Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image

Nigeria: Oil-polluted Ogoniland could become environmental model

UN says clean-up operation following two massive oil spills in the Niger Delta could benefit other African countries developing their oil reserves

Crude oil spilled in the Niger Delta swamps of Bodo, a village in Ogoniland. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

Ogoniland is one of the most oil-polluted places on earth but it could become a model for other countries wanting to clean up their environments or avoid making the same mistakes, the UN has said.

This could be the world’s biggest oil contamination clean-up,” said Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the UN’s environment programme (UNEP) director, Achim Steiner. “It is up to the government of Nigeria what happens now, but [from talks with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja this week] there appears to be a willingness to act,” he said while in London.

Preliminary cost estimates to decontaminate and restore the devastated ecology of the 1,000 sq km of land and water are nearly $1bn for the first five years, with much more money possibly needed over the full 30 years it will take to clean up the region, said UNEP chief scientist Joseph Alcamo in London.

But he said that if governments and oil companies were prepared to put up the money to act, it could provide work to train tens of thousands of Ogonis, leave the area “pristine” and help many other African countries that were on the point of commercially developing their oil reserves.

São Tomé, Ghana, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia all expect to produce oil in the next 10 years. “One in 10 barrels of oil in the world presently comes from Africa. It is very likely that oil production will increase on the continent. Countries can learn from this painful experience,” said Alcamo.

As well as immediate measures, such as warning Ogoni people if they are drinking from polluted wells and proposing that the oil companies rethink their clean-up procedures, the UN recommended that a global centre for excellence for environmental restoration be set up in Ogoniland.

This would run courses in environmental monitoring, promote learning about pollution and decontamination of land in Nigeria and abroad, and become a model for restoration, attracting people from around the world, said Alcamo.

It would like to see Nigeria declare its intention to make the extensive wetlands around Ogoniland a “Ramsar site” – the highest classification of wetland. “This would provide the government with a roadmap for restoration and bring the site into the global spotlight, which will make the many agencies and companies focus on their task,” said the report.

Shell Nigeria said it was willing to act. “Shell Petroleum Development Company is already reviewing its remediation practices and looking to involve independent international experts in assessing how it can improve. The company is also examining ways to bring third-party verification to the oil spill investigation process, bringing further transparency to the assessment of causes and volumes,” said managing director Mutiu Sunmonu. “We pledge to work with the government, UNEP and others on the next steps.”

Sunmonu urged the Nigerian government to take concerted action to curb oil theft by communities and others. “Unless these activities are brought to a halt, any action we take will be of limited impact,” he said.

But the Movement for the Survival of the Ogonio People (Mosop), which was founded by Ogoni writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and has been a powerful political voice in the region, rejected the UN report, saying it was compromised because it was mostly paid for by Shell.

“Who determined that restoration of Ogoniland would last for 30 years? What is the extent or estimate of overall damage? Everything is dictated to us, the Ogoni people, who have lost our means of livelihood, [and been] subjected to economic burden and poverty,” said Mosop president Goodluck Diigbo.


Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria called for the creation of a $100bn environmental restoration fund for the whole Niger Delta, parts of which they said were just as polluted as Ogoniland. “The $1bn initial restoration fund that the report has proposed is negligible compared with the mammoth ecological disaster caused by Shell,” said director Nnimmo Bassey. “Other communities must now also be considered for a comprehensive environmental audit,” he said. and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

0 Comments on “Nigeria: Oil-polluted Ogoniland could become environmental model”

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: