Failure of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC , to ensure environmental protection by maintaining and protecting oil pipelines may leave it vulnerable to pay series of compensation claims from several communities in the Niger Delta, Amnesty International said in London.
The group made this observation as a London law firm, Leigh Day, announced two more lawsuits instituted against Royal Dutch Shell on behalf of Bille and Ogale, two communities in the Niger Delta region devastated by oil pollution.
In its investor briefing, titled “Shell’s growing liabilities in the Niger Delta: Lessons from the Bodo court case”, Amnesty International warned Shell’s investors that failures in the way the oil giant inspects and reports on oil spills, could mask the scale of potential financial liability arising for Shell.
Shell has already paid out £55 million to the Bodo community after settling its claim out of court in January 2015.
Court documents from that case show that Shell admitted that it had underestimated the volume of oil spills in the region.
Shell had repeatedly asserted that the volume of oil spills was about 4,000 barrels of oil affecting the Bodo community, while expert evidence put the volume of oil spilt in the region of 500,000 oil barrels.
Court documents also revealed that internal emails and reports showed that senior Shell employees had expressed concern as far back as in 2001 on the need to replace oil pipelines in the Niger Delta, describing some sections as containing “major risks and hazard”.
Amnesty International’s UK Economic Affairs Programme Director, Peter Frankental, said “Shell has an appalling record of obfuscation and misinformation with regard to its dealings in the Niger Delta. Our briefing reveals just how irresponsible Shell has been in its operations in the region.
“It’s disgraceful that Shell has to be dragged to the courts to address these issues. Surely time, money and the health, livelihoods and emotional anguish of the affected communities could have been spared had Shell simply accepted responsibility and cleaned up the oil spills quickly and thoroughly.
Mr. Frankental expressed the hope that the Bodo case in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State and the latest lawsuit would spur Shell on to accept its responsibilities by cleaning up the oil spills and compensating those in the Niger Delta whose lives have been devastated by them.
Amnesty International’s report in November 2015 said Ogale community was still being affected by pollution from a spill that occurred in 2009.
The report said when Amnesty International researchers visited the site of a 2009 oil spill in Ogale, they saw farmland and swamp heavily polluted, with black patches covering the ground, and a strong smell of oil.
“Shell has failed to properly clean up the site, despite the fact that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported heavy pollution there – including high groundwater contamination – in its landmark 2011 report,” the report said.