The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in a field report has exposed the improper clean up by Shell as well as the discovery of crude oil in the ground at a depth of over one meter in an area previously impacted by oil spills.
The field report produced by Alagoa Morris and Akpotu Ziworitin for ERA/FoEN, it was noted that “this latest revelation has confirmed ERA/FoEN’s position over the years in monitoring and reporting the Ikarama environment that Shell has not been doing proper cleanup and remediation of oil spill impacted sites.
“This is the situation in all other communities in Bayelsa State. Apart from the allegation of setting oil spill sites ablaze, Shell and Agip have not carried out proper cleanup and remediation of oil spill impacted environment in Bayelsa State.”
Confirming the impacts of the oil spills in their farmlands, residents of Ikara Community shared how their farm produce have been affected, as well as their health and livelihoods.
Speaking, former women leader of the community, Chief Mrs. Ayibakuro Warder said, ‘our crops don’t do well again, particularly the cassava tubers. Sometimes when we plant it looks as if it is dying off. We change it again, with other stems. Plantain too. Sometimes the newly planted ones would die, and we must replace them. Tuber plants like cassava and yam no longer yield like times past; yam is getting rotten.
“So, we feel this could be because of crude oil in the environment and oil spill impacted sites not properly cleaned up and remediated. We have not been experiencing this before now. The new experience we are having is that the crops are no longer doing well. Sometimes, in some areas of our farmlands, as we cultivate to plant, we see crude oil. That is what we are contending with and, as fisher folks and farmers this is a threat to our means of livelihood and health.’’
Another resident, Washington Odoyibo, lamented about how the plantains he planted are stunted. He said, “whatever we plant no longer produce good yield. Even fish, if you kill any fish around this environment and take home to cook and eat, it is crude oil smell you will perceive and not fish again. This is what we are experiencing, and it might be what is causing different kinds of diseases in the community, including cancer that our people had never experienced before.
“The number of people experiencing cancer in this community is increasing more than ten now. Cleanup exercises carried out by Shell in our environment have been done haphazardly; not thorough. As farmers if we cannot use our farmlands productively again how are we going to feed our families and train our children in school?
“We have abandoned some of our farmlands due to the negative impacts of crude oil,” he explained.
The report recommended that, “there is need for the relevant authorities to take steps to ensure that Shell and Agip commit themselves and get back to all spill sites in Bayelsa State and carry out proper cleanup and remediation of all recorded spill sites in the interest of our people.
“The implication of not doing thorough cleanup and remediation in terms of health of the people and fecundity of their farmlands, swamps, lakes, and other impacted environment is huge.”
Reacting to the field report, Barr Chima Williams, Executive Director, ERA/FoEN urged the “Federal and Bayelsa State Governments should take urgent steps to commence scientific investigation (including environmental audit) on all oil spill sites in Ikarama and beyond (including comprehensive health examination of the people) with a view to ascertaining the true situation of the environment. The oil companies responsible for the facilities should be part of this environmental audit exercise.
“Shell Petroleum Development Company should prove beyond reasonable doubt that it is not culpable in this environmental crime against the people of Ikarama community
“The media and other stakeholders should take interest in the disaster in Ikarama and play roles expected of them. Civil Society and legal practitioners should also be involved in defense of the victims and pursue environmental justice,” he added.