Amnesty condemns Shell's decades of denial


AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has described as shocking the scientific findings of a United Nations Environment Programme report which found extensive oil pollution in Ogoniland in the Niger Delta.

The human rights group has called on Royal Dutch Shell, as lead oil company in the area, to focus on the “truth, rather than protecting its corporate image” if the problem is to be addressed.

The UN study published yesterday found carcinogens up to 900 times above World Health Organisation levels in drinking water in one area.

The study describes how polluted sites that Shell claimed it had cleaned up were found by UN experts to be still polluted.

The report was conducted at the Nigerian government’s request and paid for by Shell. The Shell Petroleum Development Company said it welcomed the report. Its managing director Mutiu Sunmonu, said last night: “This report makes a valuable contribution towards improving understanding of the issue of oil spills in Ogoniland. All oil spills are bad – bad for local communities, bad for the environment, bad for Nigeria and bad for SPDC. Although we haven’t produced oil in Ogoniland since 1993, we clean up all spills from our facilities, whatever the cause, and restore the land to its original state,” he said

“The majority of oil spills in Nigeria are caused by sabotage, theft and illegal refining. We urge the Nigerian authorities to do all they can to curb such activity, and we will continue working with our partners in Nigeria, including the government, to solve these problems and on the next steps to help clean up Ogoniland,” he added.

The UN programme team examined more than 200 locations, and carried out detailed soil and groundwater contamination investigations at 69 sites.

It found that control and maintenance of oilfield infrastructure in Ogoniland “has been and remains inadequate” and says that “the Shell Petroleum Development Company’s own procedures have not been applied, creating public health and safety issues”.

“In one community, at Nisisioken Ogale, in western Ogoniland, families are drinking water from wells . . . contaminated with benzene – a known carcinogen – at levels over 900 times above World Health Organisation guidelines. The site is close to a Nigerian National Petroleum Company pipeline,” it says.

“This report proves Shell has had a terrible impact in Nigeria, but has got away with denying it for decades, falsely claiming they work to best international standards,” Amnesty International global issues director Audrey Gaughran said.

“There is no solution to the oil pollution in Niger Delta as long as Shell – as the most powerful actor on the scene – continues to focus on protecting its corporate image at the expense of the truth, and at the expense of justice,” she said.