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Nigeria: Shell Not Exonerated Over Oil Spills

Tina A. Hassan and Mahmud Lalo

26 August 2010

Jos — The Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey, has described as untrue reports that Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has been exonerated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) over oil spillages in Ogoni land.

The minister said this in reaction to media reports that Shell has been cleared of oil spillage responsibility.

He made this clarification yesterday while declaring open the 3rd Task Force Meeting of the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adaptive Land Use (WASCAL) in Abuja.

Mr. Odey explained that the responsibility of UNEP in Ogoni land “is to carry out baseline study of oil spills and give professional advice on remediation measures and not to give verdict or clearance on behalf of the Federal Government .”

He added that the Federal Government and SPDC have provided funds for the baseline study following President Goodluck Jonathan’s directive that remediation programme be included for the benefits for the affected communities in collaboration with the Rivers State government.

A statement from the office of the minister, signed by Clement Egbeama, indicated that the minister cautioned that while these efforts are going on, the state government and the communities should ensure that oil bunkering activities which caused the spills were checkmated.

He stated that his office is open and accessible to reporters and other Nigerians who seek clearer pictures on issues concerning the environment.

Odey also called on members of the 3rd Task Force meeting in Abuja to come up with an all inclusive programme, developed in a participatory manner so that countries are carried along by the location of either a centre (Affiliate/Satellite) or post graduate programmes.

Meanwhile, a group known as Environmental Rights Actions and Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) have condemned a United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report that is alleged to have exonerated Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) from serial pipeline bursts in Ogoni land.

A statement by Head of Media ERA, Philip Jakpor, described the report which is due for release in December as “not only outrageous but scandalous.”

According to ERA, “The report is objectionable as it contradicts all verifiable facts about pipeline spills in Ogoni land and the entire Niger Delta.”

The statement noted that “International media had reported that a three-year investigation conducted by UNEP, funded with $ 9.5million provided by Shell, had concluded that only 10 per cent of the pollution in Ogoni land was caused by equipment failures and company negligence and that the rest was caused by local people stealing oil and sabotaging pipelines.”

The statement further alleged that Shell has been orchestrating campaigns “to white wash itself from atrocities it committed in Ogoni land that led to the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa.

UNEP however in a statement said the report in question took data from the Nigerian government and the oil industry coming short of distancing itself from the alleged exoneration of Shell, but, ERA/FoEN described the UNEP statement as “a clear game of duplicity and blame passing”.

“The report should be consigned to the waste bins. It is another violent rape on Ogoni land and the Niger Delta people whose rivers, streams, farmlands and health have been adversely affected by the voracious appetite of Shell for oil in the last 50 years,” Says ERA/FoEN Director, Nnimmo Bassey.

“We are however appalled that a United Nation agency will risk its reputation and engage in image laundering for Shell. This is a case of who pays the piper dictates the tune. We reiterate our conviction that Shell has a moral duty to own up to its spills and to remediate and compensate the impacted people,” Bassey added.


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