Nigerian employees of the Anglo-Dutch oil company, Shell, ordered the deliberate vandalisation of oil pipelines for personal gain, a documentary in the Netherlands has reported.
Dutch television documentary programme Zembla, together with Dutch environmentalist organisation Milieudefensie, according to Aljazeera, reported in a programme aired on Thursday, December 10, 2020 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.
Millions of litres of oil have leaked into the Niger Delta since Shell began oil extraction in 1958.
Shell says that 95% of leaks are because of sabotage. It denies responsibility for the leaks, which it blames on local criminals and organised gangs.
However, residents of Ikarama community in Bayelsa State 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 clean-up”.
“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.”
Reacting to the development, a spokesperson for Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) said: “SPDC does not have any formal report of named SPDC staff members or contractors involved in pipeline vandalism or crude oil theft.
“SPDC, like other Shell companies globally, investigates all credible reports it receives of misconduct or unethical behaviour and takes robust action where evidence exists. SPDC has multiple ways the public can report allegations of wrongdoing by anyone working for SPDC, including a 24/7 telephone and email helpline.
“SPDC also monitors its joint venture facilities and any incident or suspected criminal activities are promptly reported to the regulators and government security agencies for investigation and possible prosecution.
“All spills are assessed by a government-led joint investigation team. Where sabotage is established, the clean-up contract is not awarded to contractors from the host community to ensure that possible accomplices do not benefit from such activities. SPDC cleans up and remediates areas impacted by spills that come from its operations, irrespective of cause of spill.”