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Ikot Ado Udo Case, Nigeria


Shell placed an oil installation in the village of Ikot Ada Udo nearly 50 years ago at the head of an oil well. Shortly after it installed the wellhead, Shell decided not to produce oil in that place but left the installation in place. Since then, the wellhead has been left abandoned among the vegetable gardens of the village of Ikot Ada Udo. It has been nicknamed the Christmas tree because it resembles one.

Villagers reported multiple oil leaks in the period between 1996 and 1999, and in 2004. Noxious fumes and a brown oily substance have regularly escaped from the oil installation. This apparently was caused by malfunctioning of old parts and lack of maintenance by Shell. In August 2006 and 2007, the villagers discovered that the leaks were becoming worse and reported this to Shell. Shell said that the pollution was not that bad. Nevertheless, the leaks continued. The oil installation started to spray raw oil over the fields, for three months, accompanied by a deafening hissing noise and penetrating gas smell. Heavy rainfall carried the oil in rivulets and into the village fishponds. The fish died and the drinking water became polluted.

By early 2008 Shell had not even started an investigation into the scope of the pollution. It was not until September/October 2008 that Shell attempted to clean up the oil. A large amount of the oil-saturated land was piled up in the forest. The farmlands and fishponds which were polluted by the oil that swept over them have never been cleaned up.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Ikot Ado Udo Case, Nigeria
State or province:Akwa Ibom State
Location of conflict:Ikot Ada Udo Local Government Area
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)
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Crude oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Project area:50
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:1996
Company names or state enterprises:Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) from Netherlands
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from Nigeria
Relevant government actors:NOSDRA , Federal Ministry of Environment
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Friends of the Earth, Netherlands (Milieu Defensie)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
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 a network/collective action
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
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Fires, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Genetic contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence


Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:-Develop a solid plan to clean up the oil pollution in Ikot Ada Udo community and the entire Niger Delta.
As recommended by the UN, this plan should include Shell depositing $1 billion to a special emergency fund for the most urgent clean up operations in the Niger Delta.
-Close all oil wells that are illegally flaring gas before January 1, 2013 in Ikot Ada Udo and other Niger Delta -Develop a clear plan to improve the maintenance of the pipeline network in Nigeria, and protect them against theft and sabotage.
-Offer serious financial compensation to farmers and fishermen whose means of living have been destroyed as a result of the oil leaks in the community and the entire Niger Delta.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Aquaculture is still not possible and residents have still received no compensation. Shell has provided the village with funding for a drinking water tank and water pipes. In the meantime, a small wall has also been constructed about the Christmas tree, and Shell has ordered a concrete plug to be installed.
In early November 2007 the Nigerian parliament passed a resolution to ensure that shell clean up the community. But this has not yielded meaningful results as the pollution still prevails.
Although the case has be charged to court in the Netherlands, waiting Justice in favour of the affect community.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

National oil spill Detection and Remediation Agency.(NOSDRA)

Federal Ministry of Environment

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

Knee Deep in crude Volume 1. A Publication of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

The Ikot Ado Udo Case: The hissing and Leaking Christmas Tree.Facts sheet by Milieu Defensie.

Justice Nigeria Now

'Nigerian farmers sue Shell over oil pipe leaks'

Milieu Defensie

Legal Oil

CBC News

All Africa

Worse then Bad

Nigeria Current

Milieu Defensie

Milieu Defensie


Sweet Crude Reports

Other comments:ANGLO-Dutch oil and gas super major, Shell, will appear in a Dutch court to account for damage it caused in Nigeria. This is the first time in history; a European company is appearing in a Dutch court.
The court case against Shells oil spills in Nigeria has been filed by four Nigerian plaintiffs in conjunction with Friends of the Earth Netherlands and supported by Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
Lawyers for both parties will plea at a key hearing in The Hague this coming October 11 2012, at 9:30am. The verdict is however, expected early in 2013.

Meta information

Contributor:Nnimmo Bassey
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:577