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Ogoniland clean-up to cost over $50 billion
June 22, 2017, 1:24 pm

More than 2,500 sites in Nigeria’s oil producing areas that have been contaminated by oil spills would require more than US$ 50 billion and more than 50 years to clean up, say experts in the field. They add that their gloomy assessment is made provided timely and massive deployment of suitable technologies and required equipment are made, and the needed experts and volunteers are found, to implement the cleaning operations.

There are many environmental problems in the oil and gas-producing areas of Nigeria, especially oil spills, including groundwater pollution, surface water pollution and damage to aquatic and shallow marine life; acid rain and air quality degradation due to gas flaring; and biodiversity loss. Environmental pollution is also an alleged contributor to the low life expectancy, of about 54.6 years, estimated for all parts of Nigeria. The conditions are worse in some areas of the Niger Delta because of the large number of both legacy oil pollution sites and more recent oil spills.

An independent United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) study, conducted at the request of the Federal Government of Nigeria, revealed the true nature and extent of oil contamination in Ogoniland. The report also provided a clear operational guidance on how that legacy can be addressed. The two year study of the environmental and public health impacts of oil contamination in Ogoniland is believed to be one of the most complex on-the ground assessments ever undertaken by UNEP.

Meanwhile, residents in the area expressed their dismay on the delay in commencement of implementation of the UNEP report and the politicization of the cleanup operations. The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) claim that though nearly six years have passed since the UNEP report on the oil contamination in the area, "not a drop of oil" has been cleaned in Ogoniland.

However, the Resident Coordinator of United Nations in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, called on people of Ogoni impacted by environmental degradation to be patient while the clean-up recommended by the global body takes off. He stated that the remediation process involves technical approaches that needed a lot of time to be achieved appropriately. “We need time to allow the experts on the ground to do the critical analysis that are required before an investment is done,” he said.

For its part, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), operator of the SPDC Joint Venture that operated in Ogoniland from the 1950s to the early 1990s, attempted to wash its hands off its leading role in creating the environmental catastrophe. In just a 15-year period from 1976 to 1991 there were reportedly 2,976 oil spills of about 2.1 million barrels of oil in Ogoniland, accounting for about 40 percent of the total oil spills of the Royal Dutch/Shell company worldwide

In a report, the SPDC said that most of UNEP's recommendations, including the creation of an environmental restoration fund, were directed at the Federal Government of Nigeria. The company added that while it welcomed the UNEP Report, and remained committed to its implementation, the cleanup operations had to be under the leadership and coordination of the Federal Government.

Meanwhile, scientists have warned that technically, it is impossible to clean up all the sites in Niger Delta. A screening system that combines cost, ecological, proximal population and other rational factors should be quickly developed for use in selecting about 100-150 sites for focus remediation, they said. They add that about 30 percent of the sites have become totally uninhabitable and will simply need to be evacuated because of the risk of cumulative exposure to contaminants.


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