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Aug-26-2010 04:27printcomments

Oil Spills in Niger Delta: Amnesty International Challenges Data Reliability

Shell has repeatedly been asked to produce evidence to support their figures; at this time Shell has been unable to do so.

Scene in Nigeria
Scene in Nigeria; courtesy:

(NIGER DELTA / PORTLAND) - Amnesty International (AI) today challenged the credibility of the data recently released by a senior UN official investigating oil-impacted sites in Ogoniland. AI calls for independent oversight of the oil industry in the Niger Delta, including disclosure of all relevant information on the causes of oil pollution.

A United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) official is reported to have said “Ninety percent of oil spills in Ogoniland were due to sabotage and criminal activity; 10 percent due to equipment failure and negligence by companies such as Shell.”

AI challenges the UNEP’s reliance on these figures; produced by Nigerian regulatory agencies, the same bodies that are known to depend heavily on the oil companies themselves.

“Relying on these figures would be a serious misjudgment, with potentially significant ramifications for those living in the Niger Delta,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Amnesty International’s Global Thematic Issues Program.

“UNEP must be aware that the figures have been strongly challenged for years by environmental groups and communities. They are totally lacking in credibility. The people of the Niger Delta have been lied to and denied justice for decades. The issue of oil spill causation is sensitive. If UNEP is going to comment on the cause of oil spills it should do so only on the basis of hard and credible evidence, not figures that are a source of conflict.”

In June 2009, AI released a report detailing the human rights impacts of oil pollution. The information and evidence concluded that the oil spill investigation system in the Niger Delta was lacking in independence, and inadequate to determine the proportion of oil spills caused by sabotage, as opposed to equipment failure.

The organization also found that in many cases, oil companies encompass significant influence in determining the cause of an oil spill. The report documents cases in which Shell claims the cause of a spill was sabotage, however the claim was subsequently questioned by other investigations and or the justice system.

  • Between 1989 and 1994 Shell estimated that only 28 percent of oil spilled in the Niger Delta was caused by sabotage.
  • By 2007, Shell's estimate had risen to 70 percent.
  • The figure now given by Shell has increased to more than 90 percent.

AI has repeatedly asked Shell to produce evidence to support these figures, at this time Shell has been unable to do so.

“While sabotage and vandalism are serious problems, there is no evidence to support the figures offered by oil companies and the Nigerian government agencies,” said Audrey Gaughran.

* Sources: Amnesty International

* Amnesty International’s report Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta:

Alysha Atma spends many hours working on projects that support and benefit the beleaguered people of African nations who spend way too much time off the western media's radar. This writer explains that she is a culmination of all her experiences, most importantly knowledge she says, and all that she still needs to learn; lessons of love, laughter and the extraordinary giving of both young and old. She says she has the enormous fortune of learning from the best; every person around her, and the amazing strength and fortitude of those she has never met but will always strive to listen to. "I continue to work and write because I believe in the power of community and the power of one, both contradictory to each other and yet can move together in a very powerful way. I feel a responsibility to use my place, freedoms and connections here in the US to stand up and yell for those who need my voice and actions. I have seen such strength in my fellow humans that I cannot even begin to comprehend, they have traveled distances, have gone without food, water, shelter and safety for days and weeks at a time. I have a responsibility as a fellow human to put our common humanity before anything else. Everyone deserves to look towards tomorrow, to dream of a safe future and to have a peaceful present." You can write to Alysha Atma at:

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Douglas Benson August 26, 2010 6:47 am (Pacific time)

What about the gulf spill? There are rumors that the people in the gulf have been threatened with arrest for taking pictures or speaking to reporters .I have a feeling that its much much worse than anyone is saying .So much for free press.

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