26th December 2011 update
Our field monitors have confirmed that the Shell Bonga Field oil spill is presently in the waters of Odioma Kingdom and it has also reached River Ramos near Warri, Delta State. There also appears to be another Shell unreported oil spill that has been on for about two weeks now at Otumara in Escravos in Ugborodo area of Delta State. As we investigate, we will update you once we get more details.
24th December 2011 update
Through our contacts we received information that the deep sea fishing folks from Odioma Kingdom. A Nembe speaking Ijaw settlements on the fringes of the Atlantic Ocean in Brass Local Government Area, Bayelsa State sensed a pungent smell of crude of crude yesterday. New information(today 24, Dec. 2011)to ERA indicates that some of the fishing folks have seen thick crude oil slick, about 2km to the shores /coastline this evening. These folks also have reported that some of their fishing nets are clogged with crude.
23rd December 2011 update
The reported spotting of crude oil by fishermen in Inanga location within Qua Iboe oil field, believed to have leaked from Shell's Bonga Oil Field, opens a new chapter in the catalogues of environmental impacts wrought by the oil industry in the Niger Delta.
Shell had on Wednesday (21 December 2011) announced that some 40,000 barrels of crude had leaked into the Atlantic Ocean from its Bonga Deep Offshore Oil Fields and subsequently shut down the facility. The spill is said to have occurred while a vessel was being loaded with crude oil.
While the fishermen in the Qua Iboe area were pondering over their findings on Friday 23 December 2011, at a meeting it hastily organized for community folks in Warri, Delta State, same day, Shell was peddling new figures. This time, its officials disclosed that 50,000 barrels of crude oil had actually spewed from the Bonga Field.
While Shell is still busy trying to convince the world that the spill had naturally thinned out due to chemicals and dispersants it deployed, the alert of the fishermen during a fishing expedition near Inanga location within the Qua Iboe Oil Fields, is a cause of worry. Unconfirmed report of unusual quantity of oil sheen discovered by another set of fishermen at the eastern Obolo Beach in Ikot Abasi is no less worrying.
Chairman, Akwa Ibom chapter of Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria, Samuel Ayadi, said: ``We saw the oil at Inanga and initially thought it came from Mobil because Inanga Oil Platform belongs to them, but we later heard of the incident in Shell, so we assumed it is coming from there..." This news is a sad blow to fishermen because we are just beginning to recover from the impacts of previous spills before this one took us back to square one''.
Bonga Field is located about 120 kilometres off the Nigerian coastline. The project itself was linked to a scam involving Vetco International Limited whose officials were discovered to have paid $2.1 million bribe to Nigerian officials to undercut customs regulations, following which a US court fined Vetco International $26 million fine for violating the U.S Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The bribes were paid between September 2002 and April 2005 when Vetco International was providing engineering and procurement services and subsea construction equipment for the Bonga project. (http://www.eraction.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=38 )
The deep-water facility built an estimated $700 million is susceptible to high risks, comparable to BP’s Macondo field platform that exploded in April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. Floating on one kilometre deep water, ocean waves and other events can easily result in catastrophic incidents. The biggest issue however, is that Shell, which claims only 40,000 barrels of crude oil was spewed from the facility does not have an acceptable track record of telling the truth in such matters, nor handling oil spills in the onshore locations in the Niger Delta.
Ironically, the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) which has the statutory responsibility of compelling cleanup and imposing fines on an offending company has resigned to peddling information provided by the polluter.
NOSDRA’s director, Idris Musa was quoted as saying the agency was aware of the incident and working hard with Shell to contain the spill.
And we believe that trusting Shell to handle the Bonga spill without vigorous monitoring is a mere pipedream.
But then, the Nigerian waters and estuaries are not new to oil pollution and a failed response from NOSDRA and other regulatory agencies, for which the polluting companies got away scot-free.
Shell may have in fact mentioned the loss of 40,000 barrels of crude oil to match Mobil’s claim on its 1998 offshore spill that washed all the way down to the coasts of Lagos. During that particular incident which occurred on January 12, 1998, more than 40,000 barrels of crude oil (likely understated) leaked from the pipeline linking Mobil's Idoho platform with its Qua Iboe onshore terminal in present day Akwa Ibom State. Mobil estimated that more than 90 percent of the oil had dispersed or evaporated naturally, though the spill traveled "hundreds of kilometers farther than expected and that some 500 barrels washed ashore.
Nineteen years before the Mobil spill, precisely in 1979, a rupture at Shell’s Forcados terminal dumped 570,000 barrels into the estuary and adjoining creeks. And the current spill going by satellite images is heading towards Forcados but appeared to have moved to the east and into Exxon’s Inanga field area as reported by fishermen. At a point up to 400 square miles of the ocean was covered by this spill.
On 17 January 1980, a total of 37.0 million litres of crude oil got spilled into the environment as a result of a blow-out at Funiwa 5 Offshore station operated by Texaco (Chevron), spewing into coastal waters and destroying 340 hectares of mangrove forests.
Shell’s trans Niger delta pipeline spewed close to 400,000 barrels of crude oil at Bodo City, Ogoni in two spills in 2008 and 2009.
1. The Nigerian government should compel Shell to state the actual amounts of oil spewed from its facility.
2. We demand that Shell also reveal the names and types of chemical dispersants used in fighting the spill.
3. More importantly, the Nigerian government, in addition to carrying out an independent investigation of Shell’s claims that only 40,000 barrels of crude was spewed, should make the company pay adequately for the damage done.
4. An independent verification and cleaning up of existing mess (all over the Niger Delta) onshore and offshore should be the focus of NOSDRA and other regulatory agencies.
ERA monitors and community people are on the alert and are watching Shell and the Nigerian government’s response and actions. Will the people and the environment be sacrificed once more on the altar of profits?