Nigerian employees of the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell have ordered the deliberate vandalization of pipelines for personal gain, a documentary reported in the Netherlands.
Dutch TV documentary Zembla, in collaboration with Dutch environmental organization Milieudefensie, reported in a program to be broadcast on Thursday that “several witnesses said that SPDC, a subsidiary of Shell, was the source of the oil leaks”.
“Sources say Shell employees are profiting from this intentional oil leak by pocketing money from cleanup budgets,” Zembla said in a press release summarizing an 18-month investigation into various leaks between 2010 and today. .
Zembla added that the SPDC, as well as the Dutch Embassy in Nigeria, were aware of the accusations but had failed to respond to them.
Nigeria’s oil spills have a decades-long history, making companies like Shell, which is headquartered in the Netherlands, a frequent target of criticism and protests from human rights groups. and the environment.
Millions of liters of oil have seeped into the Niger Delta since Shell began extracting oil there in 1958. Zembla said that “the world’s largest oil disaster is taking place in the Niger Delta” .
Shell says 95% of leaks are the result of sabotage. He denies responsibility for the leaks, which he attributes to local criminals and organized gangs.
“ Credible ” accusations
However, residents of Ikarama, in the Nigerian state of Bayelsa, told Zembla that Shell employees were encouraging local youth in villages to sabotage pipelines in the area and then share the funds allocated for cleanup.
“If a cleanup is needed, those same young people are then hired to perform it,” Washington Odeibodo told Zembla.
A former Shell security guard, who claimed to have been responsible for sabotaging pipelines in the past, said Shell supervisors and employees “parted with the cleanup money.”
“Shell’s salvage service is sabotaging pipelines. If the cleaning takes seven months, they will stop after only three months, ”he added.
According to Zembla, a saboteur claimed to have committed the vandalism “out of hunger”.
In May, Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics said 40 percent of the West African nation’s people live in poverty, in a country with Africa’s largest economy.
Cees van Dam, professor of international business and human rights at the University of Rotterdam, said the allegations in Zembla’s report were “credible”.
“In the Netherlands this would certainly be considered a criminal offense. Intentional destruction of property, intentional pollution of the environment, these are serious problems that no company would accept from its employees, ”he said according to the statement.
The documentary maker claimed he was in possession of documents confirming that SPDC was aware of the allegations.
However, Shell had so far not responded to questions regarding steps taken to address the issue.
“The SPDC takes these kinds of accusations very seriously. If we find any evidence that supports these accusations, we will report it to the Nigerian authorities, ”the SPDC said according to Zembla’s statement.
Zembla said the Netherlands embassy in Nigeria was also aware of the charges, which were highlighted for two years and confirmed by the European nation’s foreign ministry.
According to Zembla, the country’s former ambassador Robert Petri, who left in early 2019, was videotaped promising Ikarama residents that he would share the information with Shell.
The documentary maker said “nothing came of the engagement.”
Responding to a question from Zembla, the ministry said: “Due to Robert Petri’s untimely departure as ambassador to Nigeria, he has not been able to follow through on his commitment.”
The ministry added that his replacement was completely unaware of the allegations against Shell workers.
Still, Zembla said correspondence between an embassy official and the ministry showed the issue was being discussed earlier this year.
“The Second Secretary of the Embassy of the Dutch Post in Nigeria had corresponded about these accusations until May of this year. When asked about this, the ministry assumed that their engagement had “fallen through the cracks”, “Zembla added.
“The ministry also said that it was only after being interviewed by Zembla that the current ambassador even broached the subject with Shell,” the statement said.