Infernal Oil Pipes of the Niger Delta

Perhaps the most horrendous crude oil pipeline incident of 2015 was an explosion that occurred on 9 July while repairs of a damaged pipeline were ongoing at Azuzuama, along Nigerian Agip Oil Company’s Tebidabe-Clough Creek route. The explosion and raging inferno occurred during a Joint Inspection Visit (JIV) embarked on to determine the cause of an ongoing oil spill there. The explosion and ensuing inferno claimed at least fourteen lives, including those of two government officials.  The tragedy was followed by contentious processes of identifying the victims and according them decent burial – a near impossible due to reported reticence of Agip and the fact that some of the victims were burnt to ashes.

In reaction to the Azuzuana tragedy, Iniruo Wills, the Commissioner for Environment in Bayelsa State said, “It is time to declare a State of Emergency on the Environment in the Bayelsa State in particular and the Niger Delta in general, in order to save the lives of our people and the future of our communities. For the people of Bayelsa State and especially the families of the victims and staff of the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment, July 2015 will go down as the July of death, on account of the needless deaths inflicted upon our beloved ones and colleagues by the Nigeria’s environmentally irresponsible oil and gas industry… We are grieving, but we must now also insist yet again that it is time to take decisive action to stop this perilous hazard that has become a routine threat to life and ecology in Bayelsa State and the Niger Delta.”

We recall that in 2000, a fire resulting from a faulty machine claimed the lives of eighteen youths that were assisting in repair works along the Agip’s Brass-Ogoda pipeline. On 29 July 2012 another fire erupted along the same company’s pipeline at Ayambele/Kalaba community. At this 2012 incident sixteen persons, including military personnel and community youths narrowly escaped death.

A sad tale

Haphazard treatment of oil spills has remained a worrisome trend in the oil fields of the Niger Delta. Forests and wetlands have been set on fire as oil companies and their contractors try to hide oil spills. In other instances, attempts have been made to cover up crude oil spills with imported soils or simply by turning the soil at the point of incident. These futile efforts have left horrific environmental scars across the oil field communities of the region.

Several oil spills have been reported by community field monitors. We will pick examples from the last six months.

A major spill occurred on Christmas Day at Agip’s Tebidaba Well 9 at Ikebiri. As the crude spewed into the fragile ecosystem the community was faced with the dilemma of either permitting the oil company to shut down the polluting well or to wait for a JIV before any shut down was permitted. However, shut down was effected to save the environment. The visit comprising officials from NOSDRA, Agip, security personnel, State Ministry of Environment and community representatives, was conducted on 27 December 2015 only to be declared as inconclusive, to the chagrin of the community. An earlier JIV following a spill that occurred at the same oil well in November 2014 was equally declared to be inconclusive and nothing has been heard of it ever since.

Erosion of confidence in regulatory agencies is extremely dangerous in a highly polluted environment such as the Niger Delta. It should be noted that the equipment used for tests during the JIVs are often provided by the oil companies involved.

Community monitors are rapidly losing confidence in regulatory agencies over their handling of oil spill incidents.

“How do they expect us to have confidence in them if they cannot say the simple truth of what they saw? They are all bad and criminal-minded folks who ought to be neutral but fail to be so. I will never trust the regulators again; whether from NOSDRA, DPR or Ministry of Environment,” fumed a community leader at Ikebiri. Erosion of confidence in regulatory agencies is extremely dangerous in a highly polluted environment such as the Niger Delta. It should be noted that the equipment used for tests during the JIVs are often provided by the oil companies involved.

Shell notched some spills within the period, notably the ones at Odau community on 2 June 2015 and at Adibawa Well 8 on 12 July 2015.  The spill at Odau, in Rivers State, spread to Oruma/Yibama community in Bayelsa State. The spilt crude went up in flames some months later, causing severe environmental damage in the Oruma/Yibama community. These incidents highlight the cross-border nature of environmental pollution and the consequences of environmental impunity.

A significant dimension was also highlighted by the multiple spills close to the Okordia Manifold at Ikarama community on 12 August 2015. Terror was unleashed on Ikarama community following that spill and some community members including the paramount ruler were arrested and detained. The arrests were peacefully protested by Ikarama women. Disagreement over surveillance contact arrangement between Shell and community youths was fingered in the incidents and resultant conflict.

