Amnesty International: Nigeria oil firms ‘deflect blame for spills’

BBC News reports that oil giant Shell is among the big oil names accused by Amnesty International of failing to report the full truth about oil spills in Nigeria. According to Amnesty, oil companies are regularly blaming oil spills on sabotage in order to get out of paying compensation when in fact corroded pipes are the cause.

In its report, Amnesty identifies a 474 spills in 2012 in one area alone, operated by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company – a subsidiary of Italian firm ENI. Agip suffered more than double the number of spills as Shell, though it operates over a smaller area. Agip has hit back, stating that all the spills were recorded and that Eni had paid all compensation due to local communities, according to Nigerian law.

It has long been reported that frequent oil spills are having a significant detrimental impact on the Niger Delta. Working with a local human rights group, Amnesty studied the oil spill investigation process in Nigeria over six months and found that there is “no legitimate basis” for the oil majors’ claims that the majority of spills are caused by sabotage and theft.

Members of the local community together with oil company staff and government officials are supposed to investigate oil spills, but Amnesty calls this Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) process “wholly unreliable” because the companies themselves are the primary investigators and the process lacks transparency. This means that both the causes and severity of oil spills may be misrecorded, with affected communities missing out on compensation. However, it is worth noting that the JIV process is a federal process which no company can unilaterally change.

Amnesty says the majority of the report’s findings relate to Shell as the primary operator in the Niger Delta – though it acknowledges improvements to Shell’s JIV process since 2011. Shell has said it “firmly rejects unsubstantiated assertions” and highlighted the issue of theft of crude oil which, according to Shell, “remains the main cause of oil pollution in the Delta”.


Amnesty International’s report in quotes:

“Sabotage and theft of oil are serious problems in the Niger Delta.”


“International oil companies are overstating the case in an effort to deflect attention away from the many oil spills that are due to corrosion and equipment failure.”


“Securing oil infrastructure against such acts is – to a substantial extent – the responsibility of the operator.”

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