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Ogoniland: Shell Starting To Pull Out

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12 April 2013

Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, said, Wednesday [10 April], it had begun the decommissioning of its facilities in Ogoniland, Rivers State, with the commencement of an audit of its assets in the area.

Shell said in a statement the process began with bush clearing in the fourth quarter of last year, following series of engagements and consultations with the communities.

It is not clear why Shell kept quiet about the decommissioning until now, but this will be the first time Shell will be venturing into Ogoniland for any kind of activity in almost 20 years.

The decommissioning also comes almost two years after the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, asking Shell to take urgent action with regard to the damning pollution of Ogoniland.

The August 2011 UNEP Report required Shell to conduct a comprehensive review of its assets in Ogoniland and develop a decommissioning plan.

Shell in its statement, said it has commenced an inventory of its assets in Ogoni land in line with the Report, saying that “The assets being identified include flowstations, compressor and gas plants and pipelines. Seven fields have so far been covered.”

Also commenting on the development, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, Managing Director and Country Chair, Shell Nigeria, clarified, “I wish to make clear that the exercise is not an attempt to secretly resume oil production in Ogoniland.

“The intention is to determine the state of our facilities since we suspended operations in the area in 1993, and determine how best to decommission them.

“We are grateful for the co-operation of local government councils and the communities, including traditional rulers, and are working to complete the exercise later this year.” UNEP had in an independent scientific assessment in 2011, revealed that pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the region has penetrated further and deeper than many may have supposed.

UNEP said the environmental damage is unprecedented, stating that the study took over 14 months during which its team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings.

The team also conducted detailed soil and groundwater contamination investigations at 69 sites, which ranged in size from 1,300 square metres (Barabeedom-K.dere, Gokana local government area (LGA) to 79 hectares (Ajeokpori-Akpajo, Eleme LGA).

Altogether more than 4,000 samples were analyzed, including water taken from 142 groundwater monitoring wells drilled specifically for the study and soil extracted from 780 boreholes.

Some of the key findings in the report were that some areas, which appear unaffected at the surface, are in reality severely contaminated underground in soil depths of over five metres, and action to protect human health and reduce the risks to affected communities should occur without delay.

The report further stated that in at least 10 Ogoni communities where drinking water is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbons, public health is seriously threatened.

In one community, at Nisisioken Ogale, in western Ogoniland, the report revealed that families are drinking water from wells that is contaminated with benzene- a known carcinogen-at levels over 900 times above World Health Organization guidelines. The site is close to a Nigerian National Petroleum Company pipeline among others.

SOURCE

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