40,000 tell Shell to clean up in Nigeria

3 March 2014

The names of 40,734 people who signed a petition for Shell to clean up its mess in the Niger Delta were today presented to Shell in a virtual online 'handover'.

Using Facebook and Twitter we demanded that Shell finally accept responsibility for the environmental disaster in Nigeria and clean up its mess.

Shell Germany refused to meet Friends of the Earth Germany/BUND – the initiators of the petition – for a handover in person, so they sent the signatures to them online.

For decades, Shell has extracted oil in the Niger Delta with disastrous consequences for people and the environment. Drinking water, fields and rivers are all contaminated with oil. Shell and the Nigerian government are responsible, and it's time Shell finally cleans up its mess.

The petition was launched to support the implementation of a United Nations report exposing oil-giant Shell's systematic contamination of Ogoniland in Nigeria.

Ogoniland is one of the worst-hit regions in the Niger Delta – oil pollution has devastated the environment and the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen. In the report, the United Nations (UNEP) accused Shell of failing to properly clean up oil leaked from pipelines and other facilities, and of failing to comply with its own internal procedures in the contaminated sites in Ogoniland. Shell endorsed the UNEP report, but has yet to act.

Shell, other oil companies, and the Nigerian Government have been advised to set up an Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland with an initial value of USD 1 billion. Other key recommendations by UNEP include an overhaul of restoration techniques the decommissioning of abandoned oil facilities.

"The Nigerian government and Shell are still promoting cosmetic approaches to the remediation measures recommended by the United Nations. These approaches guarantee that Shell does not take responsibility for its mess in Ogoniland. Instead, Shell should immediately begin cleaning up all impacted sites and ensure remediation, restoration and compensation." said Godwin Ojo, executive director for Friends of the Earth Nigeria. 

In 2013 Friends of the Earth Netherlands/Milieudefensie, together with four Nigerian farmers, took Shell to court in the Netherlands. The district court in The Hague ruled that Shell was guilty of neglect in the case of Friday Alfred Akpan – one of the four farmers.

The court ordered the oil giant to pay him compensation for the damage caused by oil that was spilled on his land. However, in the case of the other three farmers the court let Shell off the hook. Friends of the Earth Netherlands and the Nigerian farmers have appealed the verdict. A first hearing in the appeal case is expected in 2014 in The Hague.

Friends of the Earth groups are also urging the Nigerian government to take action and in particular to improve regulatory oversight of Shell and other oil companies.