UNEP report omits Shell’s massive oil spills, says expert

11 Aug 2011 admin

A pattern of omissions has emerged since the UNEP report was published last week. An oil spill expert, journalists and a coalition of environmental groups have taken issue with what the report left out. (Shell commissioned UNEP’s 2 year study and was the sole funder of the $9 million investigation into the ecological impact of oil spills in Ogoni).

In an op ed in the Nigerian news site 234NEXT, Nnimmo Bassey the executive director of Friends of the Earth International, highlights the massive oil spills in Bodo, Ogoni that UNEP’s two year study entirely ignored.

In a critique of the UNEP report, Richard Steiner of Oasis Earth organisation, Alaska, writes: “The UNEP report devotes several pages (161-166) specifically to artisanal refining at the Bodo West oilfield, and correctly reports an unfortunate increase in such between 2007 and 2011. However, in this analysis of oil pollution in this region, UNEP entirely ignores the other much larger source of oil spilled into this same region in that same time period – the twin ruptures of the Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP) caused by SPDC negligence in 2008 and 2009. Together these spills contributed between 250,000 – 350,000 barrels of oil into this system, orders of magnitude more than illegal refining. Much of the oil at Bodo West area likely derived from the TNP Bodo spills.” How do these compare to the volume of spills from artisanal refineries?

Professor Steiner also wonders why the UNEP study report says that “no single clear and continuous source of spilled oil was observed or reported during UNEP’s site visits,” whereas the massive spills at Bodo occurred at the time of the study and the combined spill volume may well exceed that of the Exxon Valdez that occurred in Alaska in 1989.

A similar point was made by The Guardian‘s environment correspondent, John Vidal, who questioned UNEP over why their study made no reference to Shell’s major oil spillage in Goi. Farmers from Goi community in Ogoni are among those suing Shell in The Hague for compensation since 2008. Their heartbreaking story was retold in The Guardian on Saturday.

A quiet fishing community of fewer than 100 people, Goi was steadily weakened and then broken by a series of oil spills that, over 20 years, made the network of swamps, lagoons, rivers and creeks around it unusable.

“People used to drink the water in the creek, fish, cook and swim in it. It was a perfect place,” says Dooh. “We wanted for nothing, but the spills came, the tide washed in pollution from elsewhere and in 1987 a massive oil fire burned uncontrolled for weeks. By 2008, most people had left.”

Dooh and the last people of Goi then finally gave up. “We kept being polluted. We could not stay any longer,” says his eldest son, Eric. “Shell said they would fix things, but a contractor came and scooped some of the oil up and that was it. The spills just got bigger and bigger.” In 2009, a third large spill made the last house uninhabitable.

A coalition of 10 local environmental groups in the Niger Delta also released a statement yesterday which challenged UNEP’s “comprehensive” consultation in Ogoni. Organisations in the National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND) were consulted by UNEP, despite their extensive local knowledge of Ogoni.

The contents of [UNEP’s] report suggest that there was a wide-ranging pre-operational consultation with key stakeholders. We are surprised by this, because not many civil society organizations in our coalition can claim to have been consulted; nor are there many communities in our networks that claim to have supplied information during UNEP’s investigations. If we, who are on the ground in the Niger Delta, did not participate in a transparent process of determining the causes of the incessant oil spills, we wonder who the key stakeholders are that were consulted, and supplied this information.


Focus Areas