A UN report on the effects of oil pollution in Nigeria’s Delta region urges the oil company Shell to totally overhaul their procedures for cleaning up spills in the region.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, unveiled in London today, says Shell’s current oil spill clean-up procedures in the Ogoniland area of the Niger Delta are inadequate, confirming what Amnesty International has repeatedly pointed out.
“The findings of the UN report add further weight to what Amnesty International and others have been saying for years regarding Shell in the Niger Delta”, said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Global Issues Director.
“That a UN team found that supposedly “clean” oil spill sites were in some cases indistinguishable from contaminated ones, is deeply shocking, but also symptomatic of Shell’s lack of consideration for the human impact of oil pollution. Shell must immediately follow through on the UN’s recommendations and carry out a thorough review of their clean-up procedures in the Delta,” she said.
When examining several recent spills, UNEP found there was always a delay between the time the spillage was observed and dealt with. In the worst situations, oil left on the ground posed an imminent safety risk and ongoing environmental hazard.
Many areas of the Niger Delta remain polluted because of failure by companies to clean up pollution and rehabilitate the soil and water.
Shell argues that the majority of its oil spills are caused by theft, vandalism or sabotage by militant groups, but this is widely disputed and there is no independent assessment of what may have caused spillages.
Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth have filed an official complaint against Shell over misleading statements the company has made about sabotage.
People in Ogoniland have been exposed to widespread and severe oil contamination for decades, according to the UN report, which also exposes the serious failure of the Nigerian government to regulate and control companies like Shell.
UNEP noted that Nigeria’s regulators are weak and that the national oil spill investigation agency is often totally reliant on the oil companies to do its work.
The report also found that there are other, relatively new but worrying sources of pollution in Ogoniland such as illegal refining but it is clear that Shell’s poor practice stretching back decades is a major factor in the contamination of the area.
Under Nigerian regulations oil companies must clean up all oil spills regardless of the cause of the spill. These regulations are not enforced, however.