Following last week’s surprise announcement by Shell’s new CEO, Ben Van Beurden that the $1billion dollar take off fund for Ogoni clean up was waiting in a dedicated account, Social Action and other British and Nigeria NGOs have demanded that Shell stop playing games with the pains and misery of Ogoni people who were dying in their thousands because of non implementation of UNEP Report.
CEO Ben van Beurden while responding to a question on UNEP Report from James Marriott of PLATFORM during Shell’s UK Shareholder Meeting in London on 22 May, 2014, claimed that the money to implement the clean-up recommended by the UNEP’S Environmental Assessment of Ogonilandhas been set aside in a “verifiable” account. But he said that the company is unable to disburse the funds due to the “lack of structures” ready to receive the money and coordinate the clean up, stating that: “many people in the Niger Delta would be interested in $1 billion dollars”
On 4 August 2011, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released its damning report, which the Ogoni prefer to call “a death sentence” on their environment. The report confirmed that the integrity of the Ogoni environment has been heavily damaged and compromised by the oil industry that rather than support lives and livelihoods, it was killing the Ogoni people. UNEP further made several recommendations to the Federal Government of Nigeria, its agencies and Shell on ways for remedying the terrible environmental situation but nothing has been done by either party than the mere setting up of Hydro Carbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP).
Social Action considers above statement from the CEO as unnecessary pointing of fingers especially as the case in question has do with peoples lives and livelihoods. The organisation that has launched both local and international campaign for clean up of Ogoni environment, while calling on the Federal Government of Nigeria to urgently scrap HYPREP, further call on the company to immediately release the money rather than trading blames.
Speaking on behalf of the organisation, Celestine AkpoBari who presented a strong case for Ogoni clean up during the 2013 London Shareholders Meeting and who just returned from an international campaign on UNEP report implementation said: “Shell has the power to do anything it wants in Nigeria, including having our people killed as it has done in the past. But arewe expected to believe that it does not have the power to arrange for the clean up of its own mess? This is double standards and lies. How many more years will the Ogoni people have to wait for something to be done about their toxic environment?”
In their reactions, Sarah Shoraka of London Platform said:“Shell claims it needs to wait for the Nigerian Government to act but everyone know they are in the driving seat. The Petroleum Minister was the former Director of Shell Nigeria for 15 years. Ben Van Beurden says he is travelling to Nigeria in the next 2 weeks. He needs get his head together with the Nigerian Government to set up a Ogoni Environment Restoration Authority if he is serious about delivering the clean-up.”
While Patrick Kaneof War on Want, London said: “It is frankly offensive for Shell to claim that it has the money sitting there but is hanging on for the structures to emerge in Nigeria. Shell is guilty of over half a century of destruction of the Ogoni environment. They have a duty to make this clean up happen as soon as possible.”
On his part, the Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Rev Nnimmo Bassey who has always supported the scrapping of HYPREP, has expressed serious disappointment over the announcement from the CEO. According to him “we are surprised that it took Shell so long to indicate readiness to provide first instalment towards the cleanup of Ogoni. As the polluter, Shell has no right to dictate what sort of account should be created for the cleanup of their massive ecological destruction of Ogoni land. The survivors of the ecological war against the Ogonis must be directly involved in the planning of the clean up and in the management of the funds assigned for the purpose”
Meanwhile, Social Action has extended an invitation to CEOBen van Beurden to visit polluted sites in Ogoni during his planned visit to Nigeria in two weeks time. According to the organisation, visiting spill sites will give the new CEO an opportunity to get a first information on the actual state of things rather than the half baked truths Shell Nigeria constantly send out to the international community.
The organization has also called on the National Assembly to take advantage of their oversight function to compel the Federal Government and Shell to commence Ogoni clean up.
Notes: Download UNEP Report onlinehttp://www.unep.org/disastersandconflicts/CountryOperations/Nigeria/EnvironmentalAssessmentofOgonilandreport/tabid/54419/Default.aspx
For further information contact: AkpoBari Celestine
Phone number-08032733965, Email: Celestine[at]saction.org