Aug 23, 2010

Ogoni: Is The UN A Fig Leaf For Shell?

United Nations accused of helping cover up for Royal Dutch Shell for its contribution to the ongoing environmental and human rights disaster in the Niger Delta. The controversy revolves around the upcoming UN Environment Programme (Unep) investigation into oil spill responsibility, which has been funded by the very corporation accused of devastating the environment. 

Below is an article published by: Morning Star Online

Campaigners have accused a top United Nations body of operating a "manipulative PR strategy" to absolve Royal Dutch Shell of responsibility for an ongoing environmental disaster in the Niger Delta.

The UN Environment Programme (Unep) will publish the results in December of its investigation into oil pollution in the Niger Delta over the last 40 years.

Shell has been repeatedly accused of horrific environmental destruction and grievous human rights abuses in the Delta area.

Last year it settled out of court in a case brought by the family of activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others executed by the government alleging Shell's complicity in their deaths.

Last year Amnesty reported that the equivalent of nine million barrels of oil had been spilled in the region in the last 50 years, almost twice the amount spilled in the recent Deepwater Horizon disaster.

But the Unep report, which has been paid for by Shell, will claim that the oil giant is responsible for only 10 per cent of the pollution in the region and blame the remaining 90 per cent of spills on local people stealing oil and sabotaging pipelines.

Unep head Michael Cowing has stated in emails seen by the Star that: "Unep is not responsible for allocating responsibility for the number of spills ... rather we are focusing on the science."

He rejected suggestions the programme had been influenced by Shell, saying: "We believe it is right that Shell fund the study" and it was the norm that "the polluter pays."

Spokesman for oil watchdog Platform Ben Amunwa told the Star: "There is very little sign that Shell is doing anything to stem the tide of daily oil spills polluting the Niger Delta or to clean up their mess.

"Aggressive independent oversight is needed, but this is unlikely to be provided by a Shell-sponsored report," said Mr Amunwa.

"Unep's findings distract from the cumulative impact of over 50 years of Shell's oil spillage in the region. What started as an environmental audit of Ogoniland has become another manipulative PR strategy.

"The Unep study of Ogoniland relies on bogus figures from Shell and incomplete government records. With Shell and the governor of Rivers State backing Unep, many Ogoni suspect that the report's focus on sabotage and bunkering (oil theft) will be used as a pretext for military repression notorious in the Niger Delta, where non-violent activists, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, were executed in 1995."

Green Party deputy leader Adrian Ramsay also disputed the findings.

"Bunkering of oil is a relatively recent development and not something that characterises the resource exploitation of the region for 40 years," he said.

"In the Niger Delta there were 2,976 oil spills between 1976 and 1991 alone. Since Ken Saro-Wiwa's death in 1995, his predictions of ecological and humanitarian disaster in the Niger Delta have been proved right.

The area, so rich in natural resources, is both a wasteland and a war zone.

"We need to shine a light on human and environmental costs of Western companies working with corrupt governments."

War on Want spokeswoman Ruth Tanner added: "Shell is profiting from human rights abuse and repression in the Niger Delta. It is time the company was held to account, not let off the hook."