By Danlami Nmodu
A report by Amnesty International has exposed the lies by multinational oil corporations ,especially Shell among others, on the causes of oil spill in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.
The report notes that “Hundreds of oil spills occur in Nigeria every year, causing significant harm to the environment, destroying local livelihoods and placing human health at serious risk.
“These spills are caused by corrosion, poor maintenance of oil infrastructure, equipment failure, sabotage and theft of oil. For the last decade oil companies in Nigeria – in particular Shell – have defended the scale of pollution by claiming that the vast majority of oil spills are caused by sabotage and theft of oil.
But the Amensty report said “There is no legitimate basis for this claim. It relies on the outcome of an oil spill investigation process – commonly known as the Joint Investigation Visit or JIV process – in which the companies themselves are the primary investigators.
“This report exposes several serious deficiencies and abuses within the JIV process that render it wholly unreliable as a basis for making claims about the cause of oil spills, the volume of oil spilt or the area impacted. The report is based on an examination of the JIV process and – critically – of how data are recorded during the process. It draws on expert analysis obtained from a US pipeline specialist who reviewed JIV investigation documents and data provided by oil companies and regulators to researchers in the course of investing ations.
“The report presents evidence not only of serious and systemic flaws in the oil spill investigation process, but also specific examples of instances where the cause of an oil spill appears to have been wrongly attributed to sabotage.
“The evidence includes a secretly filmed video of an oil spill investigation. In addition, the report exposes serious problems with how the volume of oil spilt is assessed and recorded; it is likely that the volume of oil recorded as
spilt in many cases is incorrect.
The summary of the report said “The human rights impacts are serious – both the cause of a spill and the volume spilt affect
the compensation a community receives. If the spill is recorded as caused by sabotage or
theft, the affected community gets no compensation, regardless of the damage done to their farms and fisheries.
“This is based on a provision in Nigeria’s oil legislation which Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development believe needs to be amended. Oil companies should be held respons
ible for a spill that is due to sabotage or theft if they have failed to take sufficient measures to prevent tampering with their
“The majority of the report’s findings relate to the Shell Petroleum Development Company,
which is the major onshore operator in the Niger Delta. The report acknowledges improvements in Shell’s JIV process since 2011, when the company began to publish JIV reports on its website. Other companies have yet to do this.
“However, serious flaws remain within Shell’s post-2011 oil spill investigation process. These include weaknesses in the underlying evidence used to attribute spills to sabotage and the fact that the JIV reports are filled out by Shell a
fter the joint investigation process – not as part of the joint investigation process.
“There is, consequently, a lack of transparency and oversight in terms of what is recorded on the new JIV
£The report concludes that the JIV process lacks credibility and cannot be relied upon to provide either accurate information on individual s pills or as a basis for wider claims about the proportion of oil spilt due to sabotage, theft, corrosion or any other cause. Based on the available evidence corrosion and operational failures remain a significant cause of oil spills,
and more oil has been spilt due to operational failures in the past six years than Shell has claimed.
“This report also concludes that data from Shell ope rations in Nigeria – whether on the cause of oil spills or the nature of clean up – cannot be the basis for any meaningful assessment of the company’s impacts because of the serious flaws i
n how the data is compiled. The report therefore strongly questions how media and investors can rely on Shell’s claims about the company’s environmental impacts in Nigeria.
“Finally, the report makes recommendations to further improve JIVs and to address past injustices that have been the result of inadequacies in the JIV process. This includes taking all feasible steps to ensure oil spill investigations can be independently verified, ensuring that women are not excluded from the process, and ensuring that all members of the affected communities have full access to all relevant inform ation in an accessible format.
Oil companies have challenged the findings containedin this report and their responses and reflected in the text.