The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) has denied allegations of environmental mismanagement in the Niger Delta levelled against it at the weekend by Amnesty International, reiterating its commitment to swift response to oil spill incidents as much as access and security conditions permit teams to mobilise and deploy to spill sites to investigate, clean up and remediate such areas.
This is in addition to deploying technology and best practice to make it more difficult for unauthorised persons to break pipelines and steal crude oil from its facilities.
Igo Weli, general manager, external relations stated:“SPDC, in collaboration with government regulators, responds swiftly to spill incidents as quickly as it can and cleans up spills from its facilities regardless of the cause,”
The company he said regularly test its emergency spill response procedures and capability to ensure staff and contractors can respond rapidly to an incident. He however said, response to spills, clean-up and remediation depend on access to the spill site and ultimately on the security of personnel and equipment while work is ongoing.
According to him, Amnesty International’s allegations are false, without merit and fail to recognise the complex environment in which the company operates where security, a sole prerogative of Government, remains a major concern with persisting incidents of criminality, kidnapping, vandalism, threats from self-described militant groups, etc.
He said the transparency in the online reporting of spill incidents by SPDC in its areas of since 2011, which Amnesty International itself acknowledged, demonstrates its commitment to creating awareness and enhancing collaboration with key stakeholders on oil spill response and clean-up processes and deepening understanding of the complex and challenging operating environment. “SPDC reiterates its commitment to carrying out operations in line with best practice in a responsible and environment-friendly manner,” he added.
The Shell boss said over the years, SPDC, the operator of a joint venture between the government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation – NNPC, SPDC, Total E&P Nigeria Ltd and the ENI subsidiary Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited, sustained air and ground surveillance as well as anti-theft mechanisms on equipment and pipelines to mitigate third-party interference and ensure that spills are detected and responded to as quickly as possible.
“The company conducts daily over-flights of its pipeline network to identify any new spill incidents or illegal activities, and installed state-of-the-art high definition camera to a specialised helicopter that greatly improves the surveillance of our assets”.
Amnesty International had said that through the Decoders network, an innovative platform developed to crowd source human rights research, it enlisted thousands of supporters and activists to collect data about oil spills in the Niger Delta. Their findings were then analyzed by its researchers and verified by Accufacts, an independent pipelines expert.
According to this publicly available data, Amnesty International found that Shell and Eni are taking weeks to respond to reports of spills and publishing misleading information about the cause and severity of spills, which may result in communities not receiving compensation.
“Shell and Eni claim they are doing everything they can to prevent oil spills but Decoders’ research suggests otherwise. They found that the companies often ignore reports of oil spills for months on end – on one occasion Eni took more than a year to respond. The Niger Delta is one of the most polluted places on earth and it beggars belief that the companies responsible are still displaying this level of negligence,” said Mark Dummett, Business and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.
“Adding insult to injury is the fact that Shell and Eni seem to be publishing unreliable information about the cause and extent of spills. The people of the Niger Delta have paid the price for Shell and Eni’s recklessness for too long. Thanks to Decoders, we’re a step closer to bringing them to account.”
Amnesty International is now asking the Nigerian government to re-open investigations into 89 oil spills.
Decoders collected information about the contents of the reports that Shell and Eni publish each time they visit the site of an oil spill. These reports detail the likely cause, location and extent of the damage, and are often accompanied by photographs. They are important because companies pay compensation to affected communities based on this information.
Previous research by Amnesty International has revealed that the information in these reports is often inaccurate. For example, Shell massively understated the amount of oil spilt in the fishing town of Bodo between 2008 and 2009. With the help of Amnesty International, the Bodo community eventually took legal action, forcing Shell to admit the real amount and pay £55 million in compensation.
To help other communities like Bodo, Amnesty International needed to analyse masses of publicly available data about oil spills, and enlisted activists from around the world to help. A total of 3,545 people, from 142 countries, took part in Decode Oil Spills. They answered 163,063 individual questions about reports and photographs and worked 1,300 hours – the equivalent of someone working full-time for eight months.