Oil giant Shell says it has intensified efforts to clean up a major oil spill in the Bonny area of the Niger Delta. Bonny is made up of about 90 tiny islands and one large one.
Community leaders say current efforts have been unsuccessful and oil continues to gush from the damaged well.
Shell did not move fast enough to contain the spill, says Chief Sodienye Abere, chairman of the Bonny Environment Consultant Committee.
“Unfortunately the oil is all over Bonny creeks and rivers,” he says “The spill has been for at least 18 days unchecked.”
A Shell spokesman says the company is moving as fast as it can to clean up the spill and provide assistance to the people of the area.
But Abere says Shell did not inform the community about the spill until it got out of hand.
“They have not informed us officially. It is the other way round. The fishermen informed my committee and we called Shell and told them that this is what is happening. They have not come back to us as we speak. I know that when we went to the media, correspondents went to talk with them and they said they know of it and that they are planning for a joint inspection.”
Business and social activities have been suspended in the affected areas, Abere says, as the community waits for Shell to begin cleaning up and providing food and drinking water to families who cannot use the river and creeks because of the pollution.
“The businesses of fishermen have been grounded since August 2nd. Even commuters – those using passenger boats to ply the sea – the whole of the area is filled with crude oil, so the engines of the ferries would be clogged and could not operate,” he says.
“The aquatic life is all gone and villagers are rushing to try to the dead fish and shrimps, but we have tried to advice them because injecting crude oil [by eating the fish] is very poisonous or damaging to the system.”