FJA 2020 Shortlist
Category: Excellence in Environmental Journalism
Kelechukwu Iruoma, Ruth Olurounbi (Nigeria)
Silent killer: Oil Pollution Continues to Kill Nigerians in Delta Region
International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)
March 26, 2020
A six-month investigation unravels how frequent oil spill in Ogoniland, Rivers State contaminates the environment, silently killing the people, and how the slow pace of the cleanup exercise worsens the living condition of the community people.
By Kelechukwu Iruoma & Ruth Olurounbi
ERIC Dooh, 60, had just returned from Goi, a community in Ogoniland in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. He visited his family property in the community he left a few years back due to air pollution. Near the property is a large river where men fish, but it has been constantly contaminated by oil spills that has made the entire environment unsafe.
Exhausted, Dooh sat on a red couch in his sitting room, with eyes as red as fireballs. Moments later, he stood up, went to where he had hung a plain trouser he wore to the community the previous day and dipped his right hand inside one of the pockets. He started searching for a sachet of Franol (a drug that relieves breathing difficulties) he usually takes after returning from the oil spill site but could not find it.
Goi, where Dooh comes from, is one of the affected communities ravaged by oil spills.
“Our people suffer very seriously; they inhale chemicals,” Dooh lamented. “My mother and father died in 2005 and 2012 respectively. They were diagnosed with respiratory disease and could not survive it.”
Nigeria has the largest oil-producing mines in Africa with the bulk of its crude laying beneath farmlands and rivers in Ogoniland with oil companies like Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) extracting about 100 million barrels of crude every year.
Crude oil is very important to Nigeria’s economy. According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria exported crude oil to the tune of N3.74 trillion or 70.84 per cent of total exports in the third quarter of 2019, contributing 9.77 per cent. to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP). Despite this, the oil-producing communities suffer from numerous oil spills.
Between 2003 and 2014, there were devastating oil spills from the Bomu manifold, a Shell facility at Kegbara Dere (K-Dere) located in Gokana local government area of Rivers State. Shell has been pumping oil from the Niger Delta since 1958 and it remains the largest multinational oil company operating in the region.
Although Shell has not pumped oil from its oil wells in Ogoni since 1993 when Ogoni activists led protests against the oil company for destroying the environment, halting its operations, its pipelines still carry oil worth 150, 000 barrels daily through the region to its export terminal at Bonny Island on the coast.