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Shell and Nigerian government fail to clean up Niger Delta despite £23m clean-up fund

Shell has failed to implement the “emergency measures” laid out by a report which called for an immediate clean-up of an area in the Niger Delta polluted by the oil giant and other companies.

In 2011, a report by UNEP on oil pollution in Ogoniland highlighted the devastating impact of the oil industry in the Niger Delta and made concrete recommendations for immediate action on drinking water and health protection.

However, nearly 10 years after a clean-up was demanded, most areas remain heavily contaminated and no site has been entirely cleaned up, according to an investigation by four NGOs. Furthermore, there are still communities without access to clean water supplies.

The investigation by Friends of the Earth Europe, Amnesty International, Environmental Rights Action and Milieudefensie found only 11% of contaminated areas in the Niger Delta have begun the clean-up process.

They also found no evidence that the £23 million clean-up project launched by the Nigerian government in 2016 was used for its intended purpose and say there is no public accounting for how the money provided has been spent. In fact, the groups say, “numerous conflicts of interest around Shell have also been revealed involving the management of the clean-up agency, HYPREP, and the Nigerian government”.

Moreover, the report found 11 of 16 companies contracted for the clean-up have no registered expertise in oil pollution remediation or related areas.

Over five decades, oil and gas extraction have caused large-scale, continued contamination of the water and soil in Ogoni communities. The continued and systematic failure of oil companies and government to clean up have left hundreds of thousands of Ogoni people facing serious health risks, struggling to access safe drinking water, and unable to earn a living.

Godwin Ojo, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria said: “After nine years of promises without proper action and decades of pollution, the people of Ogoniland are sick though dirty drinking water, oil-contaminated fish and toxic fumes.”

Colin Roche, Friends of the Earth Europe said: “While oil companies like Shell spend millions greenwashing their image, tens of thousands of people continue to suffer from their pollution and negligence.”

Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International Nigeria, said: “The discovery of oil in Ogoniland has brought huge suffering for its people. The pollution is leading to serious human rights impacts – on people’s health and ability to access food and clean water. Shell must not get away with this – we will continue to fight until every last trace of oil is removed from Ogoniland.”

The report puts forward a series of recommendations to the Nigerian government, including:

  • Develop and implement a strategy to address the root causes of oil pollution, while fully involving local communities
  • Strengthen HYPREP and ensure it is an independent, transparent agency without involvement of Shell in oversight and management structures
  • Publishes all information on the clean-up project and its progress
  • Provide proper compensation to all communities affected by failed or delayed clean-ups of oil spills

According to estimates, Shell has dumped an estimated nine to 13 million barrels of crude oil into the Niger Delta since 1958. It is continuing to face increasing legal scrutiny over decades of human rights abuses in Nigeria. Allegations range from systemic pollution and environmental damage in the Niger Delta to being complicit in the murder of environmental activists.

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