On October 25, 1998, the Chiefs and people of Nembe Kingdom in Bayelsa
state announced that there has occurred a major oil spillage at Shell’s
facilities of Santa Babara flow station in an area popularly called Shell
Kiri (Ibikini Harry Kiri-pipeline 1) in the Nembe Local Government Areas
of Bayelsa State.
ND-HERO immediately took a field trip to the area to have a first hand
information about the spill, the effects on the marine life and community
people and the action taken so far to ameliorate the effects.
The organisation found that the pollution occurred from a high-pressure
pipeline of Shell on the creek, which give way to pressure due to lack
of maintenance and sprayed crude oil in to the creek and its environs.
The organisation was told by eye witnesses that the blow out sprayed crude
oil sporadically into the air and rained into the entire environment,
continuing for 2 days, the 25th to 26th of October, 1998 before Shell’s
official from the Odioma Flow Station came into the scene. Despite
Shell’s presence, it took the company another complete day to detect the
source of blow out and stop the pollution. The pollution is said to have
occurred as a result of wear and tear of two bolts on the pipeline which
were doing the work of 4. The other 2 having pulled out earlier due
to lack of maintenance.
THE SPREAD OF THE SPILL
At Ibikine Harry Kiri ND-HERO was informed by some of the elderly fishermen
who gave their names as Mr. Ibikine Harry Kiri, Mr. Inowei Felix, Mr. Sonny
Digbani and Mr. George D. Igo that with help of the high flood the spillage
has spread across to over 50 fishing settlements and villages up to Kula
in Rivers State. And that the combined effect of the rains
and the water waves have transported large quantities of the crude into
the Atlantic Ocean. Possibly covering an estimated area of 10 000
THE EFFECT OF THE SPILL
This spillage like other spillage has affected land and marine lives.
ND-HERO field officer discovered that the entire stretch of the River system
was affected with tick layers of crude oil still floating on the water
The crude transported into the Atlantic ocean is a source of pollution
to the ocean and the entire marine lives in those areas. Shell does
not care because nobody live there but international waters are affected.
The spillage has also effected adversely the occupation of the local
people as they can no longer fish, being predominately fishermen.
All the fishing settlements in the area at the time of ND-HERO’s team visit
appear to be in mournful atmosphere and have been disserted. Even
their drinking well water has been polluted as a result.
Death fishes poisoned and killed as a result of the pollution could
be seen floating in the creeks and the fishermen complain that anytime
this happens the fish population is driven into the Atlantic Ocean into
deep water and are therefore depleted. That it takes 6 to 8 months
for them to resume normal fishing occupation. What this means is
that the population shall starve and be cut off from their occupation for
There are also health hazards involved. The fishermen left without
alternative means of livelihood may resume and catch poisoned fishes, which
they may eat and get poisoned and die. In the absence of good education
and hospitals the indigenes and indeed the entire population of the area
is at risk as the fish caught in these areas is sold and consumed in the
The Santa Babara flow station is situated in the heart of a naturally
endowed fishing ground, which had subsequently attracted plenary fishing
ports. It less deserves this incidental plague on water, air and
it untoward effect on aquatic live which has caused total damage of
the entire environment.
ACTION TAKEN SO FAR BY SHELL
Shell PDC came to scene only on the 28th of October 1998 (3 days after
the spillage). It took it another day to stop the spillage.
Then the company instructed the villagers to lit neither a match nor fire
either for cooking or any other purpose and promised that it was going
to send touch lights to the people. Until the time of the visit of
ND-HERO team on the 8th of
November, the company had failed to supply the said touch lights and
the indigenes are made to live in darkness and to starve since they cannot
cook. Neither relief materials nor alternative source of food have been
sent to the people.
Because of this lack of responsive action, and the attendant sufferings
unleashed on the people,
The fishermen besieged the company’s flow station at Odioma. The
company then told them to submit their claims perhaps as a way of keeping
the people at bay,. Only to turn round later and start rejecting
the claims applications saying that it had received enough.
Shell and other oil companies have always feigned indifference over
the suffering of the local people even at critical times like this.
