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Posted on on September 29th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

UNEP “Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland
At the request of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, UNEP has conducted an independent
assessment of the environment and public health impacts of oil contamination in Ogoniland, in
the Niger Delta, and options for remediation. A major new independent scientific assessment
shows that pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the region has penetrated further
and deeper than many may have supposed.
Press release:


The information reached us from an  NGO/CSO Liaison office and WAS FIRST POSTED by us August 16, 2011 – This is a revisited version.


Resource Curse Revisited – A Nigerian Nightmare

Natural resources, particularly oil, can give rise to the so-called resource curse affecting resource-rich countries, where large parts of the population live in poverty and where there are high corruption rates. A comprehensive assessment of the consequences of oil operations in Nigeria now reveals another aspect of this resource curse: The extent of environmental contamination in Ogoniland outlined by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is nothing less than shocking. As Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The oil industry has been a key sector of the Nigerian economy for over 50 years, but many Nigerians have paid a high price, as this assessment underlines.”

UNEP scientists identify severely contaminated underground areas, which appear unaffected at the surface. In at least ten Ogoni communities, drinking water is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbons. As a consequence, the organization asked for immediate action to protect human health and to reduce the risks of affected communities. An alarming example is the case of a community in Nisisioken Ogale. Here, families are drinking water from wells that is contaminated with the carcinogen benzene, which is obviously caused by a nearby petroleum pipeline. The respective levels are more than 900 times above World Health Organization guidelines.

So, what to do? UNEP suggest a combination of activities. Whereas the clean-up of selected contaminated land areas in Ogoniland can happen within five years, the restoration of other heavily-impacted mangrove stands and swamplands will take up to 30 years. The report recommends establishing new institutions in the country to support a comprehensive environmental restoration exercise. Among them are an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority to oversee implementation of the study’s recommendations and an Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland, equipped with initial funding of US$1 billion. The oil industry and the government should provide the respective initial funding, according to UNEP. This would be a first step toward stopping the resource curse in this region. Prospects for further action may not be negative: The company Shell funded the independent assessment by UNEP. (Dennis Taenzler)

For more information, please see

To read Shell’s response to the report, please see here.

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