Amnesty International is a credible organisation with a history of thoroughness in its research and presentation of it facts and figures. It recently did a report on the operations of Shell in Nigeria and the following questions where raised which requires an answer from the oldest self serving oil firm in Nigeria.

Shell in Nigeria is and has been a source of joy to some and sorrow to many from Isaac Adaka Boro to the hanging of the martyr Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni Activists (popularly known as the Ogoni 9) to The Kiaama Declaration to the bombing and razing of down Odi in Bayelsa State to the ground to the now popular (unpopular to others) Oil war been waged by MEND across the Niger Delta.

The Report Titled Nigeria: Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta dated 30 June 2009 raised some valid questions which true needs answering by not just Shell but also companies that are operating in the Niger Delta with Oil Exploration and Exploitation Licences.

Oil exploration and Exploitation which should be a thing of joy for all has become the tale of sorrow, hunger and shedding of blood. It has become the source of contention and a show of will (my gun is bigger than yours). Many have been killed, rendered homeless, orphaned and maimed just because of this Black Gold. Thus this writer bringing this questions to the public domain again. If you have seen these questions been posed to Shell before I have a question for you "Were they answered to your satisfaction or the normal corporate media machine was employed to rattle us with words which have been rehearsed to portray Shell as the victim of the System".

If you have not seen it before here is an opportunity for Shell to address the questions for the Nigerian people to know for themselves what Shell has to say to all the questions which have been posed to them.

Below are the questions (Culled from Amnesty International website):-

1.In 2006 Shell reported (in Shell Petroleum Development Company’s annual report) that some 1,261 oil-impacted sites in the Niger Delta needed rehabilitation – can Shell say approximately what area these sites covered and approximately how many people / households were affected?

2.How confident is Shell that gas flaring does not affect human health? Has Shell done any specific investigation to see what the impact of gas flaring is – to check if the community allegations in the Niger Delta that flaring negatively affects health and iron roofs are valid or not?

3.In 2006, Shell reportedly carried out a study that looked at the impact on marine life of waste water disposed of at sea in Nigeria. Will Shell publish this study?

4.Has Shell done any studies or data gathering on the impact of oil operations and oil pollution on fisheries or agriculture in the Niger Delta? If so, will Shell publish them?

5.Batan Oil Spill: A major oil spill occurred at Batan in Delta State in 2002. Shell wrote to the Governor of Delta State claiming the spill was caused by sabotage.  The letter was written two days before the oil spill investigation was done. Moreover, video footage of the investigation – and the follow-up by a local non-governmental organisation – does not correspond with Shell’s statements on causality. Independent investigation shows the cause of the spill to be equipment failure. Can Shell comment on this case?

6.Court actions in Nigeria have also challenged Shell’s assertions on sabotage. For example, in Shell v Isaiah (1997) the Appeal Court stated: “{it was} convinced that the defence of sabotage was an afterthought. The three defence witnesses were agreed on one thing, that is that an old tree fell on and dented the shell pipe … How could this have metamorphosed into an act of cutting the pipe by an unknown person? What is more, there is no evidence whatsoever in proof that the pipeline was ‘cut by hacksaw’.”

Can Shell comment on this case?

7. At Kira Tai in Ogoniland, where an oil spill occurred on 12 May 2007, the investigation report (which was signed by five Shell representatives, as well as the regulatory agency and the community) said the spill was a result of corrosion. However, Shell subsequently said it was a case of sabotage. Can Shell explain why the company changed the cause of the spill, and on what evidence?

8.The oil spills at Kira Tai and Batan were reported by Shell as being caused by sabotage although investigation reports suggest they were a result of corrosion. Does Shell accept that cases such as Kira Tai and Batan can contribute to community distrust and anger, and in turn fuel conflict?

9.Does Shell believe that pollution and environmental damage associated with the oil industry (including oil spills, gas flaring, waste disposal, river dredging) over the past five decades has contributed to poverty and conflict in the Niger Delta?