Crude oil from ExxonMobil’s offshore facilities washed up on the shores of Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State in November 2015 with tales of woes for shoreline communities.

Another Agip spill was noticed by community monitors when they saw spreading crude in the creeks of Emago-Kugbo on 12 July 2015. The spill site was reportedly set ablaze on 25 July. A community farmer, Dumani Lucky, was burned and choked to death as he attempted to boat through the polluted area to his farm.

A monitor captured the situation this way, “The fire also burned the barge, tug boat and other equipment mobilized for the clamping by Agip or company contractor. In fact, the tug boat sank and is now only serving as an anchor to the barge. After they set the spill site ablaze the whole community environment was as dark as if there was no sun. People had to stay indoors to avoid the smoke. Visibility only improved from midday. Later that day we had a heavy rainfall and the entire community was flooded with dark water. We don’t know what to do because Agip has been treating us badly for so long a time.”

Oil SPill at Ibeno

Death, ecological destruction and inconclusive JIVs portend more harm to the Niger Delta environment. With the delay in proposed clean-up of the Ogoni environment, no seriousness to halt gas flaring and with the continued piling of more pollution, we have to construct a new ecological consciousness on the part of citizens. This consciousness must necessarily include tough resistance to so-called inconclusive JIVs – a not so clever way of blaming the victims and claiming that oil spills are caused by third party interferences rather than putrid pipelines and ill-maintained equipment. The new consciousness should include constant monitoring and reporting and insistence on urgent clean-ups and strict liability on the part of polluters.

I intended to share a Happy New Year greeting, but we are concerned about the survival of our environment and peoples. Nevertheless, have a watchful New Year!

—-

Last photo of Exxon spill at Ibeno by Peace Point Action. Others are photos of Agip incidents by Alagoa Morris

Between Subsidising Polluters and Thieves

The movement against subsidising the fossil fuel industry continues to grow and is an integral part of the keep it in the ground struggle. However, in places like Nigeria, contentious subsidies are those related to the importation of petroleum products. The debate is yet to fully focus on the cost of production and related malfeasances.

Keep it in the soil

The last mass national mobilisation in Nigeria happened in January 2012 when the pump price of petrol was raised from 65 Naira to 141 Naira per litre. The reasons given by the government then was that the increase in pump price of petroleum products was necessitated by a removal of subsidies.

The mobilisations lasted a full week and literally brought the government to its knees. The debates during and after the protests threw up many questions:

  • Why should Nigeria export crude oil only to import refined products?
  • Why are the refineries not functioning as they should despite heavy investments in their maintenance?
  • What is the value of the subsidies and would government need to subsidise if the products were refined in Nigeria?
  • Is there in fact any subsidy?
  • What volume of products is actually imported into Nigeria?
  • What quantity of petroleum products are consumed in Nigeria?

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Official responses to the questions were varied – depending on which official was speaking. The public believed there was an unbridgeable gap between the amount of money spent on subsidies and the volume of products actually imported. The questions still remain to be answered.

Eventually the pump price of petrol was brought to 97 Naira (then about $0.60) per litre. The price hike was moderated to 87 Naira per litre in January 2015 due to a downward slide in the price of crude oil.

It is obvious that crude oil is cheap because the true cost of crude oil is not being paid. The environment and the people continue to subsidise crude oil extraction, refining, transportation and consumption.

When President Buhari announced the 2016 national budget on 22 December 2015, he told the nation that the pump price of petrol would remain at N87 per litre in the new year. If there is already a negative subsidy due to the the drastically reduced price of crude oil it appears that right now the Nigerian people are the ones doing the subsidising. Put it another way, the people are being taxed for what they are not consuming.

Keeping the pump price of petrol price at N87 per litre and still paying subsidies in a situation when crude oil price hovers around $36 per barrel compared to about $90 at January 2012 and $47 by January 2015 is not easy to explain. To add to the consternation of many, an official of the NNPC recently stated that the pump price of petrol is higher than it ought to be and that there are many inefficiencies in the system.

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The Group General Manager, of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) told journalists in Abuja on 18 December 2015 that petroleum products were overpriced in Nigeria and that subsidies would not find a space in the 2016 budget. According to him, “Our review of the current PPPRA (Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency) template suggests that there are significant inefficiencies in the current template.”

