Amnesty Activists Uncover Serious Negligence by Oil Giants, Shell and Eni

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• Says oil companies are publishing misleading information

Gboyega Akinsanmi

In a groundbreaking research project, Amnesty International has accused Shell and Eni of gross negligence and irresponsible approach to oil spills in the Niger Delta, thereby exacerbating environmental crisis in Nigeria’s oil-producing region.

Amnesty International, a global humanitarian organisation, also alleged that the two oil multinationals were publishing misleading information contested by communities in the Niger Delta, who stand to lose compensation if the companies attribute spills to third party activity.

The organisation, therefore, asked the federal government to re-open investigations into 89 oil spills in the Niger Delta, which it said “are reasonable doubts surrounding the cause provided by the oil companies.”

These are contained in a statement the Media Manager of Amnesty International Nigeria, Mr. Isa Sanusi, issued yesterday, lamenting gross negligence by the two oil multinationals in their response to oil spills in the Niger Delta.

Amnesty International had developed Decode Oil Spills, an innovative human rights research and enlisted thousands of supporters and activists to collect data about oil spills in the Niger Delta.

The findings of the human research group were subsequently analysed by its researchers and verified by Accufacts, an independent pipelines expert.

In its statement yesterday, Amnesty said Shell and Eni “are taking weeks to respond to reports of spills and publishing misleading information about the cause and severity of spills, which may result in communities not receiving compensation.”

Amnesty’s Business and Human Rights Researcher, Mr. Mark Dummett attested in the statement that Shell and Eni “claim they are doing everything they can to prevent oil spills, but Decoders’ research suggests otherwise.”

He noted that the researchers found that the companies “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.

“Adding insult to injury is the fact that Shell and Eni seem to be publishing unreliable information about the cause and extent of spills. The people of the Niger Delta have paid the price for Shell and Eni’s recklessness for too long. Thanks to Decoders, we’re a step closer to bringing them to account.”

Amnesty, thus, asked the federal government to re-open investigations into 89 oil spills, noting that Shell “has reported 1,010 spills, with 110,535 barrels (or 17.5 million litres) lost along the network of pipelines and wells that it operates since 2011.

“Since 2014, Eni has reported 820 spills, with 26,286 barrels or (4.1 million litres) lost. Shell and Eni claim that most oil spills in Nigeria are caused by theft and sabotage. This claim is contested by communities in the Niger Delta, who stand to lose compensation if the companies attribute spills to third party activity.
“Previous research by Amnesty International has exposed cases where the companies have wrongly labelled spills. For these reasons, Amnesty International asked Decoders 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.”

Amnesty, also, alleged that the oil giants “are not responding quickly enough to reports of spills. TheNigerian government regulations require companies to visit the site of a spill within 24 hours of reporting it.”
However, the organisation noted that analysis of company documents “shows that Shell responded within 24 hours of a spill occurring on only 26 percent of occasions, compared to Eni which did so on 76 percent of occasions.
“The data also shows that Shell’s response to spills has become slower over time, even though the number of spills it is reporting has reduced. On one occasion it took 252 days to visit the site of a leak. The government regulations are there for a reason.

“The longer companies take to respond to spills, the higher the risk of oil spreading into food and water sources, and Shell knows this. There’s no way they’d be so irresponsible if their oil was seeping into European land,” it observed.

Amnesty, therefore, called on the federal government “to significantly strengthen its regulation of the oil industry. This includes making sure that National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has the tools to ensure that the companies are taking all reasonable steps to prevent and clean up spills.”

It noted that the home states of Shell and Eni, the UK, the Netherlands and Italy, “have important roles to play. They should step up support for the Nigerian government, and require by law that extractive companies whose headquarters are in their country undertake human rights due diligence measures.”