Jump to navigation

Vol 60 No 22

Published 7th November 2019


Delta pollution damned

'Environmental genocide' was the label the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, hung on the decades of multinational oil company operations in Nigeria's Niger Delta at the 1 November launch of the interim report by the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission, which he chairs.

The 11-page interim report is based on anecdotal accounts from locals of ecological devastation and poverty and references scientific studies of damage. Up to now, governmental investigations, most of them paid for by the industry, have blamed spills on conflict between the military and armed groups, organised oil thieves, and locals deliberately opening pipes to claim compensation. 

Before the landmark 2011 report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on similar catastrophic levels of oil pollution to those in Bayelsa but in Ogoni, on the other side of the Delta, UNEP was criticised for pre-announcing findings in 2009 that only 10% of pollution was due to leaks from Shell's pipelines.

Any Commission recommendations on a clean-up will spark controversy. The operation in Ogoni has run into endless delays, despite Shell and others handing over US$180 million to the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project to do the work (AC Vol 60 No 7, Clean-up or cover-up? & Vol 60 No 18, The oil clean-up that didn't?). 

The military's role in oil theft and associated pollution is another political hot potato. A June report by Transparency International alleged that Nigeria loses 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) to oil theft, in which the armed forces play a leading role. Between 2016 and 2017, Nigeria lost over $105 billion, TI claims. 

The Sentamu Commission's full report, expected in 2020, will also have to address the thorny issue of responsibility for pipeline explosions the Delta war between 2003 amd 2009. The focus of military operations was Government Ekpemupolo, known as Tompolo, who has still to present himself in court on money-laundering charges (AC Vol 57 No 4, The great militant chase).

Related Articles

Clean-up or cover-up?

Links between Big Oil and politicians are blocking a multimillion-dollar environmental rescue plan for the Delta

The UN-mandated clean-up of oil-polluted Ogoniland is becoming mired in allegations of pay-outs to politicians to rig elections in Rivers State. Violence and vote-rigging over two ...

The oil clean-up that didn't?

The efforts to repair environmental damage to the oil-producing Niger Delta lack ambition and urgency

The delays seemed at an end in 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari formally launched the clean-up operation and endorsed the composition of the structures supervising the operati...

The great militant chase

Whether or not he ends up in a Lagos court, Tompolo and his supporters can cause havoc by relaunching the militant campaign in the Delta 

The search is on for the militant kingpin High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, who has disappeared since a court warrant was issued last month for his arrest on corruptio...


Unknown soldiers

A massacre of more than 200 Tiv causes ructions in the military and the federation

When Nigerian soldiers slaughtered more than 200 civilians in Benue State, they called into question the moral basis of President Olusegun Obasanjo's government. The Obasanjo regim...

Half-truths on subsidies

The report on the US$6.8 billion fuel subsidy fraud by the Chairman of the National Assembly Ad Hoc Committee, Farouk Lawan, was tabled on 24 April. The 210-page opus concentrate...