Timeline: Half a century of oil spills in Nigeria’s Ogoniland the environment

In the oil-rich Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria, people have worried about the health and environmental effects of crude oil spills since oil was discovered in 1958.

With its center in Ogoniland, 261 communities spread over about 1,000 sq km (385 sq mi).

Between 1976 and 1991, 2,976 separate oil spills contaminated Ogoniland with two million barrels of oil as Nigeria became one of the world’s largest oil producers.

In 2020 and 2021, Nigeria’s National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) recorded a combined 822 oil spills. spread outA total of 28,003 barrels of oil spilled into the environment.

Those dependent on farming and fishing have felt a direct impact on their livelihoods, and residents have reported myriad health problems.

Life expectancy in the Niger Delta is 41 years, 10 years below the national average.

Niger Delta oil spill

Below is a timeline of oil spills and related activities in Ogoniland from 1958 to the present day.


Commercial quantities of oil were discovered in Ogoniland. Starts the shell operation.


Perhaps the first recorded oil spill in the community of Bubanabe was caused by a shell bomb oil well fire.


Ogoni leaders, including environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, formed the Movement for a Non-Partisan Organization of Ogoni People (MOSOP) to stop the exploitation of Ogoni by oil companies and the government.


Due to growing local and international protests, Shell suspended production in Ogoniland. It has not pumped oil from most of its wells since then, but its pipelines still run through Ogoniland, boiling oil.

January 4, 1993

About 300,000 Oguni people protested peacefully against shale and oil pollution. Later that year, Shell requested military assistance to build a pipeline through Ogoniland.

November 10, 1995

Despite international appeals for clemency, the Nigerian military government executed eight Ogoni human rights activists accused of killing Ken Saro-Wiwa and four Ogoni elders.

A man walks past an Amnesty International portrait of Nigerian writer Ken Saro Wiwa.
A man walks past an Amnesty International portrait of Nigerian writer Ken Sarowiwa in Edinburgh as Commonwealth heads of government begin their meeting on October 24, 1997. (Reuters)

April 26, 2001

There was an outbreak in the Yorla community that lasted until May 7, 2001. It starts a fire that consumes commercial food and medicinal crops.

February 2003

An explosion at Shell’s abandoned Yorla oil field caused another major oil spill.

April 2006

Ogoni people have complained of oil spillage from a damaged pipeline owned by Shell.

August 28, 2008

A fault in the Trans-Niger pipeline caused the first of two massive oil spills in the Bodo community. The leak lasted for at least four weeks. Shell says 1,640 barrels of oil were spilled, but experts estimate the leak to be about three times that – more like 4,000 barrels.

December 7, 2008

A second outbreak occurred among the Bodo community.

February 2009

Ten weeks after the second Bodo outbreak, between 19 and 21 February, NOSDRA, Shell and the Bodo community in Nigeria went on a joint investigative visit. Later, Shell said the spill was caused by equipment failure due to natural erosion.

April 12, 2009

Bomb manifolds ignited and spilled oil into the swamp. The manifold is a junction where multiple shale pipelines meet at Kegbara Dere in Ogoniland. The fire has been burning for 36 hours.

November 30, 2009

At the request of the Nigerian government, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) launched an assessment of the impact of oil pollution across the Ogoni region.

August 2011

UNEP publishes a report on the environmental impact of oil industry operations in Ogoniland, showing widespread contamination of soil and groundwater and recommending extensive cleanup of affected areas.

August 2011

After a class action suit in the UK, Shell accepted responsibility for the double rupture of the Bodo-Bonni Trans-Niger pipeline that led to two massive oil spills in Bodo. Trans-Niger carries 180,000 barrels of oil per day through the community.

7 May 2012

A spill occurred at Kegbara-Dere about 200 meters (650 ft) from the bomb manifold.

February 1, 2013

The Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology has met with Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) of Nigeria over environmental degradation in Ogoniland.

June, 2013

A shale pipeline exploded, spilling 6,000 barrels of crude oil into Bodo Creek and waterways. The Ogoni people vowed not to allow the resumption of oil exploration in the region until conditions are met to address the challenge of environmental pollution.

November 13, 2014

Published by Amnesty International, court documents show Shell repeatedly made false claims about the size and impact of two oil spills in Bodo in 2008.

November 3, 2015

Forty-five years after the Bomu oil spill, researchers found black soil and layers of oil on top of shale water, despite claims the site had been remediated twice in 1975 and 2012.

June 2, 2016

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo launched the Ogoni cleanup alongside United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed as well as the country’s Environment Minister.

March 25, 2017

Shell agreed to clean up Bodo, which suffered two spills in 2008.

July 26, 2017

The United Nations has pledged continued support for the implementation of the Oguni Cleanup.

July 3, 2018

MOSOP opposes SPDC’s application to renew its oil mining license in Ogoniland.

January 2019

Remediation sites in Elim, Tai, Khana and Gokana Local Government Areas of Ogny have been handed over to 21 contractors.

April 18, 2019

According to local newspaper The Sun, two people have died in two oil spills in the Kegbara-Dere community.

May 5, 2019

An investigation by local paper Premium Times alleged that unqualified firms were awarded the Ogoni clean-up contract.

October 25, 2021

Contractors tasked with cleaning up Bodo communities in Ogoniland said 2 million liters (440,000 gallons) of crude oil had been recovered from SPDC’s ongoing exercise in the area.

July 5, 2022

A parliamentary committee has summoned Environment Minister Mohammed Abdullahi and Hyprep management for failing to clean up Ogoniland despite the $1 billion payment for the project.

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