Nigeria: Special Report – Ogun Farmers Count Losses As Oil Spills From Vandalised Pipelines Destroy Farmlands

Many farmers in Ogun State have been forced to change occupations after oil spillage caused by vandalism of NNPC pipelines destroyed their farmlands

Samsom Odeyemi wistfully recalls when he was a successful farmer in his native community of Itajirin in the Ogere Remo area of Ogun State. Mr Odeyemi earned millions of naira annually from his 15-hectare farm where he produced rice, vegetable and pepper. All that was lost about six years ago, when petrol started seeping into the farm from a vandalised pipeline of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), now Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.

The contamination quickly destroyed the farm and Mr Odeyemi now ekes out a living by selling water in the community.

It was the same experience for Senanou Yaovi, whose seven-hectare maize and pepper farm was gutted by fire after oil spewed into it about five years ago, and Solaru Oluwole, a mother of five, whose farmland was also ravaged by wildfire in April 2018 after it was polluted by petrol.

In Itajirin, many others also abandoned farming after oil spills destroyed their farmlands. However, the experience is not peculiar to the Ogun State community.

Intractable problem

Between 2015 to 2022, Nigeria’s National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) recorded 4,440 combined oil spills. The spilt content (often crude oil but in some cases like in Ogun State, refined products like petrol) totalled 208,406.603 barrels. That is, about 1,257 tanker truckloads of petroleum products spewed into the environment. Many farmers, like the Messrs Odeyemi, Yaovi and Oluwole in Itajirin, have felt the direct impact of the oil spills on their livelihoods.

The Group Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, recently said the petroleum company loses about 200,000 barrels of oil to pipeline vandalism on a daily basis. Data also indicates that apart from the economic sabotage, commercial farmers bear the brunt of the criminality.

About 850 pipeline points were vandalised between 2015 to 2018, data from the NNPC Monthly Financial and Operations Report (MFOR) states. The monthly financial report also indicated that 1,161 pipeline points were vandalised across the country between January 2019 and September 2020.

Five pipeline axes between Port Harcourt, Mosimi-Ibadan, Gombe, Kaduna and Warri-River Niger were vandalised between January 2019 and September 2020. The Port Harcourt axis of the pipelines recorded the largest share of the damaged points with 538 points affected.

Closely following it is the Mosimi-Ibadan axis with 535 points damaged. 46 pipeline points were damaged in Gombe, 32 in Kaduna and 10 in Warri-River Niger.

Nnimo Bassey, the executive director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, said a few thousand barrels of oil can destroy about 20 hectares of land. Mr Bassey, whose foundation focuses on issues that affect the environment, stressed that if oil spills persist in an area, it may lead to food insecurity.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had projected that about 2.5 million people in Nigeria would face acute food insecurity during the June to August 2023 lean season. A quarterly report released by the global organisation shows that the figure projected is higher than the 19.45 million forecast in 2022.

The situation has been worsened by oil spills.

Mrs Oluwole told this reporter that the supply of cassava, yam and vegetables has declined in the Ogere area of Ogun State in the last five years.

“We do not have enough yam, vegetable and cassava in the market again because many people have abandoned farming as a result of the oil spill,” she said.

Oil spill

A pipeline of the NNPC runs across Wasan, Oke-pakala, Akonko, Shakara, Belefun and Obelu areas of Ogere Remo, Ogun State. These communities are largely dominated by farmers and fishermen but oil thieves frequently vandalise the pipelines to siphon petroleum products.

The oil spills have contaminated the environment, including rivers. The vegetation has turned pale and wild animals have fled the area.

Farmers are at the receiving end whenever oil thieves carry out operations on the NNPC pipelines.

How it happened

Mr Yaovi recalled how his seven-hectare farm of maize and pepper farm was burnt.

“I was at home when one of my boys, who went to the farm to monitor what we planted, came back home to tell me that the whole farm had been burnt,” he said.

“On the seven hectares, we planted maize and pepper, so you can imagine what we lost,” he added.

Unlike Mr Odeyemi who took to selling water after losing his farm, Mr Yaovi could not think of any other business than farming, so he moved to another community.

On the new farmland that he rented, Mr Yaovi cultivates rice, beans, maize and watermelon. But he has encountered another problem.

“All the things I planted there are not doing well because of pests.”

He appealed to the government agencies in the agricultural sector to assist him and other farmers whose businesses have been affected by the oil spills.


In July 2018, Olalekan Ayinla was at his fish farm, in Ogijo, Ilara area of Ogun State, when he heard an explosion from a nearby pipeline that had just been vandalised by oil thieves.

The pipeline that passes through Ilara is about a one-hour walk from Mr Ayinla’s fish farm but the contamination from the explosion killed all the fish.

“When I heard the explosion I hurriedly left the farm because I was not sure what had happened. The fire raged everywhere and my farm was not spared,” he said.


To check incessant pipeline vandalism, the Nigerian government has deployed different security outfits including the police and the civil defence (NSCDC). However, the crime still persists in many states such as Ogun.

Environmental advocates say to stop pipeline vandalism, the government must shift focus from oil production and transition to renewable energy.

Mr Bassey and Mayokun Iyaomolere, an environmental activist, also called on the government to compensate victims of oil spills.

On his part, Mr Iyaomolere said technology offers the best protection of pipelines from vandals.

“The best way to protect the pipelines I think is to have some technology innovations that will help to monitor these pipelines such that if any illegal activity is going on there will be live coverage or something that will transmit a signal to a headquarters where it can be quickly monitored and the local forces will be quickly directed,” he said.

This reporting was done with the support of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development.


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