Amnesty: Flawed Data Used to Exonerate Oil Firms in N’DeltaNigeria
Human rights organisation, Amnesty International (AI) yesterday challenged the credibility of data cited by the United Nations in an ongoing investigation of oil-impacted sites in Ogoniland which will almost entirely exonerate Royal Dutch Shell for 40 years of oil pollution in the oil rich region.
Amnesty challenged UNEP’s reliance on figures which according to them were produced by Nigerian regulatory agencies that “are known to depend heavily on the oil companies themselves when it comes to spill investigations.”
In a quick reaction, UNEP issued a statement on its website saying the investigation is still on-going and that its research has over several years secured the confidence of the international community in many challenging regions of the world from the Balkans and Afghanistan to Gaza and Sudan.
“The fieldwork by UNEP's scientific teams collecting samples of water, soil, sediment, air and plant and animal tissue is due to be completed in October 2010, and will be followed by laboratory analysis,” UNEP said, adding that it is due to be presented to the government of Nigeria and interested parties in early 2011.
But Audrey Gaughran, Director of Amnesty International’s Global Thematic Issues Programme said relying on these figures would be a serious mis-judgement, with potentially significant ramifications for those living in the Niger Delta.
“UNEP must be aware that the figures have been strongly challenged for years by environmental groups and communities. They are totally lacking in credibility,” he said.
“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,” Amnesty stated.
Amnesty said an investigation it conducted in June 2009 on the human rights impact of oil pollution concluded that the oil spill investigation system in the Niger Delta was totally lacking in independence, and was inadequate to determine the proportion of oil spills caused by sabotage, as opposed to equipment failure. Amnesty International found that in many cases oil companies have significant influence on determining the cause of a spill. The report documents examples of cases where Shell claimed the cause of a spill was sabotage, but the claim was subsequently questioned by other investigations or the courts.
The organisation mentioned that between 1989 and 1994 Shell itself estimated that only 28 percent of oil spilt in the Niger Delta was caused by sabotage. In 2007 Shell's estimate had risen to 70 per cent. The figure now given by Shell has increased to more than 90 per cent. Amnesty International has repeatedly asked Shell to produce evidence to support these figures. 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 Gaughran.
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