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Niger Delta Impacted by 1.5 Million Tons of Oil Spill, Among Five Most Polluted Spots on Earth
Vanguard (Lagos)
October 31, 2006
Posted to the web October 31, 2006

Hector Igbikiowubo With Agency Report

THE Niger Delta has been impacted by 1.5 million tons of crude oil spill over the last 50 years threatening rare species including primate fish, turtles, bird and damaging crops while destroying the livelihood of many of the 20 million people living there and fuelling the upsurge in violence.

Experts have also listed the Niger Delta among the five most polluted spots on the face of the earth with dire consequences for the health of inhabitants of the area.

This was disclosed by a panel of independent experts who travelled to the increasingly tense and lawless region.

The experts who were representatives of World Wildlife Foundation (WW) UK, the World Conservation Union and representatives from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and the Nigeria Conservation Foundation drew the conclusion in a report they compiled.

They pointed out that far from benefitting local people, rural communities have bore the brunt of the environmental and social costs of development.

The Delta is home to 7,000sq km of the continent's remaining 9,000sq km of mangrove and scientists believe some 60 per cent of West Africa's fish stocks breed in the rivers and swamps along the coast.

In Oloibori, the first oil village where drilling began in 1958, youth unemployment is now running at 50 per cent.

The cost of the leaking crude, much of it from outdated equipment and pipes, is estimated to be costing Nigeria $10m (£5.3m) a day.

The report concluded that the impact of oil and gas drilling was a "significant contributor to the current violence, sabotage of pipelines/installations and instability in the region."

Villagers protesting against oil production in the region weekend, stormed and seized three Shell oil platforms, forcing the closure of each pumping station. This week, four Scottish oil workers returned to Britain after being seized from an Exxon Mobil compound by local gunmen seeking a £21m ransom.

And earlier this year, 17 people were killed when local militants stormed a Royal Dutch Shell facility, prompting the oil giant to pull out hundreds of workers and close down wells.

Shell is one of the biggest players in the region and one of the most heavily criticised. Its role came under the international spotlight following the execution of the playwright turned minority rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995 by the then military dictatorship. Last year the company, which boasted profits of $22.94bn (£13.12bn), extracted 900,000 barrels of crude oil a day from its activities in the Niger Delta.

Environmentalists accuse the company of failing to meet promises to replace ageing pipes and swamp flowlines that, it is claimed, are steadily leaking oil into the once pristine waters of the delta. Shell estimates that 95 per cent of discharges over the past five years have been caused by sabotage.

But a spokeswoman for the company insisted that the oil giant was meeting its commitments and continuously monitoring equipment, although continuing violence meant it could not meet all its targets.

"We have a programme in place to replace flowlines and pipelines in swamp areas and on land and we continue to make good progress.

"Unfortunately, we have little or no access to some land areas, such as Ogoni, and therefore are unable so far to complete the programme of replacement in such areas," she said.

The authors found sites at Kidaro Creek and Rivers State where oil products had been buried. Old drilling equipment in other areas, officially thought to have been cleared up, was discovered to be still leaching oil into the environment.

The report accused the oil companies of "double standards" by using technologies not in line with more advanced practices carried out elsewhere in the world.

It called for international action to implement an immediate rescue plan, backed by the oil and gas industries which have exploited the region for up to half a century

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