Earlier in that week the Minister of State for Petroleum spoke of similar inefficiencies but announced that the Nigerian government plans to revert to the old pump price of N97 per litre for petrol in 2016. What are we to believe?

True Cost of Crude

It is obvious that crude oil is cheap because the true cost of crude oil is not being paid. The environment and the people continue to subsidise crude oil extraction, refining, transportation and consumption. This subsidy manifests in extreme pollution as land, sea and air, including as evidenced in the Niger Delta, the Amazonia, the Alberta oil sand fields and the fracking fields of the USA. The environment and the people have absorbed enough beating by the petroleum sector. Lives have been decimated and now the planet is being set on fire.

This mother-of-all-subsidies can only be halted by keeping the fossils in the ground. The challenge is for all humankind. Mother Earth deserves a Sabbath of rest to recover from the abuses that continue to be inflicted on her.

Elimination of subsidy does not necessarily mean an increase of pump price of petroleum products. It indeed essential to eliminate phantom subsidies, save the people from needless taxation, and apply the saved funds to the remediation of the dastardly polluted Niger Delta.

The Secure and the Dispossessed

This is a synopsis of the great book, THE SECURE AND THE DISPOSSESSED, from the TNI staple:

The Secure and dispossessed

What if government and corporate elites have given up on the idea of stopping climate change and prefer to try to manage its consequences?

The Secure and the Dispossessed shows how the military and corporations plan to maintain control in a world reshaped by climate change. With one eye on the scientific evidence and the other on their global assets, dystopian preparations by the powerful are already fuelling militarised security responses to the unfolding climate crisis.

The implications for social and environmental justice are disturbing. Adaptation to a climate-changed world is desperately needed, but it must protect the rights of all, not just provide security to the few. The authors unveil the dangerous new security agenda, and put forward inspiring alternatives that promise a just transition to a climate-changed world.

To order copies visit

Read an additional online copy of a chapter to the book contributed by us here: RESISTANCE TO THE MILITARY-CORPORATE WEDLOCK IN NIGERIA AND BEYOND

COP21 Agreed to A Climate Changed World

 

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COP21 has come and gone, and like most others before it, the response has been varied. Some have applauded the Paris Agreement as a giant step for humankind. Some are claiming a big win. Others take a holistic look at the future scenario the agreement presents and are aghast that after two decades of climate negotiations greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and the Paris Agreement does not indicate any urgency in tackling this fundamental problem even though it does indeed recognise the urgency of the crisis.

The Agreement speaks of a desirability to work towards a temperature increase of 1.5o C while aiming also at a target “well below 2o C.” We wonder how the COP quantifies the difference between 1.5 and “well below” 2 degrees. And which may be greater in this language of diplomats? The Agreement recognises everything that needs to be recognised, including the need for finance and technology transfer, human rights, gender and intergenerational equity, etc., but provides no scope for the operationalising these in a manner that signifies this acknowledgment. Although it is generally agreed that fossils must be kept in the ground if we are to stand a chance of keeping temperature increase below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the COP, perhaps encouraged by its oil company partners, ignored this and locked the planet on the path of peril.

The scaffold on which the entire COP21 hung was the infamous intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs).  While the COP Itself notes that the figures submitted by countries do not on the aggregate point a way to cooling the planet, it nevertheless stayed the cause of this clearly wrong path. The INDCs if implemented will lead to a temperature increase of over 3 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels wiping out communities of people and sparking unpredictable repercussions. The Agreement recognises that INDCs will also be achieved through removals of GHGs – through sinks and offsets, etc. Thus, the path of the INDCs taken by the COP is an irredeemable self-inflicted injury that subverts real efforts to tackle the climate menace.

In sum, COP21 betrayed the poor, the vulnerable and all those already suffering the impacts of climate change. It set the stage for a climate changed world, and did little about averting it.

Applauding the COP for being a success because for the first time all nations have indicated commitment to tackle climate change on the basis of the INDCs indicates a total disregard of the disregard of climate science and equity as epitomised by this pathway.

Head in the Oven, Feet in the refrigerator (or that Sinking Feeling)

We note that the Agreement speaks repeatedly of “sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases.” These are wedges to keep the door open for all sorts of carbon offset schemes including REDD and all its variants, yet-to-be-proven carbon capture and storage, geo-engineering and such like. We can thus expect intense externalising of climate action on climate victims as well as carbon colonialism – which may include what is referred to in the Agreement as “internationally transferred mitigation” (Article 6) rather than direct in-country carbon emissions reduction.

