Four years after investigation by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) documented the contamination and Shell’s seeming enthusiasm to clean up the contaminated Niger Delta, it’s been all motions without movement.
A 38-page report by Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) described as “blatantly false” submission by both the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and SPDC when they claimed that cleaning up spills has been done in the Niger Delta area. The truth, the non-governmental organisations said is that spillages are a daily occurrence and continue to destroy the livelihoods of thousands of Nigerians.
The report detailed other illegalities and falsehood peddled by SPDC in the Niger Delta and accused NOSDRA of ineptitude, corruption, or deliberate complacence. If the oil fields “remain visibly contaminated,” where Shell says cleanup was completed, then we must consider it an act of grievous sabotage by both SPDC and NOSDRA. NOSDRA, a supposed federal government watchdog on regulations of environmental remediation in the area, has demonstrated gross incompetence or collusion with the oil giant by certifying as clean, areas that are visibly polluted and this is both criminal and pathetic.
According to the oil giant’s own figures, there have been 1,693 oil spills amounting to more than 350,000 barrels of crude oil since 2007. SPDC also admitted to more than 550 oil spills in the Niger Delta last year alone. By contrast, on average, there were only 10 spills a year across the whole of Europe between 1971 and 2011. To allow SPDC carry on without appropriate sanctions amounts to negligent of fundamental human rights of the Niger Delta people. If this cannot happen in Europe, it shouldn’t be permitted here either. Environmentalists call our Niger Delta ‘global capital’ of oil pollution. It is a gratuitous insult for SPDC to claim to be “working with several additional remediation options recommended by independent experts to ensure that the most appropriate techniques are applied in all impacted sites,” when they know this to be untrue. We must insist on the best of standard and practice for our people.
We recommend a thorough investigation of the allegations of complicity, duplicity and incompetence against NOSDRA. We do not believe that this well-funded agency is unaware or ignorant of the facts as they really are in the Niger Delta. If farmlands, drinking water, homes and sources of living affected by hydrocarbon pollution in the Niger Delta are to be restored or the aqua-culture revamped with strange sights of silver frogs blinking from gleaming puddles, sunlight bounces from an eerie black lake, and dragonflies hovering over cauldrons of tar to become history, the federal government must evolve a holistic strategy to tackle SPDC in addition to widespread pipeline sabotage, crude oil theft and illegal refining of crude that equally degrade the environment. Importantly the President’s initiative would fail and Ogoni people would continue to suffer, if we fail to take on Shell and check NOSDRA.