UN report exonerates Shell from Niger pollution

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Oil giant Shell is not responsible for the pollution in Nigeria’s Ogoniland by oil spills, but the region’s local population and criminal gangs, says a secret UN report according to Dutch newspaper .

The UN’s findings on pollution in the Niger Delta were not published earlier because of security reasons, claims in Monday’s edition. The Nigerian government feared a violent backlash from locals and environmental activists.

Bad Shell image unfounded The general image of Shell as a corporate villain wreaking environmental havoc on the area and depriving locals of their livelihoods could not be substantiated, claims Mike Cowing who drew up the report for the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP.

When Mr Cowing arrived at these conclusions last August, he came under fire from environmentalist groups, who alleged his report only included figures from the Nigerian government and Shell.

Activists say Shell is responsible for oil spills and industrial waste dumps in to the Niger River Delta. The locals cannot eat the fish in the sea or drink contaminated ground water as a result. The air has also been severely polluted. Natural gas that is a byproduct of drilling is flared off - collected in batches and then combusted - from stations near villages. Asthma and cancer are linked to flaring, argue the activists.

‘Bunkering’ the pollution baddie The report attributes the pollution in Ogoniland largely to sabotage. The practice of so-called ‘bunkering’ – where thieves pierce pipes to siphon off oil and then transport it in small vessels to tankers off the Nigerian coast – is also cited a major cause of pollution in the delta. Locals and corrupt soldiers allegedly carry out these acts of sabotage.

In response to the article in Trouw, Shell said it was not familiar with the UN report. It’s expected the report will be officially published in the autumn.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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