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Shell Must Clean Oil Spills

Amnesty International (AI) yesterday appealed to Shell to ensure that it complies with the federal government’s new commitment to tackle oil pollution in the Niger Delta by dramatically improving on how it cleans up oil spills in the Niger Delta.
President Buhari’s had on Wednesday announced a trust fund to pay for the clean-up of the Ogoniland region.
But AI through its Researcher on Business and Human Rights, Mark Dummett, who has just returned from the Niger Delta, said President Buhari’s initiative would fail, and that the Ogoni people would continue to suffer, as long as Shell fails to make significant changes to the way it approaches oil spill clean-up.
“It is scandalous that Shell, which now wants the world to trust it to drill in the Arctic, has failed to properly implement the UN’s expert advice on oil spill response after so long.
“President Buhari’s initiative will fail, and the Ogoni people will continue to suffer, as long as Shell fails to make significant changes to the way it approaches oil spill clean-up,” it said.
The establishment of the trust fund was a key recommendation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which published a study on oil pollution in Ogoniland four years ago.
The UNEP study also called for Shell’s clean-up methods to be urgently overhauled, including reviewing its methodology and addressing serious delays in responding to spills.
But researchers from Amnesty International investigating spill sites in the region have this month found oil on the soil and in nearby water bodies, in areas where Shell contractors are reported to have recently carried out remediation.
The fund will be overseen by representatives of the Ogoni people, the United Nations, the oil companies operating in Nigeria and the government itself.
According to the government, “stakeholders” will pay an initial $10 million into the fund, but it is not clear who these stakeholders will be.
$10 million is far below the $1 billion that the UNEP said should be paid into the fund to cover the first five years of a clean-up job which could take up to 30 years.
The UNEP study recommended that the contributions should be made by both the oil industry and the government.
“Ogoniland has been devastated by years of oil spills and Shell’s clean-up operations have been utterly ineffective,” said Mark Dummett.
“In 2011 UNEP highlighted numerous serious problems with the way Shell cleans up oil sites. But we have visited multiple sites and found oil pollution lying all around. From what we are seeing, little has changed since then.”
Meanwhiel, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) yesterday commended the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government for approving the setting up of governing structures to facilitate the implementation of recommendations of the UNEP report on Ogoniland.
However, MOSOP in a statement issued in Port Harcourt by the Media/Public Affairs Adviser to its President, Bari-ara Kpalap, noted that the approval came at a time when there had been “growing scepticism driven by experiences of untoward politicisation of implementation of the report by the immediate past administration.”
He said: “The approval demonstrates a comforting shift from rhetoric to matching words with action,” adding that it has “rebuilt and strengthens the confidence of our people in the government.”
He also said: “In reciprocation of the government’s response to our outcries, MOSOP pledges to cooperate with the administration and other stakeholders to ensure a successful implementation of recommendations of the report.
“While we applaud the approach, we would appeal to the national government not to delay the constitution of the approved governance structures to enable urgent commencement of the Ogoni environmental remediation and restoration exercise.
“We would thus implore Mr. President, to, as a matter of urgency, call for nominations from the defined stakeholders to enhance composition of the Governing Council and the Board of Trustees of the intervention agency.”
He however warned, “Since Ogoni experiences high rainfall, which influences expansion of the pollution footprints and compounds our environmental nightmare attributable to the non-implementation of the report, further delay, as a matter of fact, would inflict on the report dire implications, which would require another study to validate earlier findings.
“The Ogoni people would therefore be greatly enlivened and satisfied at an urgent take-off of the clean-up and restoration exercise.”
He called on the people of Ogoniland to ensure thay did not do anything to jeopardise the efforts of the federal government to implement the UNEP report.
“We will urge our people to realise that the commendable step taken by the federal government imposes on us all a high sense of organisation and unity of purpose. And it is therefore important that we avoid, even if tempted, tendencies capable of jeopardising the process and making us a laughing stock,” the statement said.
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