Extractivism is deeply  linked to ecological damage and negation of human rights

Ecological damage because it disrupts ecosystems, from the simple case of conversion of land use to the fragmentation of biodiversity and destruction of habitats. The following Human rights are directly negated: Right to water. Right to food. Right to dignity and the overall right to a safe environment (Art 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights). Forced displacements and loss of housing as well as cultural and spiritual freedoms.

We are contending with both human rights abuses, and the rights of Mother Earth. Mother Earth has a right to be free from disruption of her natural cycles. Pollution of water bodies (streams, rivers, lakes, ocean) affects diverse species and has led to extensive extinctions and disrupts the cycles of nature. In the climate change negotiations there are contentious debates over reparations for Loss and Damage for remediation and restoration of extensive environmental and infrastructure harms. Some of these harms are extensive and may be irreparable and constitute ecocide.

Oil and gas

International Oil Companies (OICs)have been divesting and selling their onshore and near offshore assets to Domestic Oil Companies (DOCs) since the Local Cintent Act of 2010. By selling or divesting they seek to avoid;

  1. Decommissioning and removing unused or derelict infrastructure 
  2. Upgrading of poorly maintained facilities
  3. Liability for decades of environmental , socio-economic and human rights violations. We note that both Nigerian and international law hold that, regardless of any subsequent transfer of assets, liability remains the responsibility of those causing the injury. They could equally be held liable for damage that occur post-divestment if such arise from integrity issues that was not disclosed. 
  4. Clean up and restoration of the environment. 

The heavy dependence of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) on IOCs and oil revenue has inexorably entrenched the non-transparent, corrupt, and strategically dysfunctional petroleum sector. This is the core enabler of the sort of reckless corporate behaviour that pervades the sector and by extension the nation. This misbehaviour has rendered  the relevant regulatory agencies either impotent or complicit in the malaise. 

Environmental Timebombs 

There are wellheads, manifolds, flow stations, and pipelines that ought to be decommissioned and removed from communities across the Niger Delta by the IOCs and the NNPC. Nigerian law and regulation requires proper Decommissioning, Abandonment and removal of all unused oil facilities to best international standards, these requirements are often ignored. This happens also in the solid minerals sector as evidenced by the abandoned tin mines of Jos and the coal mines of Enugu. Across the world, there are an estimated 29 million abandoned oil & gas wells, that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to properly secure. 

These derelict facilities constitute threats to ecosystem impacts, groundwater contamination and human health. They are time bombs that have already started to explode. Examples include the blow out in November 2021 of Aiteo’s Nembe/Santa Barbara Well-1 in the Santa Barbara River in OML 29 (Bayelsa State). The Santa Barbara blow out raged for 39 days, and official/industry estimate was that less than 5,000 barrels was spilled. Independent experts estimated that over 500,000 barrels  of hydrocarbon fluids, gas and oil were spilled in the monumental incident.  Numerous well head leaks are recorded across the region. Another notorious incident that occurred in recent times is that of the aged Trinity Spirit FSPO  that exploded and sank in February 2022. 

The Ignore Fire

Ororo-1 is a well located off the Awoye coast, OndonState, in shallow water Oil Mining Lease (OML) 95. 

The Ororo-1 well has a long and checkered history. This oil well was first drilled by Chevron oil company but was shut off in the 1980s with a steel plug due to pressure issues, according to reports. The well was awarded as a marginal field to Guarantee Petroleum and its partner Owena Oil & Gas Ltd (an Ondo State company) in 2003 but the award was allegedly revoked in 2019 because the company had not developed and brought the field to full production before expiration of an extension period that elapsed in April 2019. Owena Oil & Gas Ltd filled a lawsuit against the DPR over the revocation.

Interestingly, the well was re-entered  by the new “owners” in 2020 and the horrific blowout occurred on 15 May 2020. Note that the well was re-entered decades after it had been plugged by Chevron. The Nigerian government effectively took ownership of (controlling) the fire since it had revoked the rights of Guarantee Petroleum to the field by the time of the disaster.

Experts suspect that the blow out occurred due to a sudden rush of hydrocarbons under high pressure and the failure of both the Blow Out  Preventer (BOP) for the main well bore and the BOP between the pipe and the skin of the well. The blowout which occurred on the Hydraulic Work over rig (Grace-1 HWU) hired by Gaurantee Petroleum has been accompanied by oil spill and a constant inferno since the blow out.

It is clear that the abuse of our environments for economic gains through extractivism translates to trampling on our rights to dignity, to safe food, to potable water and to life. What shall it profit a government or even the people if you own all the petrodollars in the world, all the gold in the vaults, all the coal in the shafts and all the crude oil in the pipes, and yet you cannot breathe?

We demand our right to life. This is why the Ororo-1 well fire must be extinguished. Now!  This is why our environment must be detoxified. Now!

Presentation at HOMEF’s Ororo-1 Documentary Screening & Policy Dialogue on 27 November 2023