There are some things that the debate over oil spills in Nigeria cannot change. Under Nigerian law, Shell has principal responsibility to clean up all spills from its facilities, regardless of whether the cause is sabotage or neglect. And Shell has all the resources and technology to stop these spills [1]from happening. If the UNEP report[2] fails to hold the company to account, it may do more harm than good by weakening the incentive for Shell to take action and stem the tide of daily spills.

Aggressive independent oversight is part of the solution, but this is unlikely to be provided by a Shell-sponsored report. UNEP’s findings are a distraction from the destructive legacy of Shell’s oil spillage in the region, which Amnesty International called a ‘human rights tragedy’ in a recent report[3].

Whilst oil production continues apace, there is very little sign that Shell is doing anything to repair & replace its ageing pipelines which are causing widespread pollution in the Niger Delta. Shell has stalled for years on a comprehensive clean up of 52 years of spilling. Never lacking excuses when held responsible, Shell claims lack of funding, security concerns and now blames the problem entirely on impoverished locals.

Endnotes:
  1. stop these spills : http://www1.milieudefensie.nl/globalisering/.../rapport%20double%20standards.pdf
  2. UNEP report: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/22/shell-niger-delta-un-investigation
  3. report: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/.../en/.../afr440172009en.pdf