A new report today published by Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) has called on Shell to accept responsibility for the pollution caused by oil spills in the Niger Delta, and to begin by paying US$1 billion as an initial down-payment towards the clean-up.
The report highlights how Shell’s pollution has wrecked lives and livelihoods in the town of Bodo, Ogoni, which was home to 69,000 people. Shell had caused two major oil spills there in 2008-2009 which became the subject of a UK lawsuit filed at the High Court in April. The company was forced to admit liability and could be made to pay up to $410 million in compensation and clean up the damage. Amnesty condemned the company’s response to the spills:
Shell – which recently reported profits of US$ 7.2bn billion for July-September 2011 – initially offered the Bodo community just 50 bags of rice, beans, sugar and tomatoes as relief for the disaster.
CEHRD’s Coordinator, Patrick Naagbanton said:
“The situation in Bodo is symptomatic of the wider situation in the Niger Delta oil industry. The authorities simply do not control the oil companies. Shell and other oil companies have the freedom to act – or fail to act – without fear of sanction. An independent, robust and well-resourced regulator is long overdue; otherwise even more people will continue to suffer at the hands of the oil companies.”
AI also acknowledged that the UK government’s proposed cuts to the legal aid budget could make the UK courts inaccessible to the victims of corporate human rights abuses, such as Shell’s in Nigeria:
This report reinforces the need for victims of the overseas operations of UK companies to have access to justice in the UK. This is now under threat because of provisions in the Government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders that would change the balance of costs against complainants bringing cases such as Bodo to the UK courts, and in favour of the multinational corporations defending such cases. If the Bill passes, such cases would no longer be viable.