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Niger Delta Human Rescue Organisation

Another major environmental pollution occurs in Shell's facilities at Santa Babara Flow Station in the Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, leaving the Environment Devastates and Community Helpless

FROM: Purane Ebelegi(ND-HERO) field officer.

Contents:   Introduction   |    Effects of Spill   |    Shell's action at spill   |   Recommendations
Shell's statement about the spill   |    ND-HERO's response to Shell

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.

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 square miles.

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 table.

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 that long.

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 markets.

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 land, with
it untoward effect on aquatic live which has caused total damage of the entire environment.

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.

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 and police. 

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


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.

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