1 2 3 4 5
Published On: Thu, Nov 7th, 2013

Niger-Delta: Shell under Fire, Accused of ‘Manipulating’ Oil Spill Investigations

Oil spill in Ogoni Land

LAGOS NOVEMBER 7TH (URHOBOTODAY)-Oil giant, Shell, has been accused of having manipulated oil spill investigations in Nigeria, a report by two human rights groups says.
In a statement sent to Telegraph, Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) said on Wednesday that Shell’s claims on oil pollution in the region are “deeply suspect and often untrue”.

“Shell is being disingenuous about the devastation caused by its Niger Delta operations,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International. “This new evidence shows that Shell’s claims about the oil spills cannot be trusted.”
An independent US oil pipeline specialist, Accufacts, contracted by the two human rights groups, assessed a number of oil spill investigation reports, as well as responses from oil companies operating in the Niger Delta.
“The investigation found cases where the stated cause of an oil spill appears to be wrongly attributed to sabotage,” stated Amnesty International. “In many other cases, sabotage was listed as the cause, when there was little or no data recorded to back up the claim. Overall, Accufacts concluded that many official investigation reports were ‘technically incomplete’, and others ‘appear to be serving another agenda, more driven by politics…than pipeline forensic science’.
The report highlights systemic weaknesses in the way the cause of a spill and the volume are determined – with some significant errors in the volumes that are recorded as spilt. The consequences for the affected communities are devastating and can result in them receiving little or no compensation. The oil companies do not have to back up the claims with full and independent evidence. The evidence that does exist remains firmly under their control.”
The report also indicted the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) as being under-resourced, with little oversight or control of the process; adding that the agency depends on the oil companies to carry out investigations. In one incident, according to the report, the regulator sent a student on work experience as their sole representative to an oil spill investigation.
“Shell looks to blame others based on investigation reports that, in some cases, amount to nothing more than dodgy dossiers,” said Styvn Obodoekwe, the Director of Programmes at CEHRD.
Shell’s reaction
When contacted, Precious Okolobo, the Media and Communications Manager of Shell Nigeria, said he was yet to read the report and therefore could not respond to it. “I don’t know what Amnesty International is talking about; I know nothing about the report and what they are saying,” he said.
Shell has made some improvements to its investigation reports since 2011, including the addition of images of oil spills on its corporate website.
However, Amnesty International and CEHRD insist that serious flaws remain, including weaknesses in the underlying evidence used to attribute spills to sabotage.
Information listed in oil spill investigation reports determines whether oil companies are liable to pay compensation to affected communities. The reports are cited as evidence in litigation.
Altering the records
The two human rights groups accused Shell of having changed the officially recorded cause of a spill after an investigation had taken place.
“In one incident, secretly filmed video of an investigation shows how officials from Shell and the regulator tried to subvert the evidence by persuading community members on the investigation team not to attribute the cause to equipment failure,” the statement said. “Video footage of a leak from an oil spill in Bodo from 2008, reviewed by Accufacts, shows that Shell seriously under-recorded the volume spilt. Shell’s official investigation report claims only 1,640 barrels of oil were spilt in total but other evidence points to the amount being at least 60 times higher.”
Hundreds of oil spills occur in the Niger Delta region annually, causing significant harm to the environment, destroying livelihoods and placing human health at serious risk. These spills are caused by corrosion, poor maintenance of oil infrastructure and equipment failure as well as sabotage and theft of oil.
Shell has repeatedly claimed that sabotage and theft were behind the vast majority of spills; a claim that has widely been rejected by leaders of the affected communities.
“Instead of being in the dock when there is an oil spill in Nigeria, Shell gets to act as judge and jury,” said Gaughran. “It is the communities that suffer a life sentence, with their land and livelihoods destroyed by the pollution. Shell and other oil companies refer to sabotage and theft in the Niger Delta as if it absolved them of responsibility. The Niger Delta is the only place in the world where companies brazenly admit to massive oil pollution from their operations and claim it is not their fault. Almost anywhere else they would be challenged on why they have done so little to prevent it.”
In June 2013, a Dutch agency found that Shell’s statements were based on “disputed evidence and flawed investigations”.
“As Shell’s claims on sabotage and theft come under scrutiny, the company’s story is changing; we now hear more about illegal refining being the cause of oil pollution,” said Obodoekwe. “Yet again, Shell is spinning a real problem into a PR shield for the company. Illegal refining causes pollution but Shell cannot claim it is occurring in specific cases unless and until it produces reliable proof.”
Affected communities simmer
A leader of the Ogoni community, Celestine Akpobari, told Telegraph that residents of the area agree with the report, and urged oil firms in the region to address the problems rather than ignore them. “Amnesty International is a credible organisation and they have seen the extent to which Shell has damaged our communities,” he said. “The damage will last for generations and Shell can not begin to justify what they have done.”
The Ikarama Community in the Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State had earlier this year disagreed with Shell over the cause of a reported oil spills from nearby oil wells which the oil giant claimed was caused by oil theft.
Shell earlier this year admitted responsibility for the two spills in Bodo community, and offered N7.5 billion as compensation to the residents for the damage done to their livelihoods by spills, which the community rejected.

Subscribe to our newsletter for news update:

About the Author


Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Konga Verified Blogger

Konga Verified Blogger