Amnesty International (AI) has accused Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and Italian oil giant Eni of “serious negligence” in cases of oil spills in the Niger Delta region.
In its latest research, AI said the “irresponsible approach” of the two companies to oil spills in the Niger Delta is worsening the environmental crisis and the plight of those affected.
Mark Dummett, business and human rights researcher at AI, said while the two companies claim they are “doing everything they can to prevent oil spill,” it was found that “they often ignore reports of oil spills for months on end.
“On one occasion Eni took more than a year to respond. The Niger Delta is one of the most polluted places on earth and it beggars belief that the companies responsible are still displaying this level of negligence,” he said in a statement made available to TheCable.
AI said the discovery – “which was verified by Accufacts, an independent pipelines expert” – also showed that Shell and Eni “publish misleading information about the cause and severity of spills, resulting in communities not receiving compensation”.
It said while Shell and Eni claim the 1,010 spills recorded since 2011 and 820 spills recorded since 2014 were caused by theft and sabotage, the claim is contested by communities in the Niger Delta “who stand to lose compensation if the companies attribute spills to third party activity”.
The statement further read: “Amnesty International asked Decoders (the researchers) to review and describe all the photographs of spills published by Shell and Eni, and to highlight anything that looked unusual.
“They identified at least 89 spills (46 Shell, 43 Eni) about which there are reasonable doubts surrounding the cause provided by the oil companies. For example, Decoders highlighted photos where spills which appear to have been caused by corrosion were attributed to theft. If confirmed, this could mean that dozens of affected communities have not received the compensation that they deserve.”
It said the slowest response to a case of oil spill was recorded “when Eni took an incredible 430 days to respond to one spill in Bayelsa state. When the company finally showed up, it calculated the amount of oil spilled by measuring the area that was visibly contaminated”.
AI accused the oil companies of “adding insult to injury” of the Niger Delta residents.
“We consider Shell and Eni to be deliberately reckless and therefore willfully negligent in their operations in Nigeria – their failure to operate in line with Nigerian law and best practice standards is having a devastating impact on the human rights of Niger Delta communities,” Dummet said.
AI called on the federal government to strengthen its regulation of the oil industry, including “making sure that the government oil spills agency (NOSDRA) has the tools to ensure that the companies are taking all reasonable steps to prevent and clean up spills”.
SHELL: ALLEGATIONS ARE FALSE AND LACK MERIT
When contacted for response, Shell described AI’s claims as false and “without merit”.
The oil company accused the organisation of failing to recognise that security – a sole prerogative of government – “remains a major concern” in its working environment.
In a statement sent to TheCable, the company said there are “persisting incidents of criminality, kidnapping, vandalism, threats from self-described militant groups” experienced by the company in its operations.
“As operator of a joint venture, where the government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has a majority interest, SPDC continues to work with federal and state government agencies, communities and civil society to create a safe operating environment,” the organisation said.
“SPDC, in collaboration with government regulators, responds to spill incidents as quickly as it can and cleans up spills from its facilities regardless of the cause.
“We regularly test our emergency spill response procedures and capability to ensure staff and contractors can respond rapidly to an incident. However, response to spills, clean-up and remediation depend on access to the spill site and ultimately on the security of personnel and equipment while work is ongoing.
“SPDC reiterates its commitment to carrying out operations in line with best practice in a responsible and environment-friendly manner.”
ENI ALSO DENIES THE ALLEGATIONS
Reacting to AI’s report, Eni said it aims to achieve “zero spills target” in its operations.
It said it has put measures in place to prevent oil spills, including “replacing pipelines, removing old clamps and early detection through increased surveillance and community engagement.
“Containment and recovery by: improved oil spill tracking system and customized technology for prompt pipeline repair.”
In the response sent to AI and signed by Massimo Insulla, vice-chairman of Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited, its Nigerian subsidiary, Eni said regardless of the cause of oil spill, it is usually responsible for limiting its harm “by acting promptly to prevent the contamination, and then cleansing up of all pollution”.