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Oil Spill at Ikarama Community, Nigeria


Ikarama is located in Okordia Clan of Yenogoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. The community is host to the Okordia-Rumuekpe Trunk Line own by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in the state.

The high rate of equipment failure has resulted to frequent oil spills in the area, which has impacted on the economic wellbeing of the community people. Destroying farmlands, swamps, ponds and lakes. There are thick volumes (up to 7 inches) of crude oil inside the borrow pit and lake around the oil wells. Several economic trees and shrubs have been completely destroyed and the entire landscapes have been loss.

Ikarama has been in the news for some time now as one of the most polluted communities in the Niger Delta. The pollution of Ikarama environment has been through oil spillages from ruptured pipelines owned by the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). Between June and December, 2008 the Ikarama people and environment experienced five oil spills from Shell's facility. The last of the above spills occurred on the 7th of December, 2008 along the Ughelli/Rumuekpe trunk line, at a spot that had ruptured some years back. Sadly, even though Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC] knew about the rupture and was at Ikarama the day after the spill occurred, the crude oil was allowed to spew into the environment for about seven weeks before SPDC returned to effect clamping. As a result, several thousand barrels of crude oil flowed freely into the nearby Obroun lake and, spread to the Oya lake and environs; destroying aquatic lives and deprived the families that owned the lakes a major source of livelihood.

Even though SPDC awarded a recovery contract soon after clamping was done on the ruptured spot [on the pipeline], the uncontrollable fire that gutted the whole oil spill impacted area on Sunday 1st of March, 2009 and its resultant effect is still the subject matter here. Since this matter was tracked right from the early days of the spill [in December, 2008], it was only appropriate that follow up visits be made to keep pace with developments [Field report #200].

Instead of proper clean up of the several spill sites in the community, Shell has allegedly resorted to setting fire to such spill impacted sites; a very wrong approach to clean up. The last of such fires occurred on Sunday 1st of March, 2009.

Though none of the spill impacted sites has been cleaned, Shell's recent claim in the media that they have commenced clean up in oil spill impacted sites in Ikarama prompted ERA to visit the community with the Africa Independent Television (AIT) to confirm or place Shell's claim in perspective. ERA and AIT visited Ikarama on April 24, 2009.

Vaccum tracks used by Shell: ERA/FoEN field reporters have discovered that in the last few weeks Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC] has been using vacuum trucks to evacuate crude oil directly from a manifold it operates, situated in Ikarama community. Shell's Okordia manifold receives crude oil from oil wells around Biseni and JK4 [Edagberi community] passing through the Adibawa flowstation.

This strange task of loading vacuum trucks with crude oil from the manifold involves opening valves on the pipes in the manifold to pump crude oil into stationed trucks that convey same to unknown destinations six or seven times daily.

Though a lot of physical activity has been going on in and around the facility, in the last six days four leakages have been recorded inside the manifold. It is interesting to note that on the 23rd of January, 2014 three minor spills occurred while the workers were still on site and the spills were promptly contained inside the manifold area fenced with block work.

Unfortunately around 6:30 pm on the 26th of same month,two and half hours after Shell workers had closed and left the site for the day, crude oil was noticed gushing inside the manifold and continued to flow in a high pressure until about 7:00 am the next day when it dramatically reduced to a halt.

In the morning the crude oil had spread out of the manifold into the nearby bushes and swamps, with some quantities found stagnant in a spot closed to the manifold jeopardizing the environment.

On arrival at the community and moving towards the site of interest, the first tell-tale sign in the atmosphere was the contaminated environment and repulsive smell of crude oil ferried by the wind. The stench intensified and caused a choking effect as ERA/FoEN's field monitors advanced to the manifold; the actual site of the spill.

Even without a proper examination to ascertain the cause of spill, the company's initial response when some SPDC officials visited to stop the leak was to attribute the cause to third party involvement [sabotage].The natives resolved that the leakage would not have come about if the workers had not tampered with the equipment. When some SPDC officials visited again in the morning of 30th January, 2014 to investigate the spread of the spill in the environment, some were heard saying that the incident was due to an equipment failure. They said it was valve failure inside the manifold. Community folks who heard the comments informed ERA/FoEN promptly.

The two infernos Another issue concerning two wild fires that occurred on the 19th of December 2013 and the 13th of January2014 was also inquired. The infernos which were ignited by unknown youths in the community threatened occupants of three thatched houses in the two occasions if not for the prompt intervention of some youths. Fire was set on dead grass that were drenched in crude oil in an oil spill impacted site which, was earlier cleared and heaped during attempts to recover spilt crude oil. As at the time of this report more than nine of such heaps of grasses were still left untreated or evacuated. Leaving such crude oil soaked materials within the environment portends danger of fire and related issue.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Oil Spill at Ikarama Community, Nigeria
State or province:Bayelsa State
Location of conflict:Okordia clan of Yenagoa 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)
Specific commodities:Crude oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Project area:30000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:11/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) from Netherlands
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from Nigeria
Relevant government actors: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
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Environmental Rights Action/FOEN, Oilwatch Nigeria

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Informal workers
Landless peasants
Social movements
Trade unions
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
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Genetic contamination, Global warming, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Infectious diseases
Potential: 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, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:-Shell should respond promptly by visiting the spill site and affected families and community leaders of Ikarama Community.
-A well constituted JIV team should visit the spill site which, must include: Representatives from the community whose farmland has been greatly affected, and other relevant agencies from government and Shell.
-Recommendations of the Joint Investigation team report should address the impact. And, such recommendations should be implemented fully by Shell and any other concerned agencies and representatives.
-Adequate compensation should be paid for damages to crops, impacted farmlands, and to affected individuals.
-Shell must commence adequate clean up of the spill.
-The relevant agencies of Government and environmental/human rights groups should follow up this incident to ensure that Shell should full responsibility for this spill incident
Generally, Shell should take immediate steps to clean up its polluted sites in Ikarama community.
And also:
-Stop the unwholesome practice of setting fire on oil spill sites in Ikarama. They should adopt internationally recognised best practices.
-The Local, State and Federal Governments should ensure Shell carries out effective clean up and remediation of the polluted environment
-Shell pays compensation to victims of oil spill/ fire in Ikarama.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Despite the several spills by Shell and Other Oil Multinationals, the community people have continue to count their lost, as no proper clean up nor compensation are carried out.

Sources & Materials

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

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

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

Bayelsa community records 14th case of oil spill from Shell pipeline by SweetCrude Reports on November 13th, 2011

Shell Reports Fresh Oil Spill on Adibawa Delivery Line by THIS DAY LIVE on 41th November, 2011

Field Report #280:Fresh spill in Ikarama deprives locals of livelihoods

Field Report #203: Corporate lies of Shell Exposed at Ikarama

Field Report #200 - Update on Ikarama Oil Spill Fire

Sweet crude reports

Market Watch

PM news Nigeria

Shell Reports Fresh Oil Spill on Adibawa Delivery Line

Shell Games in Nigeria, by Sasha Chavkin


Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Meta information

Contributor:Afoke Ohwojeheri
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:558