Scooping Oil for Survival; NNPC
Celebrates Ecosystem Hazards
In the Niger Delta
a brief report by;
The Conservation Programme,
Centre for Environment, Human Rights
6, Obo Nwanboke Street,
Post office Building,
P. O. Box 590,
Rivers State, Nigeria.
The Conservation Programme
Scooping oil for Survival; NNPC Celebrates Ecosystem
Hazards in The Niger Delta.
2. Area of contamination
3. Cause(s) of the spillage
4. Inevitable fears and concerns
5. Impacts of the spillage
7. About CEHRD and her work
It is no longer news that the Niger Delta is the seat bench of
Nigeria’s oil and gas deposit and hence, the hub of oil and gas
related operations. Technical faults and equipment failure-
sometimes due to sheer negligence on the part of the
transnational oil corporations-cause environmental
degradation/pollution in the fragile wetlands of the delta. As a
result, local community livelihood structures like farming and
fishing are oftentimes disrupted which together with
government neglects by successive administrations foster
widespread poverty in the Niger Delta basin.
Though crude oil spillages are a common occurrence in the
delta, leakages of refined oil products are relatively less
prominent. The general trend in the country is that whenever
oil product spills, poverty confers on some residents the
irresistible urge to eke out a living therefrom by scooping the
wasting products and selling it to desperate motorists. Reported
cases of the sudden death of hundreds of Nigerians arising
from oil products related infernos are not uncommon.
This report x-rays ongoing leakages of petroleum products
along kilometer 6 (Pipeline coded name) in Agbi area of Ogale
community in the Eleme Local Government Area, Rivers State.
The pipeline belongs to the Nigerian National Petroleum
Corporation (NNPC). Health and environmental implications of
the oil product spillage as well as the carelessness and tardy
posture of the NNPC with regards to cleanup of the
environment are also discussed.
AREA OF CONTAMINATIONS
Since on 2 August, 2006, an admixture of petrol and diesel
products has been spewing from NNPC pipeline at kilometer 6
traversing Ogale Community eastward from the Eleme refinery,
an area under surveillance by mobile policemen housed in Boot
6. The spill spot is in the Agbi area of Ogale. The area is
residential and about 20m eastward from a prominent
relaxation stopover and hotel in Eleme called Millenium Motels.
Geomorphologically, the area is a dryland & gradually steeps
into an extensive area of swampy grassland interspersing the
residential area (affected area) and a tropical rainforest
eastward. The trunckline transports refined oil products in
succession to the hinterland.
2. CAUSE(S) OF THE SPILLAGE
Yet to be identified, not even by the “experts” of the
maintenance unit of the Petroleum pricing and monitoring
corporation (PPMC), a subsidiary of the NNPC in charge of
pipeline monitoring. When CEHRD conducted a field inspection
of the area (12 August, 2006), some residents interviewed said
the spillage is about two weeks old. Residents also said they
had alerted the PPMC early enough who deplored a technical
team for inspection and repairs. However, the PPMC officials
deserted the spill site frustrated and helpless, having declared
in the open their inability to detect the causal factor(s) and also
the actual leakage point using their routine fault finding
“It would definitely take sometime” said a PPMC personnel”
before the problem could be completely solved”, reported a
resident of the area. The residents also confirmed that the flow
line had a history of repeated vandalization in the past, a
situation which has been addressed ever since PPMC taskforce
on oil pipeline were drafted into the area. Countless efforts to
reach an official of the PPMC whose phone number was
supplied by a resident were to no avail.
3. INEVITABLE FEARS AND CONCERNS
Though the oil gushing rate has lessened, minor leakages were
visibly observed during our field assessment. Bubbles
associated with the leaks roll upward in dug-out collection holes
made by scoopers who had invaded the area. In defence of her
client, one of the taskforce members newly deplored to the
flowline explained that oil pools or puddles were not directly
linked to the leakage as the oil therein did not show signs of
time-related increment. If the submission of the taskforce
agent is anything to hold unto, then, it means that the soil of
the entire vicinity is supersaturated with the oil products.
