Shell denies oil spill allegation

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The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), on Tuesday, denied the allegation, which was credited to Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth International, that it was not environmentally friendly, insisting that since 1996 it had been reporting its oil spill data across the Niger Delta region.

The company, while reacting to the case which comes up today before the Dutch parliament in a joint complaint filed against Shell by Friends of the Earth International, Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) and Amnesty International for almost all oil leaks in the Niger Delta, maintained that those spill were due to sabotage.

The Media Relations Manager of Shell Companies in Nigeria (SciN), Mr. Precious Okolobo, stated that the company had never hidden its oil spill over the years, as every oil spill had been independently investigated by a joint inspection team comprising SPDC, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and members of the community.

The complaint, which was filed with the Dutch National Contact Point to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday, January 25, questioned Shell’s operations, disclosed that the company’s activities in the Niger Delta were characterised with non-transparent, inconsistent and misleading figures.

While stressing that Shell’s activities had peddled on the causes of oil leaks in Nigeria, both the Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Amnesty International pointed out that during the public hearing, which would hold in The Hague, the parliamentarians would also hear about the environmental and social impacts of Shell’s operations from scientists and other experts.

But Shell’s spokesman, in a statement, said: ““Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) has reported oil spill data since 1996. A degree of transparency unmatched by any other operator in Nigeria. We have stepped up the level of transparency this year with weekly updates of oil spill status that includes publishing Joint Investigation Visit reports and photographic evidence.

“Every oil spill is independently investigated by a joint inspection team comprising SPDC, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and community members whose scope includes the cause and volume.

“The discrepancy between the originally reported figure for 2008 and the updated one was explained at length in our reporting exercise in early 2009 involving publication of the facts in briefing notes and on the web.

“We also deliberately drew attention to the change in face-to-face meetings with a number of interested organisations including AI and FOE at the time to ensure transparency. The spill in question was 44,000 barrels.

“It was not included originally because it had not been certified in time by the independent joint inspection team. This is normal practice and every year there are a number of spills where the investigation process has not been completed by the reporting deadline and adjustments have to be made later.

“Where they are significant we ensure that we draw attention to them as we did in this case.

More than 70 per cent by volume and number of incidents over the past five years is due to sabotage, including militant action and oil theft. As per Peter’s letter, the term “sabotage” encompasses all these categories.

“This figure was 98 per cent for 2009. We stand by these figures and publish them annually because we can back them up if necessary,” Okolobo added.

Environmental Rights Action (ERA) had also accused Shell of not present the entire truth bof its oil spill in the Nigeria Delta, noting that a three-year investigation conducted by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) funded with $9.5million provided by Shell had concluded that only 10 per cent of the pollution in Ogoniland was caused by equipment failures and Shell’s negligence and that the rest was caused by local people stealing oil and sabotaging pipelines.

The UNEP report, which relied heavily on data from Shell, was leaked to international media last year by Mike Cowing, head of a UNEP team that carried out the investigation.

The Executive Director of ERA, Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, who is also chair of Friends of the Earth International, said: “Shell can no longer continue this sanctimonious charade which relies on its own cooked up data. It should take full responsibility for the pollution of the Niger Delta and embark on thorough clean up of the environment. It must also stop gas flaring which not only fouls our air with a toxic cocktail but is also an economic drain.”

Shell has been operating in Nigeria for more than five decades, while the ERA, which is the Nigerian chapter of Friends of the Earth International and Milieudefensie, has been consistent in identifying and criticising the company’s unending pollution of the environment in the Niger Delta and failure to stop flaring gas, which has been prohibited by Nigerian law since 1984.

Shell’s activities are also linked to the incessant strife in the Niger Delta region.

Geert Ritsema, who will speak on behalf of Friends of the Earth Netherlands/International, said: “The pressure on Shell to clean up its mess in Nigeria is increasing by the day. Last year, the company was removed from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index due to pollution in the Niger Delta, and recently Wikileaks showed that Shell uses political influence in Nigeria to manipulate the situation in the country. We call on Dutch politicians to make a point of Shell’s responsibility for the problems the company causes in Nigeria.”

Story by Ebenezer Ademola (

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