A recent report published by Amnesty International and the the Nigerian human rights group International and the Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) has revealed Shell’s claims that it has cleaned up oil spills in the Niger Delta as “blatantly false”.
The report also noted the failure of the Nigerian government to properly regulate the oil industry. It was revealed that the governmental watch-dog group, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) is underfunded, and certified several areas as “clean” which researchers found to still be polluted.
The two groups released the report to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the environmental activist who campaigned against the damage caused by the oil industry and who was subsequently executed by the Abacha regime.
Speaking to Amnesty International, Steven Obodoekwe, the Director of Programs for CEHRD, explained the importance of this anniversary, “as people in Nigeria and around the world remember Ken Saro-Wiwa….Shell and the government of Nigeria cannot ignore the terrible legacy of the oil industry in the Niger Delta. For many people of the region, oil has brought nothing but misery.”
Amnesty International and CEHRD conducted field investigations into four oil spill sites which Shell claimed were no longer contaminated. Researchers quickly discovered that none of these four sites saw any environmental improvement.
One site, which Shell claimed it had cleaned in 1972 and 2012, had blackened soil and layers of oil were discovered in the water. Shell’s despicable actions were exacerbated by the tendency of NOSDRA to certify as “clean” several sites which were still heavily polluted.
Part of the reason why the clean-up efforts of Shell have failed so spectacularly is the poor training of the local and overseas contractors employed to conduct the cleanup efforts.
Shell has attempted to place the blame on the continued pollution on oil thieves and vandals. However, even if oil theft is the cause of the spills, Nigerian law clearly states that it is the owner of the pipeline who is responsible for any environmental damage.
According to a press release, the report is part of Amnesty International’s “Clean It Up” campaign. The campaign is intended to force Shell to deal with the impact oil spills have upon the Niger Delta.