Goldman Environmental Prize winner has taken on Shell for oil spills in Nigeria : Goats and Soda This year, Chima Williams of Nigeria was a winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize for his activism, targeting Shell for an oil spill in his homeland. Here's how the case went.

He started protesting about his middle school principal. Now he's taking on Big Oil

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As Europe readies itself for a winter without Russian gas, the continent is turning to new supplies from Nigeria. But while some Nigerians are excited about the push for new gas, others are more wary. Julia Simon has more.

JULIA SIMON, BYLINE: In Bodo, Nigeria, where oil pipelines crisscross through mangroves and creeks, fisherman Behbari Nyiedah shows me a Shell Nigeria pipeline, he says, keeps breaking. I was watching live through WhatsApp video from the U.S.

BEHBARI NYIEDAH: Here is the spill point. You can see the crude oil everywhere on our land.

SIMON: Amidst cassava plans half covered in mud and oil, we saw it. It looks like an overflowing water fountain, but with oil.

NYIEDAH: Can you hear the sound? That is the sound of the crude oil.

SIMON: A joint investigation by Shell Nigeria, and the Nigerian government confirmed there was an oil spill in Bodo less than a month before NPR saw the area on WhatsApp. It found the spill was due to equipment failure, and Shell Nigeria plans to clean it up by the end of the year. Nyiedah says all this oil pollution continues to affect his community's health and their main livelihood, fishing.

NYIEDAH: Now there is no sea oyster. All has gone. No prawn. No crab. All our seafhood has gone. We cannot find them again.

SIMON: For decades, energy companies have drilled for oil in communities like this. Now these same energy companies are focusing a lot more on gas.

YUSUF TUGGAR: People forget that Nigeria is a gas zone with a bit of oil in it, not the other way around.

SIMON: Yusuf Tuggar is the Nigerian ambassador to Germany. Nigeria has the largest proven gas reserves in Africa, and he says, given the Ukraine war, Nigeria is upping liquefied natural gas imports to Europe.

TUGGAR: It's only natural that we cater to Europe's need for gas, particularly at this point in time.

SIMON: Yet amidst a push for new gas infrastructure, including a multibillion-dollar expansion of a liquefied natural gas terminal and a planned overlying gas pipeline to Morocco, lawyer Chima Williams is concerned about the industry's track record.

CHIMA WILLIAMS: If they want to continue to do business in Nigeria, let them clean up first the mess they've created.

SIMON: Last year, Williams won a legal victory when a Dutch court ruled Shell Nigeria had to pay compensation for two Nigerian oil spills. But Williams is increasingly worried about the harnessing and transporting of new gas. While Nigerian gas proponents say it's a lot easier to break into oil pipelines than gas, break-ins happen. Leye Falade, general manager of NLNG, Nigeria's main gas export company, said in a recent webinar they normally have one or two break-ins a year. And last year...


LEYE FALADE: We witnessed about 14 incidents, 14 times that we have to shut down the pipeline and fix it because people went into that pipeline.

SIMON: Gas leaks and flaring release methane, a powerful planet-heating gas. Nigeria is already experiencing the effects of global warming. In recent months, the country has faced its worst flooding in a decade, with more than 600 people dead and more than a million displaced. Back in Bodo, I reached fisherman Nyiedah on the phone. He says he's worried about gas pollution on the local and global level, and he's watching his country's expansion into gas warily.

NYIEDAH: They want to export gas. The world should put an eye on them...

SIMON: The world should put an eye on them, he says. If not, they leave the whole world in danger.

NYIEDAH: If not, at the end of the day, they leave the whole world in danger.

SIMON: For NPR News, I'm Julia Simon.

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