Oil and gas pollution is an ongoing and devastating issue in Nigeria. But now new evidence has been brought forward that indicates Royal Dutch Shell, the primary player in the African country, has played down its impact.
Petro Global News reports that this new evidence suggests Shell willfully minimized reports of two spills in 2008 and ignored reports of faulty pipelines beforehand. Internal communications indicate senior-level employees expressed concern about pipelines in southern Nigeria as early as two years before the spills occurred.
Shell and the Nigerian government typically blame oil spills on oil bunkering, which they claim accounts for 90 percent of oil- and gas-related pollution in the country. Bunkering is a form of oil piracy which involves tapping directly into a pipeline and stealing oil, which then leaves a gaping hole through which oil is allowed to flow unencumbered.
However, those who live in the regions affected by the pollution claim that Shell vastly underplays the amount of oil spilled from faults in its pipelines not caused by oil piracy. During the two incidents in 2008, Shell and the government concluded that only 4,000 barrels (or 168,000 gallons) of oil spilled into the surrounding environment. Amnesty International, on the other hand, undertook its own investigation and concluded that as many as 100,000 barrels (4.2 million gallons) were spilled in a 35-square-mile area. That’s a whopping 25 times Shell’s estimate.
While Shell concedes that its estimates may have fallen shy of the actual amount spilled, it refutes claims that it knowingly continued to operate a faulty pipeline.
Approximately 15,000 Nigerian farmers and members of the community are suing Shell for the 2008 spills, which they assert permanently harmed the environment they live off of.