Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian operations were in the news this week when the Anglo-Dutch oil group accepted responsibility for two spills in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta.
The company said it would pay compensation to the Bodo community, who fish in the area, for the spills which it accepted were due to operational issues. Shell declined to comment on the possible size of the pay-out, saying only that it would pay compensation “in accordance with Nigerian law”, but some estimates ran as high as millions of dollars.
The Niger Delta remained in focus later in the week after a United Nations report said the Ogoniland area would need the world’s “most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken”. Oil producers, mainly Shell and the Nigerian national oil company, have been operating in the region for more than 50 years. The UN said ridding Ogoniland’s rivers and drinking water of pollution could take 30 years. The report also suggested the Nigerian government and the oil industry establish an initial $1bn trust fund to help pay for the clean-up.
The assessment showed that “pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the region has penetrated further and deeper than many may have supposed”, said the report.
“The oil industry has been a key sector of the Nigerian economy for over 50 years, but many Nigerians have paid a high price, as this assessment underlines,” said Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director.
Shell stopped producing oil in Ogoniland in 1993 but its pipelines and other infrastructure are still in the area. Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), its Nigerian joint venture, has blamed the majority of environmental damage on theft and sabotage of equipment but stressed it cleans up all spills from its facilities, whatever the cause.
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