the boot. Up till now I cannot tell how many of them I carried in the car that night. Between where I picked them and where they dropped, a team of police men stopped me. The passengers promptly indentified the police men and said, “Officers, nothing today. We didn’t work because there was low pressure; they didn’t transport crude oil in the pipelines today so there is no raw material to work. And the police men understood and allowed us to proceed without demanding anything”

Pointing a guy to ERA/FoEN’s field monitors, he said:

You see that guy, he retired from the police not so long ago within the Ogbia environment where he was serving until he retired. He is now deeply involved in the business of dealing on local refinery products. He has two cars and this one you see him with is the one he uses in the local refinery business. As you see him pass now, I am sure he is heading to the community where the refining is taking place; to load products.

Since the policemen on the route are his former colleagues; how do you think they will ask him any question? He may decide to give them something if he likes, but I don’t think he has any problem from the police patrolling the route especially as he was a Senior Officer before he retired

Due to the sensitive nature of the operation and related risk, it was not easy for ERA/FoEN to get the real facts in time. Anyone that is sighted with camera in the community where the incident happened is highly suspected and confronted by community youths. However, when was identified by ERA/FoEN volunteer in another community and the victim indicated interest to speak on the matter; that window was explored promptly by ERA/FoEN. That was about three weeks after the unfortunate incident. Narrating his ordeal, how the incident happened and how he managed to survive while his best friend didn’t survive it; he said.

Obonin Austin (eye witness who narrowly escaped death) from Imiringi community, Ogbia LGA of Bayelsa State

It was because of the bunkering fire incident that happened on the 8th of December, 2017 that you are seeing part of my body like this. That night we went there around 7pm. It happened when one lady struck match so that she could put on a stove and prepare Indomie noodles. She used to be one of the women in the camps preparing food and selling to customers. That actually caused the fire because the bush was already saturated with enough gas evaporating from refined products and refining operations were still ongoing.

The flame from the match attracted gas from the refining oven. There was an immediate explosion. When it happened, workers who were working at the upper side started rushing down like rain. When I looked up, I saw huge fire so I started running away from the area. As I was running, some of the refined products splashed on my hand and so my hand caught fire too. As I was running I noticed that my shoes were on fire too. So, when I ran a certain distance I stopped and removed the shoes so as to avoid them burning to melting point. I was later taken to Christ the King Hospital. But we were three who went together that evening. One was rushed to another medical facility where he later died. The third one was admitted at the Cottage hospital, at Otuasega community. That is what I know about the incident. But, according to people who went there the next day, they saw a lot of dead bodies; some burnt beyond recognition and so only their bones were left and they gathered the bones to go and bury. It was a mass burial. Some dead bodies started floating on the Creek after about two days, because that night of incident; even the water in the Creek was on fire. Some of us were able to swim across to the other side

When asked if he would be able to estimate the total number of deaths occasioned by the fire, Obonin Austin said:

Over twenty people died that particular night. It is difficult to say the total, because some also died in the hospital. All I know is that the dead were more than twenty. There were over a hundred people that were there before the incident. But in the morning, you will observe that the number of people there is more than one community. The fire incident occurred at about 3:00am, that night. Not only workers were there, some were there as customers to buy and arrange for finished products to be transferred to various destinations in the morning. The environment was a hustling place

I cannot tell people to stop going there because, we take that place as a hustling ground where we use to go and hustle instead of to go and steal. I will advise people not to go in the night, but in the morning when all the ovens have been put off. The ovens are normally put off around 5:00am. They should avoid anything like naked flame, matches, lighter or anything that will cause flame. 

Government should formalize this business because, without this the crime rate would be high. This has presented an avenue for people to get busy and assist themselves and I can say it has reduced the rate of crime. Government should please allow them do it. The death rate is the only big issue in the operations. For me, they should look for a safer, modern way so that it will not cause these types of death anymore. This is my advice

When asked to comment about the other two who went with him, he said:

Yes, we were three who went together and one of the other two was my best friend. Unfortunately he died at the hospital. I knew him as Trust, but I don’t know his surname. His father is from Kolo community but the mother is from Onuebum community, all in Ogbia LGA. Three of us went there but, to God be the glory, two of us are still alive to see Christmas and New Year.

For my friend, God chose to take him and I don’t know why. I pray that God should see him through because our going to the site of the unfortunate incident was not for any trouble. It was for us to struggle to survive. But my late friend was burnt from head to toe. Parts of his burnt body were falling off. He died at the hospital around 8pm, three days after the fire incident. He was about twenty years of age when he died. Before he died he was calling the names of several people and screaming before he fell off the hospital bed and died

 Chief from Ibelebiri community (who wants to remain anonymous for security reasons)

The fire incident, which occurred in our community environment is common knowledge. It is not a secret. It was a most unfortunate incident, even though no one from this community died as a result of the fire. But over sixteen souls perished in the inferno. None of them was a member of this community. A lot of strangers are involved and in the operations in the environment and, I reliably heard that the refining camp where the fire incident happened was owned by an Ijaw guy, not from Ogbia LGA. It is being rumored that the guy also own refining camp in Rivers state and a similar thing occurred there too; at his camp. Some people are suspecting it to be related to rituals for money and so, when the owner of the burnt camp came with a brand new jeep; he was booed by people here.