At the launching of a publication of the No REDD in Africa Network (NRAN) at the Climate Forum during the COP, Firoze Manji, the pan Africanist, described carbon offsetting as putting your feet in a refrigerator when your head is in the oven and hoping to achieve a median temperature for your body. Very apt indeed.

The agreement ties non-market climate solutions to the enhancement of “public and private sector participation in the implementation of nationally determined contributions.” This hints at the privatisation of carbon or pollution, which arguably is already happening through carbon trading.

Climate finance remains grossly insufficient with targets of $10 billion yearly up to 2025 (COP15 said 2020) when this would shift to $100 billion yearly. That these amounts are insufficient can be seen from the fact that the US spent about $68 billion to handle the aftermath of just one hurricane, Hurricane Sandy. Considering that rich countries spend up to $2 trillion annually in needless wars releases equally underscore that what we see are specious power play and climate apartheid. And, by the way, who accounts for the millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases released in warfare besides destruction of lives and wreaking of havoc on nations and territories, especially those that are fossil resources rich. It is clear that the paucity of the Green Climate Fund is not a lack of funds but a determination by rich countries to avoid historical and current climate debt.

 Transition?

The Agreement makes a passing mention of “just transition” with reference to “workforce” and the creation of decent work. Again we see that the COP is so enamoured with dirty energy or fossil driven energy forms that it could not dare name fossils or a call for just transition towards renewable energy. In fact, “renewable energy” is mentioned only once in the preamble to the Agreement and in the context of developing countries. From where did analysts get the idea that the Agreement has declared the obituary for fossil fuels? In case the COP is serious about ending dependence on fossil fuels and thus taking real climate action, the conference can take a cue from Oilwatch’s proposal for the creation of Annex 0 group of nations, sub-nations and territories that are taking steps, or have taken them already, to keep fossil fuels under the ground.

With 2020 as the pivot year for the voluntary emissions reduction, it is clear that between now and then the remaining atmospheric carbon budget may already have been taken up. Whether that happens or not, delayed actions until 2020 presents the planet and all beings on it a very dire future that many will not survive. That also breeches the right of Mother Earth to exist, her right to maintain her cycles and speaks poorly of our understanding of intergenerational equity.

In sum, COP21 betrayed the poor, the vulnerable and all those already suffering the impacts of climate change. It set the stage for a climate changed world, and did little about averting it.

 

 

 

 

 

Social movements united in defiance of false solutions being negotiated at Paris COP

Social movements united in defiance of false solutions being negotiated at Paris COP

10th December, Paris: Representatives of social movements, grassroots and community groups, and environmental campaigning organisations, between them representing millions of people across the globe, have come together today to denounce the failure of the climate negotiations in Paris. At a press conference at the Le Bourget conference centre this afternoon, they spoke out against the false solutions that look set to be enshrined in the agreement, and called on movements worldwide to continue to build their own, just alternatives to the political and economic systems that have caused the climate crisis.

Pablo Solon, former chief climate negotiator for Bolivia and current Executive Director of the Fundacion Solon, said: “The Paris agreement will force us to choose who of our children will survive, because in a +3C world, not all will be able to live.”

Eberto Diaz, speaking on behalf of La Via Campesina in Colombia said: “False solutions only serve to increase hunger and impoverishment in the countryside and in the cities. Agroecology and food sovereignty contribute to the cooling of the planet. We are in constant struggle to change the system, and not the climate.”

Silvia Ribeiro from the ETC Group in Mexico said: “It’s a perverse paradox that US and Europe, whose governments, energy and agribusiness companies are the main historical culprits of climate change, now present themselves championing a 1.5 degrees goal. That goal is needed, but without false solutions such as carbon markets and geoengineering. The dirty secret is that they speak of “net zero emissions”, not real emissions cuts, and try to justify dangerous oil-industry technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and bioenergy with CCS (BECCS).”

