Nigeria: Oil spills leaves community members angry and helpless as company blames sabotage

Author: Joel Olatunde Agoi, Phys.org (USA) , Published on: 8 January 2020

‘Nigerian communities struggle with devastating oil spills’ 3 January 2020

Martha Alfred used to harvest 20 bags of cassava each year before an oil spill forced her to abandon her field and hawk roasted fish to survive. Her smallholding at Ikarama-Okordia, a community in southern Nigeria's Bayelsa state, became unfit for growing crops after crude from a nearby Shell facility spewed into the environment last August, she says. Today, the 33-year-old mother of two looks angry and helpless, her woes compounded by downpours during the last rainy season that flooded her land. "The soil has become infertile because of the spills," Alfred told AFP. "Each time I remember the spills and now the floods, my heart bleeds," she said.

…The oil companies blame most of the leaks on sabotage from local residents and criminal gangs stealing the crude. But under Nigerian laws, the firms are obliged to clean up all spills whatever their cause. Villagers argue some spills are due to operational factors. "It's not completely true all the incidents are caused by sabotage. Some of them are due to equipment failures," Ikarama community leader Morris Lamiengha told AFP. Asked about the allegations from the residents of Ikarama-Okordia, Shell insisted it meets its obligations on all clean-ups and helps affected communities whatever the reasons for the leakages. "Shell has always and will always live up to its responsibility," spokesman Bamidele Odugbesan told AFP.

…Locals and environmental campaigners say oil majors like Shell, Exxon Mobil, Eni, Total and Chevron, are not doing enough for host communities despite many decades of oil exploration in the region. Nigeria, Africa's largest producer, produces an average of two million barrels of crude per day, which accounts for 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings. "The oil firms have destroyed the region's ecosystem through their operations," said Michael Karikpo of Environmental Rights Action lobby group.

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Related companies: Chevron ExxonMobil Shell Total