Urhobo Historical Society

July 1998


214 Uselu-Lagos Road, P.O. Box 10577, Benin City, Nigeria
tel/fax + 234 52 600 165 e-mail: eraction@infoweb.abs.net

Dispatch: Ubale-Nla, Ilaje, Ondo State
From: Felix Tuodolo ISSUES

  1. The July oil spill at Ilaje which caused great agony
  2. Over 3,260 animals die from drinking polluted water
  3. Dead animals line the shore of the river
  4. Chevron contains leakage seven days after but oil still visible one month after
  5. Children used to contain spread of the spill in the communities
  6. Women worst hit.
"This is what I do to feed myself and the children, now it has all gone. We are helpless. The last time our youths went to the Chevron platform to demand for our rights, they used soldiers to kill them."
-- Madam Stella Omoetan

"This oil spill has murdered all my livestock I don't know how I am going to survive now. I know I am going to die now."
-- Mariam Ibinuolapo (Mrs)

"Chevron wants to turn this place into another Ogoni land: we are fast becoming an extinct people as a result of the danger from Chevron's activities here."
-- Esan Malumi


Larry Bowoto is an indigene of Ilaje community in Ondo State. He was on board the Chevron Parabe platform amongst other youths on 28th May 1998 when military men UNDER Chevron's invitation and supervision invaded the platform and killed two Ilaje youths. Larry was also shot and he sustained serious injuries on the buttocks, legs and hand and was hospitalised for more than one month at the Baptist Hospital at Eku and later on in a clinic at Warri. After further recuperation, he returned to his home-town, Ikorigho only to discover that his entire stock of pigs are sickly and before he could do anything about the situation the pigs started dying. By 12/8/98 all the pigs were dead.

What happened to Mr. Larry Bowoto's pigs happened to almost every indigene of the Ilaje communities that own pigs, cattle, sheep and goats. It was another tragedy for a people trying to recover from the loss of two of their promising youths to the bullets of military men invited by Chevron on 28/5/98. This time, death came not through the barrels of the gun on Chevron's invitation but from the soil and waters of the people as activated by Chevron- oil spillage.


No one in Ilaje is very certain of the exact time the oil spill occurred. The oil spillage occurred at the Ewan oil fields. The cause of the spill is also not certain, as the people do not understand some of the technologies involved. However, many of them believe that it is as a result of leakage from the oil wells. The closest community to the Ewan oil field is Ubale-Nla (ironically, where the Ewan oil field is presently located was the former settlement of the Ubale-Nla community). The community was forced to move by subsidence and sea incursion. The people of Ubale-Nla community were the first to notice the oil spill.

On Sunday 26/7/98 the Ubale-Nla community woke up to be greeted by an oil slick in their river. According to members of the community, the slick covered the entire stetch of the river and was advancing with the tide and flow of the river. By the afternoon of the same day, the slick had spread to almost all canals, streams of all the neighbouring communities and to the Atlantic Ocean.


The spill was immediately reported to the Ilaje local government headquarters at Igbokoda the following day. It was also reported to the Ondo State Environmental Protection Agency at Akure. Chevron was also notified. The Ondo State Environmental Protection Agency was prompt in its response. Officials visited the communities and took stock of the
extent of damage.

It took Chevron almost seven days to visit the spill site and parts of the affected communities in the Awoye area. This, according to Mr.E.O. Ikusemiya, Chairman of Ilaje 8 united Oil-producing Communities, was the only time Chevron visited with respect to the oil spill.


To contain the spill in the community children were put to task. Children from all compounds and families were employed to mop up the oil. Some of the oil was collected in bottles and buckets as "remembrance of death", according to Fola, a youth activist in Ilaje Land.


Damage caused by oil spill to nature in riverine communities has normally been associated with damages to farmlands, vegetation and death to aquatic lives. It was worse in this case. In Ubale-Nla alone, over 400 bundles of fishing nets were destroyed by the spill. Ikorigho lost 446 bundles and Awoye lost 581 bundles etc. Most of the farmlands where the spill spread are sore sites as crops such as Okro; Cassava and pepper are wilting and dying off.

The worst hit by the oil spill is the animal kingdom. As we went by boat from Jirinwo to Ikorigho, Awoye, Ubale-Nla and environs, we saw death everywhere.

At Ikorigho, over 800 pigs and 400 sheep died. At Odufadu, about 700 pigs; Miyen, 300 pigs; Ilu-Abo recorded about 200 dead animals; Yoren, 80; Obe-Rewoye, over 200; while Bale-Nla, 376 pigs, 84 cows, and 120 sheep. Many others may have died after our visit.


The stench from the dead animals became another source of worry to the people. Persons, especially youths, now patrol the river to cart away dead animals for burial. It is not clear what effect this particular pollution has on human lives. No independent investigation has yet been conducted.


The Ilaje communities are engaged basically in two types of occupations: fishing and rearing of animals. These are the two areas worst hit by the spill. Fishing nets and other implements were destroyed by the spill. Fishponds were polluted resulting in massive fish loss.


The pollution of the people's source of drinking water affected the people's health drastically. Skin diseases, especially rashes, became rampant. The most affected group of persons is the children. They suffered from various forms of skin and gastric infections.


It was a worrying sight beholding the piles of dead animals as we moved from one community to the other. The shores were lined with carcasses of various kinds. The devastation was quite enormous and very pathetic. A member of the team lamented after the visit:

" I was frightened of eating any food that contains "meat" less it is one of the dead animals. As for fish, if it was not imported iced fish, it is another no-go area. The death of the animals was terrible. I have never seen anything like it before."
We observed also that:
a. The land is criss-crossed by many canals dug by Chevron to give their boats passage and drilling equipment access to Ilaje Oilfields.

b. Scorched forest.

c. At Awoye, we saw the jetty built by Chevron far away from the main town; and also the different platforms with 24 hours electric power supply while all the host communities lie in absolute darkness.

d. The people travelling several kilometres by boat to get good drinking water from the Opuekaba platform: water used for the cooling of engines.

One field officer from another NGO who also visited Ilaje with two foreign investigative reporters in late August stated: "When I saw the uncleaned oil slick at the shores of the river and parts of the vegetation at Ubale-Nla, when I saw women weeping for the great loss as a result of the spill, tears dropped from my eyes, I wept within me."