News / Africa

Shell Accused of Misreporting Oil Spills as Pipeline Thefts

FILE - Oil is seen on the creek water's surface near an illegal oil refinery in Ogoniland, outside Port Harcourt, in Nigeria's Delta region, Mar. 24, 2011.
FILE - Oil is seen on the creek water's surface near an illegal oil refinery in Ogoniland, outside Port Harcourt, in Nigeria's Delta region, Mar. 24, 2011.
Heather Murdock
Amnesty International says it has uncovered proof that Shell Petroleum conceals the amount of oil it spills in Nigeria's Niger Delta region. Shell maintains most of the oil it loses is due to theft, not to slipshod operations and management.
 
An oil spill near the town of Warri last May devastated local farmers, who grow cassava, pineapples and plantains. Joseph Ovih, a local farmer, wants oil companies to pay for his loss. 
 
“Up until now Shell has refused to come and settle [with] us. They deceive us and it’s misery,” said Ovih.
 
The compensation he wants is owed to him by law only if the spill was caused by some kind of failure by the oil company, such as a pipe corroding or breaking as a result of poor maintenance. If someone breaks into a pipeline to steal oil, or to sabotage production, oil companies do not have to pay damages.  
 
Amnesty International’s director of global issues, Audrey Gaughran, says oil companies routinely blame oil spills on thieves even when the company is at fault.
 
“People rarely get compensated because the vast majority of the spills are attributed to sabotage or theft of oil, and it does a lot of damage to people’s livelihoods - to their farms and their fisheries. They get no compensation at all for that,” said Gaughran.
 
Amnesty released a report Thursday pointing out that oil companies are the ones who declare what caused their losses, based on manipulated investigations that produce reports that are “deeply suspect and often untrue.” 
 
Amnesty claims it has evidence revealing that Shell Petroleum, which pumps the bulk of oil in Nigeria's Niger Delta region, underreports the size of spills and ignores evidence demonstrating that the fault lies with faulty equipment, not sabotage.
 
Oil thieves do attack pipelines in Nigeria on a regular basis, Amnesty says, but oil companies do not do enough to protect their facilities.
 
“We’ve found evidence that sometimes they don’t even take basic security measures to protect their infrastructure. But there are standards - internationally accepted standards - that Nigerian law requires oil companies adhere to,” said Gaughran.
 
There have been hundreds of spills in the Niger Delta in this year alone, Amnesty claims. Over the past 50 years, the rights group estimates the delta region has suffered the annual equivalent of the mammoth oil spill caused by the Exxon Valdez maritime disaster.
 
Responding to the report by email, Shell Petroleum rejected Amnesty’s accusations and declared it is not Shell but criminals who cause oil pollution. At the beginning of this year, Shell says, thieves were diverting 100,000 barrels of oil every day, costing the Nigerian government of billions of dollars in lost revenue. 
 
Godwin Boluku runs a local organization in Warri that tries to assess and clean up oil spills. He says oil spills cause hunger for many of the roughly 30 million people who live in the Niger Delta, especially those who rely on farming or fishing.
 
“If the water body or the land refused to produce as expected, I think it affects our getting what we want in terms of food for sustenance,” said Boluku.
 
Boluku blames government regulators for the disaster and says they should force oil companies to comply with the law. However, Amnesty says regulators are ill-equipped, ill-trained and ill-funded. 
 
Amnesty notes that Shell Petroleum is not the only oil company polluting the Niger Delta. Last year, Agip Oil, a subsidiary of the Italian company ENI, reported 474 spills. Shell reported 207. 
 
Amnesty says Agip also blames oil theft for the spills but offers no proof. The rights group says the sheer number of incidents is “indefensible for a responsible operator.”
 
Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from the Niger Delta.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid