Geologist for Shell says company hid Nigeria spill dangers

2017-03-24 19:31
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

GALLERY: Britain Nigeria Shell Lawsuit

Britain’s High Court will begin hearing lawsuits filed by the Ogale and Bille people alleging that decades of oil spills have fouled the water and destroyed the lives of thousands of fishermen and farmers in the Niger River Delta.

Johannesburg - Royal Dutch Shell's Nigeria subsidiary "fiercely opposed" environmental testing and is concealing data showing thousands of Nigerians are exposed to health hazards from a stalled cleanup of the worst oil spills in the West African nation's history, according to a German geologist contracted by the Dutch-British multinational.

An environmental study found "astonishingly high" pollution levels with soil "literally soaked with hydrocarbons," geologist Kay Holtzmann wrote in a letter to the Bodo Mediation Initiative.

The people of Bodo in the oil-producing southern Niger Delta should get urgent medical tests, Holtzmann wrote in the letter dated January 26 and seen by The Associated Press.

Shell did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The cleanup halted 17 months ago was part of a British out-of-court settlement in which Shell paid $83.5m to 15 600 fishermen and farmers for damages from two oil spills caused by old pipelines in 2008 and 2009 that devastated thousands of hectares of mangroves and creeks.

Lawyers alleged 500 000 barrels of oil spilled. Shell said it was only 1 640 barrels and initially offered the community $50 000 in compensation.

The agreement was reached through British law firm Leigh Day, which said on Friday it has received no response to a Janaury 30 letter to Shell asking for the data from Holtzmann, who was hired by Shell to manage the cleanup.

"Leigh Day has been pushing for the cleanup of Bodo, health screening of the population and testing of the water supply since 2011 - all to no avail," it said. "This letter shows that even those who were employed by Shell are deeply concerned by their behavior and their lack of transparency."

Holtzmann's letter warns that children bathing in creeks are in danger of harm from toxic substances, as are people who drink from hand-dug wells.

Amnesty International called Shell "deeply irresponsible ... Shell has a responsibility to share this information with the community to ensure they can take steps to protect themselves and their children," a statement from the rights group said.

Cleanup efforts overseen by the Dutch government began in June 2015 but were halted within months by community disputes and problems with contractors.

Holtzmann's letter urges Bodo Mediation Initiative co-chair Inemo Samiama to publish the data, noting that the initiative's committee had insisted on the tests "against fierce opposition from SPDC." Shell Petroleum Development Co. is the subsidiary in which Nigeria's government is the majority shareholder.

The country is one of Africa's largest oil producers.

The environmental tests were carried out in August 2015 with support from Shell's headquarters in The Hague, the letter said.

Holtzmann said his intent to publish the findings in a scientific magazine last year was quashed by Shell, which said his contract did not permit publication.

Samiama said in a telephone interview that residents' health will be better served by getting on with the cleanup. After a challenging four-year process, "we are on the verge of getting contractors back to the site," he said.

Bodo is part of Ogoniland, where the failure to clean up oil spills was called an environmental scandal in 2011 by the UN Environment Program.

It reported contamination levels so high it could take 30 years to renew the land.

Read more on:    shell nigeria  |  nigeria  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.