Tag Archives: oil spills Nigeria

Showing their Claws-Ogoni versus Royal Dutch Shell

shell

The widow of a Nigerian activist is planning to sue Royal Dutch Shell in the Dutch courts alleging the oil company was complicit in the execution of her husband by the Nigerian military in 1995, court documents filed in the United States/Esther Kiobel has filed an application in New York to secure documents from Shell’s US lawyers, which she could use in the Dutch action.

The filings with the US District Court for the Southern District Court of New York said she planned to begin the action before the end of the year.“Ms. Kiobel will demonstrate that Shell encouraged, facilitated, and conspired with the Nigerian government to commit human rights violations against the Ogoni people,” a memorandum in the application filed last week said.
Kiobel previously took her lawsuit to the United States but the US Supreme Court ruled in 2013 the case could not be heard because the alleged activities took place outside the country.

In 2009 prior to that ruling Shell had agreed in the United States to pay $15.5 million to settle lawsuits related to other activists executed at the same time as Barinem Kiobel, including author and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.    [three separate lawsuits were brought by the family of Ken Saro-Wiwa].

The Nigerian military cracked down heavily on local opposition to oil production by a Shell joint venture in the Niger Delta in the early 1990s. Kiobel alleges that Shell provided support to the military in its crackdown.  A Dutch court ruled in December that Shell may be sued in the Netherlands for oil spills at its subsidiary in Nigeria, although it did not say Shell was responsible..

Excerpts from Shell faces possible Dutch lawsuit over Nigerian activist’s execution, Reuters, Oct. 18, 2016

Bonga Oil Spill: the Nigerian Perspective against Shell

The Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi has slammed Anglo Dutch oil giant, Shell for the way and manner it handles oil spill in the country, especially in the oil and gas rich Niger Delta region.  He said the response of the foremost oil firm to oil spillages in the country fell short of international standards and practices.  The helmsman of Nigeria’s apex maritime regulatory authority spoke against the backdrop of the Bonga oil spill incident which wreaked havoc in many communities in the Niger Delta region in 2011.

The National Assembly had last week through the House of Representatives Committee on Environment, organised a public hearing over the incident.  Recounting NIMASA’s experience during the incident, Akpobolokemi said that the oil giant tried as much as possible to frustrate the agency’s attempts to move to the site of the spill.  As a stop gap measure, he explained that the agency provided some relief material to some of the communities affected by the spill.  Akpobolokemi flayed Shell for it poor response and nonchalant attitude towards spill incidents in the Niger Delta area and called for an immediate stop to this.

Said he: “The kind of impunity Shell and its allies have demonstrated so far in the Niger Delta area in the past must stop if the future of the people of Nigeria and the environment are to be protected,” adding that in other countries when spills like this occur, the first thing is remuneration, attention to the affected communities and finding ways of reducing the sufferings of the people and restoring the ecosystem, which Shell has failed to do. “Shell fell short of all these criteria and of course it is sad that it is only in Nigeria that we can witness this degree of impunity.

“We in NIMASA see this as a serious infraction to our laws, communities and the damage done to the communities and the ecosystem can be seen as genocide. When a similar spill occurred in the gulf of Mexico, Shell was alive to its responsibilities, they were made to pay compensation to the affected communities but today in Nigeria, any spill that occur, a claim of sabotage or third party claims are the order of the day.” He said NIMASA had made presentations before the House Committee on Environment, asking SNEPCO to pay compensation, not an administrative fee, to the communities totalling $6.5 billion.

“The response from Shell was evasive and do not suggest that it is a company that is alive to its responsibility. It believes that the culture of impunity can continue to go on, thereby playing with our legal system. May we use this opportunity to correct the wrong that has been done to the Nigerian environment because of the callousness of this company and we stand by our position that compensation must be paid to the communities.

“What we expect Shell to do is to come to the negotiating table and discuss with the affected communities on the means of payment so that the communities can get back their natural eco-system”.

John Iwori, Bonga Oil Spill: NIMASA Slams Shell, http://www.thisdaylive.com/,  Feb. 14, 2014

Shell Response

Shell in Nigeria: the Trans-Niger Pipeline Pollution

nigeria

A major fire that forced Shell to close its Trans Niger Pipeline in southern Nigeria raises serious questions about the way the oil giant is operating, Amnesty International and the Nigerian National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills (NACGOND) (an NGO) said.The organizations called for an independent inquiry into the events that led to the fire at Bodo in Rivers State – an area already devastated by years of oil pollution.

Eight Shell contractors were arrested by Nigerian security services in connection with the fire that broke out last week (June 19, 2013), following an oil spill at a section of the pipeline near Bodo that was being repaired by Shell contractors.A Shell-led investigation into the cause of the fire is due to begin this week.

