Shell’s operations in the Niger Delta, and its role in the Bodo oil spills in 2008, have been criticised by several international organisations and experts. Amnesty International produced a report on the Bodo spills in 2011. Amnesty noted the billions of dollars that had been generated in oil revenues from oil operations in the Niger Delta and contrasted this with the impoverishment, conflict, human rights abuses and despair that many in the Niger Delta experience on a day-to-day basis.
The report highlighted the massive environmental devastation caused by the disaster in Bodo and the terrible effect the spills had had on local people’s lives. Amnesty’s report stated: “The disaster at Bodo should not have happened. If Shell had immediately stopped the spills and cleaned up the oil, the impact on people’s lives and the environment would not have escalated to the level of complete devastation that prevails today… Three years on, the oil continues to permeate every aspect of people’s lives in Bodo. It has destroyed their land and their livelihoods. The lack of a prompt clean-up has caused infinitely more damage than a case of equipment failure should have done, had it been dealt with as required by law.”
Patrick Naagbanton, Coordinator of the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), who assisted Amnesty with research for their report, added: “The facts here are simple. Two spills, both of them the company’s fault, both left to flow for weeks before being stopped, neither cleaned up although three years have passed. There can be no excuses. By any standard, this is a corporate failure.”
Friends of the Earth (Netherlands) looked into Shell’s operations in Nigeria in 2010 and observed that Shell operates a double standard when it comes to the Niger Delta: the report found that Shell conducts its operations in Nigeria far below commonly accepted international standards and far below standards it uses anywhere else in the world. The report concluded that the standards used to prevent, control and respond to oil spills did not reflect good practice and fell below international standards and standards required by Nigerian law.
In 2006, a multi-agency report compiled by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Environment and WWF UK (amongst others) came to a similar conclusion. The report stated that: “Oil companies operating in the Delta have not employed best available technology and practices that they use elsewhere in the world – a double standard. They can easily improve their environmental performance in the region. Old leaking pipelines and installations must be replaced immediately and dumping of waste must stop.”(1)
There is widespread international condemnation of Shell for how it carries out its operations in the Niger Delta and particularly its failings with regard to the oil spills in Bodo. Many international experts and commentators have concluded that Shell appears to operate with one law for this impoverished part of Nigeria and another law for the rest of the world.
(1) Federal Ministry of Environment, Nigeria Conservation Foundation, WWF UK and CEESP-IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, 2006: Niger Delta Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Project Phase 1 – Scoping Report: 2