Four oil spill sites in Nigeria identified by the UN, which Shell has claimed to have had cleaned up by contractors since 2011, are still polluted, says a report by Amnesty.
One of these sites, the Bomu manifold close to the village of Kegbara Dere in Ogoniland, is Nigeria’s oil central: five major northbound Shell pipelines join four southbound ones which together carry 150,000 barrels of oil a day to the huge oil export terminal at Bonny 50 miles away. The junction is considered so important to the economy of Nigeria and Shell that it is surrounded by a high fence and guarded day and night by the military.
But the ageing 50-year-old pipes and rusty pumps have burst and spilt large quantities of oil at least seven times since 1990, and in 2009 a fire broke out lasting 36 hours, leading to another major spill. When UN environment programme (UNEP) inspectors visited the site in 2010, they found high levels of contamination all around Bomu, pollution 5m deep in places and oil spreading into nearby cassava fields, and water supplies.
Back in 2010, UNEP inspectors said, “Nothing appears to have been done about the pollution,” and urged an immediate decontamination of the Bomu manifold along with 60 other heavily polluted sites in Ogoniland, all of which, they said, had been left untouched or only cursorily cleaned up by Shell and other oil companies since the 1970s.
Earlier this year, Amnesty International revisited the Bomu manifold three times and found the site still massively contaminated, despite claims from Shell and the Nigerian government’s watchdog pollution body that it had been cleaned up satisfactorily in 2012.
“Water containing oil ”¦ flows along the path of the Shell pipelines. At places there are pools of oil. Some soil is black and hard. The three fish ponds, owned by a local family, are covered in a thick oily sheen, and show no signs of life. The spills ”¦ have contaminated fields and a neighbouring forest and have spread down into the Barabeedom swamp,” says Amnesty, working with the Port Harcourt-based Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD).
The joint report is published to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the execution of nine Ogoni leaders, including the writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa. Amnesty alleges that in some cases, contractors employed by Shell admit simply to burying the pollution.
“This is just a cover up. If you just dig down a few metres you find oil. We just excavated, then shifted the soil away, then covered it all up again,” one contractor employed by Shell told Amnesty.