Many of us are familiar with the issues surrounding oil and gas development in our region, but events in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region have received little local media attention. Being citizens of the world (and incidentally, the citizens who happen to be creating the most demand for oil and gas), we have a responsibility to advocate for those in Nigeria who have been unable to stop one of the world’s corporate giants from ravaging their environment.
Today, Shell Oil is hosting an open house in Steamboat to discuss the “plans” it has for our community, hear our concerns and questions, and ostensibly show us what good neighbors and corporate citizens they are. Shell is not treating our global neighbors in the Niger Delta with the same level of hospitality, which raises questions about the
sincerity and credibility of today’s event.
In August 2008, a faulty Shell pipeline caused an oil spill that devastated the people and environment near the town of Bodo in the Niger Delta. Not only has Shell shirked their responsibility to clean up the area, but the scale of the incident was also grossly under-reported by the company. According to independent U.S. firm Accufacts, between 103,000 and 311,000 barrels of oil spilled during a 72-day period. Shell has only acknowledged a spill of 1,640 barrels during a one-month period.
A second Shell spill occurring in December 2008 might have been even larger than the first. Oil is still visible in the water and soil, and aerial photos show huge swaths of dead vegetation. The local agricultural and fishing industries have been decimated. Yet Shell still refuses to accept responsibility for a full clean up.
Amnesty International is calling on Shell to pay $1 billion to establish a fund to begin cleaning up the Niger Delta — a fraction of the $7.3 billion in profits it made in the first quarter of 2012 alone.
How can we trust a company guilty of committing human rights violations of this magnitude to operate with integrity in our own community? Although the people of the Niger Delta are thousands of miles away, the distance does not diminish the devastation to their lives. The reality these people are living with could easily be our own. If Shell cannot operate with integrity and accountability in the Niger Delta, then we cannot trust them to operate responsibly in Routt County. Please join us and many others across the world in calling on Shell to do what is right — to own up, pay up and clean up the Niger Delta.
Steamboat Springs Amnesty International Group No. 1104