When ERA/FoEN field monitors expressed surprise as to people owning camps and whether there were several camps in the community environment, the chief said:

There are several camps in the environment, about 30 [thirty] such camps. Security agencies are aware; even some top state government officials might be involved in this.

If not for the involvement of security agents and government officials, what else would explain why the business still thrives here? After the fire incident, the security agencies just came around and did some kind of controlled burning of what could be termed condemned oil and part of the already burnt environment and left. Operators and some government/security agencies that ought to ensure the business is completely stopped here settled at last. From an initial demand of N50million, I heard they brought it down to N11million. And, that settled it. It has returned to business as usual since then.



The earth shows field was spilled



Burnt hands of Obonin Austin



Spilled crude at Imiringi end of Kolo Creek



When ERA/FoEN visited Ibelebiri community again on 8th January, 2018 the transfer/loading of refined products into cars and tricycles was still ongoing. For strangers passing through the community environment, it would be difficult to have any idea such things are happening there as there are no rising column of dark smoke for anyone to observe during the day. The crude oil polluted Kolo Creek is not visible from the road and the refined products are not transferred in conventional containers associated with liquid substances.

Refined products are put into special bags and loaded into cars or tricycles. Trucks also have points where loading takes place at night only. Some who also confirmed how the fire incident happened informed ERA/FoEN that the lady who struck the matches and other customers who were within the camp to buy products died in the inferno. A lady whom they said usually bought in large quantity also died.

A tell tale sign of any environment where refining of crude oil is ongoing is thick column of smoke rising and spreading above the particular area. Two other signs are large presence of strangers in the locality and crude oil freely spreading on the creeks within the environment. However, since security agencies and contractors like the Oil and Gas Task Force took the fight to operators of local refineries and did colossal destruction of many of the sites and equipment, most have since closed down in Bayelsa State [especially in Southern Ijaw LGA which used to be like the headquarters of the business] and the few that are still in operation have taken to operating mostly at night.

We had earlier been informed that some security operatives had suggested/supported the night operations; since the accompanying think column of smoke cannot report the incident to the public at night. Be that as it may, the pollution of creeks in areas of operation has continued to tell the story. Unfortunately, because folks from communities along the polluted Kolo Creek are involved, such environmentally inimical hydrocarbon in the water has not elicited the sort of outcry expected from the communities.

Incidentally, the route where refined products leave the community where refining is taking place is highly policed by security agencies; especially the Police and civil defense. This, instead of curtailing the act, seems to be providing security coverage and rather embolden those engage in the business. Some petrol stations in Yenagoa are identified as dispensing products from such sources to unsuspecting members of the public.

The activities of local refinery operators are remotely encouraged by greed, unemployment, unavailability of refined products, cheap price of the locally refined products, high demand for the products, inadequate monitoring/inspection of petrol stations to ascertain source of products by the Department of Petroleum Resources [DPR], etc.

No matter how unhappy and uncomfortable some fellow community leaders/folks may be about the local refinery related hazards in their community environment; unless the government and security agencies do the needful; lives of those who oppose the operation could be on the line. The culpability of the military, police and civil defense cannot be ruled out; especially as the environment of interest is just few kilometers from the Headquarters of these relevant security agencies in the state capital. And yet the business is thriving.



[1.] The Federal and state government encourage youths by providing willing scholarship for training in the area of renewable energy as the world is gradually moving away from fossil energy.

[2.] The Federal Government build more refineries in the country and ensure that the existing four are functional and producing in full capacity. This will make refined petroleum products available and at cheaper prices to the Nigerian public. The export of Crude oil and importation of refined products is not only a bad business principle; it makes Nigeria a laughing stock in the committee of nations.

[3.] As promised by the Federal Government, Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] be visible and ongoing in the Creeks, as a confidence building action preceding approval for the location of modular refineries promised by the Federal Government during the tour of the Niger Delta state by the then Acting President [Vice-President]. This is critical and would go a long way to minimize risks associated with lives and environment in general.

[4.] The Bayelsa State Government and Security agencies inform the public whether the refining operation ongoing within Ibelebiri environment is approve by them and, if so; why other sites in the Creeks have been destroyed?

[5.] Communities along the Kolo Creek take measures necessary for the protection of their natural fresh water. They should join in condemning the crude oil pollution of the Kolo Creek by operators of local refineries. Keeping silent on such self-inflicted injuries weakens any argument against oil industry related environmental degradation.


FIELD REPORT #385 – Conoil Aunty Julie Platform on Fire…Still in flames seven hours after

ERA/FoEN received information from community contacts at Sangana community on 29th September, 2017 that, Aunty Julie – Conoil’s offshore platform within the community’s waters was gutted on the night of 28th September 2017.  The inferno was still on at the time information reached ERA/FoEN. Apart from the first source, ERA/FoEN received confirmation promptly from two other contacts within the community.

Sangana community is part of Akassa Clan in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and, the community was also impacted by the KS Endeavor explosion/fire at Chevron’s North Apoi gas well facility in 2012 which caused pollution of the environment and death of aquatic lives. The community folks also lost their livelihood which is mainly fish farming.


