SHELL'S OIL SPILL IN BARAALE,
OGONILAND, OF NIGERIA'S RIVERS STATE
October 2001 - January 2002
ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS ACTION (ERA)
214 Uselu-Lagos Road, P.O. Box 10577, Benin City, Nigeria
Tel/Fax + 234 52 600 165 E-mail: email@example.com
ERA FIELD REPORT NUMBER #89
SOUND OF SHELL'S FIRE IN OGONI
DISPATCHLINE: Baraale, Tai LGA, Rivers State, Nigeria
FROM: SAM OLUKOYA
DATE: JANUARY 11, 2002
SHELL AND OGONI
The Ogoni Community of Baraale is in Tai Local Government Area of Rivers State, Nigeria. The people are predominantly farmers. As already well known the Anglo Dutch Oil Company, Shell, started operating in Ogoniland in 1958. Like other communities in the oil rich Niger Delta, decades of oil exploitation never brought them any tangible benefit. All they have to show for the oil on their land is poverty and hunger brought on by ecological damage caused by the activities of Shell and other transnational oil companies.
To save the Ogonis further agony, the Ogoni umbrella body, the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, under the leadership of the late environmentalist and minority rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa successfully fought against corporate recklessness in Ogoniland.
But almost a decade after Shell stopped its operation
on their land; the Ogoni are still feeling the harsh effects of the oil
industry. Oil pipelines laid across Ogoni have been causing oil pollution
and fire. Baraale is one community feeling the pains.
CRUDE OIL FLOODED MY HOUSE
On June 6, 2001, Shell oil pipeline, which passes through
the Baraale community, ruptured and started spilling crude oil into nearby
forests, farmlands and houses. Aseme Mbani, chief of the community was
in his farm when the pipeline ruptured. "I was in my farm when I saw crude
oil rushing into my cassava farm. Then I went to the pipeline and I saw
where it was
Unlike the chief of the community, Young Aseme felt the impact of the oil spill in his bedroom. "The oil flowed into my house and the entire house was flooded with crude oil." He had to abandon the house.
SHELL IGNORES COMMUNITY'S SOS
The chief of the community said he took steps to ensure that Shell repaired the ruptured pipeline. "I reported the matter to the Shell contractors in charge of the pipeline and also to the Police that the pipeline is leaking. After that we wrote Shell a 'Save Our Soul' letter. When there was no response I went to Shell to report at a section they call "Ogoni Re-entry." They told me they have seen the letter I wrote. They said we should suffer the spillage because we caused it. They said we have been cutting pipelines and we should reap what we sow. Chief Mbani said the oil continued to leak and he kept "repeating and repeating" his visits to Shell to urge them to act fast before the situation worsens. But Shell never responded.
WHEN DISASTER STRUCK
Disaster struck on October 1, 2001, when the leaking oil caught fire. Residents of the community were about going to bed that night when a large fire started following a loud explosion.
"We were in the house when we heard a sound, it sounded like a massive bomb, boom! All of us shouted and ran away as the fire spread into the village", says Chief Mbani. Another resident, Frank Kpokpone, had a similar tale of woe "We suddenly heard the sound of fire spreading into the community. The whole area was burning, people were running and crying, I did not see one of my children until a day after." The experience had remained a nightmare for the community especially for people like Kpokpone who live close to the pipeline. "Some times we will hear the booming of the fire as if it is coming again and we shall start running away. Shell has stolen our peace," he says.
WE ARE SUFFERING TOO MUCH
The community reported the fire outbreak to Shell. But the company refused to act. Members of the community repeatedly quoted Shell officials as saying that they should suffer the impact of the disaster. The fire has been raging on since October 1st last year.
Large expanse of farmlands and forests containing crops like plantain, yam, cocoa yam, mango trees and palm trees have been burnt down. The community's farmland is now a wasteland. What is not burnt has been baked. The once fertile soil has turned into a black and hard substance devoid of nutrients.
Some people in the community are now homeless after the fire burned down their houses.
VILLAGES BREATHE POISONOUS AIR
Thick smoke from the fire hangs over the community. Many
people have fallen ill after breathing the poisonous air. Some residents
also complained that the smoke causes a burning sensation in their eyes.
Rainwater here causes skin irritation and rashes. The soot from the fire
has also polluted the community's water wells, which constitute their only
source of drinking
For more information contact:
ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS ACTION/ FRIENDS OF THE EARTH (FoE, Nigeria)
#214, Uselu-Lagos Road, P. O. Box 10577, Benin City, Nigeria
Tel/Fax: + 234 52 600165 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Port Harcourt: # 13 Agudama Street, D-Line, Port Harcourt
Tel: + 234 84
# 1 Balogun Street, Ikeja