Three years after the publication of a groundbreaking report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on oil pollution in Ogoniland, the people of Ogoniland continue to suffer the effects of fifty years of an oil industry which has polluted their land, air and water.
The oil company Shell and the Nigerian Government have both failed to implement recommendations made in the UNEP report and put an end to the abuse of the communities’ rights to food, water and a life free of pollution. This briefing details how both the government and Shell have failed to ensure adequate provision of emergency water supplies to people who UNEP found were drinking oil-contaminated water. Shell has not addressed the pollution identified by UNEP and has continued to use deeply flawed clean-up practices.
Beyond the implementation of some emergency measures the Government of Nigeria has also failed in its responsibility to ensure the recommendations of the report are implemented, offering the communities little more than empty rhetoric in the three years that have passed since the report was published.
After more than fifty years of suffering the ill-effects of the oil industry and three years of waiting for adequate clean-up, the need for urgent action is clearer than ever for the oil-affected communities of Ogoniland.
A just society with an enabling environment for the realization of the peoples’ fundamental human rights
To forge a common link with the rural Niger Delta communities primarily through research, participatory trainings, campaigns and advocacy on the problems confronting them. Equipping them with the basic knowledge of their situation and encouraging them to address the issues themselves.
In our work, we do not compromise our:-
CEHRD's works cover the following three thematic areas:
CEHRD undertakes human rights campaigns, advocacy, and litigation, on behalf of victims of human rights violations. This program pursues good governance through engagement, civic, and voter's education. Also, anti-arms proliferation and unregulated arms trade campaigns are coordinated under this category. CEHRD monitors small arms trade and its misuse or abuse in the hands of government security forces and non-state actors like militia, armed civilian (“cult”) groups, gangsters, etc. We also monitor its consequences on the people, especially women and children. Furthermore, under the Human Rights Program, CEHRD works towards its prevention, minimization and eradication through outreach, education, and legislative campaigns. At the core of the human rights program of CEHRD is the Child Rights Project.
In July 2009, CEHRD formalised its partnership arrangement with Stepping Stones Foundation to monitor, document and report child right violations in six states (Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Akwa-Ibom and Edo) of the Niger Delta. The project in line with the mandate of Stepping Stone Nigeria (SSN) is dedicated to promoting and protecting the rights of vulnerable and disadvantaged children such as the so called “child witches” in the Niger Delta. We are working towards a world where every child is free and their rights are protected under a just law.
CEHRD is concerned about the health of the rural Niger Delta community members. This Program area seeks to address issues of rural health. CEHRD runs this program to create awareness, better knowledge, and provide active health care for the rural people in the Niger Delta geographic communities. We also promote health protection through enlightenment, and outreach campaigns against prevalent diseases such as tuberculosis, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, etc, and planned parenting.
CEHRD promotes sustainable development of the community in partnership with government where appropriate. However, we oppose ill-planned Development Projects that neglect input from local peoples, including destroying the basis of their rural livelihood and economies. We also promote human rights based development. It is obvious that due to the unevenness in evolution of societies, the development process is often initiated and led by certain categories of people in the community privileged by its history to be enlightened – the top-down approach often lead to “dumped development”. Nevertheless, the development process can only be successful if along the way; there emerge a collectively enlightened people. Apart from this, we are left with a community of beggars and benefactors.
Over the years, CEHRD has carefully ensured that its activities are not influenced by politicians. This has been maintained through non acceptance of bribes or gratifications from the government, oil and gas multinationals or their agencies. The revenue accrued from crude oil which contributes to over 90% of the national revenue, since 1965, predominantly returns to the pocket of those in power and their allies.
Recognising that the Environment is life, CEHRD engages in conservation of forests (rainforests, flood plains, and mangrove forests); wild life protection, restoration and bio-diversity conservation; better agricultural and fishing practices to enhance food security. Environmental and conservation program promotes non-violent activities, eco-tourism, volunteerism, community stewardship, and management of local natural resources.
