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 Spillage: Groups Task Norway’s Oil Fund On Niger Delta Clean-up

Spillage: Groups Task Norway’s Oil Fund On Niger Delta Clean-up

With oil companies gearing up to divest from fossil fuels, groups in Niger state have called on the Norway Oil Fund to ensure that they clean up the environmental disasters that they have caused in the past 63 years of their operations in the region.

Stakeholders, including executive director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), David Ugolor; researcher at Fafo and associate professor at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at UiO; Camilla Houeland; director at SLUG – Debt Justice Network Norway, Julie Rødje and member of Parliament for The Socialist Left Party (The Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment) Lars Haltbrekken, tasked the Norway’s Oil Fund to visit the Niger Delta and see for itself, the environmental damages caused by oil companies operating in the region.

Recall that the Norway’s Oil Fund (managed by Norges Bank Investment Management – NBIM) is a top three shareholder in some oil companies in Nigeria.

In 2013 Norway’s Ministry of Finance directed the Oil Fund to engage with Shell for up to ten years on the environmental and societal harms caused in the Niger Delta, which were exposed by Norway’s own Ethics Council.

The council found out that Royal Dutch Shell plc, is responsible for serious environmental damage in the Niger Delta, but that there is exceptional uncertainty linked to future developments. The council therefore recommended that Shell be put under observation for a period of up to four years.

10 years later, human rights groups, led by the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, visited Oslo, Norway, to raise awareness about environmental damage in the Niger Delta. They met with politicians and the Oil Fund (NBIM) to highlight Norway’s responsibility for climate and environmental impact abroad.

National coordinator at Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Nigeria, Celestine AkpoBari, at a breakfast meeting in Kulturhuset, Norway, lamented that, 10 years after the Oil Fund’s directive to Shell to clean up the health and environmental damages caused by oil exploration in the Niger Delta, not much has been done.

In the last four years, AkpoBari averred that the Bayelsa Commission commissioned studies of soil and water samples, as well as of local residents blood and found alarming results.

“Toxins from hydrocarbon pollution are present at often dangerous levels in the soil, water and air across Bayelsa. They have been absorbed into the human food chain and they have ultimately found their way into the bloodstreams and tissue of people living in affected communities.

“High concentrations of heavy metals were found in the food chain across testing sites, including chromium, cadmium, zinc, nickel and lead. Every single ground water sample exceeded the recommended maximum safe level of polyaromatic hydrocarbons by at least 100 times, with one of the samples taken from Egbebiri exceeding the WHO limit by over one million times.

“According to the Bayelsa Commission report, May 2023, an independent analysis of official data relating to over 6,300 spills between 2010 and 2015 showed that remediation work was only undertaken in four per cent of cases and that in 90 per cent of spills, there was no post clean-up assessment. In Ogoni, physical remediation is still yet to begin at scale. There is a general absence of any environmental restoration in Bayelsa and beyond,” he further revealed.

AkpoBari posited that Ogoniland is one per cent of the whole situation and pollution in Niger Delta, while advocating that cleaning up should be done in all parts of the Niger Delta region.

He therefore called on the Norway’s Oil Fund to immediately embark on a fact finding mission in collaboration with civil society actors to ascertain the true situation of Shell’s operations in the Niger Delta.

In the same vein, the executive director, Africa ANEEJ, David Ugolor, has called on the council on Ethics to recommend full divestment and exclusion of all holdings of the Norway Government Pension Fund in Royal Dutch Shell PLC, and its subsidiaries. The council should, as a matter of urgency, redirect significant investment to support the development of new technology that will advance a just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.(LEADERSHIP.NG)

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