New Evidence Reveals Shell Wildly Underreported Niger Delta Oil Spill

shell clean up niger delta

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know about the devastation oil spills has brought communities in the Niger Delta and Shell Oil’s continuing resistance to take full responsibility.

Now, new data obtained by Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) bring shocking new facts to light.  Shell dramatically under-estimated the damage of a 2008 spill that resulted in tens of thousands of barrels of oil polluting the land and creek surrounding Bodo, a Niger Delta town of some 69,000 people.

The spills, that gushed for weeks before being stopped, have devastated the lives of tens of thousands of people, destroying livelihoods, undermining access to food and clean water and putting health at risk.

Previously, we called for Shell to pay $1 billion to begin to clean up the pollution. Shell, which reported recent profits of $6.4 billion, initially offered the Bodo community just 50 bags of rice, beans, sugar and tomatoes as relief for the disaster.  They still have not paid any official compensation to affected communities.

Shell’s official investigation claims only 1,640 barrels of oil were spilt in total. But based on the independent assessment carried out by US firm Accufacts Inc the total amount of oil spilt over the 72 day period is between 103,000 barrels and 311,000 barrels.

The difference is staggering: even using the lower end of the Accufacts estimate, the volume of oil spilt at Bodo was more than 60 times the volume Shell has repeatedly claimed leaked.

Shell’s oil spill investigation report also claims that the spill started on October 5, 2008 – while the community and Nigerian regulators have confirmed a start date of August 28, 2008. What is not in dispute is that Shell did not stop the spill until November 7 – four weeks after it claims it began – and 10 weeks after the start date given by the community and the regulator.

The serious under-recording at Bodo also has wider implications:  Shell repeatedly claims to its investors, customers and the media that the majority of the oil spilt in the Niger Delta is caused by sabotage.  Sabotage is a real and serious problem in the Niger Delta, but Shell misuses the issue as a PR shield and makes claims that simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.

The new evidence suggests that half of the oil spilt in the Niger Delta in 2008 was due to operational failures – and possibly as much as 80 per cent.

It’s important to point out that under Nigerian law, when spills are classified as being the result of sabotage, Shell has no liability with respect to compensation for damage done to people or their livelihoods.

More than three years after the Bodo oil spill, Shell has yet to conduct a proper clean up or to pay any official compensation to the affected communities. We must keep the pressure up, take action now to tell Shell to own up, pay up and clean up the Niger Delta.

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11 thoughts on “New Evidence Reveals Shell Wildly Underreported Niger Delta Oil Spill

  1. Amnesty should not be carrying this torch. It should focus on it’s core mission: speaking out for (non violent!) prisoners of conscious. This kind of scope creep is very sad, because it detracts from your message, diffuses your energy and causes you to risk your moral high ground.

    I could support an organization that protects the rights of every human being to speaks its opinion, but when Amnesty takes on every random “left of center” cause I do not know what will happen with my donation. Stick with what you are good at, and what made you great. Leave these kind of issues to Greenpeace. At this point I can no longer support you.

  2. @Water – We appreciate your feedback! Amnesty’ mission includes a world in which every person – regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity – enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other internationally recognized human rights standards.

    Corporations no matter where they are have a moral and legal responsibility to respect human rights in their own operations. Companies cause harm by directly abusing human rights, or by colluding with others who violate human rights.

    In this case, Shell has infringed on the human rights of people in the Niger Delta. Learn more about Amnesty’s work on corporate accountability: http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/business-and-human-rights

  3. Shell must pay up! Really! They are underestimating the people of Nigeria! They really are a greedy company! Repent and Act!

  4. Here's how it works:
    The company they give the cleanup contract to is owned by an insider, whom will contract local slave labor. In the end, big oil makes a profit and trades favors.

  5. Nigeria is not the only place who suffers from this problem, these oil companies should be more responsible when it comes to their waste management and keeping an eye on their oil tanks for leakage in order to avoid producing such kind of mess that can badly affect the environment and the health of the people living in the area..

  6. Unfortunately, oil companies have the monetary resources to slide by any wrong doing. This issue is world wide. Steeper penalties need to be addressed when disastrous accidents like this occur due to the fault of big oil companies like Shell and BP. NJ Oil Tanks

  7. Big oil companies always make me a little nervous. They have the money to make life difficult for all of us.
    I'm not sure what their waste management policies are, but I'd be interested to find out.

  8. It is very sad news that the oil spill has so much damage to the flora and fauna of Nigeria. There should be sufficient ways to dispose the waste so that it will not cause damage to the mother nature. Keep up the good work guys.