10.Access to oil spill sites:  Shell has frequently said that it has difficulty gaining access to oil spill sites because communities block access. However, based on  Shell figures for 2000-2006 on sites assessed by Shell for remediation  (2,699 by 2005), sites actually remediated (1,338) and sites certified (1,126), Shell appears to have few, if any, problems accessing sites impacted in the past. Can Shell comment on this seeming anomaly?

11.A 2003 internal report done for Shell’s Nigerian operations noted: “There is no transparency about

(a) to whom the company pays compensation;

(b) the basis on which the amount is calculated; and

(c) how individual or communal compensation is divided.

Can Shell comment on this and what the company has done to address the issue of transparency in the compensation system?

12.Does Shell plan to integrate assessment of human rights impacts into its assessment processes in the Niger Delta, following the piloting of this approach in Oman? If so, when will this happen?

Sabotage: Shell has stated that between 1989 and 1994, some 28 per cent of oil spilt was due to sabotage. In 2007 Shell’s estimates had risen to 70 per cent. In response to Amnesty International’s recent report, Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta, the figure now given by Shell has increased to 85 per cent. While Amnesty International acknowledges that sabotage and vandalism are serious problems, Shell has provided no evidence to support its contention that there has been a threefold increase in sabotage in the last fifteen years. Amnesty International does not believe this figure is credible. The proportion of oil spills caused by sabotage, as opposed to corrosion and equipment failure, cannot be determined because the causes of oil spills in the Niger Delta have not been subject to any independent assessment or verification.

13.Can Shell respond to Amnesty International’s concerns that the company has significant influence on determining the cause of oil spills – even when a regulatory representative is present (as exemplified at Kira Tai and Batan, described above)?

14.Why does Shell not release the evidence – including video and still photos taken during oil spill investigations – to allow for independent assessment?

15.Shell has released some investigation reports on oil spills – will Shell commit to releasing all of its oil spill investigation reports?

16.In Shell v Isaiah, Judge Onalaja, concurring with the lead judgment in the case which dismissed an appeal by Shell, noted that: “A vital consideration in the oil spillage cases is the extent of the oil spillage. The pattern of defence of the appellant has been to withhold from the court the report of the oil spillage carried out by their employees. In Tiebo’s case supra [another oil case] the appellant’s report of the oil spillage was similarly withheld from the court…” Can Shell comment on this?

17.The Niger Delta Environment Survey (NDES) was initiated by Shell in the mid-1990s and reportedly cost several million dollars to carry out. It was subsequently established as an independent entity. It looked at a wide range of environmental issues and impacts, including human health and pollution, and is reported to comprise 53 volumes. It has never been released. Can Shell explain what it is doing to get this data released?

18.Between 2003 and 2005, Shell established a Pipeline Integrity Management System in the Niger Delta and carried out an asset integrity review (which examined the condition of Shell’s pipelines). Why has Shell not made the full results of the asset integrity review public?

Shell’s corporate policy states that the company is “committed to reporting of our performance by providing full relevant information to legitimately interested parties, subject to any overriding considerations of business confidentiality. In our interactions with employees, business partners and local communities, we seek to listen and respond to them honestly and responsibly.” (Shell, Business Principle 7)

On 30 June 2009 a number of Nigerian NGOs and Amnesty International asked Shell for a number of documents including:

1. All of Shell’s Environmental Impact Assessments for the Niger Delta

2. A list of all the studies or surveys that Shell has carried out on the impacts of its operations in the Niger Delta on the environment and people of the delta. In particular any information on the impacts on fisheries, agriculture, livelihoods, health; any studies on oil spills, gas flaring or waste disposal

3. Copies of these reports, studies or other data – or the reason why Shell considers they should not be made public

4. A list of all oil spills that are yet to be fully remediated, including volume of oil spilt, cause and location.


19.Can Shell confirm it will make these documents available?

20.High Consequence Areas for oil production are defined by a set of criteria under the US regulations on Pipeline Integrity Management in High Consequence Areas (49 CFR 195.425), and include the area being a populated area, drinking water area or productive ecosystem – all of which apply to the Niger Delta.  Does Shell consider the Niger Delta a High Consequence Area for oil production? If not, can you explain why? If yes, can you say what action Shell has taken to address the issue?

You may also like

Read Next