Shell lied about amount, impact of Bodo oil spills – Amnesty International

Oil Polluted Field

Multinational oil giant, Shell, has constantly lied about the amount and impact of the oil spilled at Bodo, Ogoniland, United Kingdom court documents obtained by Amnesty International has revealed.

The documents also revealed that contrary to Shell’s official claim that the spill was caused by oil thieves and saboteurs, the oil firm knew for years that its pipelines in the Niger Delta were old and decrepit.

In August 2008, a section of the Trans-Niger pipeline, controlled by Shell, broke, spilling thousands of barrels of oil into the surrounding villages, creeks and rivers.

Shell claimed that the leak was not reported to it until October 5, 2008. The leak was not stopped until November 7, more than five weeks after it first occurred.

A month later, the pipeline broke again in December of that year. This time, Shell did not fix the leak until February 2009.

An environmental impact assessment of the two spillages stated that over 49,000 people and 35 villages were adversely affected by the spillage.

In 2012, 15,000 villagers, whose lives were devastated by the spillages sued Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC.

“The spills have caused extensive and long-lasting devastation to the claimant’s lands and fishing waters and have a profoundly detrimental impact on the life of the community,” said Martyn Day, the community’s lawyer in a court affidavit.

Shell claimed only 4,000 barrels of oil were spilled in both instances. However, using an independent assessment by US firm, Accufacts Inc, Amnesty International calculated the amount of oil spilt to be well beyond 100,000 barrels. Shell has consistently denied this figure and insisted that its estimate was correct.

However, the oil firm admitted in court that its figure is wrong.

Amnesty International said Shell’s admission that its assessment of Bodo spills was wrong throws doubt to the firm’s assessments of previous oil spills in the region. It said the implication of this is that Shell may have underpaid or denied thousands of people compensations following its dubious assessments.

“Amnesty International firmly believes Shell knew the Bodo data were wrong. If it did not it was scandalously negligent – we repeatedly gave them evidence showing they had dramatically underestimated the spills,” said Director for Global Issues at Amnesty International, Audrey Gaughran.
“For years, Shell has dictated the assessment of volume spilled and damage caused in spill investigation reports, now these reports aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. These spill investigation reports have cheated whole communities out of proper compensation,” she added.

Anmesty International added that Shell’s admission in court proves that the Joint Investigation Visits form, which Shell relies upon to assess the impact of oil spills is not credible and skews the assessment in favour of the oil giant.

The court document also cast doubts on Shell’s claim that oil spills are often caused by vandals and saboteurs. Internal memos of the oil firms based on a 2002 study stated: “the remaining life of most of the (Shell) Oil Trunklines is more or less non-existent or short, while some sections contain major risk and hazard”.

Also in 2009, a Shell employee stated that “[the company] is corporately exposed as the pipelines in Ogoniland have not been maintained properly or integrity assessed for over 15 years”.

“It’s outrageous that Shell has continued to blame the vast majority of its spills on saboteurs while knowing full well how bad a state its pipelines were in,” said Ms Gaughran.

She said Shell stands completely discredited by this revelation.


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  • Lawrence Efana

    A great article indeed! True reflections very few would contest. The essence is that the country can make it. (Yes it is possible), but much of the heart is needed because the work is tough and rough. In the age of democracy and party politics the speed of politics is at the mercy of sanity, solidarity, consensus and hard and honest work, not gimmicks! God will always give Nigeria presidents, but the matter now is you have ONE to work with for the grounds to be made solid and informed for the future. If peace, understanding and good political spirit is lacking for several of the reasons of what have been seen and heard so far, you have no option than slow politics and results. This President is not wishing the politics to be slow and programs of government delayed. He alone cannot do all. He needs you all and you voted massively to have him there. Open up your hearts and unite even in opposition to get things moving for “your” unfortunate ones. It is one of the ways to heighten the trust and hope when people feel they are on board. You can make it. Just try a bit harder and conscientiously. And for what we learn from this article, remember “But what he could not tolerate was incompetence and idleness”. Get rightly busy and legally sensitive for the good to be born, because that is what you all need most – whatever the language or jargon you use to describe or tell it.


