After delaying for months ostensibly because the community was blocking its effort, Royal Dutch Shell has finally agreed to start the cleanup of Bodo Community in Rivers State, affected by two spills in 2008. It said work would start in April.
The transnational oil giant, which had agreed in 2015 on an approximately N27.2b settlement with the community after accepting liability for two pipeline leaks due to corrosion that contaminated their land, had accused the community of blocking work in August of 2015.
But the community elders, according to Reuters, said the bone of contention was a straightforward one, which the oil giant failed to comply with.
They wanted to choose the contractor that would do the cleanup. Shell refused.
According to Reuters, “after months of wrangling, the parties have reached agreement and clean-up work is set to start in April, said the chairman of the Bodo Mediation Initiative (BMI), a program started in 2013 by the Dutch ambassador to Nigeria.
“Hopefully we should be able to go to site and start the clean-up next month,” BMI Chairman Inemo Samiama told Reuters.
The BMI is mediating between Shell’s Nigeria subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and the Bodo community. “
“It also includes representatives from the United Nations Environmental Program, the local government, the Dutch embassy and several non-governmental organizations.
“SPDC remains fully committed to ensuring clean-up takes place and will continue to work with the BMI to implement a remediation plan for Bodo area,” said a spokesman for SPDC.
Samiama said Shell had appointed international contractors to carry out the clean-up work. Once it commences, the first step would be to remove oil from the water surfaces before restoring landscapes that were damaged by the spill, he said.
“We are hoping this time around we are going to start this clean-up once and for all and get this job done,” Samiama said, adding the entire clean-up process will take several years.