Fantuo is in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and it is part of the Nembe Kingdom. The people are Ijaw and their major occupations are fishing and farming.  They have several fishing camps/settlements along some of their rivers especially in those places they consider fishing areas away from their main communities.

 A trip to Fantuo could be either from Yenagoa direct by boat or the visitor may first take a vehicle to Ogbia town (Oloibiri) and board a boat there. Unlike Nembe or Brass where one can travel to (without bothering to charter a speedboat) and return same day or sleep over in hotels, Fantuo is a remote community that requires the chartering of boat to take one there and return same day. Fantuo’s closest neighbours are: Odioma, Okpoma, Ewoama, Twon- Brass, etc apart from the fishing camps like Abuja Camp that abound in the environment along the Nembe Creek.

 Two main oil companies that operate in the area are Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (N.A.O.C). Since the Nembe area is known to have huge deposits of oil and gas, it is little wonder then that the facilities of S.P.D.C and N.A.O.C dot the landscapes of the entire area –either as Trunk-line or other facilities simply identified as Nembe 1,2,3 and 4.

 Following a report about the devastated environment of Fantuo, ERA’s field monitors visited. The journey which took us about one hour by speedboat from Ogbia town (Oloibiri) to Fantuo town saw us through the rivers and creeks, with luxuriantly growing rainforest trees and mangroves. But as we approached Fantuo, we began to observe the tell tale signs heralding a devastated environment. Soon after, everywhere we passed bore clear signs that something was amiss as we observed dead mangrove trees either standing or fallen.

 However, despite the temptation to start taking photographs, ERA’s team decided (in our field monitoring tradition) to locate the community and reach the community leaders and folks before doing any other business. On arrival at Fantuo, our guide Mr. James Sampson- Ovie Kokori, led us to meet with the community leaders.

 ERA field monitors asked the community leaders the cause of the devastation of their environment and they said Shell and Agip equipment failure resulted in oil spillage in March/April 2006. They got the following testimonies from some of the community people.

 Inowei Beredugo(Acting Community Head)

“The plight of oil bearing communities as a result of oil spillages cannot be new to anybody who is from this area. It is most regrettable that while we suffer from the negative impacts of oil exploration here, some Nigerians who don’t even know how a paddle or net looks like are the very ones benefiting from our pains. You must have seen as you approached this community, the kind of damage that the recent oil spill from Agip and Shell facilities have done to our environment. Just before your arrival, it was the main issue some of us were talking about. This is our predicament. We are suffering so much. It has taken quite some time since this spillage occurred but up till now if we step on the affected area, the crude oil will come up from the ground. All out feet would be enveloped in the crude oil .Even I am ashamed to show people my toe nails as they are badly affected. But, the most worrisome aspect is that, our means of livelihood is at stake. You know ours is a wetland area (mangrove swamp) and so, apart from the normal fish that we catch, which are no more, the Shellfish/Oysters and other crustacean have all been wiped out.

 We have different types of Shellfish in this area that we pick for food. Even the periwinkles, both big and small, have been destroyed by the contaminating effect of the slick that covered the whole area in the wake of the oil spill. Now apart from the present hardship we face, you can see that all the area covered by the slick will not contain any living thing again for many years to come. Hence, we have been further impoverished by this oil spill. Our water quality now is not the type that encourages life; fishing or farming. In those days, when we travelled to see some of our relations at Nembe, coming from a town known for fishing, they always expected and got fish from us. Today, we go to them empty handed and some times even have to return from Nembe with iced fish. Is that not ridiculous? Since the incident we have received just a few relief materials like rice, yam and garri (without fish or meat). No drugs were sent to us”.

 Mr. Ogbamo Allen (Chairman of Fantuo Community Development Committee)

 “I am just returning from fishing and I saw you drive past me as you approached our community. The situation we are in is better imagined than experienced. Our nets no longer catch fish and easily get torn as they get into those trees that are fallen into the river. You know the mangrove has fibrous roots and because of the effect of the crude oil, the trees die, the roots decay and they fall into the river. If, such strong mangrove trees could be so affected, what about the fragile sea animals that we used to get around the mangrove? As you know, some of our oysters used to stick to the fibrous roots of these trees. So, just imagine our loss. The rivers and creeks are dead. Despite all these, we did not get direct relief from the companies concerned.

 We have no details at all, but, because we are historically tied to Nembe, it is from Nembe that we received some few items. After the oil spill incidents caused by Agip and Shell at almost the same time, we saw a team of persons coming around with speedboats, videoing and taking photographs but they never came to us for any comments. I can not give the actual dates now, but we urge you to go to Kemmer at Abuja Camp. He has records of all the spillages that have happened in this environment. His settlement is not far from here. As you go round you will see the devastating effect of the spill on our environment. We are really glad that ERA is visiting and we are hopeful that you will reach the authorities and the companies and tell them of our threatened means of livelihood. Things are really hard for us now. Like the community head just told you, this happens to be the Governor’s home town too. Yes, look at that house (pointing at a building nearby), that is Chief Timipre Sylva’s father’s house. His parents are from this town. It is unfortunate that Shell and Agip have not done any thing to clean up our environment following the oil spillage.”