Barr. Benjamin Ayibatonye the Chairman of the Community Development Committee [CDC] of Sangana ‘’There is fire outbreak from Aunty Julie, the Conoil platform in Sangana at about 3:00am this morning. The fire ensued from the production tanks and is below the platform. A man name Peter, an Itsekiri man from Delta State got an injury on his leg and is being treated at the Sangana Cottage hospital. Every crew member has been evacuated to the gunboat around the Aunty Julie platform. However, a fire fighter vessel is on the way from the Chevron field to put off the fire now. A man named, Blessing [other name unknown], a Supervisor on board the platform is with the man who sustained the injury in the cottage hospital’’

As per the possible cause of the fire, the CDC Chairman said ‘’ Cause of the fire was as a result of pressure from the Koluama end that they were unable to manage; that caused the incident’’

Not so clear as per what pressure, ERA/FoEN asked for clarification and, the CDC Chairman replied thus, ‘’Pressure on the crude pipeline to Aunty Julie’’



As at the time of concluding this brief report, the CDC Chairman confirmed that the fire has been extinguished. According to him, ‘’The fire has been put off from burning Aunty Julie platform at about 10:30am to 11:00am. For now there is little or nothing I can say about our environmental concerns. I will get back to you later with more details on this; if the need arises.’’

ERA however, suggested that the environment be monitored and observed for the next two days; even if there might not be anything observed as unusual for now.


Although the immediate and remote cause of the fire incident has not be officially made public, it is important to note that, since there was no breach of the facilities from a third party, the incident is most likely another operational failure case. There is need for more caution on the part of operators. Besides, all such facilities ought to have some reasonable level of firefighting equipment to contain emergency situations before they spread or becomes overwhelming.

Photos obtained from community sources at about 10:00am on 29th September, 2017



By Alagoa Morris

ERA/FoEN did a follow up to the Aunty Julie fire incident which occurred in the night of 28 September and documented on 29 September. The thrust was to get more photos and hear exactly how the fire was put out.

To this end, ERA/FoEN reached out to the Chairman of the Community Development Committee [CDC] of Sangana, Barr. Benjamin Ayibatonye While it was initially reported that help was being awaited from Chevron fire fighters and equipment; it turned out to be it was community folks who put out the fire at last.

In the words of Benjamin Ayibatonye:

 ‘’ Actually, at the end of the day, It was not the Chevron people who came and put off the fire. One Ene Owei, a fire fighter from Sangana community at about 9:00am on Friday, went to Aunty Julie, Conoil platform with the team of boys from the community to fight the fire and, did so for about two hours and was able to put the fire off at about 11:00am on the platform and, in the presence of Engineer Oma, the Operational Manager of Conoil and one Mr. Bello Bina, who flew with helicopter to the platform. Thereafter, the team of boys were appreciated with a token of N1. 5million as a way of saying, well done by Engineer Oma’’

Earlier, the CDC Chairman had informed ERA/FoEN that the community person who led the team of community youths, Ene Owei is a fire fighter and works with the Nigeria Agip Oil Company [NAOC]. He was on off-duty and in his community when this incident happened and he intervened. This is highly commendable. ERA/FoEN reached to a staff of NAOC and, it was confirmed that actually Ene Owei is a staff currently with Agip and on off duties.



The role played by Ene Owei and other youths of Sangana community on this matter is highly commendable; not only for their bravery but considering the negative image oil companies also associated with youths in their areas of operation. This is a positive example of community assistance to oil operations.




FIELD REPORT #384 – How Poor Town Planning Aggravates Bayelsa Flooding

Introduction: Bayelsa State presents one of the most deltaic scenarios in the Niger Delta in terms of geology or geography. There are no high grounds, which makes communities in the state susceptible to sea level rise and other Climate Change fallouts. It has a topography that is low-lying, with several natural water channels, swamps, creeks and rivers that empty into the Atlantic Ocean. Experts in the field of Survey have observed that the gradient of the environment remains the same even for distances running into kilometers. Experts document that some of the communities are below sea level, predisposing them to flooding whenever it rains.

The impacts of the floods in June 2017 necessitated a visit by ERA/FoEN field monitors to Epie/Atissa and communities around Yenagoa that suffer flooding as a result of physical structures conceived without Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] or recourse to safety.

The ERA/FoEN team, while observing some natural water channels within the communities, documented the testimonies of the locals.

FIELD REPORT #384 - How Poor Town Planning Aggravates Bayelsa Flooding

FIELD REPORT #383 – Environmental, Social and Health Impacts of Lagos Floods

Introduction: Lagos received another bout of the climate change phenomenon with unusually heavy rains in the month of July 2017. The downpour between 5-8 July resulted in the flooding of many parts of Lagos with Ikoyi, Lekki, Victoria Island and the Ajah axis witnessing the most severe inundation of homes and business properties.

From Ahmadu Bello Way near the former Bar Beach to Lekki Phase 1 and extending to Ajah and adjourning communities, residents were trapped as the raging waters took over entire streets, cut off others, inundated cars and other valuable property, and surged into their homes.

FIELD REPORT #383 - Environmental, Social and Health Impacts of Lagos Floods

 Field Report #381:Almost Two Years After Major Oil Spill, Shell Returns To Impacted Site

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 Report #380: Okomu Oil Palm PLC, Clears Forest, Farmlands for Industrial Agro Business in Edo State.

