In Nigeria, Shell causes worst oil spill in a decade

In Nigeria, coastal and fishing communities are worried, as Shell has admitted to causing the worst oil spill there in ten years, said a report, which was closely followed by a second disaster.

Last Wednesday, 75 miles off the coast of the Niger delta, up to 40,000 barrels of crude oil were spilled, poisoning the water, during an attempted transfer from an oil platform to a tanker.

As of that night, all production from the Bonga field – which typically produces about 200,000 barrels of oil a day – was halted.

Satellite images showed that the spill spread over 356 square miles. Shell responded by spraying dispersants on the oil and deploying booms to stop its spread. Regardless, Nigerian villagers note that oil is still washing up on the coast.

Moreover, Nnimmo Bassey, head of Environmental Rights Action, remarked that Shell’s statements about the amount of oil spilled and the supposed subsequent clean-up are not to be trusted, and that other local activists do not buy the company’s ‘facts.’

“Shell says 40,000 barrels were spilled and production was shut,” said Bassey, “But we do not trust them because past incidents show that the company consistently underreports the amounts and impacts of its carelessness.”

“We are alerting fisher folks and coastal communities to be on the lookout,” he added. “This just adds to the list of Shell’s environmental atrocities in the Niger delta.”

Jacob Ajuju, a local villager, said, “When this spill occurred, we called on Shell to come and do a clean-up, but since then, they did not turn up, so we the communities had to do it instead.”

And now, Shell is trying to plug a second leak caused by a shut down pipeline in the Niger delta’s Nembe Creek. The pipeline was reportedly sabotaged, after the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment noted that oil thieves had installed valves on it.

Oil theft – or ‘bunkering’ – is often the source of blame when Shell is linked with destructive oil spills in this region, reported Reuters. However, human rights groups like Amnesty International often find a much more appropriate source to blame – Shell itself, for its negligence in its continuous greedy pursuit of oil, which has resulted in troubling developments in other parts of the world.

These latest disasters in Nigeria come after Shell admitted in August 2011 that it was responsible for “two major spills in the Bodo region of the delta that took place in 2008,” which it has “yet to pay compensation for,” according to the The Daily Activist.

Shell has also admitted that it closed a Gulf of Mexico deep drilling operation after reportedly spilling 319 barrels of contaminated fluids – and that spill, reports the Telegraph, came less than a week after the U.S. conducted its first auction for drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico since the infamous 2010 oil disaster. That auction drew opposition from many concerned environmental groups and, as this 319-barrel spill proves, rightly so.

Photo: “Overhead view of Shell’s oil spill in the Niger Delta region.” Sunday Alamba/AP Photos


Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is a writer and production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the People's World home page. He has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Pennsylvania with his girlfriend and their cats. He enjoys wine, books, music, and nature. In his spare time, he reviews music, creates artwork, and is working on several books and digital comics.