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Shell Nigeria always knew its employees had been involved in pipeline leaks for profit racket, says environmental rights group FoEI

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AFTER an investigative report revealed that Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary employees had devised means of damaging oil pipelines to profit from the money spent on clean-up operations, environmental rights group alleges that Shell had always been aware of its staff complicity.

Zembla, a Dutch investigative TV programme had reported that employees of Shell Petroleum Development Company SPDC, recruited local youths to sabotage Shell oil pipelines and hired them back as workers to clean up the mess.

It was also hinted in the investigation that Shell officials and the Dutch ambassador to Nigeria were made aware of the matter by local leaders in 2018, but did not act on those warnings.

Donald Pols, Director of Friends of the Earth International, FoEI based in the Netherlands, also known as Milieudefensie is one of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network said the multinational company always blamed others for their failings.

“Shell always claims it’s not their responsibility for global warming, earthquakes in Groningen, or oil spills in Nigeria.

“The big question now is how many of the countless oil spills were caused by Shell employees and why does Shell management continue to point the finger at others,” he said.

The joint investigative report which was carried out by FoEI and Zembla focused on Ikarama in Yenogoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, having experienced over 30 oil spills in the last 13 years.

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“The majority of the leaks in Ikarama were the result of instructions given by Shell Nigeria employees,” the investigation revealed.

The profit made from the cleaning operations was split between SPDC employees and the youths, Zembla said, referring to statements provided to police and Ikarama Youth Council by witnesses and people who said they or their family members had taken part.

Chima Williams, Acting Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria, FoEN reiterated that Shell had always been informed of their staff complicity in pipeline vandalism.

“These disturbing findings have again confirmed what we have long suspected. Shell must own up to the destruction of the local community and made to pay heavily for these deliberate infractions,” he said.

Milieudefensie had sued Shell in 2008 for the oil pollution in Nigeria, in the first case ever involving a Dutch corporation being held accountable for environmental pollution in a foreign country.

According to a Reuters report, SPDC announced in 2019 that there was a 41 per cent rise in the number of crude oil spills caused by theft or pipeline sabotage

However, the verdict of Shell’s appeal is due for January 29, 2021 which is described as one of the world’s largest oil disaster cases.

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Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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