A documentary in the Netherlands has reported that Nigerian employees of the Anglo-Dutch oil company, Shell ordered the deliberate vandalisation of oil pipelines for personal gain.
Dutch television documentary programme, Zembla, together with Dutch environmentalist organization, Milieudefensie, according to Aljazeera, reported that “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 clean up budgets,” the report said in a press release summarising an 18-month investigation of various leaks between 2010 and the present day.
It added that the SPDC, along with the Dutch embassy in Nigeria, were aware of the accusations but had failed to address them.
BizWatchNigeria reports that millions of litres of oil have leaked into the Niger Delta since Shell began oil extraction in 1958 and Shell says that 95% of leaks are as a result of sabotage but denies responsibility for the leaks, which it blames on local criminals and organised gangs.
However, residents of Ikarama community, in Bayelsa claimed that Shell employees encourage local youths in the villages to sabotage pipelines in the area and then split funds allocated for the cleanup.
“If a clean-up is necessary, these same youths are then hired to perform it” Washington Odeibodo alleged.
A former Shell security guard, who claimed to have been responsible for sabotaging pipelines in the past, said Shell supervisors and employees “split the money from the cleanup.”
“The recovery department from Shell sabotages the pipelines. If the clean-up will take seven months, they’ll stop after only three months”, he added.
According to the report, one saboteur said they committed the vandalism “out of hunger”.
The report claimed of possessing documents confirming SPDC was aware of the allegations.
However, the report quoted SPDC said that it “takes these kinds of accusations very seriously. If we find any evidence that supports these accusations, we will report it to the Nigerian authorities”
It also said that the Dutch embassy in Nigeria was also aware of the accusations, which were highlighted for two years, and confirmed by the European nation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It said the former ambassador to the country Robert Petri, who left at the start of 2019, was recorded on video promising residents of Ikarama he would share the information with Shell. It however, noted that “nothing came of the commitment.”
Responding to a query from Zembla, the ministry said: “Because of the premature departure of Robert Petri as ambassador to Nigeria, he hasn’t been able to follow through on his commitment.”
The ministry added his replacement was totally unaware of the allegations against the Shell workers.
The report also said that correspondence between an embassy official and the ministry showed the issue was being discussed earlier this year.
“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”, it said.
Commenting on the alleged sabotage, a professor of International Business and Human Rights at the University of Rotterdam, Cees van Dam said “in the Netherlands, this would certainly be considered a criminal offence. Intentional destruction of property, intentional environmental pollution, these are serious issues that no single company would accept from its employees.”