Introduction: The field monitoring exercise was aimed at getting first hand information from communities that are directly impacted by the activities of  Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC which cuts across three Local Government regions of Edo State. They include Ovia South West with their operational head office at Udo (See earlier field report on their activities in Ovia South West); Ovia North East Local Government area and Uhunmwode Local Government area. The three region where the company is operational is home to Okomu Forest Reserve, Okomu National Park, Ehor Forest Reserve and Owan Forest Reserve with rich biological diversity of plant and animal species.

Field_Report_on_Okomu_Activities_in _Edo State

Earth Tremor Occurring in Rivers, Bayelsa Communities? – Field Report #376

Highlight: Vibration of the Earth and Cracks in Buildings confirmed by community folks

Location: Communities in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State and Yenagoa LGA,Bayelsa State.

GPS Coordinate: Elev 26m N 05°04.841’ E 006°27.821 [taken at Oroama community where a building  allegedly cracked as a result of the Earth Tremor].

Date of Visit: Wednesday 13-07-16

Report by: Akpotu Monday Ziworitin and Alagoa Morris


The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria [ERA/FoEN] can reasonably say that earth tremors would become another environmental challenge the peoples of the Niger Delta region will contend with aside oil pollutions and coastal erosion.

In June 2014 ERA/FoEN had reported an earth tremor in Ikarama [Okordia clan] Yenagoa LGA of Bayelsa State. Also, during a field trip to Oboburu on 25th October, 2014 [in Egiland] in Rivers State, community folks informed ERA/FoEN they experienced earth tremor not long before ERA/FoEN visit.

When ERA/FoEN received information again on 11th July, 2016 that some communities in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State and Yenagoa LGA of Bayelsa State experienced earth tremor in the night of Sunday [10th July,2016], preliminary steps to confirm the incident were taken, reaching out via telephone to contacts in the communities mentioned to ERA/FoEN. On the 13th, July, 2016 our field monitors in the company of Alambo Fred Datonye a correspondent of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria [FRCN] embarked on a field trip to obtain testimonies from locals in the affected areas. It was interesting to note that testimonies obtained from witnesses 14.5 kilometers apart concerning the current earth tremor were similar. The 14.5 Kilometers covers the distance between Akinima and Igbogene [Rivers and Bayelsa State communities].

The investigation started from Akinima community and was concluded at Igbogene community. Akinima is one of the communities in Engenni clan of Ahoada West local government area in Rivers State. Igbogene is also one of the communities which made up Epie clan in Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State.


Mike Ogbakusi from Akinima

My house is just after the Shell road leading to an oil facility or location before the Akinima market. Three days ago there was an earth tremor at about 11:15pm [Sunday night]. The whole place was shaking, though it didn’t last long. It just shook and everybody was shouting. The tremor even extended up to Mbiama and Igbogene. People at Igbogene also noticed that there was an earth tremor. We don’t know the cause, but people are afraid. It has happened in the past and, I think this is about the fourth tremor we have experienced here. And Akinima community has written to the Ministry of Environment, Rivers State. But up till this moment nobody has come from the Ministry to ask the people what is actually happening; whether there was tremor or no tremor; nobody has come, not even Agip or Shell. So, that is the situation we are in in Akinima now; we are living in fear’’.

When asked as to what he thought should be done, he replied thus:

What I think should be done, firstly, we are not geologists, we don’t know anything. We want experts to come and tell us what actually happened and precautionary measures to be taken. So that we will be guided, we don’t know when; maybe the earth will open and all of us will go in; we don’t know. We are not experts, we don’t know what is actually happening so we need experts to come and educate us on what has actually happened.  There is a lot of exploration going on in our environment and people are shooting dynamites here and there; and we don’t know what is happening, buildings are cracking.

When asked whether there was a sound before the tremor was experienced, Mike responded thus [pointing in the direction of seismic workers],…’’ Like as you are seeing now, they are entering [the bush], they will be shooting and, running their lines. If you go inside our community now you will see  their seismic operation related lines running in between buildings. They explore in the day, but the tremor was experienced at night.  When we experienced the tremor; it was like something shifting; not necessarily hearing the sound of an explosive. But you can feel that the earth moved, shook. People ran out from their houses when it occurred; to find out what was happening. This is the fourth time such a thing is happening in this environment. If you go to the home of the paramount ruler, the Secretary of the community will tell you the date of the letter the community wrote to the Rivers State Ministry of Environment. The other one happened about two years or one and half year ago; now this one has happened again.  I witnessed the tremor which just occurred two days ago and the previous ones.  I cannot say which company is responsible for the seismic activities going on around us presently; what I know is that this area is covered by Shell and Agip…’’

Animasum Emeka Mark from Akinima, Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State

 Between 11:00pm and Mid-night on Sunday, there was a sound and at that same moment; the building shook heavily. Although the shaking or tremor didn’t last long [few seconds], there was an accompanying sound.

When asked if she had experienced such before, she said: Yes, I have experienced it in the past. But I was shocked by this one; I thought it was an earthquake. I even tried to run to my husband to ask him what was going on but because he just returned for the weekend and was tired I decided not to bother him; pending whether it will repeat again [the shaking]. But, my mind ran amok; thinking of possible causes and also whether the world was coming to an end.

