Protecting the environment,
democratizing development

Protecting the environment, democratizing development

Environmental Rights Action RSS Field

    Shell Re-Ignites Flares in Gbarantoru Community

    Highlight: Flares in the middle of the community, impacting houses, causing hearing difficulties

    Location: Gbarantoru community, Ekpetiama Kingdom, Yenagoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa State. Date of Visit: Saturday, March 1, 2024


    ‘’ All peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development’’ Article 24, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

    The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria [ERA/FoEN] visited Gbarantoru on 20 January 2024 in response to information received that Shell was preparing to flare gas in very close proximity to residential areas in the community. At the time gas was yet to be flared. But on 1st March 2024, ERA/FoEN received distress messages from Gbrantoru again. This time, the information from one of the locals was ‘’ My building is sharing fence with SPDC…right now they are flaring gas and it is disturbing me and my family. My house is vibrating seriously….Inside the community, my building is sharing a fence with them’’. This was the first information earlier in the day.

    After several missed calls from an unknown number, another source reached out via SMS with the message ‘’ I call to inform you of a serious environmental hazard in Gbarantoru community, where a gas fire from a company is terrible’’.

    ERA/FoEN responded promptly to the above information by visiting the community and environment of interest. The roaring sound of gas flare blasting away welcomed the ERA/FoEN team to the community. The team was led around the immediate community environment and observed the gas flare blasting furiously.

    An Act of Eco-Terrorism 

    During ERA/FoEN’s visit to the community on 20th January 2024; this was part of the reaction of the Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama kingdom, HRM King Bubaraye Dakolo, Agada IV ‘’

    …”From all indications, as they are drilling currently, definitely it will get to a point where they will flare gas. Flaring will mean, putting those nuzzles into my nostrils and pumping me with those noxious chemicals. And, even if I can stand it, how many persons in the community would be able to stand it? So, definitely, people would die and you won’t even know that it is caused by poison from Shell. I don’t really blame Shell.

    Why would the Nigerian state, with all the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), all the regulators just sit there and people will come and kill people? So what is your job as a regulator? The Nigerian state is what has caused the IOCs to be as deadly as they are; because the same IOCs would not misbehave in England, they won’t misbehave in Aberdeen and they won’t misbehave in the US. So why are they misbehaving here? They are misbehaving here because we have sellouts…is a big shame.  My message to Shell is that they should not drill here….what is going on is an aggression against, not only the people of Ekpetiama, not only the people of Gbarantoru [but] the entire Ijawnation. It is an aggression against Nigerian citizens who are living here’’. 

    This latest ignition of Shell’s Gas flare furnace did not come as a surprise because when ERA/FoEN visited in January, hints were given that such a preparation was also going on at the very site. However, the site was not visited by ERA/FoEN until now.

    Environmental Testimonies

    Seiyefa Saiyou Jones, Indigene of Gbarantoru and former Councilor in Yenagoa LGA

    “In the night there is no way to sleep. Due to the noise from the raging gas flare, the children cannot sleep in the room anymore. They all move to the parlour where it is mild; though the entire building is vibrating. I am directly affected. Besides the light [from the flare], the vibration of the house is so alarming and I don’t know what to say. That is why I called for help from the Environmental/Human Rights group.’’

    When asked if he was informed earlier about the intention to flare gas within his environment, he said

    “Nobody informed me, nobody has told me anything. I was not informed, up to date. Nobody informed me of such, but my house is more affected. What is more important to me now is they should know that they are disturbing my peace. This is about the fourth day since they put on the gas flare.  It is so alarming in the night, I can’t sleep; my children can’t sleep.

    We all remain vigilant, awake all through the night.

    This is happening in the heart of the community. They are supposed to relocate those to be affected and compensate them. You can hear the noise. This is even more than the sound of an airplane landing at the airport. So, if you are hearing this noise at this day hour disturbing people; what about the night? And the school here, there is a primary school here; St.John’s Primary School. Due to this gas flare, they are forced to go on vacation. The school ought not to be on vacation now but because of the activity of SPDC. How can they learn in this atmosphere?

    The atmosphere is not conducive to learning; even as we are talking now we cannot hear each other, or talk more of the pupils in school to communicate effectively. So, the government and operators of this thing should come to the aid of the community, come to the aid of those living around. We are suffering.’’

    Funmi Ijebu, resident

    “The house is shaking. And I feel bad about it. I am feeling very bad. We don’t sleep in at night’’.

    Chief Capt. Saiyou Suoton Jones, Former military Officer and Indigene

    “The location belongs to SPDC [Shell Petroleum Development Company]. I was not informed of their coming. All of a sudden I saw them walking towards the waterside and around in the environment until we started hearing this noise. And when they put on the flare, the noise emanating from it will prevent me and you from hearing ourselves; if I speak you can’t hear. The vibration, the heat, and the smoke, everything is affecting us greatly’’.

