• Oil Spills and fires erupt along the Trans-Niger pipeline owned by Shell in Gokana Local government area of Rivers State•   
  • Five different points of spill and fire along the pipeline route identified
  • Helicopter suspected to be from Shell seen hovering around the spill sites
  • Communities call on government and Shell to provide relief materials to ease the impact of the spill

Gokana, one of the four kingdoms that make up the Ogoni ethnic group in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, is in flames. Gokana local government area is about 35 minutes drive from Port Harcourt, Rivers state,  and has been the scene of several oil spills in recent times. Late last year a massive spill which destroyed farmlands, crops and sources of drinking water occurred a few meters from the local government secretariat. Not too far from one of the spill points,  the same pipeline clusters have ruptured again.

Community members in Gokana who bewailed their ordeal informed ERA monitors that the affected pipeline is the Trans-Niger pipeline owned and operated by Shell. It would be recalled that Shell had apparently been forced by the protests of the Ogonis to pull out of the area in the early 90s. However Shell's pipelines, which crisscross this area, are still functional and still convey crude oil to the 550,000 barrels a day Bonny export terminal.

Pipeline Fires
{mosimage} A look at the Gokana community skyline shows a community engulfed in fumes and flames. As at the time of visit by ERA monitors to the area there were five different points on the Trans-Niger pipeline located within the local government area that were on fire. Two of these points are located in K-dere community and another point is located around Shell’s Bomu manifold where huge columns of smoke was being belched out from a point close to or within the manifold facility.

Two other points of fire were observed within Bodo community through which a road project that would connect Bodo via a bridge to Bonny had been on the drawing board for the entire eight years of the last Obasanjo administration without any appreciable progress being made towards completing the road. For the local community, the road signals total neglect and a major source of embarrassment to government.

There are huge clouds of black smoke curling and hovering over the entire local government area and this could be seen from miles away. Rev. Moses Nyimale Lezor a member of Bodo community informed the monitors that the fire occurred very early in the morning of Sunday June 17th 2007.

He said the community has been unable to identify the cause of the spill and the resultant fire but said it may not be unconnected with the fact that the pipelines in the community are old and are ill maintained. Other community persons present expressed concern over the failure of Shell, owners of the pipeline and other related authorities to react quickly and put a stop to the spill and the fire, which has already devastated farmlands, rivers and creeks and the health and livelihood of the communities in Gokana . Some of the flare points are just about 10 metres from the local children primary school, and residential buildings in the area. Pupils and residents are forced to breath in the noxious fumes from the flames.

Rev. Lezor, however said that he was not aware whether the communities have made a formal complaint about the situation to Shell but stated that they saw a helicopter, which they believed belonged to Shell,  hovering over the different points of spill on Tuesday the 19th of June .

Pinebari Sunday,  a member of K-Dere community called on Shell and the Rivers state government to immediately put out the fire because community people have started experiencing respiratory problems from inhaling the thick black smoke coming from the burning crude. He also pointed out that this was the height of the farming season and the failure to put out the fire immediately would certainly affect crop yield and consequently the ability of the people to provide food for themselves and their families. “As you can see for yourselves, the fire is right at the farm, killing vegetables, yam and other staples which the people depend on."

Pinebari also called on the state government to immediately send relief materials to the impacted communities to ease their pains and to institute a panel, to investigate the cause of the spill and fire or Shell will as usual claim that the communities sabotaged their facilities in its bid to avoid the consequences of its failure to maintain it facilities.

On ways to prevent a recurrence Pinebari Sunday said that a permanent solution to this problem would be to reroute the pipeline from their communities since the only impact they have had from the presence of the pipeline are the devastations that have become their lot even when Shell says it no longer operates on their lands.   

1.    Shell should put out the fires immediately, and without further delay
2.    Inspection and repair of all Shell’s facilities in Gokana to prevent further spills and danger to lives and means of livelihood of the people.
3.    Immediate clean-up and remediation of polluted land by Shell.
4.    Compensation and relief to the victims of the fires
5.    Write to your elected representative urging them to take action to halt environmental degradation

Green Hotlines
Green Hotlines
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