Nwakam Paul from Akinima community

 Very recently we experience earth tremor; about three or four days ago. But this isn’t the first time; it is about the third time since I returned from the North that I have observed it. This one was a little mild than the rest. It normally happen like an accident, within the twinkling of an eye it is gone. But we just noticed it; that something strange had happened.  I don’t know if we can attribute the cracking of buildings in the community to these earth tremors. The other time it happened even electric poles and wire were obviously seen shaking, moving.  People ran to the street when it happened in the past because it was a strange phenomenon. We are neither geographers nor geologists and we have never subjected the incident to serious scrutiny and reach logical conclusions and so; even though there are exploration activities going on around us; we don’t know what to attribute the cause of the earth tremors to right now. We cannot say it occurs annually, maybe bi-annually. And, I didn’t hear any accompanying sound when it happened few days ago and; it happens quickly, like lightening. Within the space of one to five seconds; it is done.  I was wide awake with it happened…’’

Paul E. Peters from Akinowiso; formerly called Oruama

When we experienced the movement or shaking of the earth last time, it led to cracks in my building [pointing at the cracks]. I managed to patch some of the cracked spots because I had little cement in the house but no money for major repairs. Then, with this very recent tremor the cracks have widened in the building. I am confused, but I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the government to investigate the phenomenon and take appropriate steps to prevent it from happening again. I am saying so because I am not the only victim. If you move around this community you will discover others who suffered the same fate; whose houses have cracked as a result of the earth tremors. And, we are afraid, not knowing what might happen the next day. So, the government should listen to us and take proactive steps before more damage is done. We are yet to see any government official since we are experiencing this earth tremor in our environment.

When asked as to actual time the recent incident happened, Paul E. Peters said…It happened around 11:00pm Sunday night and I was sitting right here in front of my house [pointing].  I almost fell off from the chair I was sitting when the tremor occurred. Then I just got up, asking myself what was happening. I noticed a lot of fellow community folks running and enquiring from neighbors to know if their neighbours also experienced the tremor. That was how I got to know that it didn’t just happen in my house but covered everywhere in the community. There was a sound and shaking; which almost threw me off my chair. A hanger inside my house even fell to the ground…

Paul Harrison from Delta State residing in Oroama/Akinowiso community in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State

 The truth is that this shaking of the land has happened other times but this one of last Sunday was very serious. And anywhere such incidents are being experienced and the people have no channel available to express themselves; such could be very disturbing. That is why I was pleasantly surprised that you have come this morning to inquire about the matter. Well, the thing is that I am a stranger and if the earth tremor continues I can take my wife and children and relocate. Such relocation of strangers can affect the place in terms of commercial activities and development. I have spent about seven years in this community and this earth tremor has happened up to four times. I am really delighted that you came to confirm from us this morning; as to whether this earth tremor is happening in this environment. I experienced it physically.

When he was asked to narrate what happened last Sunday in respect of the above, he said: ‘The day before yesterday [being Sunday], around 11:00pm some of us had already retired to bed. And suddenly everywhere shook. I thought somebody was knocking on my door and, when I went out I saw people running out from their houses towards the roads. They later said it was a vibration from the ground; just like an earthquake, very seriously. So, we had to check around the house whether it had cracks as a result of the quake. But we didn’t discover any crack. The shaking happened twice and it was brief; lasted just about five seconds. We even heard a loud sound; as if someone used dynamite; very serious.


At Igbogene, ERA/FoEN obtained testimonies from some residents who confirmed they personally experienced the earth tremor.

Victor Idiedo, resident of Igbogene

It was two days ago [Sunday], at exactly 11:22pm. There was a kind of quake that was very serious. It lasted for almost one minute. To me, the first thought that came to my mind was whether armed robbers have come to invade my compound, de-roofing my building so I started shouting armed robbers, armed robbers. My elder brother who lived behind me also came out. When we came outside we saw people trooping out and asking ‘what is happening that the earth is moving, quaking everywhere?’ A neighbor recorded crack in his house. And, since we didn’t hear or read about the incident in any of the local media houses, I decided to reach out to ERA/FoEN. Meanwhile, I read from one of these online news on 29th June, 2016 that about six states are likely to be affected by earthquake. This raised my fears on the spur of the moment, because Bayelsa State was named among the six. I was scared and, that was why I got in touch with ERA/FoEN. When I made further inquiries, I received information that some communities in Ahoada West local government area of Rivers State were also affected; even Akenfa, though mildly felt in Akenfa [in Yenagoa LGA,Bayelsa State].

When asked as to whether he has experienced such quakes in Igbogene before, he replied thus: ‘’No, no, no [shaking his head from left to right and back], I have lived in this community for over ten years and this is the first time I am experiencing such a thing…

As to whether there was some sort of explosive sound before the earth tremor, he said…No, there was no such sound, just that the building was shaking. I was fully awake and; I have never experienced such in my life before. A minor crack occurred as a direct result of the earth tremor in the neighbourhood.  Plates and other things in my cousin’s house fell down from where they were kept as a result of the quake. Some of the breakable ones got broken…’’


Chief Etekpe Friday, a retired Principal

On Sunday, after 11:00 [that is in the night]; we were about going to bed when I heard a very high vibration. My window shook heavily; even the ground vibrated. I thought immediately of what the cause could possibly be; thinking if rodents around could be responsible. I had to resort to prayers. So, I had the vibration experienced in my house.

