Nigeria – ‘Astonishingly High’ Pollution

Oil giant accused of concealing data on the health effects of two major spills. 

Data gathered among the Bodo community, which was devastated by two huge oil spills in 2008 and 2009, showed levels of pollution were “astonishingly high”, according to a letter by former employee of Shell, Kay Koltzmann.

Holtzmann was the former director in charge of Shell’s project to clean up oil spills in the Bodo community, in the oil-producing Niger Delta region. He accused the company of refusing to make the findings public.

The clean-up project carried out an analysis of the environment in the Bodo creeks in August 2015 “against fierce opposition” from Shell’s subsidiary company, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC). 

“The results from the laboratory were astonishingly high, actually the soil in the mangroves is literally soaked with hydrocarbons. Whoever is walking in the creeks cannot avoid contact with toxic substances… negative long term effects on their health are unpredictable,” he said.

The letter was addressed to the chairman of the Bodo Mediation Initiative, which is sponsored by the Dutch Government and is tasked to ensure the clean up meets international standards.

Shell accepted liability for the 2008 and 2009 oil spills. In 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published a report claiming it would take up to 30 years to clean the Niger Delta from oil spills. In 2015, Shell agreed to pay £55m to the Bodo community.

Holtzmann called for “immediate action to protect the health of the Bodo residents” and urged for “medical mass screening” to take place, warning against the risk for people exposed to toxic substances by bathing or drinking the polluted water, reported UK-based the Independent

No one could explain the decision to withhold the data from the public.

Further, on April 10th Shell and ENI were forced to deny that their staff had been involved in payments to officials. In 2010 transactions worth $1.3bn were made by Shell and ENI for exploration of the OPL 245 offshore block, but the companies reportedly knew the funds would go to a front company connected to former petroleum minister Dan Etete, reported Lagos-based, the Guardian

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

NIGERIA – UK: Pollution Claims Blocked
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21560C–21562C

OIL AND GAS: Nigeria
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21549B–21550C

OPEC TALKS: Oil Price Boost [Free to Read]
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21508A–21509A

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