Report blames Shell over 'cover-up' of Nigeria's oil spills

Oil giant Shell has been covering up catastrophic oil spills in the Niger Delta by blaming them on sabotage by local people, according to a leading human rights group.

Those living in Nigeria's oil-rich delta are suffering a "human rights tragedy" inflicted by decades of environmental damage caused in large part by Royal Dutch Shell, Amnesty International claimed.

The report Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta, released yesterday in Abuja, says the contamination has damaged farmland, destroyed fish stocks and polluted the air and water, while oil companies' response has been misleading or inadequate.

Shell is the largest operator in the region and has long argued that insecurity in the Delta – where its operations are routinely attacked by militants – is responsible for much of the spillage and resultant environmental destruction. However, the new research alleges the oil giant has exploited the instability and lack of oversight to cover up oil spills caused by its own out-of-date or faulty equipment.

"Oil companies have huge influence over the investigation of oil spills and other industry-related damage," the report alleges. "The companies frequently designate the causes of spills, and communities cannot hold them accountable when they disagree."

Independent auditors estimate that up to 13 million barrels of oil have been spilt in the Delta, an amount equivalent to an Exxon Valdez disaster every year for 40 years. The Niger Delta is home to some 31 million people, the majority of whom live in abject poverty despite the $600bn in oil revenues generated since extraction began in 1958. Nigeria's own watchdog reports that there are 2,000 current spills, the majority of them from Shell operations.

The report highlights a spill at Bodo in Ogoniland last August caused by a pipeline leak. Oil poured into the swamp covering the area in a thick slick and killing fish. Local people's access to food and water was devastated. Shell has disputed the circumstances of the spill. Emergency help in the form of 50 bags of rice, 50 bags of beans, 50 bags of garri, 50 cartons of sugar and 50 cartons of dry peak milk was rejected as "insulting and provocative" by the community.

David Williams, for Shell, said the report failed to reflect the difficulty of operating in a region where staff are under constant threat, five having lost their lives in attacks and 133 being kidnapped. "The Amnesty report focuses on oil and gas without recognising the reality of the situation," he said. He added that 85 per cent of all spills in the area are as a result of sabotage. In the last ten days alone there have been five attacks. Mr Williams said that Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd, which is 55 per cent owned by the Nigerian government, has pledged to clean up all spills irrespective of the cause.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before