The Heir




−This is my land, Eric Dooh states. His face shows no signs of the pride you could expect from a man who inherited a fish farm, a bakery, a school and acres of farmland from his father. We are in the village of Goi in southern Nigeria, one of the villages that have paid the highest price for the country’s oil drilling. In 2004 a massive oil-leakage upstream from Goi forced the villagers to move out.

−Everything was contaminated. The water we used to drink, the river we used to fish in, the soil where we grew our crops – everything was damaged. I heard talks of 10.000 barrels of oil leaking out in only one week; Eric says and looks at the river where the pollution still is visible in the rainbow-colored layer of oil that floats on top of the water. The smell adds to the misery. Crude oil – the blessing of the elite, and the curse of the masses in Nigeria.

−People started to move only a week after the leakage. Now the village is deserted. We are refugees. Every time I see this environment my heart bleeds, Eric says, looking down in what used to be a vivid pond in his father’s fish farm. Now only black mud and green slimy algae is left where fish used to jump.

Eric needs no time to think when we ask him who is to blame for his misery.

−Royal Dutch Shell are to blame.

The oil giant Shell admitted responsibility for the disaster, but according to Eric and other community members Shell underplayed the scale of the spill.

−After the spill in 2004 Shell hired a company to come in and clean up. They came, dug out contaminated mud from the ponds and left it on the river bank. Naturally the oil spill found its way back into the river. The contractor in charge of the cleaning gave me two bags of Omo washing detergent – telling me to sprinkle it in the water if new signs of oil spill would occur.
Eric tells us that some 500 people were forced to move in 2004. Now they are living in nearby villages trying to survive. It’s hard as most of the people who moved got their income either from fishing in the river or farming the land where nothing can survive any more.

Still people come to the river to bath, and Eric is convinced the chemicals both in the water and in the air are the reasons for all the asthma, all the skin problems and a lot of the other health problems his fellow villagers are suffering from.

−My father fought Shell until he died last year. He wanted justice. He wanted the company that was to blame for his problems to pay him a compensation for his loss. It was an oil-related lung condition that killed him, but I think the hopeless struggle against the oil giant is what he really died of. Now I am the one who has inherited his land – and his struggle. I will fight for justice for as long as I live. I will never accept that someone who makes billions upon billions of dollars in Nigeria will get away with this, Eric says.

23 Responses to “The Heir”

  1. […] For the full story and more pictures, go to our blog Untold Stories. […]

  2. Heart wrenching. In so many cases, money and power are not responsible entities. They do horrible things to the environment and people, especially in areas where they think they can get away with it. Thank you for sharing this story. We all need to be reminded that this is reality and not some folk-lore story that doesn’t impact people and our earth.

  3. A terribly story, well documented Øystein and Otto!

  4. I did not know of this ecological damage.
    it hurts a lot to think that a giant like Shell
    can ignore so much pain.
    I thought that humanity would be better.
    Instead there is so much indifference and pay are always the weakest.
    but they are decent people who have much to teach all of these powerful men.
    I regret immensely.
    your photographs bear witness to the catastrophe.
    A report which I hope it does not fall into silence.

  5. Shame on you Shell! Thank you so much for sharing this!

  6. Such a horrible travesty; and that Shell is so irresponsible, even more so, when they could, and should, be helping in clean up.

  7. Thank you for your post about Goi. Eric’s story is a painful one. As much as I would like to believe that mankind can rise above its self-interest, I simply can’t. But thank God for the few courageous men and women who try to right wrongs and help others.

  8. What a sad and troubling story. The photos are excellent punctuation to a compelling story. Thank you for telling it. It is not a story I have previously heard told.

  9. Thanks for making me aware of this story.

  10. A haunting story. Thanks for spreading the word. This is something we all need to be aware of, to consider as we march about our merry way, using resources that cost so much more than we pay for them.

  11. This is heartbreaking. It seems all these big oil companies are beyond reproach while the people of the land lose everything. It breaks my heart.

  12. What a travesty! Thank you for shinning a light on this issue.

  13. This is truly so sad, Otto.
    I thank you both for sharing this here.

  14. It’s hard to push the like button on these stories. I’m glad you are giving us the ‘news’

  15. money talks! We could write to the companies and boycott them until they do clean-up and land reclamation.Thanks for posting.They are stories out there about people in small communities who have fought against big corporations and WON!

  16. So glad someone is sharing this story. Not many people are telling it, or can tell it. Please continue to share.. Too many lives affected by a few people’s greed.

  17. A tremendous series on Shell and the hardship that the local population has and is currently facing…you have brought them a valuable voice.

  18. […] you remember Eric Dooh in our first post The Heir from Nigeria? He had inherited a fish farm, a bakery, a school and acres of farmland from his […]

  19. again, another sad story and in the end, we all pay for this. directly or indirectly…thank you

  20. The images and text tell a very sad story — and one that in varying forms is being repeated round the world. I do hope that Eric and all of his people finally get some justice, although as things go, it will be too little, too late, I suppose.

  21. Thanks for this blog – Its yet another disgrace that makes my blood boil and my heart go out to the people who the multinationals don’t care about. Please keep posting

  22. Great piece of journalism. My favourite articles are always the untold stories of people from around the world.

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