IUCN contributes to remediation of Niger Delta oil spill sites

19 February 2013 | News story

An independent advisory panel on the Niger Delta (Nigeria) set up by the IUCN Business and Biodiversity programme had a workshop during the world conservation congress in Jeju. The host organisation for the workshop, which held on 11th September 2012 in the BEP pavilion, is the Nigerian Environmental Study Action Team (NEST), represented by Gloria Ujor, CEC member.

In January 2011 Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) approached IUCN, with a request for credible independent scientific advice on appropriate approaches to rehabilitation and remediation of oil spill sites in the Niger Delta and for assessment of the success of SPDC’s rehabilitation/remediation outcomes. The consultation was done through the existing Shell / IUCN partnership arrangements administered between Shell International B.V. and IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Programme (BBP). IUCN agreed to the approach and set up an Independent Advisory Panel (IAP) as a pivot to carry out the assignment. Recognition was given to the organs of the IUCN, including the commissions for involvement in the panel’s work. Thus specialists in the area of work of the panel were expected to indicate interest.

Environmental degradation in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria, (coordinates of approximately 40 15’ and 50 33’ N, / 40 30’ and 80 15’ E) has contributed to series of hostilities and conflicts. Oil prospecting in Nigeria started in 1956 in Oloibiri, Niger Delta region. As of today this activity has spread to varied locations in the area, with a number of multinational companies involved. The latest national development with respect to addressing conflicts in the area was the granting of amnesty to restive youths and organisations in the area by the central government of Nigeria. The oil companies claim that sites polluted due to petroleum exploration are rehabilitated, but visible damages to farmlands and fishing sites among the communities are testimonies of damage and neglect. This ordinary observation has been authenticated by the UNEP report on Ogoniland, which identified some serious challenges with contamination in this sub-region of the Niger Delta,

The IAP and its work: The Independent Advisory Panel (IAP) was constituted by the IUCN Business and Biodiversity Programme (BBP), making use of technical expertise from within the IUCN Commissions and relevant academic and research institutions, the IUCN membership (including relevant Nigerian based NGOs), and the Regional Office for Central and West Africa (PACO). As of today, two Nigeria based NGOs (members of the IUCN) are actively involved in the IAP work. The Chair of the IAP is from CERASE, while the administration of the work of the panel is being carried out by the NEST. It is known that the IAP commenced its work in 2012, and site surveys including collection of soil, vegetation, water etc. Samples for laboratory analysis have taken place.

The concept of the IAP work is to undertake a project in collaboration with SPDC as the funder, and IUCN Business and Biodiversity Programme (BBP) as the coordinator. The broad objectives of the project include:

  • giving greater priority and emphasis to biodiversity conservation and equity outcomes;
  • drawing on the expertise of IUCN to guide Shell on how to enhance its biodiversity conservation performance in Nigeria; and
  • preventing biodiversity losses from Shell projects including in areas important for biodiversity outside protected areas.

Some specific objectives include: - Ensuring the remediation and rehabilitation of SPDC oil spill affected ecosystems are based on sound scientific advice over which there would be no dispute, Working with the Nigerian regulator(s) to ensure that such standards for SPDC build upon and complement current standards applicable under Nigerian legislation and are aligned with any future work to clarify and improve standards that may be undertaken by the proposed Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority, Providing an assessment of the success of SPDC’s implementation, after a period of three years, in terms of the health and recovery rates of the relevant ecosystems, Developing a strategy to safeguard remaining areas of biodiversity importance from effects of potential future spills, Increasing capacity of local Nigerian organizations with respect to the science, methodologies and implementation practices applicable to oil spill site remediation and rehabilitation in the Niger Delta, and Seeking to influence Oil & Gas sector operators and contractors exploring and producing in the Niger Delta to adopt these standards, guidelines and best practices.

The first phase of the panel's work, which started in 2012, is three years.

Dr Uzoamaka Egbuche, CERASE ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES LTD. Current Chair of the IAP, uzoegbuche@fastmail.net
Mr Deric Quaile, Project Implementation Manager, BBP unit IUCN, Deric.Quaile@iucn.org
Professor Chinedum Nwajiuba, Executive Director, Nigeria Environmental Study Action Team (NEST), info@nestinteractive.org, chnwajiuba@yahoo.de