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Shell Risks Paying Damages as Face-Off With AI, FoEI Worsens

Daily Independent (Lagos)

7 February 2011

Lagos — Royal Dutch Shell at the weekend continued its defence on allegation of environmental and human rights impacts in Nigeria even as the controversy of the company’s alleged cover up of 44, 000 barrels oil spill continued.

Shell stands the chance of paying damages if found guilty of the allegations, which are considered weighty in the wake of the billions of dollars in fines handed BP by the U.S. government over the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

Amnesty International (AI) and Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) had announced that they had filed formal complaints with the British and Dutch governments over Shell’s failure to take responsibility for the majority of the oil pollution in the Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta region.

But the company denied the allegation maintaining that the discrepancy between the originally reported figure for 2008 and the updated one was explained at length in our 2009 briefing notes – which are available on the web.

“The spill was 44k bbls (44, 000 barrels). It was not included originally because it had not been certified by the independent joint inspection team. We were proactive in bringing this to the attention of many interested third parties, including Amnesty International,” Shell spokesperson, Precious Okolobo said.

He added in another e-mail message that the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria-operated Joint Venture has continued to strengthen the economies of its host communities.

The company, he said, spent N5.53 billion between 2005 and 2010 on various economic empowerment programmes in the Niger Delta.

“These include 241 micro-credit schemes, 35 agro and fisheries and 120 land and marine transport projects. Another set of skills and enterprise development programmes within the same period directly benefitted over 5,200 youths.”

But (AI) and Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) insisted that Shell “breached the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises” for allegedly using discredited and misleading information to blame the majority of oil pollution in the Niger Delta on sabotage.

The advocacy groups noted that under Nigerian law, Shell does not have any liability for the oil spills if the environmental damage is found to be the result of sabotage.

Nnimmo Bassey, who heads the Friends of the Earth branch in Nigeria, said evidence contradicts Shell’s claims in the Niger Delta.

“Several studies have placed the bulk of the blame for oil spills in the Niger Delta on the doorsteps of the oil companies; particularly Shell,” he said in a statement. “It should take its responsibility and clean up the mess it made in our country.” The company has been at dagger drawn with Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) over its operations in the Niger Delta over reports that it breached basic standards for responsible business set out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The groups said Shell in the 1990s took responsibility for much of the oil pollution in the Niger Delta. Now, however, the company is blaming sabotage by rebel groups for more than 90 percent of the oil spills in the region, the groups claim.

On the economic empowerment programme by Shell, the company’s General Manager Sustainable Development and Community Relations, Tony Attah said: “Our economic empowerment programmes date back to the 1960s.

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