When asked if he was an indigene of the community,how old he was and if he has had such experiences in the past, Chief Etekpe replied…’’Apart from thunderstorm whose vibration is not as much as this earth tremor; this quake is much. I am from Okordia, Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State. Since 15th August, 2007, I have been a tenant landlord here in Igbogene.  Apart from thunder vibration; this recent earth tremor is an experience of its kind. I am above sixty years and, I haven’t experienced this sort of tremor before. We use to hear that when seismic operations are being carried out such things happen, but here in Igbogene; this is the first time…’’

Emmanuel Eze from Okaka community in Yenagoa LGA of Bayelsa State

On Sunday night, around 11:15PM, I was at Igbogene in connection with a burial. And suddenly, the house we were in started shaking and, initially I thought it was a python moving on the roof of the house. I even jokingly asked our host when he started rearing python in his house. Then, a bigger sound was heard and, I even thought it was Niger Delta Avengers attacking oil facilities nearby. In fact, I never knew it was another thing; even up till now I don’t know what it was.

When he was asked to explain more about the sound and quake, Emmanuel said:

Yes, there was a loud sound after the initial shaking I talked about. The building itself was visible shaking and I felt it physically. Other persons also came out and said even their beds were shaking inside their houses. I never knew it was an earth tremor which you just mentioned; I never knew then. It was strange to me; I have never witnessed such a thing before. Our minds also went spiritual; attributing the shaking to the deceased lady coming to take some of her belongings. Yes, we never thought about the phenomenon called earth tremor; we thought it was spiritual manifestation.

As per the possible cause of earth tremor, now that he has heard from ERA/FoEN, this is what Emmanuel said…Well, according to some people such things can result from oil exploration/exploitation activities. If that is the case, we know that when the crude oil and gas is removed from the ground there would be some vacuum which even water cannot adequately replace. In that sense, I am suggesting to the government that, instead of such incidents to wipe away Niger Deltans, they should leave the oil/gas in the soil. If actually there was a real earthquake and the ground opened that night; we would have all gone. About two years ago it happened at Ikarama, same earth tremor. I also heard it happened in Egiland in Rivers State sometime ago. So, if this is happening only in Niger Delta in this country then it can be rightly attributed to what they are taking from our soil, under the ground. I have not heard of this sort of thing happening in the North or other part of the country. If this happened in places like Kano, I am sure the National Assembly would be debating it right now. There would have been a state of emergency, to tackle it. But because such happened here in a marginalized section of the country, it has not even been reported in the media up till now



A crack in one of the houses visited

Pointing to a crack in his house



From testimonies taken from the locals in the course of the field trip there is sufficient reason to demand investigation of the alleged tremors. While it is understandable that some said they did not hear any accompanying loud sound [like use of explosive] and others said they did, most of those interviewed reported experiencing the incidents at the same time of the night the incident is said to have occurred and the duration. This is so even when those who testified were 14.5 kilometers apart from each other. The distance between Igbogene and Akinima was recorded during this field monitoring trip as 14.5 Kilometers. And, between Akinima and Igbogene, a stop was made at Oruama where residents also confirmed the incident; tallying with statements made at Igbogene and Akinima.

Although the immediate or remote cause of the tremor cannot be ascertained at the time of this report, experts need to step in and explain to the general public what is going on. However, ERA/FoEN is very much aware of renewed and heightened search for oil and gas within the identified environment in Yenagoa and Ogbia LGAs of Bayelsa State and beyond as attested by one of those who spoke with the team at Akinima. This has been on for about three months or more now. It is also a common knowledge that explosives are often used during these seismic operations.

When a similar incident happened at Ikarama community in June, 2014; it attracted the attention of the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment. What is not clear is whether anything significant was made beyond the visit of officials of the Ministry then. Ordinarily, not just for the records; experts would have been invited to investigate and come up with reports for stakeholders to know what the prognosis is and allay the fears and concerns of the people/communities. Currently, the people in affected communities are apprehensive.


  • The government at all levels rise up to the occasion and take appropriate steps to identify what actually happened and why.


  • The relevant agencies of Federal Government, including the Science Ministry, Environment, NDDC and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs bring in experts who will work effectively with the State governments, Local governments and communities affected to unravel the mystery around these sailing earth tremors in our communities and come up with practical solutions to, not only allaying the fears and concerns of the affected communities; but take steps to prevent real EARTHQUAKE from happening.


  • All stakeholders, including the media follow up on this with a view to alerting on the danger that lies ahead. Communities should be more alert, document and keep accurate records of happenings around them. They should also report such strange occurrences to relevant NGOs, media and the government.



Shell conceals spill from facility

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].


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.


Minister’s Unannounced visit to Agip Base in Bayelsa a Mere Publicity Stunt

Location:  Nigerian Agip Oil Company [NAOC] Base, Twon-Brass, Brass local government area.

