An explosion at an abandoned oil well belonging to oil transnational giant Shell, has created a major oil spill in the Ogoni ethnic minority area of Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta, local rights activists said on Thursday.
The activists of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) said the spill was heralded by an explosion on Tuesday night in Shell's abandoned Yorla oil field.
Residents of nearby Kpaen community who got to the site at dawn, said they found a ruptured wellhead spraying a combination of crude oil, gas and water, polluting adjoining farmlands and creeks.
"It is a major spill and our immediate concern is how to contain the situation," Ledum Mitee, MOSOP president, told IRIN.
Shell officials confirmed the incident but said the broken wellhead was capped by its engineers late on Wednesday. Arrangements were now being made to clean up the spill and remedy the environment, the company said in a statement.
Shell pulled out of the Ogoni area in 1993 in the face of local hostility in the wake of a campaign waged by MOSOP accusing the company of environmental pollution and human rights violations in collusion with Nigeria's then military rulers.
MOSOP founder, Ken Saro-Wiwa, a writer and environmentalist, was hanged with eight other Ogoni activists in 1995 on the orders of late military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha. The execution was followed what was widely considered a flawed trial on murder charges, and the international outrage it elicited
put the Ogoni cause on the world map.
Shell said in its statement it was seeking negotiations with Ogoni leaders to enable it return to the area to service and secure their long-abandoned facilities. A similar oil spill in 2001 left large tracts of land, streams and creeks polluted.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions