Monday, 9 December 2013
“The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Is One Of The Biggest Polluters,” Says Nnimmo Bassey
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been called one of the biggest polluters in Nigeria. The charged was made by Nnimmo Bassey during an interview with SaharaTV’s Omoyele Sowore. Mr. Bassey, an environmental activist and Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of The Earth (FoEN), was on SaharaTV to discuss the verdict from the Farmers versus Shell case in the Netherlands.
“We must remember when we talk about Shell, ExxonMobil & Chevron, we also have to talk about the NNPC under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources,” Mr. Bassey said. “The impact of their pollution can be seen in River State when some people cannot open their windows due to what is known as “carbon black”, which is in the air due to the petrochemical operations of the refineries.”
Earlier in the week, a ruling handed down by a Dutch court found the oil multi-national guilty on only one of five counts in a case brought against the company by Nigerian fish farmers & Friends of the Earth International. The news was received with mixed reviews. Some people believe that this was a major let down in terms of holding the oil company accountable.
Others, including Nnimmo Bassey, believe that it was a positive development due to the fact that a court has never come down on the side of the Nigerian farmers and opened up the option for an appeal against the decisions on the other four allegations against Shell. At this time, the settlement on one favorable outcome is unknown.
Sadly Nigerian courts have found Shell Oil, to be responsible for numerous oil spills and other environmentally destructive practices. But Shell, along with Chevron & Exxon-Mobil, has laughed this off and have not cleaned up the environments in which they operated. Mr. Bassey explained, “the problem with the Nigerian judiciary is that there is no program or process for implementation, so judgments are made within the courts, but they can be ignored without consequence.”
Another problem he pointed to was that these companies are masters at gaming the system. They have the time, money, and employees to engage in a seemingly endless appeal campaign against any court rulings.
Nnimmo Bassey went on to call the situation within Nigeria as an environmental emergency. Annual oil spill volume is measured in the million of tons, the equivalent of 1 Exxon Valdez spill, statistics showing one new oil spill per day.
The UN Environmental Program’s assessment of Ogoni land released in 2011 showed that the water table in the area has been contaminated that benzene levels were present at nine hundred times the recommended level, and that the ground is polluted up to five meters down. The report found it would take 25 years for a cleanup. Currently, according to Nnimmo Bassey, there so no in-depth cleanup or environmental restoration project in place.
He pointed out that although the Nigerian government has an oil detection & response department, it is severely lacking in many respects.
“The Nigerian Oil Detection & Oil Dept. is located within the Ministry Environment. They are however poorly equipped and funded. So much so that they must rely on the facilities of the companies, whom they are suppose to monitoring, to carry out their operations. “
Many people in Niger Delta wondered if after many years, when one of their “sons” was finally catapulted to Aso Rock, things would start to get better in the region.
Mr. Bassey said that he has noticed that there has been a reduction in the demands for rights, so as he put it, “not to rock the boat.” As far as any meaningful difference, Nnimmo Bassey concluded with this, “I would need a microscope to see if there is a positive difference.”