Report by: Alagoa Morris


Agip has several facilities in Bayelsa State. They include oil wells, pipelines, manifolds and flowstations. Most of the crude oil from the company’s swamp area are channeled to Twon- Brass, a community on the fringes of the Atlantic Ocean. Agip’s highest facility a tank farm and export terminal are in that vicinity. It would be recalled that, although there are several reported cases of oil spills from the company’s facilities in Bayelsa State,  there was a major operational failure and spill incident at the Brass Terminal loading point on 27th November, 2013. Information at ERA/FoEN’s disposal indicates that Agip paid some money to impacted communities to take care of relief and recently paid another N24 million (twenty four million naira) to communities such as Odioama in connection with the 27th November, 2013 spill.

For quite some time some concerned citizens of Twon-Brass have expressed concern about the crude oil pollution along the Agip canal around the community. This canal runs through the Agip premises into the Brass River and eventually empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The Bayelsa State ministry of environment also, very recently expressed concern on the condition of the canal in question, especially as it concerns the release of effluents from Agip [crude oil inclusive] into the flowing body of water. In the light of the above, it was not really surprising for ERA/FoEN to be alerted on the night of Wednesday, 15th October, 2014 that the Minister of Environment Mrs. Lawrencia Labara-Malla was to visit Agip’s Brass facility the next day.

What seemed a surprise was the unannounced nature of the visit as even the State Ministry of Environment was not officially informed of this visit. Luckily, ERA/FoEN field monitor and the Country Director of Stakeholder Democracy Network [SDN], Mr. Inemo Samiama and some media men were part of the team which accompanied the Commissioner for Environment, Bayelsa State; Barr, Iniruo Wills, Permanent Secretary and other Directors of the State Ministry of Environment from Yenagoa to be part of the minister’s visit at Brass. The minister and some top executives of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency [NOSDRA] and few Agip officials flew into the Agip facility in Brass from Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. The minister was the only person who supplied information as per her purpose of visiting which was in response to questions posed after the brief visit. The Commissioner for Environment also granted a brief interview before departing to Yenagoa, after the Minister has been air-lifted and, on her way back to Port Harcourt.


Immediately the commissioner and his team arrived the Agip facility at Twon-Brass, the team was ushered into two buses [the bigger one, a Coaster] and were driven to meet with the Minister of Environment at a guest house where light refreshment were served and photos taken freely. Incidentally, some officials of the NOSDRA accompanied the minister from Port Harcourt, including the Director -General, Peter Idabor and Zonal Director in Port Harcourt zone. Shortly after, everyone got into the buses again [the minister and commissioner were with top Agip Management inside the Coaster bus], the Civil Society and media men were in the smaller bus with one or two Agip staff; while other Agip personnel followed behind in Hilux vans. So seated in the buses and not knowing where the team was being led; as no prior information as to the destination [except may be the commissioner and Minister of Environment were duly informed], the team was driven round the Agip facility, showing tanks, pipe connections and other physical items related to the oil industry.

However, before the brief drive around ended, a canal laden with crude-related substance and water was sighted and the photos were taken all through this brief motor-ride.  All of a sudden, the cars returned to the point where the minister and everyone boarded them. Without any other information it was noticed that the visit was over and the minister and her team were airlifted again, back to Port Harcourt. It was at this point journalists and the civil society folks present decided to ask the minister some questions. Below are some of the questions and her responses:

  Question: May we know your mission here? 

 Answer : We are here to inspect what Agip is doing in this part of the country and to ensure that they conform to the regulations of the land and to ensure that the environment is safeguarded. You know when an environment is being safeguarded and protected by their activities, the communities around will be taken care of.

That is why we have come here because they know that their production is quite large and they export. So we do not want to have friction with the communities like others which we are handling in the ministry. So that is why we decided to come here to see what they are doing.

Question: So far what is your observation and impression?


Answer: Well as a layperson even seeing the clean environment around me, I want to believe that they are doing their best. Nothing is perfect, nothing is hundred percent perfect. With the level of what I have seen, I want to believe that there is room for improvement. With the technical Officers around me, they too are advising me and I think we should give them the encouragement because what they are not doing right, definitely they will correct it.

Question: Oil companies in Nigeria are having issues adhering to the Nigerian laws, what are you doing to make multinational oil coys conform to Nigerian laws?


Answer: I do not believe what you are saying. Honestly I don’t believe. We have NESREA that is enforcing environmental laws, we have also NOSDRA that detects what the oil companies do not do right and they report back and we have been discussing and seeing how best we can work together.

Question: But the regulatory agencies lack the resources to carry out their mandate effectively.


Answer: You know no ministry or MDA will tell you that they have enough resources to carry out their tasks but Mr. President is doing his best, when we cry out he looks at our problems and what we are asking for and he does his best. I do not agree completely with what you are saying.

Question: You did mention of a clean environment here in Agip base but to a lot of Niger Deltans there is environmental disaster unfolding. When is the Federal Government going to seriously look into these problems and start ways of restoring the Niger Delta environment for giving so much revenue to the Federal Government? 


Answer: This is why you can see that I have the Commissioner for Environment of Bayelsa State here with me to tell you how serious and how committed we are. What we have seen here when we leave here we will sit together and discuss and then take back whatever is the problem to Mr. President the President cannot be here that is why we have ministers representing and I am representing  Mr. President. So I have invited the Commissioner for Environment in Bayelsa State to also discuss with him to see the way forward and what we can do to improve the environmental problems that are associated with the oil mining.