MAIN GEOGRAPHICAL FOCUS :The Niger Delta Region
CEHRD was incorporated in August 15, 1999 as the Niger Delta Project for Environment, Human Rights and Development (NDPEHRD) and re-incorporated under its new name CEHRD in 2005 following its board decision. CEHRD was founded by conservationists, environmentalists, activists, and health workers in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. CEHRD was formed to respond to the environmental, human rights, rural health, and underdevelopment problems plaguing the Niger Delta.
CEHRD’s scope is local and national in nature. While we liaise with international groups by way of networks and coalitions, our primary focus remains improving on peoples’ traditional knowledge of biodiversity conservation, monitoring, documenting and reporting of human rights violations, and advocating for justice, particularly in the Niger Delta region.
1. Our works cut across all strata of society in terms of age, gender and abilities.
2. The ratio of women to men we serve is 55:45.
CEHRD’s work spans through the entire Niger Delta. Our main focus is on the rural areas, its people, biodiversity conservation, rural health and population. We also monitor document and report human rights violations across the region. In some of the cases, CEHRD provides legal advocacy to victims of human rights violations. With an unemployment rate of over 70%, dire poverty, and dim prospects, some young men seek financial and physical security by joining armed gangs, or "cults." Many of these cults are periodically sponsored by local governmental officials and/or community leaders to carry out campaigns of violence designed to influence local decision-making, especially during election periods. Often, these gangs are also used to sway village leaders and communities' opinions on oil-related projects. In all cases, the influx of cheap arms has led to a drastic increase in violence.
...the oil boom has become, to the people of the Niger Delta region, a doom, and years of official neglect has resulted in the Niger Delta Region of today being the epitome of hunger, poverty and injustice.
Rural & Remote Health Online - 2004
Today, as you read this, the Nigerian government and the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta will gross over US$120 million from pumping oil and gas in the Niger Delta. Tomorrow will be around the same.
Every day, around 2 million barrels of oil are pumped from the Niger Delta. At $60 a barrel, that's $120 million. Increasingly, natural gas is also being exported from the Delta, adding to the millions in revenues generated every day.
The International Monetary Fund calculated that Nigeria earned over US$350 billion in oil revenues between 1965 and 2000. Since 2000, with oil prices soaring, billions more have been earned.
The people of the Delta see this wealth being pumped from around them; the high security compounds of the foreign oil workers a reminder of the wealth being enjoyed by a few.
What they get in return, and what they have gotten for the past 50 years, is pitiful. Not only have they received little but they have been made even more impoverished by the pollution, corruption and conflict that oil production has brought in their midst.
Nigeria is among the fifteen poorest countries in the world and 70% of its people live below the poverty line. Life expectancy is only 51.2 compared to the UK average of 78. In the Delta region, less than 30% of the people have access to safe water and the prevalence of HIV AIDs is the highest in Nigeria.
The villages of the Niger Delta, like many villages across Nigeria, lack basic amenities; running water, sanitation, health care and schools. The cities overflow with slums.
There is no quick fix to the problem of poverty in Nigeria and the Niger Delta. There is no shortage of money. In fact, many observers comment that it is the vast sums of money generated by oil and gas that keeps Nigeria poor. They provide irresistiblebounty for corrupt politicians and civil servants to fight over. They allow for massive waste in the operation of state.
The corruption that eats away Nigeria's oil wealth is not carried out in isolation. Multinational oil companies are complicit. For 50 years, Shell has done business with every corrupt official and military dictator that has happened to be running Nigeria. It has always been part of the system that rather than enriching Nigeria impoverishes it. Likewise, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Agip and Total, along with hundreds of smaller oil companies, contractors and service companies have done what ever it takes to do business in Nigeria.
Facilitating the epic theft of Nigeria's oil wealth is an international system of tax havens that enables Nigeria's elites to disappear billions of dollars without a trace. The UK and the US are at the heart of maintaining that system; a system that benefits the rich and harms the poor.
Oil spill is a common sight in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria and several communities have suffered the devastating effect of such spills. At the end it is the local communities located around such oil installations that bear the brunt. The spills are sometimes caused by several factors including poorly maintained infrastructure located around high pressure oil pipeline. When accidents occur, these pipelines get damaged and spill off its content. Activities of oil bunkers where local people break into pipelines and wells to steal the content have resulted to damaged pipelines there by leaving them to leak. In many cases, equipments and facilities of oil multinationals often fail due to poor maintenance.