Mr. Idua Amon (Secretary of the Youth Body)

He lead ERA field monitors to the water front and said “You see, this is what most of our men and women engage in now to make ends meet. Our people now cut firewood and transport them by hand rowing to sell at Brass. In terms of labour and risk, it is very huge compared to before the oil spill when we simply fish within our environment. It takes us about 2 hours to paddle our canoes down to Brass at great risks. Sometimes, our canoes will capsize owing to the waves. You are lucky; just see that person is now rowing to Brass (pointing to a heavily loaded canoe passing at the water side). “ 

 Mr. Vincent Munanuo, Youth President of Fantuo

 He said ”I was the Youth President when this spill that has so devastated our environment occurred. It happened around March/April, 2006. Of all the oil spills we have experienced in this area, this is the worst in terms of volume and coverage. The JIT report revealed that the spills were as a result of equipment failure. We are yet to see any positive action from Shell and Agip, no clean up, no compensation up till now.

 As you know, my community is predominantly a fishing town. And though we were worst hit, it is most unfortunate that we were not part of the JIT. This is not to say that we are naive or ignorant, but Nembe is taking the lead on our behalf, as if we can not talk on our own. Nembe is influencing everything that was supposed to come to us. If we protest, it will seem as if we are opposing the king of Nembe. What we have received so far as relief materials are 3 tubers of yam, 4 bags of rice, 4 bags of garri, and some oil. We also got the sum of forty thousand naira (N40, 000.00); nothing more. That was what we got as a community.

 I can’t recall that of Shell, but this Agip pipeline, Ogoda/Brass pipeline, from which the spill occurred, was laid around 1973. That of Shell occurred just a week after the Agip oil spill from their flow station, (Nembe creek 4). These are the sources of the spill. As for the relief materials, I received them personally from a Nembe Chief. I will be happy if the companies will come and clean up our environment and pay compensation for damages”.



Deputy Chief Kemmer F. Igbeta Kulo (President of United Nembe Creek Fishermen and Farmers Association)

On arrival at Abuja Camp, we met the man we were directed to, Kemmer. After hearing our mission to his camp, he introduced himself as Deputy Chief Kemmer F. Igbeta Kulo, the President of United Nembe Creek Fishermen and Farmers Association. After confirming what ERA was told at Fantuo, he went on to lament Shell and Agip’s lack of respect for the local people. ’I wonder why these companies are treating us like this. Since this oil spillage, they have not taken any positive steps to come for clean up, talk less of remediation. Besides, they ought to come and pay us for the damages we have suffered. Yes, we are entitled to damages while the water rights are for the Chiefs of Nembe. If not for my efforts and that of our Association, even the little food items we received from Nembe wouldn’t have come our way. The so-called relief materials were nothing compared with what they ought to do. Our members can no longer catch fish as a result of this oil spillage. Right now, I can not give you the documents relating to this particular spill as some persons have taken them from me recently to meet the King of Nembe to address the matter. I can get it for you in the next two or three days’ time. But, here is one such document I can leave with you. This is how we have been battling with Shell since. These spills were all a result of equipment failure.”

Madam Bainmoyo Robinson

 ERA was lucky to meet this lady just returning from fishing. And as we approached her for comments she said “what else do you want me to say? Just see the day’s catch in the basket for yourself. Can you ever imagine that one can go fishing and return with just this thing you see (fish in the basket) me come with. It was not so before the oil spillage. We used to have something worthy of a day’s effort. As you have now seen, answer it yourselves, can this type of catch sustain a family? Our environment has suffered heavy pollution, the rivers, creeks, and rivulets are all dead. All the mangrove trees are just dying and falling. The whole air is fouled with the decaying plants. It makes the air around us really bad. Due to the lifeless nature of our water now our daily catch has been greatly reduced. If you follow me to my house, you will not find fish on my altar where we smoke fish. It is as bad as that. This is a serious matter because it has to do with our survival. The rivers and land used to be our only source of livelihood. I am happy that you came and saw the type of catch we get these days.”

 Madam Rose Kemmer Igbeta confirmed the above at Abuja Camp.


Even without the testimonies of the affected community folks, whose situation is very pathetic, the scenario speaks for itself. There is no doubt that the effect of the oil spillage on the environment is heavy. The death and decay of hard trees like mangroves really says how dangerous oil spills can be to the environment.  One can no longer find living shellfish in the affected places and it will take many years to get them back in the environment.


1.            Shell and Agip should carry out immediate clean up and remediation of the environment.

2.                  Shell and Agip should be responsible enough to pay compensation or be compelled to do so.

3.                   Communities should remain alert to happenings in their environment and keep records of same, including JIT reports.    








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