The Niger Delta is an environmental disaster zone after fifty years of oil exploitation. One and a half million tons of crude oil has been spilled into the creeks, farms and forests, the equivalent to 50 Exxon Valdez disasters, one per year. Natural gas contained in the crude oil is not being collected, but burnt off in gas flares, burning day and night for decades. The flaring produces as much greenhouse gases as 18 million cars and emits toxic and carcinogenic substances in the midst of densely populated areas. Corruption is rampant, the security situation is dire, people are dying. But the oil keeps flowing.
Poison Fire follows a team of local activists as they gather “video testimonies” from communities on the impact of oils spills and gas flaring. We see creeks full of crude oil, devastated mangrove forests, wellheads that has been leaking gas and oil for months. We meet people whose survival is acutely threatened by the loss of farmland, fishing and drinking water and the health hazards of gas flaring.
We also meet meet with Jonah Gbemre, who took Shell to court over the gas flaring in his village and won a surprise victory in the court.
Ifie Lott travels to the Netherlands to attend Shell's Annual General Meeting. She wants to ask a simple question: Is Shell going to obey the court order and stop flaring? There is a demonstration outside the meeting hall. Shell’s CEO shows up for the photo op and shakes her hand, and she meets the MD of Shell-Nigeria, Basil Omiyi. She asks him about the spills and the flaring. He patiently explains Shell’s policies and efforts for social development, but what he says is at odds with reality on the ground.
Back in the Delta, Ifie returns to the communties and shows the taped interview with Omiyo to the victims of the oil industry...
Shell ignored the federal high court ruling. The oil companies continue the illegal gas flaring. Shell has set its own “flares out” deadline to end of 2009. But they have kept saying “next year” for a decade, and in the Delta nobody believes them.
Meanwhile, the oil keeps flowing.