Whether the spill is caused by crumbling, aging oil infrastructure or outright sabotage by thieves and aggrieved groups, it has been rumored that up to 1.5 million tons of oil, 50 times the pollution unleashed in the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster (Alaska, March 1989, where 257,000 barrels of oil were spilt and there was massive outcry in America), has been spilled in the ecologically precious Niger Delta over the past 50 years.
Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) is one of the biggest players in the region and one of the most heavily criticized. Its role came under the international spotlight following the execution of the Environmentalist, Playwright turned minority rights activist - Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995 by the then military dictatorship. Environmentalists often accuse Shell of failing to meet its obligations to some local communities where they operate and promises to replace ageing pipes and swamp flow lines. This, Shell has continuously denied, claiming that about 95 per cent of discharges over the past five years have been caused by sabotage and that the oil giant does meet its commitments and continuously monitors equipment.
Recently, fishermen operating off the shoreline in Akwa Ibom State, near Mobil Producing Nigeria’s Qua Iboe oil field raised alarm over the safety and health implication of oil contaminated fish in the area. Meanwhile, Mobil, a subsidiary of U.S. oil firm, ExxonMobil, in a statement signed by Mrs. Gloria Essien-Danner, on May 1st confirmed leakage of a pipeline at one of the company’s offshore platform. The fishermen confirmed that they have been suffering for many years in the hands of Mobil Producing Nigeria due to their frequent oil spills...
A succession of oil spills by Shell and other companies over half a century will cost $1bn to clean up, according to a major report.
The UN Environment Programme (Unep) has announced that Shell and other oil firms systematically contaminated a 1,000 sq km (386 sq mile) area of Ogoniland, in the Niger delta, with disastrous consequences for human health and wildlife.
Nigerians had "paid a high price" for the economic growth brought by the oil industry, said UNEP's executive director.
A leaked summary of Unep's Ogoniland study, the first large-scale scientific study of pollution in the area, has been seen by the Guardian. It calls for a clean-up fund of $1bn (£614m) for spills in Ogoniland, and says it will take 25-30 years to restore the environment. Much of the funding for the clean-up is expected to come from the oil companies.
The three-year investigation found:
• Heavy contamination of land and underground water courses, sometimes more than 40 years after oil was spilled.
• Community drinking water with dangerous concentrations of benzene and other pollutants.
• Soil contamination more than five metres deep in many areas studied.
• Most of the spill sites oil firms claimed to have cleaned still highly contaminated.
• Evidence of oil firms dumping contaminated soil in unlined pits.
• Water coated with hydrocarbons more than 1,000 times the level allowed by Nigerian drinking water standards.
• Failure by Shell and others to meet minimum Nigerian or own standards.
The study wants emergency measures taken to warn communities and to clean up drinking-water wells, and says Shell and other companies working in the delta should overhaul the way they operate.
Achim Steiner, a UN under-secretary general and Unep's executive director, said the report provided the scientific basis for a long overdue restoration of Ogoniland. "The oil industry has been a key sector of the Nigerian economy for over 50 years but many Nigerians have paid a high price. It is Unep's hope the findings can break the decades of deadlock in the region. [The study] offers a blueprint for how the oil industry and public authorities might operate more responsibly in Africa and beyond at a time of increasing production and exploration across many parts of the continent."
Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International and director of Environment Rights Action in Nigeria, said: "The widespread pollution of Ogoniland as documented does not come as a surprise because the manifestation is physical and people have been living in that putrid situation for decades now. Now we know it will take up to 30 years to remediate the impacts, especially on the mangroves of the region." He said the pollution had decimated the livelihoods of the Ogoni people."Unep's recommendation that an environmental restoration fund for Ogoniland be set up with a take-off sum of $1bn is applauded. But we need a larger fund for the entire Niger delta."
