The people of Ikarama in the Okordia Clan, Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa state have called on well meaning members of the public as well as the state government to mount pressure on oil giants, the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, to undertake the clean-up of its environments, following a recent crude oil spill in the area.
The spill is said to have affected the livelihood of the community folks, including their fishing and farm businesses. According to the Environmental Rights Action (ERA) and Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN), whose team visited the area, “this is the third time Ikarama community is complaining about Shell’s improper cleanup, and it is shocking that the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency [NOSDRA] has not acted on this important matter.”
A situation report by Mr Morris Alagoa of ERA, said “eight months after the joint visit by NOSDRA, Shell and ERA/FOEN, a call was received from IKarama community by ERA/FoEN.
“The caller, identified as Benjamin Warder, the immediate past youth president of the community revealed that his efforts in mobilizing resources to prepare a fish pond in his family land at the Ekperikiri swamp has been rendered pointless as crude oil came out from the ground and covered the entire space while the excavator was working.
“As ERA/FoEN has a tradition of not relying on secondary data but visiting and feeling the pulse of the environment of interest, an early morning visit was made to the environment on the 27th day of April, 2022. Two persons were granted interview to ERA/FoEN, the immediate past youth president and incumbent youth president.”
Warder was quoted in the report obtained by TNN, that “we are standing at my proposed fish farming environment. And as you can see, there are signs of fresh excavation. It was done yesterday, being 26th April, 2022. Initially I brought an excavator to prepare one last year. As the excavator dug, we discovered high level of hydrocarbon presence, crude oil which gushed out of the soil as a result of oil impact of oil spills in this environment.
“This goes a long way to show that the entire environment is polluted. And a lot needs to be done to revive this environment. Now, you can see behind me a pond that was excavated just yesterday and you can see the high hydrocarbon content in it. So, we are advocating that for one to make use this land for productive ends; the oil company [Shell] need to do something about the land being polluted.
“ I had the intention of creating livelihood for myself. That was the reason why I brought the machine and see how this place can be excavated and start my fish farm business. But as you can see there is no way fish can grow here; they can’t survive here. So, if you are seeing this at this level; how much the entire environment?
“You can see cassava and cocoyam farms around; as our people’s means of trying to make ends meet. Look at these plantains stands planted over a year; they are stunted, not doing well. There are lots of liabilities the oil companies are leaving behind. Now they are talking about divestment. If they are divesting who is going to bear these liabilities? As it is now, it is like more or less a wasted effort for me; putting resources and efforts together. And this is what you are seeing. There is no way I can make use of this pond at this time; except a lot of money is involved. These are the concerns.”
Also commenting, the current youth president in the community, Glitter Ziah said “several times when oil spills occur, Shell refused to come and do remediation. They will only select narrow area of the impacted environment to work on, while the crude oil impacted extensive areas. They [contractors] would then say they are done with the needful and proceed to taking photographs and video clips which are taken to Shell and that is all. But it often happens that when our mothers go to the farmlands [in the impacted environment] and dig with a view to plant crops; the [crude] oil will gush out.
“Even today, right now it is still the same thing. So we demand that Shell should come and do proper remediation of spills sites; comprehensively and not selected spots. Our people are suffering, water and [crude] oil coming out from the ground in most places in our environment when our people dig the ground for farming activities.
“Very recently when my mother harvested cassava in her farm, the colour of the cassava tuber changed because of the [crude] oil. So we are suffering, it will damage our system. Shell should come here and do proper remediation, in the entire spill impacted environment in Ikarama environment.”
“With this current evidence of the presence of heavy presence of crude oil in the ground, it is only proper to call on NOSDRA to rise up to the occasion. Shell should be prevailed upon to return to Ikarama oil spill impacted environments and carry out proper remediation; as records show that most spill sites in the community environment were set ablaze and very little or no clean-up was done. And this is why ERA/FoEN had earlier demanded and still demanding that Shell should embark on UNEP recommended clean-up/remediation even in Ikarama and other parts of Bayelsa state, including other States of the Niger Delta.”