Nigeria demands environmental action from oil companies

The government of the world’s sixth largest oil producer, Nigeria, has instructed multinationals to provide reports on the state of pipelines and plans to limit pollution.

“We have to find a lasting solution to the problem of oil spillage which is very dangerous to our environment,” Vice-President Atiku Abubakar told an international conference on oil pollution and environmental management, held in the capital Abuja. “I wish to call on major oil companies in onshore operations to step up ways of averting the problem of oil pollution. The companies should ascertain the viability of all their pipeline networks, replacement plans and their lifespan to be submitted to the Federal Ministry of Environment for assessment.”

Abubakar said that the Nigerian environment had been degraded over the last twenty years by oil companies and that between 1976 and 1996, there were a total of 4,647 oil spills, wasting 2.4 million barrels of oil, just in the Niger Delta region and that Nigeria is the number one nation for producing gas flares. Every year, scores of Nigerians die from explosions from leaking pipelines, which are usually blamed on sabotage.

The Vice-President also said that oil has caused civil unrest in the country, particularly in the Niger Delta, where the Ogoni tribe accuses Shell of causing pollution and exploiting their lands. In May, a huge oil spill at a former Shell installation in the region was blamed on sabotage. Shell, which is by far the largest multinational producer in Nigeria, had been forced out of the region in 1993 after an Ogoni campaign. Less than a week before Abubakar’s speech, security forces killed a youth who was protesting about a number of oil spills on a river creek where Shell has installations in the state of Bayelsa.

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