Major oil companies have reported misleading and untrue claims over spills that occurred in the Niger delta region, in order to avoid giving compensation to local African communities, the charity Amnesty has revealed.
A report by the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) shows that oil firms have often reported sabotage to be the cause of a spill, despite this being untrue.
The investigation argues that two companies – Shell and Agip – have filed oil spill assessments that were often incomplete or inaccurate. Sabotage and oil theft were pointed out as causes of the spill despite little or no evidence of it.
Audrey Gaughran, director of global issues at Amnesty International, said, “This is a system that is wide open to abuse – and abuse happens. There is no one to challenge the oil companies and almost no way to independently verify what they say. In effect, it’s ‘trust us – we’re big oil’.”
The reported cause of an oil spill determines whether the community receives compensation for it. Corrosion, poor maintenance, equipment failure, theft and sabotage are among the most common causes of spills.
Shell has often said that sabotage and oil theft were the main reason for accidents but the investigation has revealed that often these assertions have been manipulated.
Amnesty and CEHRD have found evidence that Shell officials subverted evidence, by trying to convince community members on the investigation team that the spill’s cause was not related to a mechanical dysfunction.
The report also claims that the real amount of oil spilled in the Niger delta would be around 60 times higher than what oil companies have so far reported.
“Instead of being in the dock when there is an oil spill in Nigeria, Shell gets to act as judge and jury. It is the communities that suffer a life sentence, with their land and livelihoods destroyed by the pollution”, said Gaughran.
“Shell and other oil companies refer to sabotage and theft in the Niger delta as if it absolved them of responsibility. The Niger delta is the only place in the world where companies brazenly admit to massive oil pollution from their operations and claim it is not their fault.”
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