The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), has uncovered a toxic waste dump site by Shell in Kdere, Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
ERA/FoEN in a press statement on Tuesday signed by Barrister Mike Karikpo, the Programme Director of the ERA/FoEN, stated that a team of its Environmental Field Monitors visited Lot 13 and Lot 14 on September 28, 2021, and unearthed Shell’s toxic waste dump site in Kdere community. According to the statement, some workers of Centennial Development and Investment Limited, the contractor assigned to clean up and remediate Lot 13, phase 1 batch 1 of the HYPREP delineated cleanup sites had also complained of a powerful stench oozing from the Lot.
ERA /FoEN disclosed that its field monitors noticed coloured creamy substances in the soil within the excavated pit. ERA further stated that an environmental scientist in the team disclosed that the stench and the colour of the groundwater in the pit are telltale signs that the site could be a toxic waste dumpsite.
The excavated area has been cordoned off but despite the possible health and safety implications of working in such a deleterious environment as work was still ongoing at the different sections of the site and many of the workers did not have the benefit of protective face masks or other protective gear needed for such harmful site work.
No one knows when the toxic substance excavated by this cleanup contractor was buried there but fingers are pointing inexorably to shell as the architect of the heinous crime.
ERA/FoEN recalled that in 2018, similar substances with heavily offensive odours were discovered at oil well No. 39 in Kdere community, and subsequent laboratory analysis confirmed that the substances were toxic wastes buried there by Shell.
Oil well 39 where the toxic substances were removed in 2018 by Shell was neither cleaned up and compensation paid to persons from the community who suffered any effects on their crop farming, nor their health status medically assessed.
ERA field monitors and some members of the community also recalled another incident of the massive oil spill in Lot 13 and Lot 14 that occurred in 2008, with crude oil shooting up into the sky and across the nearby tarred road. Community and individual farmlands and crops were destroyed in the spill and neither relief materials nor compensation was paid. Shell’s contractor appointed to clean up and remediated this area was headed by Dr. Marvin Dekil who would later be appointed the coordinator of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) in 2017.
Shell’s cleanup and remediation team lead at the time this contract was awarded to Dr. Marvin Dekil’s firm in 2008 was Prof. Phillip Shekwelo. Not surprisingly, Prof Philip Shekwelo is the current acting coordinator of HYPREP on secondment by Shell. The cleanup was supposedly undertaken by Dr Marvin Dekil’s firm and supervised by Prof. Phillip Shekwolo and his team at Shell. The cleanup was supposedly completed and certified by Shell and National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) as well as the Department of Petroleum Resources.
Lamenting the situation, Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, condemned Shell’s frequent acts of secret cocktails of toxic chemicals with repugnant smell dumped in Ogoni. He said this is a major source of soil contamination and water pollution with serious health hazards, and community folks die-off in instalments owing to no fault of theirs but the greed and plunder of an oil company that will not play to the rules but has perfected the art of repeatedly violating the people of Ogoniland and their environment.
Dr Ojo stated that “what is playing out in the Ogoniland clean up in the uncovering of secret toxic waste dump sites is the lack of transparency and accountability of oil transnational companies’ faulty cleanup operations throughout the Niger Delta that has destroyed the environment, reduced livelihoods potential and impoverishment of the people.”
To this end, Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo called for the “immediate investigation by relevant agencies especially NOSDRA of the alleged waste dump by Shell to ascertain the level of toxicity and harm to the people, environment, livelihoods and provide appropriate remediation.”
He added that “the federal government should urgently declare ecological emergency in the Niger Delta to address the decades of ecological disaster in the region.”
Barr. Mike Karikpo, Programmes Director, (ERA/FoEN) stated that “proper evacuation of the hidden cargo of toxic materials from Lot 13 should be conducted by experts and in a transparent manner and involving the relevant government agencies, impacted communities and civil society that are interested in tracking the movement of this likely cargo of death.”
ERA/FoEN again reiterated its call for the immediate removal of Shell and Prof. Philip Shekwolo from the HYPREP structures and cleanup process, noting that “Shell and its former staff neither have the temperament nor the capacity to act with integrity and sincerity of purpose when it concerns Ogoni environment and the entire Niger Delta.”