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Report: $12bn needed to clean up Nigeria’s oil pollution

According to investigators, the restoration and cleanup of decades-long oil pollution in crude-producing states will cost at least $12 billion.

Bayelsa state, which has a population of about two million people, “is in the grip of a human and environmental catastrophe of devastating proportions,” they warned in a long-awaited report.

Bayelsa is where oil was discovered for the first time in Africa in the 1950s, and where Shell and Eni have operated for decades.


“Once home to one of the largest mangrove forests on the planet, rich in ecological diversity and value, the region is now one of the most polluted places on Earth,” according to the report.

“At least $12 billion” is required to “clean up the soil and drinking water, reduce people’s health risks, and restore mangrove forests critical to flood prevention.”
The Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission, an international panel of experts and prominent figures assembled at the request of the local government, conducted the four-year investigation.

It asked Shell and Eni, both of which still have local subsidiaries in the region, to pay a portion of the bill.

“We are asking Shell’s new CEO Wael Sawan, before selling off Shell’s remaining onshore oil assets, to commit immediately to paying their share of the $12 billion bill,” said John Sentamu, a member of Britain’s House of Lords and former Archbishop of York.

Shell said in a written statement to AFP that it had not seen the report and thus could not respond to its conclusions at this time.


Eni also stated that it was not consulted about the report and denied the commission’s allegations of “environmental racism.”

In response to AFP’s request for comment, Eni stated that it “conducts its activities in accordance with the sector’s international environmental best practices, without regard to country.”

The majority of oil spills have been blamed on sabotage and theft by both companies.

“Regardless of the cause of a spill, we clean up and remediate areas affected by spills originating from our facilities,” according to a Shell spokesperson.
Eni also stated that it “undertakes to remedy in all cases” when spills happen.

The report is based on over 2,500 pieces of evidence, including 500 interviews and the analysis of 1,600 blood samples collected from locals.

Throughout the years, “as much as one and a half barrels of oil has been spilled in Bayelsa for every man, woman, and child living in the state today.”
According to the report, the Niger Delta has experienced the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez disaster every year for the past 50 years.

The 1989 tanker disaster spilled nearly 11 million gallons (42 million liters) of crude oil off Alaska’s coast.

The report highlighted the potentially far-reaching health consequences of oil and gas pollution.

“Highly toxic contaminants that cause burns, lung problems, and an increased risk of cancer are widespread,” the report stated.

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Toxic chemicals were found in one groundwater sample at more than a million times the safe limit.

The researchers blamed the crisis on “the systemic failings of international oil company operators, with the complicity of Nigeria’s political classes and a dysfunctional Nigerian regulatory state.”

According to the report, years of oil pollution have had a devastating impact on soil, water, and wildlife.
According to the report, the amount paid by companies should be based on the amount of oil pumped since commercial exploitation began and “perhaps weighed to reflect the company’s pollution record.”

“The enormous suffering caused by oil pollution in my kingdom pokes me, chokes me, and stares me in the face every day,” testified King Dakolo, a traditional ruler and chief in Bayelsa.

“World leaders are discussing how to pay for climate loss and damage. Oil companies could begin by accounting for the damage they have caused in my state.”

The report comes just days after the UK Supreme Court ruled that it was too late for a group of Nigerians to sue Shell over an offshore oil spill in 2011.

The energy behemoth, which made its highest-ever annual profit this year, is facing new legal battles in the United Kingdom, including one against 50,000 Nigerian claimants suing over other spills.

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