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Nigeria: Dutch Cabinet – Country Should Clean Up Oil Spills

Radio Netherlands Worldwide (Hilversum)

Hélène Michaud: 18 November 2011

Cleaning up extensive oil pollution in the Niger Delta is the primary responsibility of the Nigerian government, Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal told a parliamentary commission on Thursday.

He was supported by the Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs, Henk Bleker, who pointed out that the Nigerian government, like all governments, is responsible for the well-being of its population. On top of that the Nigerian state is the majority shareholder in the SPDC joint venture of oil companies that includes Royal Dutch Shell, Bleker added.

High on the agenda of the commission’s debate on the Netherlands’ corporate responsibility programme was how Shell’s home country should respond to the United Nations Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) report on the massive soil and water contamination caused by oil spills in the Delta’s Ogoni region. The report recommends that oil giant Shell and the Nigerian government take urgent measures to clean up the environment.

Corporate responsibility police

Last week, human rights organisation Amnesty International accused Shell of delaying the cleanup operations in the Ogoni region. Opposition parties called on the Dutch government to “put pressure on Shell” to take action. The ministers responded that the Netherlands would not play the role of “corporate responsibly police” abroad.

Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said that the Netherlands is seen as a trendsetter in terms of corporate social responsibility in the world. Socialist MP Ewout Irrgang said he was “shocked” by this assertion and asked the minister whether he didn’t feel ashamed given the suffering in the Niger Delta.


Green Party MP Liesbeth van Tongeren referred to the old saying that the Dutch behave both as merchants and moralistic preachers in their contacts with the rest of the world. In the case of Nigeria the Netherlands clearly preferred the role of the merchant, she argued.

Rosenthal said that environmental issues and the situation in the Delta were often raised “diplomatically” in bilateral talks with the Nigerian authorities and during regular meetings between the Dutch government and Shell. He said that the situation in the Niger Delta was too complex, with too many actors involved, to expect Shell to act alone.

Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Bleker said he would offer the Nigerian government Dutch expertise in the field of oil industry monitoring.


In general, the Dutch MPs, many of whom had attended a recent briefing offered by UNEP, gave the impression of being well informed about the situation in the Niger Delta.Christian Democrat MP Ad Koppejan suggested that Shell start putting aside funds for the one billion dollar special fund the UNEP said should initially be created to finance the cleanup operation in Ogoniland.

In a reaction to Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Shell said that “delicate talks” were going on between the Nigerian government, SPDC and other oil industry representatives on how this fund should be set up.

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