In virtually all the communities of the Niger Delta where oil is mined, community folks lament that the initial euphoria and romanticization that greeted the discovery of oil on their lands have all but evaporated and have been replaced instead with disillusionment owing to environmental degradation, loss of livelihoods and deaths that came with oil exploration and extraction.
For them, oil has become a curse and not the blessing they had anticipated because the more the oil companies extract and declare in huge profits, the more the host communities plunge deeper in neglect and poverty.

With an estimated population of nearly 40 million people, the Niger Delta is rife with conflict and competition for oil wealth. This has in turn fueled violence between many ethnic groups, causing the militarization of nearly the entire region by ethnic militia groups and Nigerian security forces.

Folks in the oil-bearing communities had been disenchanted for decades, but it was not until the 1990s that they finally summoned the courage to confront the foreign oil companies perpetrating environmental degradation and a system of divide-and-rule in communities where they mine and have their installations.
The Ogoni people of Rivers State who welcomed Shell’s oil find in their land with open arms in 1958 shot the first salvo by expelling the company from the entire Ogoniland in 1993 following the massive fouling of their land and water over a period of four decades. They finger Shell for the political crisis that led to the extra judicial murder of activist and playwright, Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other prominent Ogoni leaders.

Another incident that put the Ogoni on the spotlight was a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Assessment of Ogoniland which was released in 2011. The report documented the extent of violation of the Ogoni environment. It showed that there was hydrocarbon pollution in surface water throughout the creeks of Ogoniland including groundwater that feed drinking wells. Soils were found to have been polluted with hydrocarbons up to a depth of five metres in 49 observed sites, while benzene, a known cancer-causing chemical was found in drinking water at a level 900 times above World Health Organisation (WHO) acceptable levels.
Today, Ogoniland is an international emblem of oil pollution, and sadly, a reflection of what most oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta have become.

Several communities in Rivers, Bayelsa and the entire region also suffer one spill or the other almost on a daily basis. Oil goes through extensive networks of pipes from the wells to the export terminals and the pipelines cut across hundreds of communities. In these communities hopes of good jobs, social infrastructure and a generally satisfactory life that they had anticipated would come with the revenue from oil extraction have been dashed. What they are left with are dead rivers, burnt forests and maimed lives.

There are also documented reports of the extractive companies stifling local communities’ resistance to these unfriendly activities.

In May 1998, Ilaje youths in Ondo state were shot, killed and wounded on Chevron's Parabe platform where they had gone for dialogue with the company on the impact of oil extraction on their communities and livelihoods.

Two years after, precisely on 14 October 2000, some youths from the Olugbobiri in Bayelsa State, were also murdered by military guards near an oil facility belonging to AGIP in an unprovoked attack.

Violence was meted out on the youths because they had sought clarification on an agreed road project in the area allegedly altered by the company without consultation with the community. Such activities continue till this day.

Agitation for financial compensation for degraded environments and loss of livelihoods occasioned by oil companies’ ill-maintained facilities by impacted communities came to the fore in the early 1990s. But due to their often unsuccessful attempts to get what is perceive a just due, more often, the communities resort to barricading the entrance to the companies or disrupting work till their demands are met.  The new face of agitation for environmental justice however entered a new phase when the Nigerian government decided to grant a 13 percent derivation fund to oil producing states to confront the monumental neglect of the oil-bearing communities.

The 1995 Constitutional Conference which harvested input from all the geo-political zones of Nigeria recommended that in sharing revenue from the Federation Account, 13 percent should be set aside as to assist the development of oil-producing communities.
That decision seemed to calm frayed nerves, but only briefly as the communities suddenly woke up to another realization: the funds for development of their areas were put in the hands of the state governments and are most times not released for the intended purpose. The neglect and deprivation in the communities continue till this day.
Added to this, is the fact that with the introduction of the fund, the theatre of conflicts over oil expanded to states where reports were emerging of new oil finds but which have not been officially designated as “oil-producing”. Ondo, Abia and Imo States have recently been included in the list of oil-producing states.


Imo versus Rivers
Imo State is not in the Niger Delta but has recently been named an oil-producing state. Oil was struck in Ogwuma which is in Oguta Local Government Area of the state. In 2010 a row started brewing between AGIP Oil and the Ogwuma community which accused AGIP of ceding an oil well domiciled in Oguta to a neighboring community in Rivers State.

Locals said that when an oil spill in the area was reported to AGIP, the company sent investigators from its headquarters without involving the representatives of the people or the Imo state government.
The Ogwuma community also accused AGIP of doctoring an agreement it entered into with them after signing. According to them, after signing the agreement AGIP officials allegedly claimed that the duplicating machines in their office were faulty, thus the community people left without a copy of the agreement only for AGIP to insert an addendum claiming that its representatives signed the agreement under duress.
Within the community there was also another crisis over the sharing of oil revenue under the Local Content Act. The Oguta Community Development Union (OCDU) which had signed an MoU with Agip Oil Company and the Ministries of Petroleum Resources and the Environment in Imo, regarding the 10 per cent oil revenue to oil communities accused the Igwe of Oguta of trying to “short circuit” the OCDU by setting up a parallel body with the same functions and mandate.

Akwa Ibom versus Cross River
Until a court ruling mid-2012, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States were at loggerheads over ownership of 76 offshore oil wells said to have been ceded to Cross River by former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Cross Rivers state government had dragged the Federal Government and Akwa Ibom state to court on grounds that some of the oil wells ceded to her by virtue of the agreement reached at a meeting called by Obasanjo in 2006, were not released. But after nearly four years of legal brickbats between the two states, the Supreme Court on July 10, 2012 laid the issue to rest by a ruling that the disputed wells belong to Akwa Ibom.

Seven justices of the court headed by then outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria, Dahiru Musdapher, submitted that the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) was right in attributing the oil wells to Akwa Ibom at an inter-agencies meeting.
The court dismissed Cross River’s application, saying that the agreement which initially gave the state rights to the 76 oil wells was frustrated by the handing over of Bakassi to Cameroon.
Though the oil wells under contention are located in Cross Rivers, Obasanjo, had through a letter dated October 31, 2006, unilaterally shared them between the two states, giving 76 wells to Akwa Ibom and 14 to Cross River. Till date, that matter has created bad blood among the two neighbours.

Akwa Ibom versus Rivers

Akwa Ibom and Rivers state governments also have their own share of resource conflicts.
In like manner, dispute over 86 oil wells sowed bad blood among the two states festered until a Supreme Court ruling in 2011 transferred the oil wells from Akwa Ibom State to Rivers State.

After the ruling, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) constituted a panel of inquiry to study the judgment and make appropriate recommendations towards an amicable resolution of the dispute.
In carrying out its assignment, the panel said it reviewed various documents, data and technical information provided by different government agencies and institutions, including the National Boundary Commission (NBC), the Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation (OSGF), the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for its conclusions and recommendations.
In its report, the panel recommended that Akwa Ibom State government should refund about N10.91 billion to its Rivers State counterpart on the basis of existing revenue indices, excluding the prevailing commercial interest expected to be charged by the CBN.

The Akwa Ibom State government had criticized the Supreme Court for basing its ruling on a controversial 2004 political solution by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which arbitrarily shared 172 oil wells belonging to the state to Rivers on a 50-50 basis. The Akwa Ibom government said that if that arrangement were to have been allowed to stay, Rivers State should rather refund to it over N75billion.

Bayelsa versus Rivers
In spite of a Supreme Court ruling in 2012 in which the court struck out a suit by the Rivers State government challenging Bayelsa State’s ownership of Oluasiri oil wells/oilfield, tension between the two states over the issue has lingered.
The two states dispute the ownership of Soku oil wells/fields with Bayelsa arguing that Soku is a village in Rivers State while the oil wells/ oil field in contention and the flow station are located in the Oluasiri Clan in Nembe LGA of Bayelsa State. The Bayelsa government insists that the name Soku oil wells/oil field was wrongly given by Shell since Soku village was their operational base at that time.

