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Godwin Ojo: "Why is Shell continuing their environmental racism?"

[Godwin Ojo, director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria]...was in The Netherlands to talk about the (lack of) developments concerning the 2011 UNEP report of the United Nations, with recommendations about cleaning up the oil pollution in Nigeria...

[Ojo:] “Environmental Rights Action has put continuous pressure on getting the UNEP recommendations for cleaning up the oil pollution carried out. This year the government finally responded. Shell is in conversation with the Ogoni people. But at the same time Shell has hijacked the UNEP-process. The polluter, who has to pay for the restoration, is directing the process... [Ed. note: Shell's FAQ regarding its positions on the UNEP report & follow-on process is here. Shell's response to accusations it has "hijacked" the UNEP process is here.]

Your organisation has started several court cases in Nigeria. What are the results?

[Ojo:] ...we used the judicial system to increase environmental awareness in Nigeria, to bring problems into the public domain. A highlight was the High Court ruling against Shell in 2005, confirming that gas flaring is a fundamental human rights violation...But because of weak state institutions and the political and economic power of Shell, the ruling has been ignored... 

...[C]ompanies are happy when court cases have become an acceptable road for the victims of oil spills. They know they can delay court cases endlessly. That is expensive and they can affort it. Poor people can’t.  An environmental court case in Nigeria can take an entire lifetime... 

What about the oil spills – according to oil companies these are often caused by sabotage or theft?

“The investigation of the cause of the spills is hijacked by the oil companies. Amnesty International has extensively documented the irregularities (pdf) with these kinds of investigations. The oil companies...manipulate the research. We have heard stories where a team...[from the oil company] offers five thousand naira (25 euro – MV) to whomever wants to sign a form. And those forms then say that a spill is caused by sabotage and not a technical failure.”

Part of the following stories

Shell lawsuit (re oil pollution in Nigeria)

Nigeria: NGO alleges Shell has hijacked implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) oil spill report; includes Shell's response