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Mutiu Sunmonu comments on UNEP Ogoniland oil spill report

The United Nations Environment Programme has released a report based on a scientific assessment of oil spills in Ogoniland. Mutiu Sunmonu, Managing Director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) comments on the report and outlines how the company is taking action to prevent operational spills.

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SPDC welcomes UNEP report and responds to recommendations

UNEP’s report ‘Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland’ includes wide ranging recommendations which will require many different sections of Nigerian society working together, including the federal and state governments, the oil industry and communities. The Shell Petroleum Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) is studying these recommendations carefully and is committed to playing its part.

SPDC Managing Director Mutiu Sunmonu said:

“This report makes a valuable contribution towards improving understanding of the issue of oil spills and the environment in Ogoniland and we pledge to work with the government, UNEP and others on the next steps. 

I agree completely with the UNEP report that we also need the authorities to take concerted action to curb the illegal activities, in particular oil theft and refining, that are exacerbating so many of the environmental and social issues. 

Unless these activities are brought to a halt, any action we take will be of limited impact.”

While SPDC acknowledges that spills are a problem elsewhere in the Niger Delta, Ogoniland poses unique challenges and is not typical of oil and gas operations in Nigeria. 

SPDC has not produced oil and gas in Ogoniland since 1993 after withdrawing staff and stopping production in the face of violence and attacks on staff.

Since then access to maintain its dormant facilities and respond to oil spills – mainly caused by sabotage and theft -  has been difficult.

Importantly, the report identifies eight emergency measures.

SPDC will support the government, UNEP and others in implementing these measures as soon as possible.

The report also makes three recommendations that relate specifically to SPDC.

SPDC supports these recommendations and makes the following additional comments:

  1. SPDC is already reviewing its remediation practices across the Niger Delta and looking to involve independent international experts in assessing how it can improve. The company is also examining ways to bring third party verification to the oil spill investigation process, bringing further transparency to the assessment of causes and volumes.
  2. SPDC is committed to developing an asset integrity management plan for Ogoniland which will require support from communities and from the government given the unique challenges regarding access since 1993. As an illustration of what can be achieved when access is granted, SPDC has modified more than 100 non-producing wells in the area to make them more difficult to tamper with. This was achieved with the cooperation of both local and federal governments and the Ogoni communities.
  3. SPDC will play its part in working with the regulators and the industry on remedial intervention and target values.

Oil spills in the Delta

People in the Niger Delta are concerned about oil spills. SPDC shares that concern. All oil spills are bad and SPDC is determined to do everything within its control to reduce operational spills.

SPDC and Ogoniland

The UNEP report covers oil spills in Ogoniland, an area covering about 1% of the Niger Delta. In 1993 SPDC shut down all production in Ogoniland due to threats and violence against our staff and facilities.

UNEP press release about theft and illegal refining in Ogoniland

In June 2010, UNEP issued a press release highlighting the ongoing environmental damage caused by criminal activity including illegal refineries in the Gokhana area of Ogoniland.

Open and transparent information

Every year SPDC publishes internal data on spill numbers, volumes and causes. SPDC is the only operator in the Niger Delta to do so. At the beginning of 2011, SPDC increased the level of transparency further, launching a webpage to allow the public to track every confirmed spill from SPDC facilities. If you go to the site you can see investigation reports and photographic evidence and follow the progress of each spill.

Relationship between UNEP and SPDC

UNEP is completely independent from Shell, and Shell has had no involvement in their activities on compiling this report. The Nigerian government, UNEP and SPDC agreed that the SPDC joint venture (JV) would fund the UNEP report. Each joint venture partner contributed a proportion according to their equity in the JV. Thus, the government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation effectively pays 55% and the other partners 45% between them. SPDC's involvement in the report begins and ends with the funding of it.

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