ERA & Our Philosophy            Committees & Contacts           Reports


June 1998
From OilWatch Europe and Environmental Rights Action

Dear Friends,

Shell has always claimed that a large proportion of the environmental pollution created by their installations was caused by
sabotage. Until now they have however never given any verifiable details on those claims.

In the 1997 'People and Environment Annual Report' recently issued by Shell Nigeria it is claimed that 80% of the volume of oil spilled in 1997 could be attributed to people drilling and sawing holes in their pipelines.

Since Shell uses the argument of sabotage often to deny their full responsibly for clean-up and compensation the Nigerian NGO Environment Rights Action (ERA) asked them to be provided with this information. As you can read below, no response so
far. ERA is proposing the same questions to be asked through other channels.

Please feel free to send your letters to:
Mr. Ron van den Berg 
Managing Director 
21/22 Marina, 
P.O. Box 2418, 
Lagos, Nigeria
Mr. Mark Moody-Stuart, Chairman 
Committee of Group Managing Directors 
The Royal Dutch/Shell Company 
Carel van Bylandtlaan 30, 
2596 HR, The Hague 
The Netherlands 
FAX: 31 70 377 2616
And please keep us updated on any reply.

Aart van den Hoek,
Oilwatch Europe

by: Environmental Rights Action, Benin, Nigeria, 26 June 1998

Dear friends,

It is a month today since we wrote to SHELL NIGERIA on their sabotage claims in the Niger Delta. LETTER WAS SENT TO THEM BY FAX AND THEY PHONED BACK THE NEXT DAY TO CONFIRM IT WAS FROM US.

They have refused to reply to our letter.  Could you please use your channels to send it to their offices close to you?  We need a response from them because they hide under the cloak of this claim (of sabotage) to deny the local people their social, economic, environmental and fundamental human rights.


Nnimmo Bassey,
Enviromental Rights Action

27th May, 1998 

Ron van den Berg 
Managing Director 
21/22 Marina, 
P.O. Box 2418, 
Lagos, Nigeria 


Dear Sir, 

We have received a copy of your "1997 in brief: Community and Environment report"  The report was part of the briefs you sent to us for the Port Harcourt "Workshops" 

We have read it and we are very concerned over a number of claims in the report. Of urgent need for attention is your claim that "79% of all oil spilled from SPDC facilities was due to vandalism or sabotage" in the period under review. 

This is a serious claim which immediately portrays the oil producing communities as vandals and saboteurs.  We have a number of questions for you because your claims on "sabotage" since the emergence of MOSOP has never being consistent.  That is, what your spokesmen in London say is different from what those in the Hague claim and in most cases differ dramatically from your views in Nigeria.  We have documents to prove this. 

Between 1993 and now, ERA has maintained a presence in Ogoni.  We found the Ogoni people under MOSOP to be humble, disciplined and organised. 

The events of January 4 1993 where over 300,000 Ogoni demonstrated against your company's environmental irresponsibilities was without any incidence of "vandalism" or disorderlines.  Even at the height of your provocation of the Korokoro people, your staff who drove the provocative fire-truck was let go by the angry youths.  The village was later attracked at your instigation. 

 Elsewhere in the Niger Delta leaders of groups in Ogbia, Nembe, Aleibiri, Obotobo Obrigbene, etc have openly challenged you on your claims on "sabotage".  You have failed to produce convincing evidence before the people.  We have received countless complaints of your love to dismiss every spill as "sabotage in order to avoid paying miserable compensation" and dodge your environmental responsibility. 

We now ask: 

(a) Is it possible for Shell to produce incontrovertible evidence to support these endless claims of sabotage? 

(b) In all cases of the so-called sabotage are members of the communities in agreement with the views of Shell that it is sabotage? 

(c) Can we have access to all your reports of sabotage from 1990-1997? 

(d) Is the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) involved in every case of oil spill and do you report every single case of oil spill to them and also to FEPA? 

(e) Is it possible to have a breakdown of the "sabotage" cases?  We would like to know whether more spills occur on "land" or on the so called "swamp" in 1997. 

(f) We understand you have refused to press for the prosecution of suspected "saboteurs", for the sake of cordial community relations.  Is this not a violation of Nigerian law? 

May is here.  Your share holders have since gathered to share the profits you have garnered for them.  It is our strong belief that the poor and defenceless people of the Niger Delta are not portrayed as criminals, urchins and vandals.  They have suffered for too long.  Sixty years of deprivation ought to be enough. 

It is time for Shell to seriously consider issues of environmental justice in her relation with the people of the Niger Delta.  So far all that the house of Shell has offered is public relations. 

Looking forward to hearing from you soon. 

Sincerely yours, 

Nnimmo Bassey 
Director, ERA/FoE Nigeria