The long-delayed $1bn clean-up of heavily oil-contaminated Ogoniland in the Niger delta has moved closer with Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari setting up a restoration fund four years after a damning UN report advised the government and oil industry to act urgently, according to a Guardian report.
A spokesman for Shell, said money would not be released until the Nigerian government went further, establishing a satisfactory governing structure and appointing commissioners to oversee the clean-up process.
Shell has accepted responsibility for cleaning up hundreds of its old spills in the small oil-rich delta region near Port Harcourt, but the spokesman said: “[The money] will be made available when we are sure that the structures are in place, are robust and will be overseen correctly. It is very much the responsibility of the Nigerian government.”
It also emerged that it will only have to find about $330m (£214m) of the promised $1bn, with the majority to be raised by other shareholders in the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation Joint Venture (SPDC). This includes the Nigerian national oil company (NNPC), which holds 55% of the shares, Total (TEPNG) which holds 10% and Agip (NAOC) 5%. Earlier statements by Shell CEO Ben van Beurden suggested that the company had put aside $1bn.
“As stipulated by the [Nigerian] government, the SPDC Joint Venture is expected to contribute 90% of the $1bn fund. SPDC’s contribution will be 30% of that figure, commensurate with its shareholding in the SPDC JV,” said Shell in a statement to the Guardian.
According to the Nigerian government, the new fund will be overseen by representatives of the Ogoni people, the United Nations, the oil companies operating in Nigeria and the government itself. Stakeholders are expected to pay an initial $10m into the fund.
However, Amnesty International has questioned both the initial funding and the proposed method of clean-up and warned that Ogoniland’s environment might never be restored.
“$10m (£6.5m) is far below the $1bn that the UN Environment Programme (Unep) said should be paid into the fund to cover the first five years of a clean-up job which could take up to 30 years,” said Mark Dummett, Amnesty researcher on business and human rights.
“If Shell’s ineffective clean-up methods are not fully overhauled, its impact will be limited. It is scandalous that Shell – which now wants the world to trust it todrill in the Arctic – has failed to properly implement the UN’s expert advice on oil spill response after so long,” said Dummett.
Shell responded, saying: “Treating the problem of environmental contamination within Ogoniland merely as a technical clean-up exercise will ultimately lead to failure. Ensuring long-term sustainability …. must include putting an end to the widespread pipeline sabotage, crude oil theft and illegal refining that are the main causes of environmental damage in Ogoniland and the wider Niger delta today.”
Ogoniland is only one part of the Niger Delta that has been affected by oil pollution. Shell and the Italian oil giant ENI have admitted to more than 550 oil spills from their facilities in the Niger Delta last year, according to an Amnesty International analysis of the companies’ latest figures. The companies mostly blame the spills on sabotage.