The Bayelsa government said that the RMAFC in its report on a Familiarization/Verification visit to oil producing states, volume 1, Main Report, August 2006 in Chapter 3, page 30 also acknowledged the above anomaly when it stated that the Bayelsa/Imo/Abia State Governments complained that the naming of oil fields was often done arbitrarily without any regard to the culture and particular environment of the people where the wells or fields are located. This has given rise to wrong attribution by relevant agencies.

Kogi versus Anambra

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) visited the Ashionwo/Odeke community in Ibaji local government area of Kogi state following reports of conflicts between them and their Aguleri-Otu neighbours in Anambra-East Local Government Area of Anambra state over ownership of lands where oil is mined by Orient Petroleum Resources Plc.
While the Ashionwo/Odeke insist the fields under dispute are in Kogi and were discovered by Shell (but now operated by Orient Petroleum) before the Nigerian civil war of 1967-70, the Aguleri-Otu people dispute the claim, maintaining instead, that the oil wells in question, though located on Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL 915) which both Kogi and Anambra share, substantially falls inside Anambra  state territory.

OPL 915 is said to be located across the states of Anambra, Edo, Enugu and Kogi, with about 50 percent of the block in Kogi, while the remaining states share the other 50 percent. There are four wells drilled on the block by Elf Petroleum – Anambra River-1 in 1967, Anambra River-2 and 3 drilled later in 1984. The company in 1985 drilled Oda River-1. The three Anambra River wells are located in the Anambra State part of the block, while Oda River-1 was drilled in Kogi State.
ERA/FoEN field monitors that visited the Odeke community learnt that tempers started rising between the former peaceful neighbours after the commissioning of the facilities of Orient Petroleum Resource Plc, for exploration and extraction of crude oil in the area by President Goodluck Jonathan in August 2012.  

The company which is also said to be building an oil refinery at Nsugbe in Anambra East LGA, is largely owned by indigenes of Anambra state and was allocated two oil wells - OPL 914 and OPL 915 by the Federal Government.  The Anambra state government is also said to be part owner of the company – having invested over N4.6 billion into the company going by media reports. Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former secretary-general of the Commonwealth, is the chair of the board of directors of the company, while Dr.  Alex Ekwueme, former Nigerian vice-president is the vice chairman.
Community folks that spoke with ERA/FoEN said that though dignitaries at the commissioning exercise said that the dispute over the location of the wells had been resolved, the dispute is far from being resolved.  

It was gathered that Orient Petroleum Resources Plc was set up in 2001 under administration of Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju. The company did not get real funding until the administration of the incumbent governor, Peter Obi which is said to have committed over N4.6billion into the company. Today the Anambra state government is said to control about three per cent of the company’s profit. The 21 local governments of the state are shareholders, while Enugu, Rivers and Kogi states also have shares.
Oil exploration activities leading to the successful access to crude oil were said to have been carried out in Kogi State within Odeke, Echeno, Ehile, Anocha and Omabo communities by Orient Petroleum Plc.
Based on these documented evidences, the Odeke/Ashionwo insist that oil wells OPL 915 and 916 are located in Kogi, not Anambra State, as claimed by Orient Petroleum which is carrying out exploration in the area. They also add that the area where the current productive oil well is located is in Odeke community.
Their greatest worry however is that a conflict resolution committee to ensure harmonious relationship between the company and the host communities was allegedly set up without any consultations with them and that they are in the dark in relation to the matter.
They said an anticipated federal government pronouncement on the real owners of the disputed oil wells is yet to be made, further deepening the confusion that exists in the community.  

Peace Deal or Silence Before the Storm?
According to Ochala Msheila, a community folk who spoke with ERA/FoEN, the purported agreement by the conflict resolution committee was said to have been reached after a meeting of representatives of the two communities in Abuja on May 29, 2013. In a communique issued after the meeting the representatives of the communities agreed that:
“There should be total and immediate ceasefire between the warring communities and withdrawal of the fighting troops and their weapons from the bush.
“That the leaders of each of the communities should go back and sensitise their people on the resolution reached in Abuja meeting on or before the end of this month and that there should be an enlarged meeting of each side at their respective local governments to educate their people on the peace initiative.”