Hence communities have to write to oil companies informing them of oil
spillage and still have to beg for compensation even to the extent of compromising
basic environmental rights.
Negligence is not an excuse at law, but where is law when the judge
and the prosecutor are embodied in the defendant, who of course, sees negligence
as a bait for alleging sabotage. As a fisherman puts it, ‘Shell’s continuous
mum posture to this particular
issue amounts to parading moral and etiquette bankruptcy over our environment
in it managerial cadre. We must claim our cause from the judgement
of the global condemnation of the environmental war in the Niger Delta’.
ND-HERO recommends that the company should take immediate stops to
do all of the followings:
To provide immediate relief to the local fishing population by providing
them with food supply and water and alternative means of light.
Pay the fishermen and others who lost means of livelihood including
working days, fish traps, net and ponds adequate damages commiserate with
their actual losses rather than paying at the discretion of the company.
Take immediate action to remediate the environment of the area polluted.
Take immediate steps to maintain its facilities and if possible change
all its decaying pipelines.
It is our observation that the company delays payment of all compensation
unduly. This ought not to be since the villagers are expected to
live in the circumstances of loss of their occupations.
SHELL’S RESPONSE TO THE SPILL
On the day this report was due to be officially released Shell made
a statement published in one of Nigeria’s daily newspapers, THIS DAY, of
December 2 ,1998 as follows:
|An oil leak has been reported in
Santa Babara River Crossing in Bayelsa State by the Shell Petroleum Development
Company, an official of the company disclosed yesterday.
Initial estimate of the volume of
spill which occurred last Friday, November 27, is about 1, 500 barrels.
The cause of the spill is yet to be determined as youths of the community,
allegedly armed with machetes, stopped the investigating team from having
access to the area.
The investigation team was made
up of officials of the local government, Department of Petroleum Resources,
Federal Environmental Protection Agencies, representatives of the community
However, to reduce the impact, five
flowstations have been shut, the official said. This has effectively
stopped the production of 145, 885 barrels per day.
The company is still negotiating
with the protesting youths in order to have access to the area. According
to the official, the youths are demanding for compensation , ‘and this
cannot be paid until the actual cause is ascertained’.
Early investigation of the leak
is said to have revealed that it was from the stem of a valve or plug believed
to have been removed by unknown persons. Two bolts were reported
missing while a third was loose.
Source: THISDAY newspaper of 2nd December, 1998.
Vol. 4, No. 1319 Page 3
MATTERS ARISING FROM THE STATEMENT
The organisation had to suspend releasing the report and to investigate
this later claims. The organisation is able to confirm the following:
1. It is not true the claim of the company
that the spill only occurred on Friday November 27 1998. Instead
this is the second spillage of the same facility in a space of 25 days.
2. It is not also true the estimation that only
about 1,500 barrels of crude was discharged into the environment.
In our estimate this second spill discharged about 5 000 barrels
of crude into the environment.
3. It is not true that the company shot down
its entire facilities in the area to reduce impact. We are able to
confirm that there is a full operation activities taking place in
the area. If however the company shot down its facilities, it considers
this economic loss over and above the environment that it has impacted.
4. Shell had gone to site on report of the second spillage
with its partners, the FEPA alone to inspect and ascertain the cause of
the spillage and to rubber stamp its usual 'alibi' of Sabotage as it stated
in the earlier spill. This angered the youths who decided to protest.
But non of the youths was armed.
All these claim of the company portrays the culture of indifference
oil companies in league with FEPA and the government against oil bearing
communities. This classical example of Shell’s attitude ; of
2 spills within one month in one location with the company announcing one
and making allegations of threat by youths. ND-HERO’S earlier investigation
of the spill of 25 October, revealed that the leakage was from the stem
of a valve or plug which was due for maintenance which was never
maintained and which is the subject of the second spillage.
ND-HERO is a mass base human and environmental rights organisation in
the Niger Delta found on the 10th of December, 1998. No copy rights of its reports except otherwise indicated is reserved
except by way of acknowledgement.
Return to Nigerian Groups and ND-HERO.