Major global inquiry launches to address human and environmental impact of oil companies operating in Nigeria

27/03/2019

November 2019 Interim Report

The Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission published its November 2019 Interim ReportFew countries on the face of the planet have suffered more from oil pollution than Nigeria. Over the last half century, as many as ten million barrels of oil have been spilled across the country. That’s equivalent to a spill similar in size to the Exxon Valdez catastrophe – which devastated the coast of Alaska – every single year for the last fifty years. 

Major global inquiry launches to address human and environmental impact of oil companies operating in Nigeria

A major investigation into the activity of oil companies launches in Nigeria today (27 March 2019) led by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

The Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission will look into the human and environmental impact of the activity of multinational oil companies operating in Bayelsa State, in the Niger Delta. Ultimately the Commission’s aim is for oil companies to agree to a global standard of behaviour, conducting their operations in Bayelsa as they would in Norway, Scotland or the USA.


Commissioners include Baroness Valerie Amos, former Under Secretary General at the United Nations, and John Kufuor, former President of Ghana, as well as a number of high-level experts including pre-eminent expert on the Niger Delta, Dr. Michael Watts.   

The Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission has been convened by Henry Seriake Dickson, Governor of Bayelsa State, in the Niger Delta, one of the largest oil and gas producing states in Nigeria.   

Oil companies operating in the state have for decades acted with impunity and with little regard for the environment and people, causing multiple oil spills and leading to environmental degradation and loss of human life.

The Chair of the Commission, the Archbishop of York noted, “This Commission will investigate the human and environmental impact of multinational oil company activity and is crucial to the prosperous future of the people of Bayelsa and their environment, Nigeria and hopefully to other oil-producing nations”.

The Governor of Bayelsa State stated, “I established the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission to hold oil companies to account, to shift the mindset of multinationals operating in Bayelsa and to inspire a sustainable change”.

 

Oil and Bayelsa State

In 1956 Shell drilled Nigeria’s first oil well in Bayelsa State. Today, Bayelsa State is one of Nigeria’s largest oil and gas producing states, however the state has suffered vast environmental and human damage. Bayelsa accounts for 40% of Nigeria’s oil wealth, and hosts the operations of the large multinational oil companies.

Approximately 40 million litres of oil is spilled annually in the Niger Delta, in comparison to 4 million litres of oil spilled in the United States in the same amount of time.

It is estimated that oil spills could have killed around 16,000 infants within their first month of life. 

 

The Commission

The Commission will investigate the environmental and human damage caused by operation of oil companies as a result of oil spills and will analyse legislation governing the operation of multinational oil companies in Bayelsa State and in Nigeria more broadly. 

The Commission will develop a set of recommendations that lead to the development of a new legal framework that ensures accountability. Ultimately the Commission’s aim is for oil companies to agree to a global standard of behaviour, conducting their operations in Bayelsa as they would in Norway, Scotland or the USA.

Governor Dickson has campaigned for the environment throughout his tenure in office. For World Environment day in 2018, Governor Dickson organised a rally against environmental damage caused by oil companies in the Niger Delta where he noted that “the world has looked on for too long without taking the necessary collective action to put a stop to the damage being done by oil companies in Bayelsa. We must put the environment and the health and wellbeing of our communities first”.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION & INTERVIEWS

Contact: Kate Primrose at [email protected]

 

NOTES TO THE EDITOR

The Impact of Oil Spills 

  • Life expectancy in the Niger Delta around 10 years lower than the national average according to the 2011 United Nations Environment Programme report.
  • A recent study highlighted that babies in Nigeria are at double the risk of dying before they reach a month old if their mothers lived near the scene of an oil spill before conceiving.
  • Oil spills in the Niger Delta can lead to as much as a 60% reduction in household food security, can reduce the ascorbic acid content of vegetables by as much as 36%, and can decrease the crude protein content of cassava by up to 40%.

About the Commission

The Commission will:

  • Investigate the environmental and human damage caused by the operations of the multinational oil companies, specifically as a result of oil spills, in Bayelsa State.
  • Analyse existing legislation governing the operations of the multinational oil companies, undertake comparative analysis with legislation governing the operations of multinational oil companies in other territories, and assess the suitability of the existing Nigerian legislation for holding multinational oil companies to account for their activities.

Commissioners

  • Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
  • HE John Kufuor, former President of Ghana
  • Baroness Valerie Amos, former Under-Secretary General of Humanitarian Assistance at the United Nations
  • Professor Engobo Emeseh, Head of School of Law, University of Bradford
  • Professor Roland Hodler, Professor of Public Economics, University of St Gallen
  • Professor Michael J. Watts, Professor of Geography, University of California, Berkeley
  • Dr Kathryn Nwajiaku-Dahou, former head of Secretariat at OECD
  • Dr Anna Zalik