There is a threat to sustainable development in the Niger Delta. The environmental crisis of air pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change have become significant challenges for people and communities.

This is the reason Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre use the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day to provide update on key environmental injustice cases in Rivers state. This is necessary to prevent misinformation and disinformation by people who do not understand the issues. It is important to note that the information ecosystem is crucial.  

The theme of the 2024 World Press Freedom Day is “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of Environmental Crisis”and it is dedicated to the importance of journalism and freedom of expression in the context of the current global environmental crisis. In view of this, Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre, with her allied organizations present the environmental pollution issues in Ibaa and Obelle communities in Emohua local government area and Aminigboko community in Abua/Odual local government area. In 2016, people in Chukwure family compound discovered that their hand dug well was filled with crude oil instead of water that it was producing until that fateful period. The case was reported to the Shell the corporation carrying out activities in the locality. The family has been worried and concerned over their fate living such level of pollution. Part of the response by Shell to advocacy efforts to get justice for the family is Shell sealing off the affected well. A visit to the site on May 2nd 2024 showed that some family still live with the pollution. The family wants to be relocated to somewhere safe and secured and compensation paid for damages so far suffered by family members.

Obelle community of Emuoha Local Government Area, Rivers State, is one of the sites where Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) carries out its oil extraction activities. In 1998 the well-4 head operated by Shell erupted with gas fire, burning over thirty hectares expands of land, in the community for about 3months. And after burning for some weeks, SPDC added some chemicals to control it. The chemicals were washed into the community’s aquifer, resulting to impacts on the people’s health and their source of livelihood. The only solution proffered by SPDC was to acquire these lands without alternative provision for farming. There was no compensation made to the community and the people have suffered untold hardship as a result of the insufficient land to carry out their farming activities and women are the worst hit in terms of displacement.

Cases of environmental pollution are also reported in Aminigboko community, where environmental impact assessment is also under contention by community members. The issues have been reported to the Dutch National Contact Point, who intervened and made recommendations. The company has outrightly refused to address the issues since 10th February 2023 when the recommendation was made.  

Kebetkache in 2022 had conducted an environmental and socio-economic assessment in Ibaa community, and the key findings from the field revealed a widespread crude oil contamination in the seven groundwater and four soil samples covering a radius of about 6KM. based on the risk associated with undue exposure to crude oil contamination, the assessment recommended as an emergency measure that the impacted families and others within 1500m across the pipeline right of way be relocated to safe locations within the community, provision of safe drinking water for the community and the rectification of the cause of the leakage in addition to other long term remedies. 

Kebetkache is therefore using this medium to call on the government, global community, SPDC, regulatory agencies and relevant stakeholders to take urgent action to address these issues.