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Field Report #146 - The Curse of Oil
Tuesday, 17 January 2006


  • Shell's Manifold Spews crude into rivers and creeks
  • Immediate environment awash with crude
  • Shell refuses to effect repairs on ruptured manifold
  • Same manifold had ruptured six years ago

“Oil-rich countries do far less to help the poor than do countries without resources" - Michael Ross as quoted in The Economist, 6th January 2006 edition.

Agalaoweigbene is an Ijaw Community located in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. The Community is host to several oil facilities, including a crude oil collection manifold belonging to Shell petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC). The Agalaoweigbene manifold receives crude oil from two other major manifolds located at Benisede (Ozobo fields) and Opusuku (Igbeme-Agalabri).

For Mrs. Stella Yeebo, a twenty-four year old mother of four and a subsistence farmer from Agalaoweigbene Community in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, the wealth and petrol-dollars acclaimed to be accruing from crude oil is illusory. To her and other local people in the community, oil is a curse and the Agalaoweigbene manifold sited less than 150 metres from her farmland accentuates these views because of the recurring oil spillages from that facility. The latest incident of oil spill from the facility occurred on the 4th of January 2006.

Mr. Daniel Abuja, a native of Agalaoweigbene Community and the contractor saddled with the responsibility of safe-guarding the manifold, informed ERA that the spillage was first notice when some Shell staff visited the manifold on the 4th of January 2006 to see how it was functioning and to conduct some flushing exercise (internal cleaning) on the 16-inch delivery pipeline. He explained that the workers left the facility that same day without effecting the necessary repairs on the faulty manifold. He however revealed that the workers were planning to come back for a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) to enable them ascertain the cause of rupture.

However, independent investigations conducted by ERA in the community revealed that the oil spillage may have been caused by equipment failure. Some local people interviewed by ERA Field Monitor explained that the said manifold is rarely maintained by Shell and that this is the second time in six years that equipment would be spewing crude oil into their environment. They dismissed the suggestion that the facility may have been sabotaged or vandalised and urged Shell to consider the payment of compensation to those whose farmlands and other sources of livelihoods have been destroyed by the spills.

During an assessment tour of the affected areas by ERA field Monitor, it was observed that the entire vicinity (about twenty metres radius square) around the ruptured manifold had been severely polluted with crude oil. It was also observed that the spills had found their ways into the nearby creek, as crude oil sheens were seen flowing on top of the waters. The creek is bordered on all sides by farmlands and this means that when the rains set in both the crops and surrounding environment will be immersed in crude oil.

The Shell Manifold has also been over-grown with weeds, an indication that the facility is rarely maintained.


"Once again all my efforts this year will amount to naught. When the raining season comes my entire farmland and crops will be deluged by this crude. Since Shell has always refused to clear its previous spills, I am sure this one will not be different." - Mrs. Stella Yeebo.

"We were the ones who improvised the use of logs as boom, to contain the spread of the crude oil into other rivers. If you had noticed, you would have seen that the manifold is erected on a higher ground and as such any leak rushes down to the trough close by and from there into the main river our only source of drinking water" - Biaebi Oweimiefa

"What you are seeing now is small thing, perhaps the Shell people had closed down the other manifolds otherwise our entire river and the Shell pipeline canal would have being full of crude by now" - Ebikayeibo Femene

"This is what we see o! This is what we suffer. This is our lot. Did you see any school, borehole or hospital here? Yet they say that we are oil-bearing community. We have four oil wells, apart from the manifold in this community but there's nothing to show for it than the destruction of our environment." - Binware Giji


Shell should:

  • Commence a clean-up exercise in the affected areas without any further delay.
  • Pay adequate compensation to the local people whose environment and means of livelihood have been destroyed by the spill.
  • Imbibe the culture of regularly maintaining its oil facilities scattered across the Niger Delta.

Send a protest letter to Shell urging them to:

  • Commence the process of cleaning up the spill
  • Supply relief materials to the community to cushion the economic effects of the spill
  • Pay adequate compensation to the local people whose environment and means of livelihood have been destroyed by the spill.
  • Send copies of your letter to local and international media, environmental groups and your elected representatives


The Managing Director
Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited,
Freeman House,
21/22 Marina, P.M.B. 2418, Lagos, Nigeria.


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