Nigeria’s silent killer: Compensation to the communities
In this third and final report, we see how the oil spill clean-up in Ogoniland is still not complete, despite recommendations by the UN and money distributed to the Nigerian government.
The people of Bodo were compensated by Shell after they filed a case in the United Kingdom, where Shell is incorporated. Shell accepted the responsibility for the oil spills of Bodo in 2008 and 2009. The parties settled in 2015 and $83.4m, 82% short of their original demand of $454.9m was paid to the people of Bodo.
Emma Pii, chairman of the council of village heads, says every resident of Bodo who was 18 years above received N600,000.
But they are still waiting for the oil spills to be cleaned.
Goi, Mogho, and K-Dere are hoping to be compensated by Shell for destroying the livelihoods of its people.
But Shell says it can only pay compensation to communities whose oil spills occurred as a result of operational failure and not spills caused by sabotage and vandalism.
The speed of the cleanup is so slow that the desired results will not be achieved. Since 2011, this place has remained contaminated.
“The majority of the spill recorded in the Niger Delta, including in Ogoniland were as a result of sabotage and vandalism,” says Shell’s spokesperson Bamildele Odugbesan.
“Every operational spill with impact is what we pay compensation for and if there is no impact, we don’t pay. Our pipelines have continued to suffer third party interference.”
In 2011, UNEP said the environmental restoration of Ogoniland was possible but could take 25 to 30 years if a comprehensive clean up exercise could begin immediately.
It recommended the creation of an Environmental Restoration Fund (ERF) for Ogoniland with a capital of $1bn, to be co-funded by the federal government, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Shell.
A year later, the Nigerian government established the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP), an agency under the ministry of the environment with the mandate to implement the environmental clean-up programme in Ogoniland.
In 2016, the government then launched a $1bn clean-up and restoration programme of the Ogoniland, with $200m to be released every year.
But the cleanup did not begin immediately.
The cleanup exercise later took off in 2019, eight years after UNEP’s recommendation.
So far, $360m has been released to HYPREP out of which less than $30m has been spent, making cleanup slow.
“The speed of the cleanup is so slow that the desired results will not be achieved. Since 2011, this place has remained contaminated. This is what the people have been living all through their lives with. This is suicide. The people have been crying and complaining,” stresses Erabanabari Kobah, the environmental scientist from K-Dere.
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HYPREP says it is only following due process. It adds that being quick without observing the rules, will only have the opposite effect.
“The Ogoniland cleanup project is not slow, it is on course and going at a pace that standard remediation practice allows,” says HYPREP’s spokesperson Joseph Kpoobari Nafo.
But Sam Kabari, an environmental expert and a lecturer at the Nigerian Maritime University, Delta State, sees the delay as nothing more than the effect of bureaucracy, which plagues just about every government agency.
“We wanted an independent HYPREP that would own its processes and take critical decisions towards achieving its aims and mandates itself. HYPREP should be in charge of its funds, decisions and day-to-day running,” suggests Kabari.
To avoid future oil spills, Shell says it has taken effective steps.
For the last seven years, Odegbesan notes how Shell has replaced 1,300 kilometers of its pipelines, including in Ogoniland.
“We also monitor the pipelines to ensure nothing is happening to them. If something is happening to them, we can respond swiftly. We have helicopters with high definition aerial cameras hovering over our assets daily to capture the illegal activity of our pipeline. We have intensified our campaign among the local people not to go near oil facilities and engage the public on the danger of pipeline vandalism.
Despite such declarations, the fact remains that these communities are still reeling from previous oil spills.
Dooh says the cleanup has not been effective.
Until the people are compensated and HYPREP follows UNEP recommendations, Ogoniland cannot be restored.
“If the cleanup becomes effective, people will go back to the communities and start living well,” explains Dooh. “But if the cleanup is not successful, Ogoni people will continue to suffer.”
This is the final report of a 3 part series
*This investigation was supported by Microsoft Modern Journalism and International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)