Shalmali Guttal, speaking on behalf of Focus on the Global South, said: “An illusion of progress is being peddled here in Paris – of rich and poor countries coming together to save the planet from burning. Of course we want progress, of course we support the goal of 1.5 degrees, but we cannot fall into this trap. The so called high ambition proposed by the US-EU is ambition for corporations, not for addressing the root causes of the climate crisis. Many of us from the South are working with grassroots movements and communities to challenge extractive, destructive development and over consumption of the rich in our own societies.”

Nnimmo Bassey, Oilwatch International, said: “By not addressing the need to keep fossil fuels under the ground, the COP continues to adopt the ostrich posture with its head in the sand. It has been co-opted by polluting corporations and is complicit in global warming. This is no time for ‘intended’ voluntary emissions cut, it is time for drastic and binding emissions reduction as well as payment of historical and current climate debt.”

Colin Rajah, International Coordinator of the Global Coalition on Migration said: “More and more of our communities are being displaced by the devastating consequences of the current global economic system and its resulting climate change. And the false solutions and lack of political will by the governments at this COP again offer little hope of relief, but instead raise more fear that these will contribute to even more displacement and a worsening global refugee crisis. Forced migration is NEVER an adaptation strategy.”

Simone Lovera, Executive Director of the Global Forest Coalition, said: “The land use related elements of the current draft of the Paris agreement open the door to a carbon fraud that is so significant that it will make the entire climate regime meaningless. On top of this, they also risk creating major incentives for massive monoculture tree plantations that will wipe out biodiversity, peasant lands, and indigenous peoples territories.”

Maxime Combes, spokesperson for ATTAC France said: “The new draft agreement has dropped any reference to reduction of GHG emissions from international aviation and martime bunker fuels and any requirement for developed contry to provide financial ressources to address barriers created by intellectual property rights (IPRs), showing how economic globalization is a priority on the climate emergency : this is not coming as a surprise since the UN convention on climage change prohitbits states from taking any action that wouldn’t be consistent with international trade rules.”
Cindy Wiesner, National Coordinator of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, said: “Members of our delegation include a young person from Alaska whose community will be evacuated in the next ten years because of sea level rise. They are mothers and children living alongside fracking wells, coal mines, and oil refineries. We don’t have the luxury of pretending that pollution trading works when we know that it is a hoax. The climate movement as a whole is growing in alignment that our survival requires the kind of leadership and strategies that come from the grassroots.”
The organisations speaking today are part of the Climate Space, [1] a network of groups calling for radical action on climate change, and promoting systemic alternatives to the current climate crisis.

Notes:

[1] http://www.climatespace.net/

Media contact:

Mary Louise Malig, Global Forest Coalition Campaigns Coordinator
+33780734739
marylouisemalig@globalforestcoalition.org

Maxime Combes, ATTAC France
+33624512944
maxime.combes@gmail.com

Sharing Gives Meaning to Creation

Knowledge generation is one thing, sharing it is another. It does not matter how much knowledge is generated and how brilliant they may be, if no one shares such knowledge it may not make any difference if they were never generated.

Health of Mother Earth’s quarterly journal is a great space for knowledge creation and sharing. The coverage is not only broad, the depth is often profound. Take issue number 09 of September 2015, for example.  It lines up two provocative articles on the Conference of Parties (COP21) on climate change by Mary Louise Malig of the Global Forest Coalition and John Foran. It also brings the remarkable story of the little known of struggle against fracking in In Salah, Algeria written by Holcin Maiti. Then there is the interview with Firoze Manji that tackles the concept of degrowth from a Southern perspective.

The coverage is not only broad, the depth is often profound.CVO8GIcW4AEc6XT

Photo: Natalia Greene and Shannon Biggs see something of interest in Eco-Instigator 09

The cover focus, Martyrs of Extractivism parades key reports of Ken Saro-Wiwa as well as the hearth rending article by Esther Kioble on her husband, Barinem Kiobel who was murdered alongside Ken Saro-Wiwa and other seven Ogoni leaders on 10 November 1995.

From the global to the local, everything is interconnected. This came to the fore with the reports and articles on Vandana Shiva’s campaign visit to Nigeria in July 2015. During the tour Shiva spoke on the theme Soil, Not Oil at the second Right Livelihood Lecture at the University of port Harcourt as well as at community gatherings in Ogoni and Egiland in the Niger Delta.

Grab a copy of Eco-instigator at http://www.home.org and let us know if you agree that knowledge is of little value if it is not shared.