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Nigeria, Shell Fail to Clean Up Oil Pollution in Niger Delta: Report

LONDON, United Kingdom

A new report from a coalition of environmental and human rights groups warned that Nigeria and oil giant Royal Dutch Shell have taken “almost no meaningful action” to clean up pollution caused by oil production in the Niger Delta.

The report, Shell: No Progress, was produced by Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth Europe, the Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development, and Environment Rights Action and Platform.

It found that three years after a landmark UN Environment Program (UNEP) report estimated that $1 billion USD was needed to clean up the region, the people of Ogoniland in Nigeria continue to suffer the effects of 50 years of oil industry pollution.

The report noted that oil production has contaminated the potable water of at least 10 communities in Ogoniland.

“Shell has not addressed the pollution identified by UNEP and has continued to use deeply flawed clean-up practices,” the report said. It added that the government has also failed in its responsibility to ensure that UNEP’s recommendations are implemented, offering “little more than empty rhetoric."

“Three years after the publication of the report, there is little evidence that the Government of Nigeria has any intention of taking meaningful action to address these issues,” it found.

Even proposed emergency measures have only been partially implemented, it said. Local people have reported that emergency water supplies were insufficient and erratic. Some communities where warning signs had been posted were still drinking from sources that they believed were contaminated “because, people said, they had no alternative.”

UNEP made detailed recommendations to Nigeria’s federal government, including establishing an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority to oversee implementation of the study’s recommendation, and setting up an environmental restoration fund for Ogoniland with an initial capital injection of $1 billion USD.

But according to the new report, a 2012 report from the committee tasked with reviewing the UNEP findings and making recommendations to the federal government on remedial actions “has never been published and its content is unknown.”

“The description of the ‘activity’ carried out by Shell in the three years after a major study confirmed serious problems with its assets is deeply worrying,”  it said. “When scrutinized, Shell’s description of what has been achieved amounts to almost no action whatever: a desk study to collate information and submission of paperwork almost 18 months after UNEP to a government department that took more than one year to approve decommissioning.”

Shell “is reviewing and examining issues rather than taking action” and is seeking to recast the problem of the Niger Delta in general, and Ogoniland in particular, as one of oil spills caused primarily by sabotage and theft of oil, the report alleged.

The company's investigation process is “deeply flawed” and therefore its outcomess “lack credibility,” the report said.

The organizations behind the new report warned that they “will continue to monitor the implementation of UNEP, and to call for all actors -- the government of Nigeria, Shell, and Shell’s home states [the UK and the Netherlands] -- to take urgent and decisive action.”