Responding to the Unep report, Mutiu Sunmonu, the managing director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, said it was a valuable aid to improving understanding of oil spills in Ogoniland. "All oil spills are bad – bad for local communities, bad for the environment, bad for Nigeria and bad for [the company]. Although we haven't produced oil in Ogoniland since 1993 we clean up all spills from our facilities, whatever the cause, and restore the land to its original state.
"The majority of oil spills in Nigeria are caused by sabotage, theft and illegal refining. We urge the Nigerian authorities to do all they can to curb such activity, and we will continue working with our partners in Nigeria, including the government, to solve these problems and on the next steps to help clean up Ogoniland."
Environment groups and Ogonis welcomed the report but said $100bn was needed to clean up the entire delta, beyond just Ogoniland. Friends of the Earth International called on Shell to come up with an action plan with the Nigerian government to commence remediation actions immediately.
The Guardian has revealed that Shell accepted responsibility for two massive oil spills in the region that devastated a 69,000-strong community. Combined, the spills could be larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, and Shell faces a bill of hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.
The Unep team collected more than 4,000 samples of soil, fish and air, and investigated, in depth, 69 of the many hundreds of oil spills in Ogoniland over the past 50 years. They studied 5,000 medical records and had 260 meetings with communities.
It is expected that the report will act as a baseline study for a massive clean-up operation required by the UN.
Oil drilling in Ogoniland ceased in the 90s after Shell was ejected for widespread pollution and failing to help regional development. More than £30bn of oil has been extracted from the area but the majority of people are worse off than before the companies arrived.
"Even though oil operations have ceased in Ogoniland, oil spills continue to occur in alarming regularity. Since life expectancy in Nigeria is less than 50 years it is a fair assumption most people in Ogoniland have lived with chronic oil pollution throughout their lives," the report says. "Ogoniland has a tragic history of pollution but systematic scientific information has been absent about the ensuing contamination." Oil company records and investigations of spills in the delta are heavily disputed and politically sensitive, and the UN has been careful not to apportion blame for any particular spill.
Because Shell's subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company, which works in partnership with the Nigerian government, has been the largest operator in the region, the report will be seen as an investigation of their practices. The independent report was paid for in part by Shell, and commissioned by the Nigerian government.
The UN team was clearly shocked at some of their findings. In one place, Ejama Ebubu, the study found heavy contamination from a spill that took place more than 40 years ago "despite repeated clean up attempts". In Nisisoken Ogale, in Eleme, close to a Nigerian national petroleum company pipeline, researchers found 8cm of refined oil floating on groundwater that served community wells.
"Pollution of soil is extensive, widespread and severely impacting," says the report, which will be presented to Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan, in Abuja on Thursday and will be released on Friday in London.
The health hazards created by oil exploration and exploitation are covert and slow in action. They are not given the deserved attention in official documents in Nigeria, even as they can be major contributors to the disease burden in oil-bearing communities. This study is an interpretation of the data reported in several published studies on crude oil spills in the Niger delta region, Nigeria.
Materials and Methods:
A manual and Internet search was conducted to extract quantitative data on the quantity of crude oil spilled; the concentrations of the pollutants in surface water, ground water, ambient air and plant and animal tissue; and the direct impact on human health and household food security.
An average of 240,000 barrels of crude oil are spilled in the Niger delta every year, mainly due to unknown causes (31.85%), third party activity (20.74%), and mechanical failure (17.04%). The spills contaminated the surface water, ground water, ambient air, and crops with hydrocarbons, including known carcinogens like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and benxo (a) pyrene, naturally occurring radioactive materials, and trace metals that were further bioaccumulated in some food crops. The oil spills could lead to a 60% reduction in household food security and were capable of reducing the ascorbic acid content of vegetables by as much as 36% and the crude protein content of cassava by 40%. These could result in a 24% increase in the prevalence of childhood malnutrition. Animal studies indicate that contact with Nigerian crude oil could be hemotoxic and hepatotoxic, and could cause infertility and cancer.
The oil spills in the Niger delta region have acute and long-term effects on human health. Material relief and immediate and long-term medical care are recommended, irrespective of the cause of the spill, to ensure that the potential health effects of exposures to the spills are properly addressed.