Shell must spill the beans

Amnesty and Friends of the Earth have filed a joint complaint today with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) accusing oil giant Shell of making misleading claims about the extent to which oil spills in the Niger Delta are caused by sabotage.

The complaint was filed with UK and Netherlands government contact points for the OECD.

Shell says that up to 90% of spills are caused by saboteurs – and they have no responsibility for cleaning up after such spills. We dispute this figure.

Despite repeated requests, Shell has so far failed to make clear the basis for their published figures. Together with FoE we’ve documented cases where Shell claimed the cause of a spill was sabotage, only for the claim to be questioned by other investigations or the courts.

In 2009 Shell was forced to correct misleading information it put out regarding the cause of oil spills. After repeatedly claiming that 85% of all oil spills in 2008 were caused by sabotage, it announced that the figure was closer to 50%. Neither the claims of 85% or 50% have been properly explained. What’s more, Shell made almost no attempt to correct the erroneous 85% figure.

The problem is compounded by the lack of independence of the system for monitoring oil spills.

The oil industry has had a devastating impact on the Niger Delta, with people’s livelihoods destroyed as the land they farm or water they fish in has become horrifically polluted.

Sabotage is an issue and we don’t dispute that. But Shell has got to take responsibility (as should the Nigerian government) and clean up the mess that it has caused; and it should come clean about the real figures on sabotage.

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