Article written

  • on 26.11.2013
  • at 12:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

‘Downright False’: Shell Accused of Misreporting Oil Spills in the Niger Delta 0

A new report from Amnesty International accuses oil companies, in particular Royal Dutch Shell, of failing to report the true nature of oil spills in the resource-rich Niger Delta.

The 80-page report, entitled ‘Bad Information: Oil Spill Investigations in the Niger Delta’, suggests that Shell has misrepresented the severity of spills and challenges the claim made by the oil major that the “vast majority” of spills that occur in the region are caused by sabotage and oil bunkering.

Instead, Amnesty insists that corroded pipelines, equipment failure and poorly-maintained infrastructure are to blame in many instances and claims that the process for recording and investigating spills is fundamentally flawed. Oil companies themselves are amongst the primary investigators when there is a spill, and if the cause of the incident is deemed to be theft or sabotage, oil firms are not required to pay compensation.

Every year, hundreds of oil spills in the Niger Delta cause significant environmental damage, endanger local communities’ health, and devastate local livelihoods, and Amnesty suggests that Shell may have misreported the causes and sizes of spills in order to avoid paying compensation and to protect its reputation.

“Shell is being disingenuous about the devastation caused by its Niger Delta operations. This new evidence shows that Shell’s claims about the oil spills cannot be trusted,” states Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty’s Director of Global Issues, in a press statement. Shell’s official investigation reports, she says, can be “very subjective, misleading and downright false”.

Shell has responded to the report, saying it “firmly rejects unsubstantiated assertions,” adding, “We seek to bring greater transparency and independent oversight to the issue of oil spills, and will continue to find ways to enhance this.”

Reporting misreporting

The Niger Delta region is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, yet years of spills and gas flaring have devastated the environment and continues to put the lives of 31 million people at risk.

“The impact of oil spills on human health is enormous,” says Nnimo Bassey, executive director of Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria, listing the possible effects as including “cancers, nervous problems, birth defects, breathing disorders, skin diseases and more.”

“Damage to the land and water also impact agriculture and fisheries thereby harming the livelihoods of the people and the overall economy,” he adds.

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