By: Fidelis Mba
Orobiri community is a tiny island by Nigeria’s shoreline of the Atlantic ocean. It takes about four hours by speedboat cruising at 100km/ph to get to Yenagoa, the capital city of Bayelsa State which is the administrative headquarters.
The community was one those affected by the recent Shell Bonga oil field spill which emptied barrels of crude oil into the ocean.
As i walked along the shoreline, I saw dark patches of spilled oil on some sea weed, and splashed along the edge of the shoreline. Some of the villagers had taken out time to collect samples of the spilled oil in buckets which they kept by the seaside.
The Bonga field is approximately 120km (75 miles) offshore and produces 10% of Nigeria’s oil exports.
During my visit to villages across the local government area of Sagbama in Bayelsa state. There was not much activity going on. Villagers were trying to salvage what was left of their fishing nets. Fishing is the main commercial activity in the region.
According to a fisherman, Diamond Debekeme, “our occupation is only fishing. Our fishing nets have now all been destroyed”.
The health implications of the spill on the communities can also not be wished away. The oil-producing communities have no healthcare facilities or basic infrastructure.
“Since the spillage occurred we’ve been experiencing all sorts of diseases”, says Jacob Ajuju, traditional ruler of Orobiri community.
“ When the spillage occurred, we called on Shell for clean up but they did not turn up until now. We have done our own local clean up”.
Shell however says its clean up was hampered by a third party spill.
Shell in a statement claims the clean up of the 20 December leak from the Bonga offshore oil field has now been completed successfully and production resumed at Bonga on January 1 2012, following reinforcement of asset integrity and safety programmes.
“Oil from the Bonga leak had largely dispersed by Sunday, December 25, 2011 due to the integrated efforts of SNEPCo, the Nigerian government and our industry partners in the application of dispersants, and natural processes of dispersal and evaporation”.
Shell Nigeria Country Chair, Mutiu Sunmonu, said “While investigation into the cause of the leak continues, we have isolated the faulty line, which was the only one of its type in the Bonga field, and reinforced our asset integrity and safety programme. This, together with additional inspection testing and monitoring, is what gives us the confidence that it is safe to restart”.
In the Niger Delta, there is little independent monitoring of spills, and the companies themselves disclose virtually no data about their own pollution.
But, according to the Nigerian government, there were more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000. Environmentalists believe spills – large and small – happen at a rate of 300 every year.
The oil industry is accused of a sharp double standard in its operations – of taking advantage of Nigeria’s lack of environment law and weak regulation, while observing higher standards of safety and maintenance overseas.
Shell, for example, owns only a 30% stake in SPDC – the Shell Petroleum Development Company. The rest is Nigeria’s national oil company, the NNPC, and smaller stakeholders.
The speedboat which I came in carried along bags of packet water for sale. The owner of the packet water told me she was doing brisk business because the villagers had no other source of water at the
The development is a source of concern to Joseph Gbebor from Agge community. “we are suffering. since this spillage occurred we cant get any good water to drink”.
Nigeria’s Ogoniland region could take 30 years to recover fully from the damage caused by years of oil spills, a 2011 UN report says. The study says complete restoration could entail the world’s “most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up”.
Communities faced a severe health risk, with some families drinking water with high levels of carcinogens, it said.
Bonga Oil Field
Discovered in 1995
Production began in 2005
Expected to last until 2019
120Km off the Nigerian coast