Page last updated at 17:18 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 18:18 UK

Shell should end Nigeria 'abuse'

Woman walking on oil pipeline
Many Niger Delta residents only see the negative side of the oil industry

Lobby group Amnesty International has urged the new head of oil firm Royal Dutch Shell to end years of pollution and environmental damage in Nigeria.

Peter Voser takes over on Wednesday, a day after Amnesty released a report saying there was a "human rights tragedy" in Nigeria's main oil region.

Shell Petroleum Development Company, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, is the main operator in the Niger Delta.

It says most of the pollution is the result of attacks and sabotage.

The Amnesty International report says the oil industry has resulted in impoverishment, conflict, human rights abuses in the region.

There is little of value in it - no new insights
Shell response to Amnesty report

The report also alleges that the Nigerian government is failing to hold oil companies to account for the pollution they have caused.

The author of the report, Audrey Gaughran, said the majority of cases reported to Amnesty International related to Shell.

"Shell has been operating [in the Niger Delta] for half a century and the problems of the Niger Delta are problems that Shell has to face up to," she told the BBC World Service.

She said Shell must come to grips with its legacy in the Niger Delta.

"It can't just be a case of 'Let's just forget the past and move on.'"

"We've asked Peter Voser directly... to come clean on the impact, to disclose information which we believe is a critical part of dealing with the situation in the Niger Delta."

Dangerous conditions

In a written statement provided to the BBC, Shell hit back at Amnesty saying the group had made no attempt at open dialogue.

The firm dismissed the report, saying: "There is little of value in it. No new insights. No findings that might help change the way things are."

The statement denied Shell had been negligent and said Amnesty had made no attempt to understand the extreme challenges of conducting operations in the Niger Delta.


"About 85% of the pollution from our operation comes from attacks and sabotage that also puts our staff's lives and human rights at risk. In the past 10 days we have had five attacks," the report stated.

"In the last three years, gangs have kidnapped 133 Shell Petroleum Development company employees and contractors while five people working for our joint venture have been killed in assaults and kidnappings in the same period."

These concerns and the general insecurity in the area, according to Shell, prevent it from running maintenance programmes that might otherwise be run in areas of little or no conflict.

Militants in the Niger Delta say they stage attacks on oil installations as part of their fight for the rights of local people to benefit more from the region's oil wealth. But many attacks are staged for financial gain.

Earlier this month, Shell paid $15.5 million to settle a lawsuit in the US for human rights abuses in Nigeria.

The company is also facing legal action in The Hague concerning repeated oil spills which have damaged the livelihoods of Nigerian fisherfolk and farmers.

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