Nigeria Oil Rich, Niger Delta region communities helplessly battles oil spillage daily, Ayodele Samuel writes
Freeborn Roland lives in Ikarama community with his family, two of whom are twins less than four months old.
Ikarama, an Ijaw-speaking community along the Taylor Creek in Okordia Clan ,Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, of Nigeria oil rich Niger Delta region
In 2011, Roland house was gut fire after an oil spill site near his plank building was set ablaze, he lost some of his belongings, money and his children suffered serious health complications, his fears remains as the spill is coming back in 2013.
His new home is now surrounded by crude oil; with his family living helplessly in danger of its hazard.
'see what these people (oil companies) have done to my kids'' he said while expressing concern of the impact of the spillage on his family, especially his new born twins.
Ikarama community blessed with oil facilities which include wellheads, manifold and pipelines belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company [NAOC] and Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC] , fishing, farming, hunting and weaving are some of the traditional means of livelihood of the people but spillage of crude oil remains a nightmare in the community.
Oil spillage is a regular occurrence in oil producing communities in the Niger Delta region, sometimes very close to living homes like the Roland's residents.
This time its fresh crude oil spilling from Shell's Okordia/Rumuekpe Trunk line of Ikarama community.
Although Roland's family is closest to the affected swamp, other families also live in close proximity.
Apart from the swamp, the gutter around the environment is flooded with crude oil and flowing across to another swampy communities with the help of heavy rains.
Apart from the crude oil spreading to cover farmlands, ponds, lakes and even the Taylor Creek, Environmental Activists says oil companies often pay youths to set fire to the area where the spill has occurred.
This can reduce the spread of the oil but has other detrimental effects on the environment and residents.
"The first sign of the spill was when we perceived the smell of fresh crude oil in the air, early Tuesday, 4th June, 2013. And, because of past experiences and strong current of the smell, we [with her husband] tried to trace and we later discovered that the spill had just occurred along the pipeline near us. Crude was just oozing out from the ground and flowing into the swamp around," Freeborn Roland wife, Patience said.
"As you can see now, the crude oil has spread all over the swamp. We that are living so close will suffer the consequence again; you are aware how my children fell sick last time. Even now they have not fully recovered. My twins are just about three months of age and, you can imagine the risk of living within this immediate environment highly impacted by crude oil again. We pray that this time around they don't set fire on the impacted site and that Shell will mop up the crude oil as soon as possible."
Angry Community blames Shell
Residents of Ikarama condemned officials of Shell Petroleum for their poor and nonchalant response to oil spills in the Niger Delta.
Washington Odoyibo the Public Relations Officer of Ikarama Community Development Committee is also angry at the spill but blamed Shell and third party activities.
"I was annoyed after I got to the spill site and saw that some persons must have tampered with the oil pipeline. It was very obvious; some newly dug mud was around the spot that was spewing crude oil. My anger stems from the fact that our community will not benefit any positive outcome from such spills occasioned by third party activity. "Again, our environment has suffered severely from the negative impacts of countless spills we have experienced. I was in Yenagoa when I heard of the spill on 4th June, 2013 and, I visited the site within hours of that information. It is very unfortunate. The swamp that the crude oil flowed into is in my family land and, this is about the 3rd or 4th time that swamp is being impacted; wasted.
"We used to fish in that swamp from time to time. But these oil spills would not allow us to use it anymore. I just hope Shell will mobilize to site and contain the situation. But again, Shell should be held accountable for negligence because SPDC was informed on the 4th about this incident but the company delayed action until Friday, 7th June, 2013. They came to clamp it on Friday but they couldn't conclude and they only succeeded in doing so on Saturday, 8th June, 2013. Now, due to the fact that Shell failed to act promptly, the crude oil has spread all over the swamp. May be that is what Shell wants; those who sponsored the spill. Coming to spread boom in the swamp after the crude has covered everywhere is hypocritical of Shell."
Asked the cause of spill, the Odoyibo indicated sabotage. "Like I said before, I do not have quarrels with the cause because it was obvious; my concern is Shell's response to the spill."
Right Groups demand actions
Amnesty International (AI) recently slam Shell over claims that sabotage was responsible for oil spills in Nigeria, insisting that the oil giant is to be blamed for the spills in Nigeria's oil rich Niger Delta region.
Also Nigeria leading Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) called on Shell to immediately mop up, clean up and remediate the impacted community.
The group urged relevant agencies of Nigeria government to step in to ensure that the impacted environment is properly mopped up and cleaned.
While calling on Shell to look inwards to identify staff and contractors that sponsor sabotage and bring an end to the series of spills in Ikarama and environs, ERA/FoEN advised Community dwellers to resist temptation to engage in acts of sabotage and save themselves and their environment pollution.
No spill is acceptable- Shell
"We work hard to reduce the number and volume of operational spills" Shell says on its official website.
A report on the spill obtained from Shell's website estimated the volume of crude that spilled into the creeks 447 barrels. The company estimated that 379 barrels of the spilled crude oil remained in the environment while 67 barrels had evaporated.
"Over the past five years, from 2008 to 2012, just under a quarter of the oil that escaped from SPDC facilities was due to operational causes such as human error or equipment failure. In the case of operational spills the company negotiates compensation with the landowner. It may also help by providing clean water and food, No spill is acceptable and SPDC is working to improve its performance in this area," Shell said.