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‘Our lives will never be the same’, say Niger Delta communities devastated by Shell gas flares

Alice, a 59-year-old grandmother from Iwirikan shows the physical impacts of Shell's destructive activities

“Gas flares have destroyed everything we have in this community, the flares are an oppression,” says Alice Goldsmith, a community leader in the Niger Delta in Nigeria, in a new film by ActionAid. 

Alice is one of the many people affected by Shell’s gas flares and oil leaks in the Iwirikan Community. Her story, together with those of others, is shared in a video by ActionAid titled ‘(S)Hell’ which is set to premiere on 23rd November at Bon Hotel Transtell Residence, Asaba, Delta state. 

The film shows a community left to pick up the pieces after Shell’s activities ravaged the Erhoboro community, a land once known for its vibrant okro (a local vegetable). Their cry seems to fall on deaf ears. From health problems and destroyed livelihoods to environmental pollution, families have shown incredible resilience in the face of injustice.  

The oil spillages have caused massive destruction in their wake. With rivers polluted, families have been robbed of their main source of livelihood – fishing. The water is no longer safe to drink or able to support farming.  

"We used to drink the river water safely. If we drink it now, we get diarrhea and it makes the children ill. We still have to drink this polluted water – we have no choice,” says James Emuobor Amos, a fisherman. He adds that desperate families have now turned to logging to make a living, destroying forests. 

Oil giant Shell, which has been exploring this resource for years, has over 27 wells in the community.  


ActionAid Nigeria’s Country Director Andrew Mamedu says: 

“As the world, especially communities in the Global South, grapples with the effects of global heating, activities like gas flaring are no longer tenable. Fossil fuel exploration is the main cause of the climate crisis. If we’re to stay below the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark as stated in the Paris Agreement, we must ban the exploration and use of fossil fuels. The narrative that gas is a clean fuel and can be used for transition to renewables is being driven by greedy corporates which are only after profits. People’s lives must come first.” 

According to ActionAid’s 2023 report, “How the Finance Flows: The Banks Fuelling the Climate Crisis”, banks have been funding fossil fuel to the tune of $3.2 trillion since the Paris Agreement. Shell’s operations in the Global South have received an estimated US$37.6 billion in financing since 2016. The major banks behind this financing are headed by BNP Paribas (US$3.9 billion), Barclays (US$3.8 billion), Morgan Stanley (US$3.8 billion), JPMorgan Chase (US$3.1 billion), and HSBC (US$2.8 billion). 

“It’s also time to shut down the money pipeline. Banks must stop funding fossil fuel exploration and instead invest in renewable energy. Investing in renewables not only keeps our planet safe but also creates jobs. Renewable energy has been found to create two to five times more jobs than fossil fuels. Ironically, countries like Nigeria which are known oil producers have very low energy access. Renewables would improve this energy access for everyone,” adds Andrew Mamedu. 

Niranjali Amerasinghe, Executive Director, ActionAid USA, says: 

“The time to correct historical injustices against communities in the Global South is now and commercial banks have a critical role to play. Banks, like Citi, usually share ‘green credentials’ during moments like the upcoming COP, but ActionAid’s new report this year shows that this is simply greenwashing. In reality, banks are funneling billions to harmful projects like fossil fuel infrastructure and corporate industrial agriculture. These harmful investments must stop.”