The surface running oil follows gradient and spread to the
grassy flood plain. Unfortunately, this coincides with the
breeding season of freshwater fishes peculiar to such swamp
habitat like the indigenous African mudfish, Clarias gariepinus.
Naturally the adults of Clarias migrate upstream in rivers,
swamps, lakes at the beginning of the rainy season to spawn in
marshes, where, they lay their eggs on aquatic weeds1.
Generally oil products with low boiling points appear to be more
toxic than the heavier fuel oils while crude oil are intermediate
with respect to toxicity2. Wetlands are adjudged amongst the
most productive ecosystems on earth. Wetlands have rich
biodiversity and act as the kidneys of the landscape-cleansing
polluted waters, protecting shorelines and recharging
groundwater aquifers. Given that the oil products spilled near
and spread to the nearby grass swampland presupposes the
magnitude of disruption it may cause to the ecosystem balance
of the area.
Pipeline owner (PPMC) has failed in her spill emergency and
contingency responsibility. No containment and remediation
measures have been put in place as at the time of filing in this
report. This show of environmental negligence by PPMC is not
uncommon in the Nigerian oil and gas industry3.
1. Onuoha, G. O and Nwadukwe, F. O. 1990. Influence of liquid petroleum refinery effluent
on hatching success of Clarias gariepinus (African mudfish) eggs. Environment and
Ecology 8 (4). 1201 – 1206.
2. Gelder-Ottway, S. V. (1992), The comparative toxicities of crude oils refined oil products
and oil emulsions.
3. “Shell’s Shell in Ogoniland; Killing The Environment, Impoverishing its people” (2004). A
report prepared by Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD).
4. IMPACTS OF THE SPILLAGE
The pre-spill luxuriant vegetation of the swamp environment
show signs of varying degree of oil stressed wilting. Those
(plants) at the immediate spill micro-environment are
permanently dead. From our physical observation, the plant
area affected is put at a mean estimate of 70 metres radius.
Atmospheric air in the area and the neighbourhoods is charged
with repulsive and suffocating smell of hydrocarbons. Prolonged
breathing of such asphyxiating (polluted) air may result in
tragic respiratory ailments and put local asthmatic patients on
Driven by poverty, some residents made soil depressions in the
area where oil seeps in. They then fetched the spilled products
therefrom (see pictures)4. Being a residential area with a lot of
fire related activities, fire outbreak may occur as experienced in
other parts of the country.
Residents also complained that their well water is already
contaminated. Though CEHRD have not confirmed this, it may
not be far from the truth considering the physiography of the
area. Wetlands no doubts play prominent role in the recharge
of groundwater aquifers. And the residency time of the oil
products coupled with rains may have facilitated deep-down
percolation of the toxicant.
4. Pictures would be supplied on demand.
CEHRD recommend as follows:
1. Immediate stoppage of the spill and replacement of aged
2. Clean-up of the environment,
3. Provision of external water supply to the residents
pending when the water quality of the affected area
would be analysed5.
4. Actors in the Nigerian oil and gas industry should improve
on their existing emergency and contingency response
5. Regulatory bodies should ensure that stakeholders
observe best practices in their operations.
5. According to FEPA guidelines, drinking/domestic water must be free from oil.
6. About CEHRD and HER Work
The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development
(CEHRD) was founded on August 15, 1999 by activists
concerned about the situation in the Niger Delta region of
Nigeria. CEHRD started as the Niger Delta Project for
Environment, Human Rights and Development (NDPEHRD), but
later changed her name from NDPEHRD to CEHRD due to board
decision and subsequent incorporation as a trustee charity in
CEHRD is a rural-based, rural-focused, non-profit making
organization. Through research, networking, advocacy,
campaigns and participatory education, she addresses the
problems of environment, human rights, HIV/AIDS, injustice
and proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW),
plaguing the Niger Delta belt of Nigeria and beyond.