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Hundreds of oil spills occur in Nigeria every year, causing significant harm to the environment, destroying local livelihoods and placing human health at serious risk.

1. These spills are caused by corrosion, poor maintenance of oil infrastructure, equipment failure, sabotage and theft of oil. For the last decade oil companies in Nigeria – in particular Shell – have defended the scale of pollution by claiming that the vast majority of oil spills are caused by sabotage and theft of oil.

2. There is no legitimate basis for this claim. It relies on the outcome of an oil spill investigation process – commonly known as the Joint Investigation Visit or JIV process – in which the companies themselves are the primary investigators. This report exposes several serious deficiencies and abuses within the JIV process that render it wholly unreliable as a basis for making claims about the cause of oil spills, the volume of oil spilt or the area impacted.

The report is based on an examination of the JIV process and – critically – of how data are recorded during the process. It draws on expert analysis obtained from a US pipeline specialist who reviewed JIV investigation documents and data provided by oil companies and regulators to researchers in the course of investigations.

The report presents evidence not only of serious and systemic flaws in the oil spill investigation process, but also specific examples of instances where the cause of an oil spill appears to have been wrongly attributed to sabotage. The evidence includes a secretly filmed video of an oil spill investigation. In addition, the report exposes serious problems with how the volume of oil spilt is assessed and recorded; it is likely that the volume of oil recorded as spilt in many cases is incorrect.

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