LAGOS, Nigeria — Oil giant Shell is “blatantly false” when it claims it is cleaning up spills that continue to destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, Amnesty International said Tuesday.
A new report quotes one contractor as saying his clean-up was “a cover-up” that involved simply turning over earth to let spilled oil dry for a few days, then returning the still-contaminated soil to the ground.
Shell Nigeria rejected Amnesty’s charges and said it remains “committed to cleaning up all spills” including in Ogoniland, where community protests forced Shell out in 1993. Shell still has pipelines carrying oil in that part of Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta.
Oil pollution that poisons fishing creeks, mangrove swamps and farmlands along with people’s livelihoods and health is a decades-old scandal in Nigeria, where endemic corruption has allowed only an elite few to benefit from oil.
Shell blames most spills on rampant oil theft.
But Amnesty said one Ogoni area still is blighted from a 1970 spill and fire, though Shell said it was cleaned up 40 years ago and again after a 2011 U.N. investigation found massive contamination remained.
Amnesty said Shell Nigeria does not use the same standards as its Dutch parent company.
It also charged “the almost complete failure of the Nigerian government to regulate the oil industry and protect the rights of the people.” Nigeria’s government is the majority owner of Shell Nigeria.
Shell’s failure “is leaving thousands of women, men and children exposed to contaminated land, water and air, in some cases for years or even decades,” said Mark Dummett, an Amnesty International researcher.
Nigeria’s new President Muhammadu Buhari has promised a new body will oversee cleanups and will protect the environment. Buhari also has promised to halt corruption.