Nigeria: Shell Responds to Al's Criticisms Over Niger Delta Oil Spills

SHELL Nigeria has reacted to the latest criticisms of its oil exploration in Nigeria and the attendant spillage, affecting some Niger Delta communities.

The full response:

According to a statement by Shell Nigeria, a joint team of operators, communities, security agencies and regulators investigates always oil spill incidents under Nigerian regulations.

The company said a similar team investigated the spills in Bodo, and that the company is standing by their findings.

‘The spill volume was ascertained on the ground by experts at the time and agreed by all parties – who signed off on the joint investigation report.

‘As has been stated previously, SPDC admitted liability for two spills of about 4,000 barrels in Bodo caused by operational failures, as soon as their cause had been verified in late 2008 and early 2009.

‘It is deeply regrettable that, both before and since those two operational spills occurred, much more oil has been spilt as a result of illegal activity – sabotage, illegal refining and theft – which blights the delta generally.

The company also said their clean-up teams were able to deal with the initial operational spills, but subsequently they were prevented by local communities from reaching sites that were re-impacted by this illegal activity to begin clean up and remediation work.

‘This could be because those communities hold a misguided belief that more spilt oil, irrespective of the cause, equals more compensation.

According to Shell, ‘as promised, SPDC provided relief materials to Bodo community’ , adding that while still discussing issues around the spills, including the amount of compensation, with representatives of the Bodo community, SPDC received several letters of claim from different lawyers, each claiming to be acting for the Bodo community.

‘The challenge for SPDC was to try to identify which of these lawyers to deal with’.

This was said to have severely slowed the process and was further worsened with the introduction into the matter of a longstanding dispute between Bodo Council of Traditional Rulers and the paramount ruler and his faction of the Council of Chiefs.

‘ There was and still is pending litigation between these two groups. It was while discussions were still on-going to resolve these challenges so that negotiation of compensation could proceed that the letter of claim written by Leigh Day on behalf of the Bodo community was served on Royal Dutch Shell in April 2011. The matte remains unresolved therefore.

On access to spill site, Shell said it is ‘committed to cleaning up all oil spilt from n our facilities, no matter what the cause, where we have access and staff and contractors can work safely in a secure environment’.

But in the case of Bodo, SPDC said they were unable to proceed with clean-up as quickly as planned because of lack of access.

According to SPDC, Amnesty International knows that we were denied access – indeed one contractor was kidnapped during the process.

On the integrity of investigation process, Shell do not ‘agree with Amnesty International’s assessment of the spill investigation process because ‘we have recently had the investigation process, which is common to all operators in the Niger Delta, independently verified by Bureau Veritas’.

‘Communities, regulators, operators and security agencies investigate all oil spill incidents jointly. The team visits the site of the incident, determines the cause, and volume of spilled oil and impact on the environment, and signs off the findings in a report. This is an independent process – communities and regulators are all involved’, the statement said.

On the alleged discrepancy in 2008 spill statistics, SPDC said it reviewed the spill figures for 2008 after the unfortunate incident at Iriama, where a fire erupted during pipeline repair work.

‘This large spill originally caused by sabotage, was eventually booked as an operational spill, and we proactively communicated the re-evaluation to many stakeholders including Amnesty International’.

But Shell said it was unfortunate that Amnesty International chooses to characterize this ‘as evidence of lack of integrity on oil spill figures’