The Centre for Environment, Human Rights, and Development (CEHRD) is worried that weeks after two massive oil spills from shell facilities hit some Eleme communities in Eleme local government area of Rivers State, SHELL Petroleum Development Company has not deemed it necessary to mop up the spilled crude or to compensate the affected community members for the huge losses they incurred as a result of the spills.

Rather than taking remedial measures to curtail the impacts of the spillages, shell has been preoccupied with antics aimed at shifting the blames and the responsibilities for the spillages to the communities. Members of the affected communities have however vehemently disputed shell’s claims, insisting that the spillages were as a result of equipment failure. They maintained that shell is only trying to evade responsibilities and accountability for the spills.

The spills which first occurred at the Aleto area of Eleme on June 13, 2023, have continued to spread to other communities including Ogale, Agbonchia, Onne, Okpaku, Alesa, all in Eleme local government area as a result of the failure to mop up the oil.

The second spill reportedly occurred on Sunday, June 18 at Eteo community, also in Eleme LGA. Community sources disclosed that crude oil was seen floating on Oke-Olebo stream in the community, thereby destroying indigenous community freshwater body and has continued to spread to larger areas as it is flowing with the water channel. The river as well as other ecosystems including farmlands, crops, streams which were polluted by the spillage were said to be the sources of survival for the communities that are mainly farmers and fisher folks.

Visit to one of the affected communities and a spill site by CEHRD disclosed that the shell’s pipelines from which the spillage occurred traverses HYPREP cleaned up areas designated as Lots 43, 44 and 45. ‘These places the lots already cleaned up by HYPREP on the danger of re-pollution, if urgent steps are not taken to forestall further spread of the spills’, said Dr. Nubari Nabie, CEHRD’s Coordinator.

We are not oblivious of the dangers which uncleaned oil spills constitute to the environment and all that depend on the environment. Exposures to spilled crude oil have adverse health effects on both humans, plants and animals. Inhaling oil polluted air can cause respiratory problems, irritation, and allergic reactions, whereas direct contact with the oil can lead to skin irritation, chemical burns, and other health complications’, said Styvn Obodoekwe, Program Director at CEHRD.

Preventing oil spillages and promptly cleaning them up when they occur are crucial in mitigating or minimizing their negative impacts on the environment and communities.

We therefore call on Shell to mop up the spills and embark on proper clean-up of the affected areas without further delays.

The government should prevail on shell to either decommission its facilities in Ogoniland as recommended by the UNEP report of 2011 or overhaul its facilities as the integrity and strength of these facilities seem to have been eroded by long age of usage.

Shell should meet with the affected communities to work out acceptable compensation to be paid to the communities as damages for the disruption of their sources of livelihoods, the trauma brought upon them by the spills, as well as other losses they incurred as a result of the spills.

Shell should take steps to ensure adequate security of its facilities.

Signed:Cookey A.T. Ph.D

Head Environment and Conservation Unit (Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development)

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