    When asked what he would tell Shell or the Government on the matter if he saw them, the elderly man replied thus

    ‘I will tell them what I am saying [to you], because the thing is affecting, not only me; but the whole people in the environment. The thing is affecting everybody. So, if they can remove this thing [the gas flare] to a separate place, I think it would be better. They should relocate to a different place, not within the community here making a noise like that. I will tell them the dangers of it. It is disturbing.

    If you want to discuss with somebody, you don’t even hear; you can’t hear what the person is saying because of the noise in the environment. If you enter your room, the heat alone will chase you out. And when you come out you face the same heat. No way to sleep, you can’t sleep fine at night.

    Observation / Conclusion

    This action by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) that has led to an outcry by the Gbanrantoru community is nothing but a case of  Eco-Terrorism. The lives, vegetation, and properties of Gbarantoru in Ekpetiama kingdom of Yenagoa LGA, Bayelsa State which is a relatively large densely populated community are under attack by this horizontal emission of noxious gases from the flare stack.

    It negates the principle behind Article 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It also negates the position of the Nigerian Government with its commitment from the Nationally Determined Contribution to the unconditional contribution to reducing emissions by 20% below the business-as-usual scenario by 2030  and increased its conditional target to 47% reduction in emissions by the same year, in support the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and in particular the aims of the Agreement set out in Article 2, to:

    “Limit the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels; Increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development; and Make finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

    ERA/FoEN, during this visit, witnessed the gas flare from the Shell facility furiously blasting away. Not only was the horizontally flared gas so huge and menacingly noisy, but the threat to buildings in the community was obvious as they continued to vibrate rhythmically. Even buildings with solid foundations could experience cracks presently or later owing to the negative impact.

    If a school within the environment can be forced to go on vacation as a direct result of this act of Eco-Terrorism, does it not speak volumes?

    If people are denied sleep at night, is this not disturbing enough? This is an aggression on the people. If EIA was ever done, no matter how long, what were the mitigation measures? These and other questions are begging for answers. With the prevailing cases of asthma, cancer, and other respiratory diseases; the health implications on our people are something to worry about.

    Due to the roaring of the Gas Flare, hearing is an issue and people have to raise their voices while talking to each other within the impacted environment in the community [even from a distance of about 200- 300 meters away from the flare point] during the day. This would be worse in the night.

    Despite the Associated Gas Re-Injection Act of 1979 which demanded oil industry operators in the country to produce detailed plans for gas utilization as well as an end to gas flaring by January 1, 1984 [with the exception which only the Minister of Petroleum can permit], oil companies have continued to flare gas with impunity and illegally. They prefer to go on paying token fines to sustain the illegality while wasting finite resources, poisoning and sentencing our people to early graves.

    Shell and the Federal Government were defeated in a court case” Jonah Gbemre v Shell’’ when judgment was delivered at the Federal High Court, Benin, in November 2005.  Even if the flaring was for a short period and occasioned by industrial necessity, victims ought to be duly notified and disturbance/medical allowances discussed and paid promptly. This should be in consideration of the discomfort experienced by those within the environment; physical damage to buildings and associated health implications from breathing noxious gases [including emotional trauma]. Turning communities into oilfields is not acceptable. Even when the military wants to embark on drills that would entail shooting, proper notification is usually given to those members of the public. So, why is Shell failing to properly notify victims of their operations but enjoy taking them by surprise?

    ERA/FoEN also observed something strange – a very high-pressure liquid suspected to be water was being sprayed into the air in the direction of the huge Flare. Is put here to reduce the heat produced by the flame? Or is there some chemical reaction with the noxious gases being released?  This is left for experts to properly explain.

    One of the houses in the neighbourhood was just about 8 meters from the fenced Shell facility. From different directions, distances between some houses and the raging gas flare would be about 50 meters to 100 meters and, they were vibrating. But, the negative impacts go further.

     ERA/FoEN Demands:

    [1] The Federal Ministries of Petroleum and Environment should prevail on Shell to Stop the ongoing Eco-Terrorism by Shell in Gbarantoru.

    [2] The Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment should bridge the gap with a formal complaint to the Federal Authorities concerning the unacceptable Shelling of Gbarantoru with noxious gases by Shell. Our people and environment have had more than enough oil industry-induced pollution over the years.

    [3] The People of Gbarantoru should formally document the community’s experiences and ensure the relevant agencies of the State and Federal Governments hear them loudly.

    [4] Other Stakeholders, including the media, Environmental safety advocacy groups [globally], legal practitioners [law firms], Health practitioners, Ijaw National Congress, Ijaw Youth Council, etc should feel free to take on this matter in the interest of Environmental Justice.



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