Chris Steven, Abuja
Claims by the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) that it has cleaned up heavily polluted areas in the Niger Delta has been faulted by
Amnesty International and the Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) describing the claims as blatant lies.
In a report titled ” CLEAN IT UP: Shell’s False Claims About Oil Spill Response in the Niger Delta, Amnesty International, said claims by Shell that the it has cleaned up the four oil spill sites years ago were far from the truth.
Shell’s performance in the clean up ran contrary to the Nigerian law which states that , “the company that operates the pipeline or well from which the oil spilled is responsible to start the clean-up within 24 hours”. The law also stressed that “the company must also rehabilitate and restore the affected area as much as possible to its original state”.
The report which documents ongoing contamination at four oil spill sites was in commemoration of 20 years anniversary of the execution on November 10, 1995 of the environmental activist and writer, Ken Saro Wiwa who campaigned tirelessly against the damage caused by the oil industry in the Niger Delta.
According to the report, the nation’s regulatory agency on oil spill detection, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) was also ineffective in its duty as it continues to certify areas that were visibly polluted with crude oil as clean
Speaking at a press conference to present the Report in Abuja on Tuesday, Mark Dummett, Business and Human Rights researcher at Amnesty International said Shell is leaving thousands of women, men and children exposed to contaminated water, land and air for its adequate cleaning up of the pollution from its pipelines and wells.
While insisting that the oil giant must go back to those places and clean them up once and for all, Dummett maintained that Nigerian government must keep a watch on what Shell is doing and hold it accountable for it actions.
It would be recalled that UNEP report in 2011 exposed massive levels of pollution caused by oil spills from Shell pipelines in the Ogonilanf region of the Niger Delta.
UNEP also exposed how the damage done to the environment and people was exacerbated by the company’s failure to clean up spills properly. In response, Shell promised to clean up site identified by UNEP and improve its response to future spills.
His words: “What Amnesty International is calling for is for Shell to go back to those places, clean them once and for all. We are also calling on Nigerian government to keep a watch on what Shell is doing, to hold this company to account for what it says it does.
There’s NOSDRA which is the government regulatory agency and it is NOSDRA’s job to certify the clean up as conducted by Shell contractors and we have found out that a number of locations that NOSDRA certified as clean as places that are clearly contaminated.
For example in Okuluebu in Ogoni, this is being certified clean but I went there in August and I saw and smelt, the oil which is heavy in the air. Something has clearly gone wrong. Now, we are calling for NOSDRA to be provided with greater capacity, it needs more resources so that it can conduct independent research. But also, it needs to acquire greater people with much expertise so that they can call to account what is one of the most richest and powerful companies.”
He however said Amnesty International did not find any evidence of corruption in its research.
Speaking on why it has been difficult for Shell to comply with the clean up directive, he said ” I think we need to go back to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) which was in 2011 published what was far the most comprehensive, detailed account of what was wrong in the Niger Delta. It also detailed how oil pollution is having devastating impacts on the health and the life of the people living there. They are drinking poisoned water. Their children are swimming in contaminated streams”.
“UNEP gave Shell very clear recommendations of what needed to do to improve its clean up and that’s hasn’t happened. That’s why we have gone back to those places to find out what’s going wrong.
The fact is that Shell must live up to its responsibilities and follow the recommendations of UNEP to overhaul its approaches to clean up.” He added
Speaking also, Country Director, Amnesty International, Ambassador Mohammed Kaura Ibrahim said federal government should take a hard look at the operations of NOSDRA noting that the problems with the agency go beyond lack of funds or resources but that of credibility.
“Why I mentioned that? We have certification documents of sites that NOSDRA said have been cleaned up while actually they have not been cleaned up. If we are looking into the issues of corruption in this country, issues like that should be looked into,” he said
Making comments at the press conference, representative of the people of Ogoniland, Henry Koba lamented the devastating effects of the oil spills in the Niger Delta regio.
Koba who lives in Kegbere Dere area in Ogoni said Kegbere has 40 oil wells which according to him is the hub of the onshore activities of Shell Petroleum Development Company.
He said ” there is a massive environmental pollution in my area. My people are made to go through a life they never bargained for. They cannot fish or farm. The water is contaminated. The community is helpless”
The Amnesty Report however says Shell disagreed with its findings, just as the oil giant did not provide details or basis of its disagreement.