Organization Tackles Un On Ogoni Oil SpillsNigeria
FRIENDS of the Earth International (FoEI), a global federation of environmental rights advocacy groups, has accused the United Nations (UN) of unfair dealing in their probe of devastating oil spills in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s main oil and gas basin.
The group which has Mr. Nnimmo Bassey of Nigeria as its Chair, is outraged by reports that a major UN investigation into Nigeria oil spills particularly in Ogoni, the home of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, was allegedly funded by the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell.
FoEI is claiming in an on-line statement to AkanimoReports on Monday that the UN relied more on figures produced by oil companies and Nigerian state statistics than on community testimony and organizations on the ground who work with communities.
After releasing some information some two weeks ago about its ongoing investigation, which is due to be released in early 2011, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) was strongly criticised by environmental and human rights organisations.
The UNEP acknowledged in an August 23 statement that the report relies heavily on data supplied by the oil industry and stated that no draft report currently exists.
Shell oil spills and gas flaring in Nigeria are a major human rights and environmental tragedy.
Bassey, who is also the Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action (ERA) in Nigeria, said: “We monitor spills regularly and our observations often contradict information produced by oil companies and Nigerian regulatory agencies”.
Continuing, the renowned environmental rights activist argued, ”if the UNEP team would ask community monitors it would avoid falling into the trap of spinning Shell’s figures. The UN assessment is being paid for by Shell so we are not surprised that it tells Shell’s version of the facts. But the reality is that several studies have placed the bulk of the blame for oil spills in the Niger Delta on the doorsteps of the oil companies; particularly Shell.”
Adding, Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth Netherlands /Milieudefensie said, “UNEP should base its findings mostly on independent sources rather than on information from the oil companies responsible for the massive oil pollution in Nigeria”.
According to him, ”UNEP team head Mike Cowing repeated last week Shell lies that only ten percent of oil pollution in Ogoniland was caused by equipment failures and company negligence and 90% by locals stealing oil. Yet he himself earlier stated that Shell’s large scale oil pollution and performance in Ogoniland was ‘unacceptable’.
”These figures are not even consistent with some Shell official reports which admit that between 1998 and 2007 45% of all leakages from Shell facilities were due to poor maintenance of oil installation”.
In May 2008, four Nigerian citizens and Friends of the Earth Netherlands/Nigeria filed a unique lawsuit against Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell. The Nigerians, fishermen and farmers, suffered major damage from oil spills because of oil production by Shell. The first lawsuit hearing is expected take place in The Hague (The Netherlands) later in 2010.
Oil extraction in the Niger Delta started during the 1950s and was suspended in Ogoniland in the 1990s because of unrest and many oil spills there have not yet been cleaned up by Shell.
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