Niger Delta oil - Shell ignores horrendous pollution

| 4th August 2014
A Shell oil well-head in Ogoniland - situated in a wetland, and surrounded by spilt oil. Photo by Friends of the Earth International via Flickr.

A Shell oil well-head in Ogoniland - situated in a wetland, and surrounded by spilt oil. Photo by Friends of the Earth International via Flickr.

The systemic failure of the Nigerian government and oil giant Shell to clean up the horrendous oil pollution in the Niger Delta has been branded 'shameful' by a group of Nigerian and international NGOs.
The lack of meaningful action in the face of incontrovertible scientific evidence is outrageous.

A damning report exposes a shocking lack of action by Shell and the Nigerian Government to clean up the widespread pollution in Ogoniland, despite recommendations made by a major UN study three years ago today.

The report, 'Shell: no progress', by Friends of the Earth and other NGOs, follows up on the UN Environment Programme's scientific study on the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta in 2011, three years ago.

The UNEP study, Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland exposed extensive oil pollution, severe health risks for the population - including previously unacknowledged pollution of drinking water - and fundamental failures in Shell's processes for cleaning up oil spills.

It also described how sites that Shell claimed were cleaned up were found by UN experts to be still polluted. 

No meaningful action

But according to today's report, "the government of Nigeria and Shell have taken almost no meaningful action" to implement UNEP's recommendations. The little that has been done is to "establish processes that are ostensibly aimed at implementation."

"The failure to fully implement any of the non-emergency measures after three years has resulted in a loss of confidence amongst many stakeholders. Even the emergency measures have only been partially implemented."

Shell has also defended, and continues to use, methods for cleaning oil spills declared ineffective by the UN report, while manipulating information to avoid accountability for old and leaking pipes - pipes so old the company will not disclose their age or condition.

Godwin Ojo of Friends of the Earth Nigeria commented: "Three years on and the government and Shell have done little more than set up processes that look like action but are just fig leaves for business as usual.

"The lack of meaningful action in the face of incontrovertible scientific evidence is outrageous. The Nigerian government and Shell are quite simply getting away with environmental and human rights abuses in the Niger Delta."

'No apparent pressure' for a clean-up

The lack of urgency and political will shown by the Nigerian government in response to UNEP is "deeply troubling", the report states, while Shell,"under no apparent pressure from the government of Nigeria" has also failed to respond effectively.

Nor have Shell's home states, the UK and the Netherlands brought pressure to bear on the oil company - even though "Shell’s failures in Ogoniland have been substantially responsible for the region being one in which people have to live their whole lives in a polluted and dangerous environment."

Audrey Gaughran of Amnesty International said: "No matter how much evidence emerges of Shell's bad practice, Shell has so far escaped the necessity to clean up the damage it has caused.

"The UNEP report was clear: Shell did not clean up oil spills properly. Its clean-up system was critically flawed and the consequence has been long-term exposure of tens of thousands of people to pollution and health risks."

Where's the $1 billion clean-up fund?

The UN study also recommended, amongst other measures, the establishment of an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority and the establishment of an Environmental Restoration Fund with an initial capital of $1 billion. Neither of these has been established.

"Governments of Nigeria and the home countries of Shell, Netherlands and the UK, should make sure that Shell starts a proper clean up and compensates the damage", said Paul de Clerk of Friends of the Earth Europe.

"Three years after finding out that their operations have exposed almost every man, woman and child in Ogoniland - and almost certainly tens of thousands of people in others parts of the Niger Delta - to lifelong pollution, Shell is still more concerned with protecting itself."

In a joint statement, the NGOs behind the report said: "The Nigerian government, Shell, and its home governments - the UK and the Netherlands - have all benefitted from oil extraction in the Niger Delta and should now support a social and environmental rehabilitation process and the implementation in full of the UN study."



Petition: Shell must clean up its oil pollution in the Niger Delta.

The report: Shell: no progress is published today by Friends of Earth Europe, Amnesty International, Environmental Rights Action, Platform and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD).

The UNEP study: Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland.


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