The global oil giant Shell is concealing data showing thousands of Nigerians are exposed to health hazards from a stalled cleanup of the worst oil spills in the nation’s history, a German geologist contracted by the multinational has said.
In a letter to the Bodo Mediation Initiative, Kay Holtzmann, a geologist hired by the Dutch-British multinational, disclosed that an environmental study found “astonishingly high” pollution levels with soil “literally soaked with hydrocarbons” in the Bodo community.
Holtzmann also disclosed that Shell “fiercely opposed” environmental testing.
The people of Bodo in the oil-producing Niger Delta region should get urgent medical tests, the geologist wrote in the letter dated 26 January, obtained by the Associated Press.
Bodo is part of Ogoniland, where the failure to clean up oil spills was called an environmental scandal in 2011 by the UN Environment Program.
The cleanup was part of a British out-of-bounds settlement in which Shell paid USD 83.5 million to 15,600 fishermen and farmers for damages from two oil spills caused by old pipelines in 2008 and 2009 that devastated thousands of hectares of mangroves and creeks.
Lawyers alleged 500,000 bbl of oil spilled, but Shell said it was only 1,640 bbl and initially offered the community USD 50,000 in compensation.
The agreement was reached through British law firm Leigh Day, which said on 24 March it has received no response to a 30 January letter to Shell asking for the data from Holtzmann, who was hired by Shell to manage the cleanup.