Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and Amnesty International are heading for a showdown over a new report by Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), which alleged that the claims by the oil giant that it has cleaned up heavily polluted areas of Ogoni land were false.
The 38-page report, which will be published to mark the 20th anniversary of the execution of the environmental activist and writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa on November 10, 1995, also accused the federal government of failing to equip the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA).
According to the report, the ill-equipped NOSDRA has continued to certify as clean, areas that are visibly polluted with crude oil.
Shell, operates about 50 oil fields and 5,000 kilometers of pipelines in the Niger Delta, and has recorded 1,693 oil spills since 2007.
The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) had in 2011 published a report on the massive levels of pollution caused by oil spills in Ogoni land and recommended that a total of 76 actions be implemented by the federal government, Shell and the Ogoni Community. While the federal government was given 50 actions to implement; Shell was required to implement 22 actions. For instance, Shell was requested by UNEP to review procedures for cleanup and remediation; develop asset integrity management and decommissioning plans for Ogoni land and also to contribute to $1 billion Ogoni cleanup fund to be established by government, among others.
UNEP had also required the Ogoni community to implement four out of the 76 recommendations and one of which was that the community should provide safe access to Shell to implement tasks that will clean the environment
But a Shell source has alleged that denial of access to impacted sites was one of the greatest challenges that hampered the speedy implementation of the report, stressing that the company is ready to contribute to the $1 billion fund if the structures are put in place. However, citing the results of their field investigations, Amnesty and CEHRD said in their report, that four of the spill sites identified as highly polluted by UNEP in 2011 were still visibly contaminated in 2015, even though Shell claimed to have cleaned up the four sites.
The environmental and human rights groups also alleged that the contamination of the four spill sites was due to inadequate cleanup and not new oil spills, as claimed by the oil giant. The report disclosed that Shell’s public claims to have cleaned up and remediated specific sites, and the company’s broader claims that it has addressed the pollution documented by UNEP are false.
Amnesty also said that before publication of the report, it had written to Shell, seeking specific comments on its findings but the oil giant in a one-page response dated October 24, 2015 said it disagreed with these findings. The report faulted Shell’s position of frequently referring to illegal activity as the cause of pollution.
While acknowledging that oil theft and illegal refining were genuine challenges facing Shell, the report however added that the oil giant had misrepresented the extent of these challenges to “deflect criticism and divert public and media attention away from the company’s failures to deal with old and leaking pipelines and failure to carry out proper cleanup and remediation.”