Last update:
2019-05-08

Shell's environmental racism against the Ogbodo-Isiokpo community, after a pipeline's explosion and spill, Nigeria

Shell did not respond rapidly, leading to 50,000 barrels of oil spill in Ogbodo land. They falsely accused the locals of provoking it, then did not lead a proper clean-up nor did provide an adequate support to the locals living under extreme conditions.


Description:

Ogbodo is one of the largest villages (in terms of population) in the Isiokpo Clan of Ikwere ethnic nationality in the Niger Delta. It is an agrarian community with rich swamps, which serve as hunting grounds for community members. Shell Petroleum Development Company (hereafter SPDC) discovered oil in commercial quantity in this community in the year 1972. Aged and rusty pipelines belonging to SPDC have resulted in frequent spills of oil into the Ogbodo environment. These have left the fragile ecosystem devastated and degraded. A major spill happened after a pipeline’s burst on June 21th 2000. Even though the villagers alerted Shell the following day after the burst, the slow deployment and response by the company let the spill continue for 18 long days [1]. About 50,000 barrels of oil spilled [2]. The oil multinational employed a contractor to take care of the clean-up operations. The latter put on fire the spilled oil, sweeping away also the villagers’ crops, canoes and fishing nets [1]. The locals suffered for days the fume from the burnt oil, affecting their health and worsening their living conditions already heavily affected by the spill. The terrible living condition of the locals have been reported by alternative media. Shell did not take well care of the situation. The locals were deprived from having access to any source of potable water and the water provisions by Shell were insufficient, whose ten drinking water plastic tanks (500-litre each) were refilled every three days. People were getting sick and Shell only sent one doctor working a few hours every day, but not on Sundays. It is women’s daily life in particular that has been affected by the spill. As the traditional gendered division of labor allocates them the responsibilities to gather the seafood in the mangroves, make the palm oil, grow and collect the vegetables and medicinal herbs, all resources polluted or killed by the spill. In the medium and long-term it is women’s social power and status that is being undermined [1]. Shell made false claims, accusing the locals of sabotage for having provoked the spill. By mid-July 2001, the local chiefs first refused Shell’s food supplies until it did not revoke such false claim. The cause of the spill was investigated. It was determined that where the line burst and spilled it was buried six feet underground and it was old and rusty [3]. What is worth stressing is that the company conditioned its immediate help and support to the affected villages on whether the villages’ chiefs accepted Shell’s proposed Memorandum of Understanding. Shell insisted on providing its immediate support upon the condition that the chiefs accepted a compensation of 100.000 US dollars. That sum was considered ridiculous for a community of 150,000 people. The chiefs and the villagers were in no position to negotiate but yet they still denounced Shell’s environmental racism, as they were aware of very different compensation conditions enjoyed in North America and Western Europe [4]. The very same day that Shell was presenting the Memorandum of Understanding to the chiefs, on July 14th2001, community’s spokespersons made a public statement asking for help from human rights organizations. The role of women from Ogbodo has been crucial in building the bridges between the community and non-governmental organizations. They actively worked with the NGO Niger Delta Women for Justice, documenting the economic and health impacts on their community by Shell’s spill [4]. Niger Delta Women for Justice and Friends of the Earth Nigeria drew from the experience of Ogbodo people, among many others, to lead a global campaign to render visible the so many human rights violations by Shell and other oil multinationals [4].Finally, six members of the Ogbodo community brought the case to court and negotiated the compensation amount outside of the court. “Shell has agreed to pay the community an initial entry fee of 325,000 Nigerian naira, as well as N500,000 more for their legal expenses” [3]. That amount corresponds to less than 2,030 US dollars. In the bigger frame, it is the whole Ikwerre peoples’ traditional lifestyles that are drastically being affected and changing under the effects of oil drilling in their lands. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Shell's environmental racism against the Ogbodo-Isiokpo community, after a pipeline's explosion and spill, Nigeria
Country:Nigeria
State or province:Rivers State
Location of conflict:Ikwere Local Government council, Ogbodo village
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:150,000
Start of the conflict:2001
Company names or state enterprises:Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) from Netherlands
Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) from Nigeria
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Environmental Rights Action, Niger Delta Women for Justice, International Oil Working Group
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Women
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Other Health impactsrespiratory difficulties due to the oil fumes from the fires provoked to "clean-up" the spill
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Specific impacts on women
Potential: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Violations of human rights, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of livelihood, Loss of livelihood, Loss of livelihood, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Militarization and increased police presence, Militarization and increased police presence, Militarization and increased police presence, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Specific impacts on women, Specific impacts on women, Specific impacts on women, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Violations of human rights, Violations of human rights, Violations of human rights, Violations of human rights, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Land dispossession, Land dispossession, Land dispossession, Land dispossession, Land dispossession, Land dispossession, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Other socio-economic impactsmilitarized state, state organized violence
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
the settlement was obtained outside the court, but yet after the community brought Shell into trial.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The clean-up by fire is not a proper clean-up, Shell yet to clean up their mess. The populations suffered the spill, the impacts of the oil fumes, without receiving proper compensation. They had no other choice than accept the environmental racism of the oil multinational.
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Oil in the Niger Delta, Amnesty International
[click to view]

Extractable Hydrocarbons, Nickel and Vanadium Contents of Ogbodo-Isiokpo Oil Spill Polluted Soils in Niger Delta, Nigeria, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 110 (1-3):129-39, 2005 
[click to view]

Nigeria: Petroleum, pollution and poverty in the Niger Delta, Amnesty International, 2009
[click to view]

Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, UNEP, 2011
[click to view]

Slick PR can't disguise Shell's devastating oil pollution in Nigeria, January 2018
[click to view]

“The Land is Dead”. Women’s Rights as Human Rights: The Case of the Ogbodo Shell Petroleum Spill in Rivers State, Nigeria, June-July 2001, Teresa E. Turner
[click to view]

Terisa E. Turner and Leigh S. Brownhill, Women's Oil Wars in Nigeria, in Labour, Capital and Society / Travail, capital et société, Vol. 35, No. 1 (April / avril 2002), pp. 132-164
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

New action against Shell's Oil spill in Nigeria, August 2001
[click to view]

[2] Nigeria: Oil Spillage: Shell Yet to Clean Up Ogbodo 7 Months After, January 2002
[click to view]

Nigeria: Isiokpo Oil Spillage: Shell Opts for Out of Court Settlement, March 2002
[click to view]

Nigeria: "The Land is Dead": Eyewitness Account of Ogbodo Oil Spill, July 2001
[click to view]

Clean-up of oil pollution in the Niger Delta must finally begin, FOE, June 2017
[click to view]

Major oil spill from Shell facility in Ogbodo-Isiokpo, Niger Delta region, July 2001
[click to view]

Women’s responses to state violence in the Niger Delta, February 2009
[click to view]

Nigeria: Militant Group Disrupts Shell Operations in Rivers, October 2000
[click to view]

Ikwerre people
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[3] Shell on trial in the Niger delta, Cultural Survival
[click to view]

[4] "The Land is Dead"- Women's Rights as Human Rights: The Case of the Ogbodo Shell Petroleum Spill in Rivers State, Nigeria, Teresa E. Turner, June-July 2001
[click to view]

Other documents

Pollution on the Niger Delta Photo Courtesy, Mike Uwemedimo; https://www.amnesty.org.uk/slick-pr-cannot-disguise-shell-devastating-oil-pollution-nigeria-niger-delta
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Nnimmo Bassey & Camila Rolando Mazzuca (EnvJustice team)
Last update08/05/2019
Comments
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