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Shell Bonga Oil Spill, Nigeria

On December 2011, 40,000 barrels of oil spilled from Bonga field. Shell was fined by Nigerian court but refuses to pay and compensate the impacted populations.


The Shell Bonga oil spill of over 40,000 barrels occurred on December 20th 2011, affecting over 20 riverine communities across Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Delta State in Nigeria, like the Odioma community [1] and two communities in Ekeremor [2]. After Environmental Rights Action (hereafter ERA), namely Friends of the Earth Nigeria, received confirmation from the community folks of the spread of the spill into Odioama’s environment. ERA’s field monitors promptly visited the community and reported their findings. The spill spread in the environment, truncating the community’s livelihoods. The communities visited by ERA’s monitors were “Elder James Sampson aka Ovie Kokori, Danyo Ogoniba and Ayeomane Ayela, included Fish Camp 2 opposite the Varnish Island and St. Nicholas” [3]. As a result of the spill, the livelihoods of the local people have been truncated, due to contamination of their open water, fishing activities have been difficult, leading to loss of employment and it has led to migration of people from these communities in search of fresh water. Shell (the major owner of the exploitation license) has refused to accept full responsibility for the incident and had rebuffed the claims from the communities affected by the spill. The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (hereafter NOSDRA) fined the multinational “$1.8 billion as compensation for the damages done to natural resources and consequential loss of income by the affected shoreline communities as well as a punitive damage of $1.8 billion” [4]. Shell refused to accept the fine and brought the case to a Nigerian federal court by 2016. Yet by May 24th, 2018, a federal judge ruled that Shell’s subsidiary SNEPCo is liable to a $3,6 billion fine to be levied on by NOSDRA. A group, made up of victims from the spill, has come together to fill in a suit against SNEPCo in London, since Shell is still refusing to pay the fine and compensate the victims, even though allegations have found the origins of the spill to be an operational error. It is considered that at least 168,000 people have been affected by Bonga spill, one of the worst of the decadein the Niger delta [5].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Shell Bonga Oil Spill, Nigeria
State or province:Bayelsa State
Location of conflict: Brass Local Government Area, Niger Delta Deep Water
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

First discovered in 1995, the Bonga oil field lies in water 1,000 meters deep across an area of 60 km2. It has the capacity to produce more than 200,000 barrels of oil a day and 150 million standard cubic feet of gas a day. Bonga oil field is located in the license block OML 118 (previously called OPL 212) [6]. Bonga’s major operator is Shell’s subsidiary Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (hereafter SNEPCo) who owns 55% of the license. The other partners are:

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:168,000
Start of the conflict:20/12/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) from Nigeria
Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) from Netherlands
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from Nigeria
Total SA from France
ExxonMobil Corporation (Exxon) from United States of America
Elf petroleum Nigeria Limited from Nigeria
Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC ) from Nigeria
Relevant government actors:National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Environmental Rights Action, Rural Environmental Action Team, Oilwatch Africa, Trade Unions, Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Air pollution, Fires, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Genetic contamination, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Shell fined by Nigerian court but still the multinational refuses to pay.
Proposal and development of alternatives:1. The Nigerian government should compel Shell to state the actual amounts of oil spewed from its facility.
2. The Nigeria government should conduct an independent investigation of Shells claims that only 40,000 barrels of crude was spewed, and compel Shell to pay adequately for the damage done.
3. Shell should be levied an administrative Fine to the damages done to the environment and local people.
4. An independent verification and cleaning up of existing mess (all over the Niger Delta) onshore and offshore should be the focus of NOSDRA and other regulatory agencies.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:As a result of the spill, the livelihood of the local communities along 120 kilometres of coast adjacent to Bonga has been truncated, due to contamination of their open water, loss of employment, as people are mainly fisher folks, which has led to incidence of the migration of the people from these communities in search of fresh water.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Nigeria Federal Government agencies, such as NESREA and NOSDRA. NESREA (National Environmental Standards and Regulation Agency) has responsibility for the protection and development of the environment, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of Nigerias natural resources in general and environmental technology including coordination, and liaison with, relevant stakeholders within and outsider Nigeria on maters of enforcement of environmental standards, regulations, rules, laws policies and guidelines

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

NESREA ACT, Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette. No.92, Vol 94. Lagos ,31st July, 2007.

Annual Statistical Bulletin 2011.: A publication of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation,

UNEP Ogoniland Oil Assessment Reveals Extent of Environmental Contamination and Threats to Human Health, August 2017
[click to view]

[1] Field Report #282: Shell’s Bonga spill spreads to Odioama
[click to view]

[2] Field Report #284: Shell’s Bonga spill reaches two communities in Ekeremor
[click to view]

[3] Bonga oil spill: ERA/FoE findings, January 2018
[click to view]

[4] Shell liable to $3.6 billion fine over Bonga oil spill, Nigerian court rules, January 2018
[click to view]

[5] Victims drag Shell to London court over 2011 Nigeria Bonga oil spill, 2018
[click to view]

[6] Bonga Field, Wikipedia
[click to view]

[7] Shell invites bids for new FPSO in Bonga, February 2019
[click to view]

[8] Shell urged to pay Nigeria $5bn over Bonga oil spill, July 2012
[click to view]

Nigeria: Bonga Spill - 55 Communities Sue NOSDRA, Shell, March 2012
[click to view]

Nigeria: Uduaghan Condemns Bonga Oil Spill, Seeks Remedial Measures, January 2012
[click to view]

Shell will soon decide on Bonga Field expansion, August 2018
[click to view]

Nigeria's parliament says Shell should pay $4 billion for 2011 oil spill, November 2014
[click to view]

Nigeria: Fishermen Blame High Cost of Fish On Bonga Oil Spill, January 2012
[click to view]

Shell begins production at Bonga project, October 2015
[click to view]

Bonga field: Back to business as usual, January 2012
[click to view]

Shell oil spill off Nigeria likely worst in decade, December 2011
[click to view]

Shell oil spill off Nigeria likely worst in a decade, December 2011
[click to view]

The Bonga, Offshore Post
[click to view]

Tension over Niger delta oil spill, 2012
[click to view]

Bonga Deepwater Project, Niger Delta
[click to view]

Bonga Spill: ERA/FoEN Urges FG To Verify Spill Volumes Independently, December 2011
[click to view]

Bonga oil spill: Presidency approves $5bn fine against Shell, July 2012
[click to view]

Bonga Spill, Our Nightmare – Oron Fishermen, February 2012
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

SHELL-BONGA Oil Spills and its Impacts on the Ezetu (PENNINGTON) Kingdom, January 2012
[click to view]

Oil Slick From Massive Spill in Nigeria Threatens Coastline, Maybe Largest Spill in a Decade, December 2011
[click to view]

Other documents

Bonga FPSO
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Godwin Uyi Ojo, Maria Obaseki (updated by Camila Rolando)
Last update05/04/2019
Conflict ID:548
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