Make oil companies accountable for devastating oil pollution in Nigeria


Project Results

Decode Oil Spills is complete! Thanks to the efforts of our Decoders, we can conduct innovative research into oil spills in Nigeria and make oil companies accountable for devastating pollution.


Most Decoders came from France, Netherlands, Nigeria, UK and Sweden


80% of those who contributed were new to Amnesty Decoders

Documents and
images analysed
and images

Decoders covered oil spill incidents from 2011 to 2017


Out of a total of 56,200
tasks submitted


That’s the equivalent of someone working full-time for 8 months

What’s next?

Decode Oil Spills is helping Amnesty researchers analyse six years of oil spills in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. Thanks to all of our Decoders' contributions, our research team will now verify and analyse the data collected to support ongoing research and advocacy aimed to making oil companies accountable for the devastating pollution they cause. We will be looking for trends and inconsistencies, mapping the spills and zooming into the cause, amounts of oils spilled and affected areas.



Making oil companies accountable for devastating oil pollution in Nigeria

The Niger Delta is Africa’s biggest oil-producing region, and one of the most polluted places on earth. Every year hundreds of oil spills destroy the environment and devastate the lives of communities living there.

Some oil companies operating in the Niger Delta, such as Shell, publish oil spill investigation reports on their websites. But in the past they made false claims regarding the cause and size of oil spills to pay less compensation and avoid properly cleaning up the pollution.

Thanks to the help from the Amnesty Decoders community, our researchers will be able to analyse thousands of these oil spill investigation reports. The Amnesty Decoders community used thier computers and phones to verify the cause, location or image of oil spills.

The decoding from the Amnesty Decoders community is helping us expose cases of false and misleading information and enable local communities demand proper clean-up and rehabilitation of pollution and environmental damage.

Why The Niger Delta?

The oil producing areas of the Niger Delta are home to approximately 15 million people. The communities living in the Delta depend on the rivers, creeks and farmlands for their food and livelihoods. The people in this region are exposed to serious health risks as their natural resources have been devastated while their drinking water is continuously contaminated.

“There have been oil spills all the time. Even shellfish are no longer there, or periwinkles or things like that. Women have to travel to faraway places to buy it before they use them. The children can no longer go to the river or stream to play like they used to do before. Because everywhere is coated with crude.” Says Barine Ateni, a 45-year-old farmer in Kegbara Dere, a widow with seven children.

Shell is the largest multinational oil company operating in Nigeria. According to the figures on its own website, Shell is responsible for over 1,700 separate oil spills in the Niger Delta since 2007. The Italian oil company ENI has smaller operations in the region than Shell but has reported even more spills – more than 3,000 since 2007.

Preventing oil spills must be the companies’ priority. When they occur, swift and effective clean-up is critical to the protection of human rights. If pollution and environmental damage persist, then so, frequently, does the associated violation of human rights. This drives people deeper into poverty through long-term damage to livelihoods and health.

Spills can be caused by operational failure by the company, or by illegal acts such as sabotage and oil theft. But in the past, companies have made false claims about the cause and volume of oil spills in Nigeria. With the help of Amnesty International, the Bodo community took legal action, forcing Shell to admit to misreporting the size of a massive oil spill. Credible evidence ultimately forced Shell to pay £55 million in compensation to the Bodo community.

Shell’s shocking toxic legacy

Shell’s polluted present stretches decades into the past. Its toxic legacy goes beyond oil spills to include complicity in killings, after the company urged Nigeria’s military government to deal with community protests against the pollution. Today, Nigerian widow Esther Kiobel is taking on Shell for its role in the 1995 execution of her husband. Read her story and find out how you can support her decades-long struggle for justice.


Decode Oil Spills was the fourth project for the Amnesty Decoders - a global network of digital volunteers for human rights research. Already there are more than 45,000 volunteers from more than 150 countries.

This project was developed in collaboration with Focal Labs and with financial support from the Swedish Postcode Lottery. Powered by Hive, a modular, flexible, open-source platform developed by the New York Times and Discourse, an open source discussion platform.

Amnesty International would like to thank all the volunteers who have helped so far with this project. We’d also like to say a very special thank you to those volunteers who helped out as moderators on the discussion forum. We couldn't have done it without you.

In particular we'd like to thank anon2034, Becks, Dekker, ellen-2016, hanny123, Ingewiel, samantha, voz, Walter, yvesprigent and many others who decoded thousands of documents, and who participated in hundreds of conversations.