Controversies, Conflict Of Interest Threaten To Cripple Niger Delta Clean-up

Despite the sufferings of polluted communities in the Niger Delta, especially Ogoniland, numerous controversies and conflicting interests have nearly crippled the clean-up project launched by the Federal Government in June, 2016.

Four organisations – Friends of the Earth Europe, Amnesty International, Environmental Rights Action, Milieudefensie –  revealed these findings in a new report titled, ‘No Clean-Up, No Justice: Shell’s oil pollution in the Niger Delta’ released on Thursday.  

The report showed that work had  begun on only 11 per cent of polluted sites identified by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2011.

And that  only  five per cent of the work included in current clean-up efforts and no site has been entirely cleaned up

Actions classified by UNEP as “emergency measures” – immediate action on drinking water and health protection – have not been implemented properly, the report said.

It added that there were still communities without access to clean water supplies; while  health and environmental monitoring had not been carried out.

It further stated that there had not been any public accounting for how the 31 million dollars funding provided since 2018 had been spent and that 11 of 16 companies contracted for the clean-up were reported to have no registered expertise in oil pollution remediation or related areas.

The clean-up agency, Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) has numerous conflicts of interest as Shell continues to be involved in the governing boars for the clean-up and even places its own staff in HYPREP, the report stated.

Demands for Nigerian government

The organisations demanded rapid clean-up and in particular that the Nigerian government make sure that Ogoni people access their basic rights, including the right to safe drinking water.

They urged the government to develop and implement a strategy to address the root causes of oil pollution, while fully involving local communities.

The groups stressed the need for the Federal Government to strengthen HYPREP and ensure that it was  an independent, transparent agency without the involvement of Shell in oversight and management structures.

They also asked that  all information on the clean-up project and its progress be published.

Demands for Shell and European governments

They demanded that Shell provide proper compensation for all communities affected by failed or delayed clean-up of oil spills and decommission all aging and damaged pipelines.

The groups also demanded that Shell should commit to funding the clean-up of Ogoniland and the rest of the Niger Delta until its completion. 

The organisations further asked that  European governments that are home to oil companies operating in the Niger Delta make a fundamental shift to prioritise the clean-up of Ogoniland and the rest of the Niger Delta over the interests of companies.

They advised that those governments increase engagement with and support for the Nigerian government to ensure effective implementation of UNEP’s recommendations and make independent oversight of the oil industry and ensure effective remedy for affected communities.

The groups also demanded that European governments establish strong international regulations for corporate liability abroad – such as an EU law for mandatory Human Rights due diligence and a binding UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights.

Meanwhile, Shell is facing a series of European court battles over its business in Nigeria.

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Anita Eboigbe

Anita Eboigbe is a journalist and data analyst with nearly a decade of media and communications experience in Nigeria. She has expertise in human interest reporting, data reporting, interactive content development and media business management. Anita has written for several national and international publications with a focus on communication for development. She holds an honours degree in Mass Communication and several certifications in data analysis and data journalism.

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