Amnesty International asks Shell to start paying $1bn for Ogoni oil spills

10 November 2011, Sweetcrude, Lagos – Amnesty International has asked Shell to commit to pay an initial sum of $1 billion and commence the clean-up of pollution caused by oil spills in the Niger Delta.

“Shell’s failure to promptly stop and clean up oil spills in Bodo has devastated the lives of tens of thousands of people. Bodo is a disaster that should not have happened, yet it is one that due to Shell’s inaction continues to this day,” Amnesty said in a new report.

In 2008, two consecutive spills, caused by faults in a pipeline, resulted in thousands of barrels of oil polluting the land and creek surrounding Bodo, a town of some 69,000 people. Both spills continued for weeks before they were stopped. No proper clean up has ever taken place.

“The situation in Bodo is symptomatic of the wider situation in the Niger Delta oil industry. The authorities simply do not control the oil companies. Shell and other oil companies have the freedom to act – or fail to act – without fear of sanction,” it added.

Shell however, said it acknowledged that two oil spills in Bodo area, with estimated 4,000 barrels of oil spilled, and had agreed to pay compensation in addition to cleaning up the area because the incidents were due to operational issues.

“The reality is that our efforts to undertake cleanup in Bodo have been hampered by the repeated impact of sabotage and bunkering spills,” Shell said in a statement.

“We are already implementing many of the recommendations in this report. SPDC is committed to working with the Nigerian government and other stakeholders to improve the environment in the Niger Delta by cleaning up spills, improving security to reduce illegal activity, and upgrading our infrastructure,” Shell stated.

The oil giant said Amnesty International should join in the battle to address the issue of heightened cases of oil theft in the Niger Delta.

Shell on Wednesday reported a fire outbreak on its pipeline in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state. Although the report of investigation into the incident is still be awaited, officials fingered sabotage.

A landmark UN Environment Program report on pollution in the Niger Delta released last August, blamed Nigerian government and oil companies for the devastation in the Niger Delta region and that it would take more than 25 years for Ogoniland to recover.

The UN recommended setting up an Environmental Restoration Fund with an initial amount of US$1 billion, with further funding to follow.

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