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EJOLT transmits a message from deep down the Niger delta

By Joan Martinez-Alier

In the EJOLT trip to the Niger Delta in March 2013, we  have visited the communities of Goi and Bodo (in Ogoni territory), both badly damaged by oil spills. A citizen of Goi who was suing Shell was denied compensation in the recent case in The Netherlands. We talked and listened to him. The case is now in appeal. We visited his property and the creek nearby, full of oil.

Meanwhile, the community of Bodo is litigating in London against Shell. The situation in Bodo is terrible, with children playing in heavily contaminated soils, with schools and houses located next to brightly painted official advertisements exhorting the population to “keep off”, because of contamination.

There is widespread poverty and environmental damage in the large area of Nigeria at the mouth of the Niger River. Perhaps 3 million barrels of oil are extracted and exported here per day, while a large amount of gas is flared.

As EJOLT we are in Nigeria with many delegates supporting our partner ERA in its 20th anniversary celebrations and to hold several internal meetings to take stock of the progress of the EJOLT project, two years since the launch in Barcelona in April 2011.

We visited the community of Ikot Ada Udo within a two hours’ drive from Port Harcourt. In the village hall, after a ceremony of welcome, one of the plaintiffs in The Netherlands court case, Friday Alfred Akpan, whose farm and fish ponds were damaged by oil spills, read and distributed the following text addressed to the village head, to the EJOLT visitors from many different countries, to Environmental Rights Action (ERA) of Nigeria, to Friends of the Earth from Norway, to the women of the Niger Delta and “all others too numerous to mention”.

“I am grateful to the Almighty God for the journey of mercy he granted you and your team to my village. This community is really honored by your visit.

Permit me to thank Barrister Chima Williams and those working for him in ERA for properly linking me up with Friends of the Earth Netherlands – who make it possible for me as an individual to sue Shell SPDC in a world court. I have also taken this chance to thank all other organizations and individuals here not mentioned by group or name who supported this case, may the good Lord bless them and their different families. I will specifically thank my lawyer Channa for pulling the case the way it is.

It is my joy to let you know that our forefathers were in business with Shell SPDC for the past decades and yet Shell SPDC refused to respect the terms of their business agreement. I do not want to go into that now but I will have to let you people know that Shell SPDC came into Ikot Ada Udo community as far back as 1958. After the exploration they cork their well with the Xmas tree erected facility and left the community uncared for until 1997, when they started to release crude oil spilling into my farm land and fish ponds as well as causing fishes to die. I reported to SPDC and they did not listen to my letter. [1]

I decided to write a reminding letter to them again on the 14th December 1999 to remind them on the issue but they did not reply.

The gradual leaking of the Shell SPDC facility without repairs for a long time makes it more dangerous in 2004 to 2006 – which has caused a lot of damage to my 47 fish ponds. My farming business is paralyzed because of the oil spills from the SPDC facility.

I welcome all of you who come and see things by yourselves and to see me in particular as the one you sponsored to win in the case which I hope you will follow-up until compensation is paid, as the case may be.

I pray may the good Lord who brought you from your different destinations will take you back in Jesus name. Amen.”

[1] “Xmas tree” is the colloquial term for what in Ecuador are called “muñecos” (dolls), the metal structures and valves closing down (“corking”) an exploration well.

Earlier reports on this issue by ejolt:’s-deep-financial-links-to-human-rights-abusers-in-nigeria/’s-pensions-are-fuelled-by-shell’s-nigerian-nightmare/

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