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Shell Employees Involved with Causing Oil Leaks in Nigeria

10 dec 2020
  •  
leestijd 4 minuten
Hel van Shell 2
Employees of Shell in Nigeria ordered the vandalization of oil pipelines for their own personal gain. Speaking to Zembla and the Dutch environmentalist organization Milieudefensie, multiple witnesses declared that SPDC, a subsidiary of Shell, caused the oil leaks. According to sources, Shell employees profit from these intentional oil leaks by pocketing money from cleanup budgets. From the investigation conducted by Milieudefensie and verified by Zembla, it appears that Shell’s subsidiary SPDC is aware of these accusations but has done nothing about them. The Dutch embassy had knowledge of these accusations at the time as well, but hadn’t approached the company regarding the matter.

The greatest oil disaster in the world is unfolding in the Niger Delta. Millions of liters of oil have leaked into the local environment since Shell began oil extraction there in 1958. Large areas have been transformed into a desolate moonscape where land cultivation and fishing are no longer possible. Local residents don’t know how they will continue to support themselves. The oil pollution has harmful consequences for their health as well.

According to Shell, 95% of the leaks are a result of sabotage. The oil company denies any responsibility for these. The perpetrators of these leaks are said to be local criminals and organized gangs. Now, Shell employees themselves are accused of being a part of a perverse industry of deliberate leakage. Zembla verified all of this and interviewed the sources on camera.

Lees hier: "Shell-medewerkers betrokken bij veroorzaken olielekken in Nigeria"

Secret arrangements 
“Shell employees persuade local youths to vandalize the pipelines. If a cleanup is necessary, these same youths are then hired to perform it”, explains Washington Odeibodo, a resident of the village Ikarama. This concerns Shell employees on a local level, whether they are responsible for cleaning up oil leaks or maintaining relationships with the local community. A former Shell security guard, who himself has vandalized the pipelines, states that Shell supervisors make secret arrangements with young people from different regions. “And then they split the money from the cleanup. The recovery department from Shell sabotages the pipelines. If the cleanup will take seven months, they’ll stop after only three months.” Another saboteur told Zembla that he had taken part in multiple acts of vandalism that were arranged by Shell Employees. “We went along with this out of hunger.” The detailed report is based on an 18 month-long investigation of various leaks between 2010 and the present day, conducted by Milieudefensie.

Cees van Dam, Professor of International Business and Human Rights at The University of Rotterdam, studied the report at Zembla’s request. The jurist determined these accusations were “credible”. “In the Netherlands, this would certainly be considered a criminal offense. Intentional destruction of property, intentional environmental pollution, these are serious issues that no single company would accept from its employees. These would definitely be grounds for termination.”

'Unaware of any involvement by employees'
Shell, and their subsidiary SPDC, stated in a general response that they are unaware of any involvement by employees or contractors in causing these oil leaks. Shell hasn’t gone into any of the concrete questions raised by Zembla. “They’re not saying anything, actually”, concludes Van Dam. “The suggestion is that they are ‘in control’, that they have the situation well in hand. But if you look at the facts, that doesn’t appear to be the case at all, and in the meantime, they’re up to their ankles in oil.”

Zembla is in possession of documents appearing to show that Shell’s subsidiary SPDC was repeatedly notified of these accusations. Shell hasn’t responded to questions about what the company has done with this information. Shell states that: “SPDC takes these kind of accusations very seriously. If we find any evidence that supports these accusations, we will report it to the Nigerian authorities.”

It also appear from this investigation that the Dutch embassy has also been aware of these accusations for at least two years, but has done nothing about them. On the 30th of November 2018 the erstwhile Dutch ambassador Robert Petri visited the village of Ikarama in the Niger Delta. Many of the local people openly spoke out against the corrupt Shell employees who are causing the leaks. On video, Petri can be seen promising the people that: “We will share this information with Shell and the government”. Nothing ever came of this commitment.

Corruption investigation
In response to questions from Zembla, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms that: “Because of the premature departure of Robert Petri as ambassador to Nigeria, he hasn’t been able to follow through on his commitment”. Petri left his post at the beginning of 2019, partly because he had passed on secret information to Shell regarding a corruption investigation being conducted by the FIOD. The Ministry claims that his replacements had no knowledge of the accusations against the Shell employees. A curious statement, considering e-mails show that the Second Embassy Secretary from the Dutch post in Nigeria had been corresponding about these accusations as late as May of this year. When asked about this, the Ministry supposed that their commitment had “slipped through the cracks”. The Ministry also stated that it was only after being questioned by Zembla that the current ambassador even broached the subject with Shell.

Read the investigation of environmentalist organization Milieudefensie:

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