A Review of the Nigerian Energy Industry

Amnesty International carpets Shell on Niger Delta oil spills

03 August 2012, Sweetcrude, LAGOS – AMNESTY International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development. CEHRD, Thursday, described as inconsistent, the claim by Shell that spills in the region are caused by sabotage.

Oil spills from the oil giant’s pipelines are due to poorly maintained pipelines, according to experts contracted by the agencies.

A report by the international agencies made available yesterday, also accused Shell of ignoring the evidence of poor management of pipelines whose leak is cause of corrosion in the Bodo creek area as against what its experts found out.

“The investigation process into oil spills in the Niger Delta is a fiasco. There is more investment in public relations messaging than in facing up to the fact that much of the oil infrastructure is old, poorly maintained and prone to leaks – some of them devastating in terms of their human rights impact,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

“No matter what evidence is presented to Shell about oil spills, they constantly hide behind the ‘sabotage’ excuse and dodge their responsibility for massive pollution that is due to their failure to properly maintain their infrastructure and make it safe, and to properly clean up oil spills.”

The report said Amnesty International and CEHRD asked United States company Accufacts, which has many years experience in examining oil infrastructure, to examine photographs of the pipe at the leak point.

The report by the group is quoted as saying: “This is apparently due to external corrosion. Notice the layered loss of metal on the outside of the pipe around the “stick” from pipe wall loss (thinning) due to external corrosion. It is a very familiar pattern that we have seen many times on other pipelines.

“Shell has said locally that the spill looks like sabotage, and they completely ignore the evidence of corrosion. This has generated a lot of confusion and some anger in the community,” said Stevyn Obodoekwe, Director of Programmes at CEHRD. “We have seen the pipe and brought an expert to look at it, and it seems pretty clear it is corroded.”

The report said when Amnesty International contacted Shell’s headquarters to ask for evidence to support the claim of sabotage in Bodo, Shell said the company had not claimed that the cause of the spill was sabotage and the joint investigation had not been completed. However Shell could not explain the statements made locally to the community.

Shell has claimed that the joint investigation team, which includes community members, the regulators, Shell staff and representatives of the police and Joint Task Force, was not able to complete the oil spill investigation because local youths threw stones at them.

Last year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) issued a major report on the effects of oil pollution in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta. Little has changed, as this latest oil spill at Bodo demonstrates. Among its findings, UNEP confirmed that Nigerian regulatory agencies “are at the mercy of oil companies when it comes to conducting site inspections”. UNEP also found that Shell had failed to adhere to its own standards in relation to maintaining its infrastructure.

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  • Shell must accept responsibility before distributing its contingent liabilities. That is what a responsible company does.