Amnesty International has claimed the oil giant Shell has failed to deliver on an overdue promise to clean up the Niger Delta, which is the biggest oil-producing region in Africa.
Since 2007, Shell was responsible for 1,693 spills, as the firm operates around 50 oil fields and 5,000 km of pipelines in the region. Researchers from Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), put the actual figures much higher.
"When you visit these communities, the first thing you notice is the stench of crude oil," says Makmid Kamara, a business and human rights campaigner at Amnesty International.
Oil spills, representing an environmental nightmare, threaten the livelihood of locals. In some places the severity of the situation robs local communities of their land entirely. Amnesty International says it hopes Shell, and other major oil corporations will start taking responsibility for salvaging the crises.
"Because that is all that the people ask for," says Kamara. "They want to have their land back to farm and feed their communities and have money to send their children to school."
Four oil spill sites in the Delta were identified as highly polluted by the United Nations Environmental Program in 2011, and contamination persists to this day.
Layers of oil on both the soil and the water were found in several locations. At one of the sites, Shell's Bomu Well 11, the oil spill happened 45 years ago and Shell claims to have cleaned it up twice.
"When a spill occurs, the responsible company has to clean that spill within 24 hours" Kamara said, citing the Nigerian law.
The core of the problem lies in the implementation of that law. The Nigerian watchdog, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has previously certified areas as clean while they are visibly polluted.
Part of the report by Amnesty and CEHRD alleged that "cover up: clean ups were done, meaning some parts in dire need for salvaging had been only cleaned superficially.
"This is just a cover up," one contractor hired by Shell, reportedly told the researchers. "If you just dig down a few meters you find oil."
Shell on the other hand disagrees with their findings of the report. On the company's website, Shell cited sabotage and oil theft as a significant cause of the oil spills. It also claims it has been able to improve pipeline security and clean up needed spots successfully.