      It is said: “You can’t legislate morality”. These has-been military dictators, such as M. Buhari have to realize that the world has changed, it’s now digital, and a competitive global economy. The military are only good at defending their nations from foreign enemies; the military take their orders from civilian, democratically elected government.

      To read, or listen to Mr. Buhari harp on about “the path of order and discipline” is a bit embarrassing. It’s about time this man, along with other generals, exit the stage, to enable Nigeria get back to educating the masses, ushering in a spirit of innovation and the rest.

      • Lawrence Efana

        You have the right to your viewpoint. But I am frank to tell you clearly that the problem is not that of “legislating morality”. The case of world going digital is not wrong if you are not so sentimental or shallow about implications of what goes on even in that area. About global economic competition, I am sure even you the writer are hard-put on what the Nigerian-type strategy should be after all people have heard, in addition to the cues of knowledge most of them have about the peculiarities of that country’s problems. Your understanding and indeed interpretation, both show how deeply rooted in the old about the President you are. You are not appraising the challenges of his current leadership realities: democratic institutions and rule of law of which he alone cannot make much sense of without people like you. How was it with Obasanjo when legislators demanded N3 billion salary each, excluding amenities? You are important for Buhari if you wake on the latter note and think and act positive about the problem not being that of legislating morality. I worked with Buhari as a military President. And I was close in there. Many attack him because of “war against indiscipline” and loaded people with wrong mindsets and distorted sense of liberalism. When others of the ranks swept him off the scene, you must have read of Dele Giwa and Ray Ekpu. Could you ever think of morality in that and other Nigerian challenges to move on informed about the problems of legislating morality. Rule of Law language is relative and generalist for the health of political practices, justice values and order in the nation. It does not talk about legislating morality per-se, because the issues are as you know, if you actually know) not unrelated. You write as if making sense of politics in your country Nigeria is easy while you do so with twists and turns – unfortunately seeing just the surface and not interested in the iceberg below. Both liberal and conservative politics survive on “interpretable” legislative moral” – call it what you want. Some order is needed for political, economic and issues of national development to run relatively smooth in our overall fallible human “existentialism” struggles. Task your mindset to spare the time and think deeper: be not just sentimental! Your digital age saga could be surface no matter how technically capable you might be. Dealing with politics in problematic nascent democracies needs informed applications, meanings and values otherwise you help the nation derail from sustainable paths of development, now defined in hopelessly complex and multidisciplinary senses. This President hopefully is one well surrounded by a body of intelligentia and technocrats. You could look above him to hope and admonish the others to put in their best for the dignity of their President and the 3tier political settings that must make sure that the country is off with corruption, and ready to show more solidarity by allowing it reflect on or be driven by the spirit of “consensus” in which functioning political parties are expected to be ripe enough to understand things in interest of the masses who gave them mandate to rule as we have seen in this case. Think deep and well my Africaner brother or sister….. The credit is there to give to Buhari, do not deny him!

        • AFRICANER

          You tried; however, with Buhari, it’s been more heat than light.

          I can only admonish you thusly:

          Nna nna anyị ha kwuru na ire bụ ihe i na-eji gụọ eze gị onu.

          Or: baba nla wa wipe awọn ahọn ni ohun ti o lo lati ka rẹ eyin.

          Or: ubanninmu ce harshen shi ne abin da ka yi amfani da count your hakora.


  • Tiiye

    The Almighty created all national cultures for an eternal kingdom destiny. We in Proto-Sahara have been identified as the Cradle of humanity and civilization. Let us not allow the elites to manipulate us into postmodernism and the New World Order. The Son of Man has made His presence and Personality available. HE is the One leading the battle. We dare not miss Him.