Narrative of ERA/FoEN Visit to Odeke

ERA/FoEN visit to Odeke, a community of over 300,000 people in Ibaji LGA, in the company of a local guide, started from Idah where the team learnt that during the rains Odeke is only accessible by boat ride due to very muddy roads in virtually all the villages in Ibaji especially Eweni, Ayeke and Okpolomela that must all be accessed before the remote Odeke.

Photo: A section of the road connecting Odeke from Okpolomela

The team was told by local transport operators that road travels to Ibaji in the wet season is virtually impossible and that transporters refuse to venture into the bad roads due to the very marshy terrain which makes vehicles to get stuck in layers of mud. The locals told the team that the only alternative to vehicular transport or a boat ride which would take about 45 minutes to Odeke was a motor bike.
They were however quick to add that a boat ride will not afford the team the opportunity to see and experience first-hand the pains that the community folks go through to get in and out of Odeke and the surrounding towns in Ibaji. The team opted for the motor bike option which turned out to be a three hour journey on very bumpy and mud-filled roads.

In the course of the journey several hectares of rice and yam farms were noticed where local community folks were seen planting or harvesting.
At virtually every stretch of the journey, the team was compelled to disembark from the motor bike and wade through knee-deep muds before continuing.
The entrance to Odeke community turned out to be a bridge constructed across the shallow banks of the waterfront in the community river. The bridge constructed with bamboo was observed to be very firm and allowed human traffic and motor bikes which must however go one at a time.
At the other end of the bridge the team observed women and children washing their cloths at the banks of the river.

From here directions were asked about how we could locate the palace of the paramount ruler, Onu Odeke, His Royal Highness, Dominic Unanae. The palace turned out to be a very old and almost dilapidated building said to have been constructed around 1965, about 50 yards from the bank of the river.
Here, the team learnt the paramount ruler, Onu Odeke, was away to Lokoja for a meeting. After receiving sufficient briefing on the thrust of ERA/FoEN visit, his advisers welcomed the team before giving a picture of what oil find had wrought on the peaceful co-existence that hitherto existed among the Odeke and their neighbors from nearby Aguleri in Anambra State.


Sunday Adinoyin, community leader, Odeke

The palace where we are now was built before the Nigerian civil war in 1967. When Shell discovered oil in Odeke it was here that they were accommodated so they gave money for the construction of the palace. We welcomed them and all went well till 1991 when the field where oil was struck which is now in dispute was sold by one of the prominent traditional rulers here to the operators of Orient petroleum. The traditional ruler did not do that with the consent of the other traditional rulers or get the consent of our people so we said it was unacceptable. That action never degenerated into any inter-ethnic clashes that we have had since last year. In fact, we and our Anambra neighbours all lived in peace before Orient petroleum started drilling oil in our community and yet claimed it was from the Anambra part.

In fact, we used to inter-marry. But since this problem over who owns the oil started, all has not been well because our people can no longer go over to their areas and they cannot come here. The problem degenerated in 2012 when President Jonathan commissioned the facilities of Orient petroleum and declared Anambra an oil-producing state. How can that be when the oil is from Odeke? When we started agitating the Federal Government said all sides should stop fighting and wait for the government to declare the actual owners of the land. But that was the last we heard from them. Now we are in the dark as to what is happening or what must have transpired.

Johnson Ojade, Youth leader, Odeke Community

In 2011 when Orient petroleum wanted to start operations the youths of Odeke went to them to demand they conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Unfortunately one of our traditional rulers went behind to collect undisclosed sums from the company and the next thing we heard was that there was a warning that any youth from here that dares to disturb their operations should be arrested. We were very shocked when this development started but we remained calm. But when we learnt of a planned commissioning of the plant in 2012 we mobilized to disrupt it because the oil well in question is in Ibajiland.

