Amnesty International, yesterday, disagreed with Shell’s claim that its oil spills were products of sabotage, pointing out that its investigations have revealed that the company deliberately took that position to avoid responsibility.
This is coming as Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) stated that Nigeria has lost one third of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is estimated at nearly $90 billion, through gas flaring in the past 35 years.
Amnesty’s Director of Global Issues, Ms Audrey Gaughran, in s statement, said: “No matter what evidence is presented to Shell about oil spills, they constantly hide behind the ‘sabotage’ excuse and dodge their responsibility for massive pollution that is due to their failure to properly maintain their infrastructure.”
Gaughran said that “the investigation process into oil spills in the Niger Delta is a fiasco,” referring to the oil-producing region, which has been a home to Africa’s largest crude industry.
The London-based rights group accused Shell of ignoring evidence, which revealed that the latest spill in Bodo Creek area, discovered in June, was caused by pipeline corrosion.
Bodo Creek recorded two major oil spills in 2008 over which Shell was being sued in a London court by 11,000 Bodo residents.
Amnesty stated that it hired the US-based company, Accufacts, to examine pictures of the Bodo Creek pipeline over the June spill.
According to Amnesty, the company said it noticed a “layered loss of metal on the outside of the pipe,” which is “a very familiar pattern” consistent with corrosion.
Stevyn Obodoekwe of the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, which co-authored the Amnesty statement, said: “Shell has said locally that the spill looks like sabotage, and they completely ignore the evidence of corrosion.”
Obodoekwe added: “This has generated a lot of confusion and some anger in the community.”
Oil firms claimed that sabotage had been problem in the Delta, where oil thieves would often blast into pipelines and siphon off crude for sale on the black market.
Some estimates suggested Nigeria’s daily loss was 150,000 barrels of crude to oil theft, known locally as bunkering.
Shell, it was gathered, had admitted liability in the 2008 disaster in Bodo, but sources said there were significant disagreements over the amount of oil that poured into the creeks.
Claims of the amount spilled, according to information gathered, ranged from 1,640 barrels to more than 60 times that amount.
The Federal Government, last month, hit Shell with a $5.0 billion (four billion euro) fine over a December leak at the Bonga oilfield that spilled roughly 40,000 barrels of crude into the Gulf of Guinea.
The company said it would contest the fine, insisting there was no basis for it since it had acted quickly to contain the spill.
United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), last year, set out a landmark scientific evidence for the first time of devastating pollution in Ogoniland, part of the Niger Delta and where Bodo is also located.
UNEP said years of pollution might require the world’s biggest ever clean-up, while detailing urgent health risks, especially badly contaminated drinking water.
Shell faced criticism in the report, which said that the company’s “control and maintenance of oil field infrastructure in Ogoniland has been and remains inadequate.”
ERA/FoEN’s Head of Media, Mr. Philip Jakpor, said it was shocking that Nigeria flared more gas each year than Germany’s total energy consumption, which should be a major concern to the Federal Government against the current position of “advocating for another transition period on ending gas flaring as is espoused in the current PIB is anti-environment and