Members of Ikarama community, an oil bearing community in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State have raised an alarm over what they described as a perfected plan by ShellPetroleum Development Company, SPDC, to run away from the community without properly cleaning up portions of their land polluted by the company in the course of its oil extraction activities.
Speaking to environmental monitors in Ikarama, the community members said their attention has been drawn to moves by Shell and other international oil companies to shift operations from onshore to offshore under the ongoing divestment policy. A move considered by environmentalists as a ploy by the IOCs to run away from accounting for decades of environmental atrocities in the Niger Delta.
“There are lots of liabilities the oil companies are leaving behind. Now they are talking about divestment. If they are divesting who is going to bear these liabilities?” askedBenjamin Warder, the immediate past youth president of Ikarama community.
Calls by the community for a proper clean up of polluted sites have continued to fall on deaf ears.
In August 2021, ERA/Friends of the Earth, issued twoseparate reportsdrawing the attention of Shell and regulatory agencies to the heavy presence of pollutants on polluted sites in Ikarama. The reports demanded proper clean up and remediation of the polluted sites.
In a recent report issued by Morris Alagoa on behalf of ERA, it was disclosed that efforts by a community member and former youth president to prepare a fish pond in his family land at the Ekperikiri swamp has been rendered futile as crude oil oozed out from the ground and covered the entire space during the excavation of the land.
Majority of the oil spills had occurred from facilities belonging to Shell, especially, from Adibawa/Okodia delivery line, Okodia/Rumuekpe pipeline and Okordia Manifold.
On a visit to the site where the ex- youth leader attempted to build a fish pond, it was discovered that heavy presence of crude oil in the ground has forced the young man to discontinue with the project. Oil gushed out and covered the excavated land.
“I had the intention of creating livelihood for myself. That was the reason why I brought the machine to see how this place can be excavated so I can start my fish farm business. But as you can see, there is no way fish can grow here; they can’t survive here,” Warder lamented.
Another community member, Glitter Ziah, said the pollution has made farming in the area an effort in futility.
“When our mothers go to the farmlands [in the impacted environment] and dig with a view to plant crops, the [crude] oil will gush out. Even today, right now, it is still the same thing”, he said.
Ziah further stated, “Our people are suffering, water and crude oil are coming out from the ground in most places in our environment when our people dig the ground for farming activities. Very recently when my mother harvested cassava in her farm, the colour of the cassava tuber changed because of the [crude] oil”.
Community members are demanding that NOSDRA, federal government and Shell should be prevailed upon to return to Ikarama oil spill impacted environments to carry out proper remediation as records have shown that most spill sites in the community were set ablaze and very little or no cleanup was done.
According to foremost environmentalist in Nigeria and executive director of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, Ikarama is the most oil degraded environment in the Niger Delta with a continued record of oil spills.
The ERA report on the pollution in Ikarama is demanding a declaration of a state of emergency on environment in Bayelsa State by the federal and state governments, as well as a moratorium on the divestment program of oil companies in the Niger Delta, until all legacy polluted sites are cleaned up and remediated.
It also called on Shell to return to Ikarama spill impacted sites and carry out cleanup and remediation, using the UNEP recommended standard as ongoing in Ogoni without further delays, and challenged the Ijaw National Congress and other civil society groups to step in to ensure that right actions are taken in defense of the people’s right to an environment favourable and satisfactory to their development.