Court documents revealed by Amnesty International today expose the fact that Shell has repeatedly made false claims about the size and impact of two major oil spills at Bodo in Nigeria in an attempt to minimize its compensation payments. The documents also show that Shell has known for years that its pipelines in the Niger Delta were old and faulty.
The potential repercussions are that hundreds of thousands of people may have been denied or underpaid compensation based on similar underestimates of other spills.
The irrefutable evidence that Shell underestimated the Bodo spills emerged in a UK legal action brought by 15,000 people whose livelihoods were devastated by oil pollution in 2008. The court action has forced Shell to finally admit the company has underplayed the true magnitude of at least two spills and the extent of damage caused.

We have been vindicated that Shell hugely manipulates the Joint Investigation reports to suit their purpose, escape from responsibility and to manage liabilities says Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director ERA

“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 Audrey Gaughran, Director for Global Issues at Amnesty International.

A spokesman for the Shell Petroleum Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) said: "From the outset, we've accepted responsibility for the two deeply regrettable operational spills in Bodo. We want to compensate fairly and quickly those who have been genuinely affected and to clean up all areas where oil has been spilled from our facilities.

"Following the 2008 spills, as part of a statutory process overseen by the regulator, a team including relevant government agencies, SPDC and representatives of the Bodo community visited the spill sites and completed a Joint Investigation Visit report. They estimated that the total volume of oil spilled was in the region of 4,144 barrels.

"As part of the litigation process, we asked satellite remote sensing experts, hydrologists and specialists in mangrove ecology to assess how the Bodo waterways and mangroves were impacted and other relevant information addressing the question of the volume of these spills and the extent of the damage. Having reviewed their findings, we accept that the total volume of oil released as a result of the two operational spills is likely to have exceeded the Joint Investigation Visit estimates.

"While naturally, the findings in relation to the Bodo Joint Investigation Visit and the volume of oil from these spills are of concern to us, it's not the key issue for the purpose of determining the appropriate level of compensation. SPDC is prepared to compensate all members of the Bodo community who have been genuinely affected by the spills, taking account of the entire area which has been impacted.

"SPDC has been working together with the National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta to improve the quality of Joint Investigation Visits at SPDC facilities in the Niger Delta. A number of important changes have been made to the Joint Investigation Visit process such as the inclusion of independent observers (including NGOs) and the publication of spill reports online. We will continue to work with regulatory and community bodies in Nigeria to improve these processes further."

On allegations that SPDC has known for many years that its pipes are
old and faulty:

*         SPDC ceased operations in Ogoniland in 1993 following a rise in violence, threats to staff and attacks on facilities. Levels of violence and criminality have remained high over the following 21years, constraining SPDC's ability to access the area.

*         We are in the process of preparing for a trial in May 2015 regarding the Bodo operational spills, at which time internal documents produced by SPDC relating to the Trans-Niger Pipeline (TNP) will be set in their proper context for review by the court.

*         SPDC dismisses the suggestion that it has knowingly continued to use a pipeline that is not safe to operate. The condition of the pipeline is regularly assessed. Also, SPDC has always made use of the opportunity presented during sabotage / crude theft point leak repairs to carry out on-the-spot coating and internal checks to confirm the integrity of the pipeline and coating. The majority of failures on the TNP have been third party damage resulting from sabotage (hacksaw cuts, drilled holes, etc) and illegal crude theft. From 2010-13, a total of 25 leaks were recorded on the facility - 23 of which were due to sabotage and two operational pinhole leaks.

for further information contact:

Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director ERA/FoEN 

Audrey Gaughran, Director Global Thematic Issues,Amnesty International - International Secretariat
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7413 5611 (direct line) Cell phone: + 44 (0) 7983 527706

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ERA has recently received information that a group calling itself the "Niger Delta Coalition in the Diaspora" is still engaging itself in activities and communications giving the impression that it is linked with Environmental Rights Action (ERA).

This group issues out communications using ERA's headquarter address and mail box. We have never had any ties with this group and any views, comments or opinions expressed by them is not endorsed or authorized by any member of management or staff of ERA.

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Is there a spill, pipeline rupture, fire, gas flare, water, land or air pollution in your community or one you know about? Do you need assistance to respond, and prevent future occurrences or have you noticed any activity that threatens the environment?

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