As any child educated in Nigeria will tell you, oil was discovered in Oloibiri, Nigeria in 1956. Oil spills in Nigeria date back to those early days of exploration and production and increased significantly with the expansion of infrastructure onshore and offshore in 1970s.
All the more shocking then that Mike Cowing, the UNEP’s leading expert on its study in Ogoniland, is reported to have made the startling claim that oil spills in the Niger Delta “have probably been continuing for nine years”, at a press conference in Geneva on 10 August 2010. Such glaring inaccuracy casts doubt over the credibility of the forthcoming report, which the authors have been forced to admit will be “controversial”.
Cowing’s statement is further evidence that UNEP is attempting to hide the historical impact of Shell’s oil spills. For village communities like Ejama-Ebubu, this adds insult to injury. They have waited over 40 years for Shell to clean up several massive oil spill that devastated their land. The Federal High Court in Nigeria fined Shell over $100 million in damages from the spill. However, Shell has refused to pay, and as of writing the damaged ecosystem has still not been cleaned up. Devastating spills like these have been commonplace throughout the Delta for almost as long as oil production in Nigeria.