President Goodluck Jonathan
By Chika Amanze-Nwachuku
Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, said an interim report of a special review committee on the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on Oil Pollution in Ogoniland has been submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan for further action.
Making the disclosure to THISDAY in Washington DC, the Minister said the UNEP report would be further evaluated with a view to ascertaining areas that would be adopted. The committee was set up by the President last August to undertake a holistic review of the report, which indicted Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) of decades of oil pollution in surface water all over the creeks of Ogoniland and make recommendations to the Federal Government on immediate and long-term remedial actions.
UNEP had in the report released in August 2011 noted that Ogoni would need the world's largest ever oil clean-up, which could take up to 30 years to complete.
Also, Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, (CEHRD) had in a recent report, accused the Anglo Dutch Shell of deliberately under reporting a major oil spill in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta, noting that the spill "was far worse than Shell previously admitted."
The group, referred to an oil spill in 2008, caused by a fault in a Shell pipeline, resulting "in tens of thousands of barrels of oil polluting the land and creek surrounding Bodo, a Niger Delta town of some 69,000 people.
The spill was among those captured in the UNEP report on Ogoni land oil spill, which was released last year August, and called for emergency interventions, which neither the Federal Government nor Shell has responded appropriately.
Amnesty International said it had obtained "an independent assessment, which exposed how the oil giant dramatically under-estimated the quantities involved."
It said: "The previously unpublished assessment carried out by US firm, Accufacts Inc. found that between 1,440 and 4,320 barrels of oil were flooding the Bodo area each day, following the leak. The Nigerian regulators have confirmed that the spill lasted for 72 days. Shell’s official investigation report claims only 1,640 barrels of oil were spilt in total. But based on the independent assessment, the total amount of oil spilt over the 72-day period is between 103,000 barrels and 311,000 barrels.
“The difference is staggering: even using the lower end of the Accufacts estimate, the volume of oil spilt at Bodo was more than 60 times the volume Shell has repeatedly claimed leaked,” said Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International, Audrey Gaughran.
Shell’s oil spill investigation report also claimed that the spill started on 5 October 2008 – while the community and Nigerian regulators have confirmed a start date of 28 August 2008."
The group further maintained: "What is not in dispute is that Shell did not stop the spill until 7 November – four weeks after it claims it began – and 10 weeks after the start date given by the community and the regulator. Even if we use the start date given by Shell, the volume of oil spilt is far greater than Shell recorded,” said Gaughran.
Converting the amount into litres, Shell’s figure is just over 260,000 litres, while the lowest estimate based on the Accufacts assessment, and using Shell’s start date would be 7.8 million litres.
Amnesty further noted: "More than three years after the Bodo oil spill, Shell is yet to conduct a proper clean up or to pay any official compensation to the affected communities. After years of trying to seek justice in Nigeria the people of Bodo have now taken their claim to the UK courts. “The evidence of Shell’s bad practice in the Niger Delta is mounting,” said Coordinator of CEHRD, Patrick Naagbanton.
“Shell seems more interested in conducting a PR operation than a clean-up operation. The problem is not going away; and sadly neither is the misery for the people of Bodo,” he said.
The oil giant had however absolved itself of wrongdoing, noting in a statement: "We do not agree with Amnesty International’s assessment of the spill investigation process. We have recently had the investigation process, which is common to all operators in the Niger Delta, independently verified by Bureau Veritas. All oil spill incidents are investigated jointly by communities, regulators, operators and security agencies.”
“The team visits the site of the incident, determines the cause, and volume of spilled oil and impact on the environment, and signs off the findings in a report. This is an independent process – communities and regulators are all involved, especially as spill investigation and reporting are done under a joint team,” it also stated.
Shell added: "Under Nigerian regulations, oil spill incidents are investigated by a joint team of operators, communities, security agencies and regulators. A similar team investigated the spills in Bodo, and we stand by their findings. The spill volume was ascertained on the ground by experts at the time and agreed by all parties – who signed off on the joint investigation report. As has been stated previously, SPDC admitted liability for two spills of about 4,000 barrels in Bodo caused by operational failures, as soon as their cause had been verified in late 2008 and early 2009."
Shell noted further that many more oil spills have occurred since the Bodo incidence as a result of "illegal activity – sabotage, illegal refining and theft – which blights the delta generally. Our clean-up teams were able to deal with the initial operational spills, but subsequently they have been prevented by local communities from reaching sites that were re-impacted by this illegal activity to begin clean-up and remediation work. This could be because those communities hold a misguided belief that more spilt oil, irrespective of the cause, equals more compensation."
But the human rights body was not convinced about Shell's argument, stating that "Both organisations have repeatedly called for an independent process for investigation of oil spills, and an end to the system that allows oil companies to have such influence over the process. Shell initially claimed to the media that 85 per cent of oil spilt in the Niger Delta in 2008 was caused by sabotage. The company later admitted that this figure did not include a major oil spill that was subsequently found to be due to operational failures."
It also noted: "The serious under-recording at Bodo also has wider implications: Shell repeatedly claims to its investors, customers and the media that the majority of the oil spilt in the Niger Delta is caused by sabotage. The basis for this claim is the oil spill investigation process, which is deeply flawed and lacks credibility. The cause of spills, the volume of oil spilt, and other important parameters like the start date, are not recorded in any credible way. Bodo is one example but Amnesty International and CEHRD have also exposed serious failings in other oil spill investigations."