Recent news coverage has highlighted further concerns about the credibility and quality of Nigeria’s largest oil spill clean-up, including poor implementation of remediation techniques and mishandling of contracts. This time, the concerns come from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – the very body which has been working closely to support the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) to implement the clean-up, and which is now sadly preparing to withdraw from the project at the end of 2022. SDN’s own reporting, which focuses on on-the-ground clean-up activities, raises a number of similar concerns – and recent laboratory analysis for an upcoming report suggests that the situation may be worse than our own reporting has shown so far. The loss of UNEP’s technical expertise and resources can only serve to weaken the clean-up, and we urgently call on the Ministry of Environment, HYPREP and Shell Petroleum Development Company (the majority funder of HYPREP) to address these concerns and ensure UNEP’s continued involvement.
Since the end of 2020, SDN’s Independent Civil Society Monitoring of the Ogoni Clean-up project has been collecting soil and water samples at clean-up sites where remediation work has been carried out, as well as data on a range of wider activities, such as the provision of clean drinking water. Our most recent report shows that while there has been some progress, it has been slow; we have found contaminants above set thresholds at more than 25% of sites that had been certified as complete by December 2021; and we believe there is a significant risk of secondary contamination caused by poor practice among some contractors, such as the potential for leaching from contaminated soil exposed to rainfall over an extended period at biocells.
Furthermore, analysis for our upcoming report (covering January – June 2022), suggests the situation may be worse than we have reported so far. To the end of 2021, we had only sent samples for analysis at local laboratories, none of which have the international ILAC accreditation. We recently sent 20 duplicate samples to an ILEC accredited laboratory in the UK; of the 16 samples which had Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon levels above detection limits, UK laboratory analysis reported TPH levels which were on average twice as high as that reported by local laboratory analysis.
SDN’s Executive Director, Calvin Laing, noted “People in Ogoniland have lived for decades with the health risks from extensive oil pollution and the loss of livelihoods from environmental damage – this should be the first and foremost concern of everyone involved in the clean-up. There are problems with the Ogoniland clean-up and everyone involved should be interested in solving them. Reports that HYPREP’s budget has increased nearly nine-fold this year emphasise the urgent need for greater transparency, and to ensure the competency of contractors and the implementation of effective clean-up techniques. We’re eagerly awaiting the HYPREP audit recently ordered by President Buhari, which is a step towards this”.
SDN’s programmes director, Florence Kayemba IbokAbasi added “From SDN’s perspective, UNEP has provided valuable technical assistance and oversight to the clean-up, and after decades of sub-standard response to oil spills in the Niger Delta region, their presence has helped build confidence in the potential for a credible clean-up. We are also deeply concerned that their departure at the end of 2022 will reduce the level of support to HYPREP and put the quality of the clean-up at risk”.
SDN implores the Honourable Minister of Environment and HYPREP to work with Ogoni communities, UNEP and civil society, to agree to the reforms required to ensure we can all work together to ensure a timely, high-quality, effective clean-up of oil spill pollution in Ogoniland.
Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN)was established as a non-governmental not-for-profit organisation in 2004 to support those affected by the extractives industry and weak governance.
It works with communities and engage with governments, companies and other stakeholders to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights, including the right to a healthy environment. Our work currently focuses on the Niger Delta.
In 2020, Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), in partnership with the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) commenced the Independent Civil Society Monitoring of the Ogoniland Cleanup project with support from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and working in partnership with a range of civil society organisations and activists in the region. Via a network of trained monitors from civil society, we are regularly gathering a range of data to track the progress of a large-scale oil pollution clean-up in Ogoniland, Rivers State, Nigeria, conducted by a project of the Ministry of Environment: the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP). Our project will run from 2020 to the end of 2024.