Amnesty International accuses Shell Nigeria of falsely reporting oil spills

Amnesty International has accused Shell, Nigeria's biggest petroleum producer, of manipulating oil spill investigations and documents in cases where the rights group says the company has been "disingenuous about the devastation caused by its Niger Delta operations" and made false claims about cleanup measures.

A new detailed report published today uncovers specific cases in which Shell has wrongly reported the cause of oil spills, the volume of oil spilt, or the extent and adequacy of clean up measures, Amnesty says.

"This new evidence shows that Shell's claims about the oil spills cannot be trusted," said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International. "This is a system that is wide open to abuse – and abuse happens. There is no one to challenge the oil companies and almost no way to independently verify what they say. In effect it's 'trust us – we're big oil."

Amnesty says oil companies often wrongly blame oil spills on sabotage in order to get out of paying compensation when in fact corroded pipes are the cause.

The report says that many official investigation reports were "technically incomplete", and others "appear to be serving another agenda, more driven by politics…than pipeline forensic science".

"Shell looks to blame others based on investigation reports that, in some cases, amount to nothing more than dodgy dossiers," said Styvn Obodoekwe, Director of Programmes at CEHRD.

At Amnesty International and CEHRD's request, the independent U.S. oil pipeline specialist Accufacts assessed a number of oil spill investigation reports, as well as responses from oil companies operating in the Niger Delta and Nigeria's national oil spill agency.

The rights group said the Nigerian government must "substantially strengthen the capacity of the regulators including by providing an increased budget for its operations".

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