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

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18 December 2015

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

Author: Myrthe Verweij, Down to Earth (Netherlands)

[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.”

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30 December 2014

Shell has hijacked UNEP report implementation process, ERA/FoEN alleges

Author: Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria

'Shell has hijacked UNEP report implementation process, ERA/FoEN alleges', 29 Oct 2014: The inauguration of a committee for the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland is a welcome development but with the Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke in the driver’s seat, Shell has obviously hijacked the process, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) [alleges]...ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo said: “We strongly affirm that Shell has hijacked this process through the minister of petroleum...who has left out vocal groups...Rather, an independent third party should be responsible for the management of such clean up conjunction with the National Oil Spills Detection and Remediation Agency (NOSDRA)...Given the antecedent of Shell in often declaring spill sites as cleaned up throughout the Niger Delta the firm has lost complete trust with the people and civil society groups and thus cannot be trusted...Shell should have no role in the clean-up process beyond the polluter pays principle”, Ojo insisted.

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Company response
30 December 2014

Shell's response

Author: Shell

“UNEP assessed that the environmental restoration of Ogoniland could take many years to achieve even with coordinated efforts on the part of government agencies at all levels, industry operators and communities. UNEP also presented its recommendations as a major opportunity to bring new investment, employment opportunities and a culture of cooperation to Ogoniland. SPDC is committed to cleaning up all oil spills from its facilities and to playing its part in driving wider improvements in the environmental and health situation on the ground. UNEP stresses that the majority of its recommendations can only be delivered through multi-stakeholder action coordinated by the Federal Government. Some of the most important recommendations on which the delivery of subsequent action depends – including the creation of an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority and an Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland – are directed at the Federal Government and require it to take the lead on coordinating the activities of the many stakeholders involved.”

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