Shell claims the fire was a consequence of oil theft. However, community members told NACGOND that in the days leading up to the fire Nigerian security forces prevented anyone other than Shell’s contractors going near the area of the spill. From the shore people saw barges being loaded with oil and taken away from the site.  “Shell’s investigation into the cause of the fire is not enough,” said Tracy Adole of NACGOND. “What’s needed is a fully transparent and independent inquiry into what happened at Bodo in the days before the fire and the role – and competence – of Shell’s contractors. There are serious unanswered questions as to who Shell entrusted with the high-risk repair of the pipeline, and about its own level of oversight.”

The fire broke out following an oil spill on 11 June in an area where Shell contractors were working on maintenance and repairs. The area was guarded by security forces apparently preventing unauthorised access. Local residents attempted to visit the site to asses the scale of the spill but were turned back.  Witnesses reported seeing oil being loaded onto barges by Shell’s contractors for several days after the spill.  “The facts make it difficult to believe that anyone other than Shell’s contractors were in the vicinity in the days leading up to the fire,” said Tracy Adole. “Shell was quick to blame oil theft as the cause of the latest pollution and fire at Bodo, but the company has yet to fully answer for the role of its own contractors.”

Over the last decade, Shell has claimed that most of the oil spilt in the Niger Delta is due to oil theft and sabotage of its pipelines. The company bases these claims on a system that includes publicly contested data and relies almost exclusively on information provided by the company itself.The alleged theft and sabotage cases have not been verified by any independent bodies.

Last week, NCP, found that Shell’s statements that sabotage is responsible for most oil spilt in Nigeria were based on disputed evidence and flawed investigations.

In 2008 two massive oil spills occurred at Bodo in the Niger Delta. Both were the result of operational failures by Shell. Despite the enormous environmental damage done, Shell never cleaned up the spills. The community has now taken their case to the UK courts to seek compensation and clean up.  In 2011 a major scientific study carried out by the UN Environmental Programme documented serious problems with Shell’s response to oil spills. The same study noted that Nigerian regulators were “at the mercy” of oil companies when it comes to site visits to investigate oil spills.  Amnesty International asked Shell for a response to the latest spill and fire at Bodo and the arrest of contractors in relation to oil theft. Shell directed Amnesty to its public statement.

Nigeria: Wider Investigation Into Shell’s Nigeria Operation Needed After Arrest of Contractors, Amnesty International, June 26, 2013

Chronic Oil Pollution, an effective lawsuit against Shell?

A village in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta where observers found a drinking-water well polluted with benzene 900 times the international limit has sued Royal Dutch Shell PLC for $1 billion in a U.S. federal court.  The lawsuit alleges that Shell, long the dominant oil company over Nigeria’s more than 50 years of production, acted willfully negligent in pursuing profits over protecting the nation’s Niger Delta.mm The lawsuit filed by lawyers in Detroit uses a recent United Nations report over widespread pollution in the delta’s Ogoniland area for much of its evidence. However, that report implied Nigeria’s state-run oil company, rather than Shell, was responsible for recent damage in village of Ogale in Nigeria’s Rivers state.  “It is not isolated or accidental, but part of a culture and ongoing pattern of conduct that consistently and repeatedly ignored risks to others in favor of financial advantage,” the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan reads.  Some environmentalists say as much as 550 million gallons of oil have poured into the Niger Delta during 50 years of production — at a rate roughly comparable to one Exxon Valdez disaster per year. Even today, oil laps up in brackish delta creeks in Ogoniland, creating a black ring around the coastlines.

Ogale was one of the first operational oil fields discovered in Nigeria, where the nation’s first shipment of 22,000 barrels of crude oil exported to Europe came from, the lawsuit said. In the time since, the village suffered from the pollution of oil exploration, putting villagers at risk, the suit said.  A U.N. report released in August highlighted the plight of the village, describing how investigators found about 3 inches (8 centimeters) of refined oil floating on the surface of groundwater that serves the community’s wells. It also described finding high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, in the water.  Though Shell abandoned production in Ogoniland in 1993 following civil unrest, miles of aging pipelines and flow stations sit in the area. However, the U.N. report said that a pipeline abandoned in 2008 by the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. lies near Ogale and showed signs that a large amount of oil spilled from it.

Lawyers filed the U.S. lawsuit on behalf of the villagers in Nigeria using the 222-year-old Alien Tort Statute, a law increasingly used in recent years to sue corporations for alleged abuses abroad. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it will use a separate lawsuit between Nigerian villagers and Shell to decide whether corporations may be held liable in U.S. courts for alleged human rights abuses overseas under the law.  Shell has been sued in the past in the U.S. over its Nigerian operations. In June 2009, it agreed to a $15.5 million settlement to end a lawsuit alleging that the oil giant was complicit in the executions of activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and other civilians by Nigeria’s former military regime.

Nigeria village cited by UN for chronic oil-spill damage sues Royal Dutch Shell for $1B in US, Associated Press, Oct. 21, 2011