Surprisingly, the company secretly sent an emissary to me to collect my CV and that of ten other community youths whom they said they will give employment so that we stop agitating but we turned it down asking them to carry out the EIA and ensure that Ibaji people determine how and when their God-given natural resource will be used. After that they hatched a plot to keep us in the dark. After the meeting in Abuja when they said they will get back to us, we have not heard anything anymore. We the youths here have made up our minds that we do not want piece meal. We do not want backdoor jobs or settlement because we have heard how these companies operate in the Niger Delta where they engage in divide-and-rule to perpetrate themselves while stealing the oil resources. What we want is that the government should resolve the issue and tell us who owns the oil.

All the backdoor business they are doing with individuals that we do not know will only cause more problems because we are ready to die for our land. In spite of everything we are disappointed in the state government. As you can see we do not have a motorable road, electricity, schools or medical facilities. The community has been totally neglected. Two years ago the deputy governor came to Odeke via the road and he himself lamented the situation and promised help. Since then nothing has happened.

Omasenu Patrick, community youth Odeke
We are still very much in the dark about the whole episode because after the Federal Government convened the so-called peace meeting where they said all groups should sheathe their swords they have not gotten back to us on how the issue will be resolved. We smell a rat because it is rumoured that activities are now going on at the wellheads. Unfortunately, we cannot independently verify the reports because the government has stationed military men there and warned that nobody from the communities should go there.

Iyabo Abdulai, fish farmer in Odeke
As you can see from your observation of the community things have not improved since the report that oil is being extracted from this community. We can no longer go to farm around where the oil facilities are because soldiers have been drafted there. They have warned us not to come near the pipelines. They say the instruction is from Abuja where they had a meeting with community leaders that we do not know. We are wondering which community leaders they are talking of because we do not know them. We used to live in peace with the Aguleri people but now nobody crosses from there to our place and vise-versa. They were the people we used to trade with. Now there is no interaction. Look at the community and you need not tell anyone that there is no development. No light, no water and no medical facilities. We have to go outside the community through the very bad roads to get to the metropolis. It is a sad situation. How I wish they can resolve the problems amicable so that people can live in peace like we used to know.

Photo:The bamboo bridge leading into Odeke town


•    The Federal Government intervention in the oil wells/fields’ dispute between the Odeke/Ashionwo and Aguleri be transparent and agreements reached with both sides be in the public domain
•    The Odeke/Ashionwo and their Aguleri counterparts sheathe the sword and maintain the cordiality that existed between them while exploring dialogue as a means of resolving the oil-induced conflict
•    The activities of Orient Petroleum which has been accused of fuelling the conflict between the two communities be investigated and proper sanctions be imposed where the company is found guilty
•    From ERA/FoEN monitors’ visit to the community it became obvious that there is no government presence in Odeke and most communities in Ibaji LGA. The only access road to the community is in total bad shape, there are no schools and adequate medical centers. The Federal and Kogi state governments should provide these basic amenities
•    The National Boundary Commission as a matter of national urgency come out with a public statement to clear the air on which state the oil fields under contention between Kogi and Anambra falls under

Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Reddit!! Mixx! Free and Open Source Software News Google! Live! Facebook! StumbleUpon! TwitThis Joomla Free PHP
Photo Speak

ERA has recently received information that a group calling itself the "Niger Delta Coalition in the Diaspora" is still engaging itself in activities and communications giving the impression that it is linked with Environmental Rights Action (ERA).

This group issues out communications using ERA's headquarter address and mail box. We have never had any ties with this group and any views, comments or opinions expressed by them is not endorsed or authorized by any member of management or staff of ERA.

Green Hotlines
Green Hotlines
Is there a spill, pipeline rupture, fire, gas flare, water, land or air pollution in your community or one you know about? Do you need assistance to respond, and prevent future occurrences or have you noticed any activity that threatens the environment?

In the event of any ecological disaster or threat to the environment, call our toll-free GREEN LINES:  08031230088 & 08031230089