Championing Call for Environmental Protection, Sustainability in the Niger Delta

Following Shell Nigeria’s decision to cease its onshore oil and gas operations in the country, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) and the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) are urging the company to take responsibility for the environmental damage it has caused in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria over the years before departing the country. Osho Oluwatosin reports

The Niger Delta, a region rich in natural resources and biodiversity, faces severe environmental challenges occasioned by decades of oil exploration and exploitation, which have led to devastating pollution, deforestation, and habitat destruction.

As far back as the 1990s, there have been disputes between the people of the Niger Delta region and Shell Nigeria on issues regarding oil spillage and environmental damage.

As a result of oil spillage into their rivers, a region that relied solely on the aquatic for livelihood couldn’t thrive any longer because their fish stopped breathing, human health started degenerating, businesses had to close down and decades later, the people of Niger Delta are still struggling for quality livelihood.

In 2006, a team of experts in environmental assessments from Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the United States were independently organised to conduct a Natural Resource Damage Assessment in the Niger Delta.

They concluded that over the past fifty years, around nine million to thirteen million barrels of oil had been estimated to have spilt in the Niger Delta. Shell is responsible for around fifty per cent of the oil production in the Niger Delta. Between 1998 and 2009, Shell oil was responsible for 491, 627 barrels of oil spilled, averaging about 41,000 barrels per year.

As of 2023, a new oil spill at a Shell facility in Nigeria was reported to have contaminated farmland and a river, upending livelihoods in fishing and farming communities in the Niger Delta, which has long endured environmental pollution caused by the oil industry.

This was confirmed by The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency. It was described as one of the worst in the last 16 years as it lasted for over a week, burst into Okulu River, which adjoins other rivers and ultimately emptied into the Atlantic Ocean affecting several communities and displacing more than 300 fishers.

In response, local communities, activists, and organisations are championing a call for environmental protection and sustainability in the region. This urgent appeal seeks to address the ecological damage, promote eco-friendly practices, and ensure a livable future for future generations.


It is on this premise that the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) and Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) jointly called on Shell to clean up the mess it has created in the Niger Delta region before exiting the country during a peaceful protest held recently at the company’s premises in Victoria Island, Lagos.

With chants of ‘Shell is Hell’ renting the air, CAPPA and HOMEF judiciously pointed out the disastrous state of human lives in the Niger Delta based on Shell’s operations in the region, highlighting the deteriorating health condition, contaminated substances being ingested despite the huge profit that would be declared at the company’s annual general meeting which was being held simultaneously in London as the protest was going on.

Addressing the media, CAPPA’s Policy and Research Analyst, Zikoria Ibeh described the decision of Shell Nigeria to sell the business to a consortium of five mostly local companies for $2.4 billion as irresponsible and lacking empathy.

“We are here today in front of Shell’s office in Lagos together with devastated communities from the Niger Delta to call out Shell as it begins its annual general meeting today.

“We are aware that they are in their cosy offices to discuss the profits they have made off the backs and mystery of the people in the Niger Delta and we are here to put a notice on them today to say their time is up but Shell cannot run away without cleaning up its mess in the country.

“Without cleaning up years of disaster, dangerous consequences that it has bestowed on the people of Niger Delta, we are saying today that Shell is about to diverse, sell its asset to a consortium which the company (shell) will loan money to buy its assets and we are saying that is a mischievous plot, a plot to continue to profit and indirectly own Nigerian assets while still destroying our people.

“We can no longer allow it, we are putting a notice today in front of their office in Lagos to say they cannot run away from their sins and to pay for their sins, we are calling on the Nigerian government to do what is right, act responsibly and stand on the side of people to demand that these companies; Chevron, Shell and all the big oil majors that have profited off the misery and backs of people in Niger Delta to pay up for their sins.

“We demand accountability today and we are going to continue to insist, this is an ongoing demand.”

In the same vein, CAPPA’s Programme Manager, Olamide Martins, expressed worries regarding the approach of the government towards the divestment plans of Shell Nigeria.

He explained that the government hasn’t done enough to cater for the frontline community and kicked against Shell’s plans to leave the country without proper consummate compensation.

According to him, “We are not unaware of the plans of Shell to divest and we are worried about how the government is approaching this matter. Divestment plans are underway and the government seems to be at loopholes and not deciding enough to cater for the needs of those in the frontline community.

“We are worried about the plan of government and the porosity of government policies that allow divestment of Shell without proper commensurate compensation for the frontline communities.

“We are here to express our grievances, to convey the plight of those who couldn’t be here by their expression being denied over and over again by government oppressiveness and their suppressive nature.

“We are here to reinstate the fact that Shell must pay damages that are commensurate with the plight of those frontline communities. The message here is before Shell leaves Nigeria, they must pay commensurate compensation.”

Conveying a joint statement signed by the Executive Directors of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi and HOMEF’s ED, and Rev Nnimmo Bassey respectively, a seven-point demand was made before Shell exits the country.

They demanded “an independent and comprehensive assessment of the environment of the entire Niger Delta. An open and comprehensive health audit of the people living in extractive communities across the Niger Delta; A cleanup, remediation, and restoration of all polluted and contaminated areas linked to Shell’s activities, and That Shell and Chevron be held accountable for the destruction of communities in the Niger Delta.

Other demands include, “That divestment and/or expansion plans follow due process of decommissioning. That the Nigerian Government’s environmental and climate change policies be weaned off unfounded corporate language, including false solutions such as Net Zero, and that communities are recognised as major stakeholders that must be afforded expression on matters that concern their safety and survival.”


Interestingly, over 13,000 residents from the Ogale and Bille communities in the Niger Delta region filed claims against Shell for devastating oil spills in 2023.

The group said the register confirms that 11,317 people and 17 institutions (including churches and schools) from Ogale are seeking compensation for loss of livelihoods and damage against the oil giant. These claims are in addition to the 2,335 Bille individual claims which were issued at the High Court in 2015.

Government’s action

Meanwhile, the federal government of Nigeria through the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) has proposed to expedite the exit of major oil companies like Shell and Exxon Mobil from the Niger Delta region, on the condition that they accept responsibility for oil spills and finance the cleanup efforts.

During a meeting in Abuja, the head of NUPRC, Gbenga Komolafe, presented a quicker approval process as a short-term option for the companies if they agree to address oil spills by cleaning up and providing compensation to affected communities.

Alternatively, “the second long-term option would require the companies to wait until the NUPRC identifies and assigns all liabilities, potentially postponing final approval until August.”

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