U.N. slams Shell as Nigeria needs biggest ever oil clean-up

Thu Aug 4, 2011 1:29pm EDT
 
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By Camillus Eboh and Felix Onuah

ABUJA (Reuters) - A U.N. report has criticized Shell and the Nigerian government for contributing to 50 years of pollution in a region of the Niger Delta which it says needs the world's largest ever oil clean-up, costing an initial $1 billion and taking up to 30 years.

The United National Environment Programme (UNEP) analyzed the damage oil pollution has done in Ogoniland, a region in the oil-rich labyrinthine creeks, swamps and waterways of the Niger Delta, the heartland of Africa's largest oil and gas industry.

Royal Dutch Shell and the Nigerian state-oil firm own most of the oil infrastructure in Ogoniland, although the Anglo-Dutch giant was forced out of operating in the region by communities in 1993 who said it caused pollution that destroyed their fishing environment.

Shell stopped pumping oil from Ogoniland after a campaign, led by writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was later hanged by the Nigerian military government, provoking international outrage.

"The environmental restoration of Ogoniland could prove to be the world's most wide-ranging and long term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken," a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report released on Thursday said.

"Control and maintenance of oilfield infrastructure in Ogoniland has been and remains inadequate: the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) own procedures have not been applied, creating public health and safety issues."

The UNEP report said 10 out of the 15 investigated sites which SPDC said they had completely remediated still had pollution exceeding the SPDC and government remediation values.

Shell, which on Wednesday agreed that an Ogoni community could seek compensation for oil spills in a British court, says most oil spills in the Niger Delta are caused by oil theft and sabotage attacks but says it cleans up whatever the cause.   Continued...