A number of newspapers report this morning that a UNEP report examining oil spills in the Niger region of Nigeria is set to argue that the main proportion of spills causing widespread environmental damage and human suffering in the region is caused by criminal activity. The report (to be published later this year) points out that 90% of the oil spills are a result of criminal gangs stealing oil. These claims are in themselves interesting as multinational corporations, in particular Shell, have often come in for heavy criticism as a result of their activities in the Niger Delta (often rightly so). Critics of the report point out, according to the news reports, that it is based on government figures which are unreliable and that the report is funded by Shell. While the latter claim seems a kneejerk reaction, the former comes across as more plausible insofar as the Nigerian government has often shown a worrying disinterest when it comes to securing that extraction activities are carried out diligently. Finally, it is worth pointing out that the problem of oil spills is only one of many problems in the region. Other issues include the gas flaring at wells which continues despite agreements between the government and oil companies.
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