Question: What is the Federal Government doing to stop gas flare and what is the Federal Government doing in respect of the Koluama Chevron Explosion?


Answer :We are doing something to address that problem. When you have such problem, you have to investigate and you have to also ask questions and involved all stakeholders and come together. So we can’t come and tell you what we are doing. Definitely something is being done and you will soon hear from us.

Before leaving Agip base at Brass back to Yenagoa, the Commissioner for Environment also granted interview to the media.


 Question:  How would you describe the relationship between the oil companies operating in the State and the State Government?

Answer:  The relationship with the Bayelsa State Government is cordial and reasonably so. That is not to say there are no issues between us. But definitely there are a number of issues regarding the standard of environmental management in the course of their operations. That is the cumulative problems over the past fifty to sixty years, since the beginning of oil exploration in Nigeria which you know began in Bayelsa State. And there has been a great deal over the years and decades of gross inadequacies of environmental standards. So, at this present moment, we as government, we as trustees of the environment on behalf of our communities our focus is to engage with the oil companies in a way that will ensure rectitude in the way that they manage the environment in the course of their operations.

Question: In your own little way what measures are you going to take to contain the environmental challenges in the state?

Answer:   Well the engagement I just talked about is very broad. Our aim is not to be unduly confrontational but to make it clear that there must be a game change. There must be a drastic, fundamental game change; from how things used to be done to how things must be done. It’s not incremental progress we are looking for, it’s not incremental improvement in environmental standards we are looking for; we are looking for a total paradigm shift from how things were done; to now, how  they must be done in line with international best practice.

Question: It appears the communities are not comfortable with the operations of the oil companies, because it seems their relationship with the oil companies is not cordial

Answer:  Of course who was bearing the brunt, communities. They are the ones that have been bearing the brunt all these years. They are the ones whose water has been polluted; they are the ones whose livelihood has been displaced. And therefore they are forced into migration to urban centers and so on. So there is an entire gambit of social, physical and health implication of all these things. It is not a one-off thing. So, it is understandable for the communities to feel the way that they are feeling. But our focus as government at this present time is to ensure that we strike a balance that guarantees proper environmental standards and also work towards the restoration. And mind you, restoration is a very broad term. I am not going into details of that, but environmental restoration of our communities which, is not a one-off thing. It is not an over-night success story. If you have taken a peep at the UNEP report and the recommendations and, even the time span recommended for restoration activities to take place; you know that restoring what has been lost for fifty/sixty years of environmental degradation is something that must be done in a consistent way over a considerable length of time….



Crude oil polluted carnal inside the Industrial Area


The minister fielding questions from the media flanked by Agip staff in coverall



Firstly, it is important to note that the Minister of Environment’s visit to Agip Base in Bayelsa was not officially made known to the Bayelsa State Government. Information at the disposal of ERA/FoEN has it that top officials of the State Ministry of Environment got hint of the visit late and from community source; not even from NOSDRA Officials who were in an even with Ministry Officials the day before. This is very unfortunate and smacks of hidden agenda. Otherwise, why should the Ministry of Environment of a State not be officially informed when a Federal Minister in related ministry is entering the state officially? And again, both NOSDRA and Agip Management were surprised to see both the press and environmental NGO representatives; especially during the question and answer session with the Minister; when they got to realize ERA was also represented. When they heard the way the questions were being asked, some of the Agip staff asked, who are these guys? And when they were told that NGOs were represented; they quickly asked; is ERA here too? Besides, Agip Staff, NOSDRA and the Minister’s aids tried hard to stop the media and NGO representatives to ask the Minister more questions. They shielded the Minister from taking more question, to the surprise of those ready to ask questions relating to the visit and environment in general.

Besides the fact too, that some Agip staff expressed displeasure for the media and CSO representatives to asked the Minister questions; there were insinuations that since Mr. President is from the State and Niger Delta questions should not be asked because such might embarrass and put the President in bad light.

One major observation again was the fact that, the field visit was not properly done as the visiting team was disallowed from stepping down from the cars to take a critical look at the crude oil-laden canal and immediate environment though much of this section of the canal was within the company’s fenced premises. It was an arranged, guided field trip and Agip was obviously pleased with the Minister; that things went the company’s way. At the end of the day, it will not be far from the truth if one says the visit was of little of no use; just to satisfy some kind of formalities. Sadly there was no Twon-Brass community representative in the field trip to observe what was going on. It was done in secrecy. In this connection, there was nothing like introduction of those on the tour, either other Minister’s side or Commissioner’s side; not even Agip.


  • Fact finding tours be formally made known to the State and community stakeholders be part of the field visit.
  • If the State government is aware, the public should also be informed and relevant stakeholders be carried along because the environment is our common heritage and concern. Not only the media, environmental groups should be officially informed and invited to be part of such trips.
  • Federal agencies respect the authorities in states they operate in and show positive examples. What happened last Thursday is not the best, even though the Hon. Commissioner and his top Management stepped in to bridge the gap created on purpose by NOSDRA and Agip; including the Federal Ministry of Environment.