Shell Nigeria has reacted to the latest criticisms of its oil exploration in Nigeria and the attendant spillage, affecting some Niger Delta communities.

The full response as sent in an e-mail to P.M.NEWS Monday by the company’s managing director and country chairman, Mr. M.O.A. Sunmonu:

Bodo spills

Under Nigerian regulations, oil spill incidents are investigated by a joint team of operators, communities, security agencies and regulators. A similar team investigated the spills in Bodo, and we stand by their findings. The spill volume was ascertained on the ground by experts at the time and agreed by all parties – who signed off on the joint investigation report. As has been stated previously, SPDC admitted liability for two spills of about 4,000 barrels in Bodo caused by operational failures, as soon as their cause had been verified in late 2008 and early 2009.

It is deeply regrettable that, both before and since those two operational spills occurred, much more oil has been spilt as a result of illegal activity – sabotage, illegal refining and theft – which blights the delta generally. Our clean-up teams were able to deal with the initial operational spills, but subsequently they have been prevented by local communities from reaching sites that were re-impacted by this illegal activity to begin clean-up and remediation work. This could be because those communities hold a misguided belief that more spilt oil, irrespective of the cause, equals more compensation.

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As promised, SPDC provided relief materials to Bodo community. While still discussing issues around the spills, including the amount of compensation, with representatives of the Bodo community, SPDC received several letters of claim from different lawyers, each claiming to be acting for the Bodo community. The challenge for SPDC was to try to identify which of these lawyers to deal with. This severely slowed the process and was further worsened with the introduction into the matter of a longstanding dispute between Bodo Council of Traditional Rulers and the paramount ruler and his faction of the Council of Chiefs. There was and still is pending litigation between these two groups. It was while discussions were still on-going to resolve these challenges so that negotiation of compensation could proceed that the letter of claim written by Leigh Day on behalf of the Bodo community was served on Royal Dutch Shell in April 2011. The matter remains unresolved therefore.

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Access to spill site

SPDC is committed to cleaning up all oil spilt from our facilities, no matter what the cause, where we have access and staff and contractors can work safely in a secure environment. In Bodo, we were unable to proceed with clean-up as quickly as planned because of lack of access. Amnesty International knows that we were denied access – indeed one contractor was kidnapped during the process.

Integrity of investigation process

We do not agree with Amnesty International’s assessment of the spill investigation process. We have recently had the investigation process, which is common to all operators in the Niger Delta, independently verified by Bureau Veritas. All oil spill incidents are investigated jointly by communities, regulators, operators and security agencies. The team visits the site of the incident, determines the cause, and volume of spilled oil and impact on the environment, and signs off the findings in a report. This is an independent process – communities and regulators are all involved.

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Alleged discrepancy in 2008 spill statistics

SPDC reviewed the spill figures for 2008 after the unfortunate incident at Iriama, where a fire erupted during pipeline repair work. This large spill originally caused by sabotage, was eventually booked as an operational spill, and we proactively communicated the re-evaluation to many stakeholders including Amnesty International. It is unfortunate that Amnesty International chooses to characterize this as evidence of lack of integrity on oil spill figures