On the Niger delta, Agip’s oil Ogboinbiri-Tebidaba pipeline multiple spills over the years have been severely impacting local lives and farming lands. The pipeline is officially operated by Agip’s subsidiary, Nigeria Agip Oil Company (hereafter NAOC). What is more, the multinational delays to take responsibility or even denies doing so, adding up stress and despair among the communities that have to fight for the clean ups to occur. Thanks to the efforts led by Environmental Rights Action (hereafter ERA), namely Friends of the Earth Nigeria, who visits the concerned communities, there is some follow-up on these spills. Here we report some of the many cases that are continuously happening.
On 30th of December 2011, ERA’s monitors visited the Okpotuwari and Ondewari communities (in Communities in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State). The communities’ folks led ERA’s team to the site and shared their testimonies. The locals alerted that the spill had spewed into the community swamps and that Agip only visited the site on 27th December 2011. The company officials promised to return for clamping only in 2012. Among the testimonies collected by ERA’s monitors, that of Philip Odibo was one of them (the Chairman of the Community Development Committee): “We cannot tell exactly when this oil spill happened along the 14-inch Ogboinbiri-Tebidaba pipeline belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company but when I heard of it I went to the site myself to witness it. After confirming that it was true, I called Agip directly, informing the company about the incident. I told Agip that delay on the part of the company would do us much harm, hence the need for them to take positive steps to come and stop the spill. The spill occurred from a valve along the pipeline, an area that was surrounded by a block wall on the ground. After informing the company, they sent one of their officials to come for initial inspection on 27th December 2011. After the confirmation, the Agip official told us they would return for clamping next week. We are still expecting them, though the time they promised coming back is not acceptable because the crude oil is still spewing into the swamps and ponds. This is when some of our people are bailing their ponds. And, we have positioned some community youths at the spill site to guard against any one going there to set the place ablaze or tamper with the spill point because we do not want Agip to make unnecessary excuses. We are interested in the actual cause of spill”.
The Okpotuwari and Ondewari communities together with the Keme-Ebiama communites were affected by a new spill in July 2015 . Another concerned community by the spills of Agip’s oil pipeline Tebidabais the community of Gbaraun. Gbaraun is an Ijaw community also (like the Okpotuwari and Ondewari communities) administratively situated in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State along the Pennington River. The Gbaraun community can only be accessed by air or through the creeks. The Gbaraun kingdom comprises of the Gbaraun main town and several other settlements which includes: Tebu, Burugbene, Tanagbene, Asitubo, Ekinebiri, among others, most of which are fishing settlements or camps. Gbaraun’s closest neighbours are Apoi, Ogboinbiri, Azagbene, Ezetu and more. Their major occupation is fishing, though farming, hunting and logging are part of what moves their local economy and livelihood.
ERA field monitors had to visit the environment of the Gbaraun Kingdom following a complaint received from some concerned indigenes of the area in relation to an oil spill that occurred along Agip’s Clough creek/Tebidaba pipeline on the 23rd of October 2011. Nine months after the spill was reported, Agip had not addressed it yet in terms of cleanup, relief materials nor in terms of compensation. The visit to some of the impacted sites and testimonies received from fisher folks in settlements around the sites confirmed the incident. Even though a Joint Investigation Visit (hereafter JIV) report by Agip’s agents also corroborated the same, it seemed to reduce the volume of spilt crude.
ERA denounces that this is a regular feature of the oil companies, under-estimating spilt crude oil in JIVs but over-estimating crude oil allegedly stolen by locals. Actually, the oil pipelines are subject to recurrent attacks by rebel armed groups [2, 3] and unfortunately the oil multinationals use that terrible situation to strip themselves from their responsibilities.
Apart from Agip’s pipelines that run through the environment of Gbaraun, the Shell Petroleum Development Company also extracts crude oil from oil wells within their surrounding environment, that is in the tropical rain forest, the mangrove forest, at the confluence between fresh and salt water.
Another field report by ERA informed on the situation after a new spill in November 2016 by the same pipeline. ERA declared that NAOC took responsibility over the spill and started the clean-up in Ikienghenbiri community, recovering more than 30 plastic tanks of 2.000 liters of crude. The Ikienghenbiri community declared that their economic activities, mainly consisting of fishing and farming coastal settlement suffer from the spill pollution. ERA also regretted that no JIV was carried out by the owner company to identify the cause of this spill . Earlier that same year, by May, the same community suffered from a clash between rival local groups fighting over territorial control of the oil pipelines [5, 6, 7]. Again in 2017, the same community suffered from a new spill . The list of spills of the Ogboinbiri-Tebidaba pipeline mentioned in the text here above is not exhaustive. Additionally, we find relevant to remember that the Bayelsa State is crossed by several other pipelines, owned by Agip or other multinationals like Shell. Those pipelines also have incurred their own lists of spills.